During the Bobby Jindal years in Louisiana, it was well documented that seats on prestigious boards and commissions were the rewards for generous campaign contributions.
Seats on the LSU Board of Supervisors, the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome), or various levee boards came at a price and those who wanted the seats ponied up. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/11/bobby_jindals_political_appoin.html
Even the job of monitoring Louisiana’s hundreds of boards and commissions went to the director of the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby for an eight-month period from mid-October, 2012 to June 28, 2013, thus insuring that board appointees would do the bidding of the governor.
That, apparently, is the way politics work just about everywhere.
In Florida, a large enough campaign contribution can even buy justice—or stymie justice, as the case may be.
Pam Bondi, attorney general in the Sunshine State (talk about a misnomer), solicited—and received—a $25,000 contribution from the Donald Trump Foundation and once the check cleared, she promptly dropped her office’s investigation of Trump University, conveniently citing insufficient grounds to proceed. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/florida-ag-asked-trump-donation-075016133.html
And in Bossier City, less than $20,000 in campaign contributions has smoothed the way for the transfer of the city’s water and sewer department to a private Baton Rouge firm—at a first-year cost of more than $1 million to the city, and the loss of about 40 jobs in the department.
Word has been filtering down to LouisianaVoice for some time now that Caddo Parish is the new New Orleans in terms of political corruption. Apparently elected officials across the Red River have been paying attention to both Caddo Parish and to Bobby Jindal’s love of privatization as well as his thirst for campaign contributions.
The city council voted unanimously Tuesday (June 6) afternoon to approve the PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT with Manchac Consulting Group out of Baton Rouge.
Typical of the seemingly growing penchant of public officials for operating out of earshot of the public, more than 100 employees of the Water and Sewer Department have been told nothing over the last several months of negotiations. City officials have refused to provide information to workers even though an organizational chart proposed by Manchac reflects half the current staffing in some departments.
On Tuesday, the vote was 7-0 to approve a five-year contract with Manchac Consulting to oversee the city water and sewer treatment plants, distribution lines and daily operations at a first-year cost of a little more than $1 million the first year, including $120,000 upon city officials’ signing the contract.
Campaign finance reports show that at-large council member David Montgomery received $2500 from Manchac, $2500 from its CEO Justin Haydel, $2500 from Atakapa Construction Group, which includes Haydel and Manchac President Kenneth Ferachi as officers, $2500 from Manchac Senior Project Manager Christopher LaCroix, and $999 from Ferachi—a total of $10,999.
Council member Scott Irwin received $500 each ($2000 total) from Atakapa, Ferachi, Haydel and Manchac Consulting Group.
Bossier City Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker received $6,644 total, including $2500 from Manchac Consulting, $3,144 from Haydel (including $2,144 in an in-kind contribution for a fundraising dinner in Baton Rouge), and $1000 from Atakapa Construction.
An Associated Press story pointed out that the Trump family foundation contribution, received by a political group supporting Bondi’s re-election, was received on September 17, 2013 and was in “apparent violation” of rules regulating political activities by charities.
But hey, what’s a little obstacle like a federal law when you’re trying to buy your way out of trouble? It was The Donald himself, after all, who is on record as saying he expects and receives favors from politicians to whom he gives money.
The commitment to pay Manchac more than $1 million over the next 12 months may be completely above-board—we hope so, anyway—but taken in context with the way city officials kept their own employees in the dark even as the mayor and two council members took contributions from the prospective vendor, it just doesn’t look good. And, as they say: perception is everything.
Public employees, after all, are prohibited—as they should be—from accepting anything of monetary value from vendors or contractors. So why should elected officials be held to a completely different (read: double) standard of ethical behavior?
Before we leave this topic, it should be pointed out that politicians will only do what they can get away with. If the voters lower the bar, then our public officials will respond accordingly. Only if we demand accountability, will officials be accountable. A compliant legislature not held accountable by voters allowed Jindal to rape this state for eight years. Likewise, our failure to insist on statesmanship instead of demagoguery, decorum instead of buffoonery, serious discussion of the issues instead of meaningless rhetoric, sanity instead of hysteria, has created candidates like Donald Trump.
If we consistently look the other say and say that’s just the way it is, that’s the way it will always be.
And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
We will have done it to ourselves.