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Archive for the ‘American Legislative Exchange Council’ Category

Bobby Jindal has promised to find money to address the funding crisis facing Louisiana’s public colleges and universities but besides the obvious dire financial straits in which the state currently finds itself, two important obstacles must be overcome by our absentee governor: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Grover Norquist.

The odds of appeasing just one in efforts to raise needed funding for higher education will be difficult enough, given Jindal’s allegiance to the two. Obtaining the blessings of both while simultaneously distracted by the siren’s call of the Republican presidential nomination will be virtually impossible.

Higher education, already hit with repeated cuts by the Jindal administration, is facing additional cuts of up to $600 million, or 82 percent of its current budget, according to news coming out of the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/louisianas_higher_education_bu.html

Such a fiscal scenario could result in the closure of some schools and across the board discontinuation of programs.

Moody’s, the bond-rating service, has warned that Louisiana higher education cannot absorb any further cuts. http://www.treasury.state.la.us/Lists/SiteArticlesByCat/DispForm_Single.aspx?List=c023d63e%2Dac65%2D439d%2Daf97%2Dda71d8688dff&ID=884

Louisiana has already cut per student spending by 42 percent since fiscal year 2008 (compared to the national average of 6 percent), fourth highest in the nation behind Arizona, New Hampshire and Oregon. The actual cut in dollars, $4,715 per student, is second only to the $4,775 per student cut by New Mexico. To help offset those cuts, Louisiana colleges and universities have bumped tuition by 38 percent, 10th highest in the nation but still a shade less than half the 78.4 percent increase for Arizona students. http://www.cbpp.org/research/recent-deep-state-higher-education-cuts-may-harm-students-and-the-economy-for-years-to-come?fa=view&id=3927

But that’s all part of the game plan for ALEC, the “model legislation” alliance of state legislators heavily funded by the Koch brothers which has as its overall objective the privatization of nearly all public services now taken for granted: prisons, pension plans, medical insurance, and education, to name but a few. http://www.cbpp.org/research/alec-tax-and-budget-proposals-would-slash-public-services-and-jeopardize-economic-growth?fa=view&id=3901

Jindal has already incorporated some of ALEC’s privatization proposals, namely state employee medical insurance and elementary and secondary education. He met with less success in attempts to initiate prison privatization and state retirement reform.

ALEC also proposes abolishing state income taxes, another proposal floated and then quickly abandoned by Jindal but pushed successfully by Kansas Gov. Brownback. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/21/vwelfap/

And then there is Norquist, the anti-tax Republican operative who founded Americans for Tax Reform and who somehow survived the Jack Abramoff scandal and thrived. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abramoff_Indian_lobbying_scandal

What strange hold does he have over Jindal?

The pledge.

Jindal, as did a couple dozen Louisiana legislators, signed onto Norquist’s “no-tax” pledge—a promise not to raise taxes under any circumstances. The pledge even prompted Jindal to veto a 4-cent cigarette tax renewal in 2011 because in his twisted logic, it was somehow a new tax. The legislature had to adopt a last-minute constitutional amendment to make the tax permanent.

Undeterred, Jindal, through communications director Mike Reed, has said he would support a cigarette tax increase this year only if it is offset with a tax cut elsewhere. This despite estimates that a higher tax would not only generate needed income for the state, but would, by encouraging smokes to quit and teens to not start smoking, create long-term health care savings for the state. His veto also flew in the face of a 1997 article that Jindal authored while secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in which he said, “Society must recover those costs which could have been avoided had the individual not chosen the risky behavior only to prevent others from having to bear the costs.” http://theadvocate.com/news/11930951-123/lawmaker-proposes-154-state-cigarette

Not to be confused with the “no-go” zones of Jindal’s vivid imagination, the “no-tax” pledge apparently is a good thing for Republicans and tea partiers and is considered sacrosanct to those who have taken the oath even if it locks politicians into the impossible situation of trying to resolve a $1.6 billion budgetary crisis while not increasing revenue.

Jindal routinely runs proposed legislation by Norquist for his blessings, according to Jindal spokesperson Reed who admitted as much. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2015/03/in_jindals_world_tax_is_a_tax.html

Even U.S. Sen. David Vitter signed the pledge but has assured voters it won’t be binding on him as governor—a dubious promise that would make him unique among signers. After all, a pledge is a pledge and when one signs it, so what difference would it make which office he holds?

So, how does all this figure into the budget crisis for higher education in Louisiana?

In a word, privatization. Or, taking the “state” out of “state universities.”

While neither Jindal nor any legislator has dared breathe the word privatization as it regards the state’s colleges and universities, at least one Jindal appointee, Board of Regents Chairman Roy Martin of Alexandria, has broached the subject, speaking he said, strictly as an individual. http://theadvocate.com/news/11716059-123/regents-look-at-privatizing-public

The slashing of higher education budgets appears to be a pattern as governors attempt to wean colleges and universities from dependence on state funding, transitioning their status from state-supported to state-assisted to state-located. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/27/scott-walker-bobby-jindal-aim-to-slash-higher-ed-funding

Privatization of state colleges and universities would, of course, push tuition rates even higher, making a college education cost prohibitive for many. But that dovetails nicely with the ALEC agenda as income disparity continues to widen with ever more generous tax laws that benefit the super-rich while placing growing burdens on lower-income taxpayers. By winnowing out those who can least afford college, privatization necessarily enhances the selection process to serve the elite and at the same time, opens up additional revenue opportunities for those in position to take advantage of privatized services such as book stores, printing, food services, and general maintenance. http://gse.buffalo.edu/FAS/Johnston/privatization.html

There is already a backlog of nearly $2 billion in maintenance projects on state college and university campuses just waiting for some lucky entrepreneur with the right connections.

http://theadvocate.com/home/5997316-125/backlog-of-maintenance

States like Louisiana, by such actions as simply increasing our cigarette tax (third lowest in the nation) and being less generous with corporate tax breaks and initiatives, could have reduced the size of the spending cuts or avoided them altogether. Sadly, that was not done and those looking at someone to blame cannot point the finger only at Jindal; legislators have been complicit from the beginning and must shoulder the responsibility for the present mess.

As a result, state colleges and universities have already cut staff and eliminated entire programs to such a degree that Louisiana’s high school seniors already are considering options out of state and other states are obliging. https://lahigheredconfessions.wordpress.com/

Should the legislature adopt any measures to raise revenue for higher education, such measures likely would be vetoed by Jindal if he gets the message from Norquist to do so.

If that occurs, his palpable disregard for the welfare of this state as evidenced by his growing absence will be dwarfed by the affront of taking his cue of governance from a Washington, D.C. lobbyist as opposed to listening to his constituents who want real solutions and not political grandstanding.

But that certainly would be nothing new for Bobby Jindal.

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As our friend and former State Budget Officer Stephen Winham recently said when Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s recently moved Louisiana’s credit outlook from stable to negative, the bond rating agencies are finally waking up to what the rest of us have seen coming for some time now.

Now Moody’s has gone on record as saying what Gov. Bobby refuses to acknowledge: Louisiana’s public universities are not equipped to absorb additional credit stress expected with an anticipated cuts of yet another $300 million.

State Treasurer John Kennedy agrees while Joseph Rallo, barely acclimated to his new office after being chosen last October as the state’s eighth commissioner of higher education, tried to remain optimistic in the face of the latest announcement by Moody’s that the state’s colleges and universities are now in danger of having their credit ratings reduced if the legislature does not finally grow a set and stand up to Gov. Bobby.

“Moody’s is putting us on notice that it will reduce the credit ratings…if the legislature continues to cut higher ed funding,” Kennedy said. “We’ve cut our college campuses by $700 million since 2008. We’ve made deeper cuts than any other state. Enough is enough.”

Rallo told LouisianaVoice that it is not a matter of not having the revenue available to fund higher education, but rather it is an issue of allocation of funding. He said Moody’s is holding off taking the step of actually downgrading high education’s credit rating until June in order to see what the legislature will do to resolve the funding problem.

The problem at this point is twofold: Gov. Bobby refuses to take steps to increase revenue and legislators lack sufficient backbone to face Bobby down for fear of losing precious projects in their districts by veto. The legislature always blinks first.

Therefore, if Bobby won’t take steps to increase funding (he’s a party to that no-tax pledge the tea partiers forced down the throats of legislators and congressmen who had no taste for facing up to real problems and finding real solutions when self-serving rhetoric and pandering could get them re-elected), then the only alternative is to cut and cut again and then cut some more.

What these tea partiers and their ilk, including Gov. Bobby, refuse to admit in their manic pursuit of free market economics, is that corporate welfare (read lucrative tax breaks) costs this country many times what individual welfare costs and corporate fraud costs the nation billions upon billions more than the roughly 1 percent in documented welfare fraud (see details of the 2008 Wall Street bailout for verification). Corporations and corporate executives pay far fewer taxes, percentage-wise, than do middle- and low-income taxpayers in this country. Those are the cold, indisputable hard facts. To claim otherwise is to throw up that same tired old argument that the middle- and low-income are a drag on the nation’s economy while the super-rich produce wealth and jobs, thank you very much.

But Gov. Bobby would much rather continue doling out tax breaks that cost the state billions of dollars with little or no return than to take the necessary steps to pull the state out of the financial quagmire in which it currently finds itself and thus allow college to be affordable to the middle class and for the working poor of this state to have access to health care.

And legislators are a party to the scheme and must share the blame. Let’s consider some projects in the districts of four key legislators from the 2014 legislative session:

  • Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin: $13 million in projects, including the Jackson Parish Riding Arena and Livestock Pavilion ($195,000 last year, $1.4 million in Priority 2 and $1.6 million in Priority 5 funding;
  • Senate President John Alario: $121 million in projects for Jefferson Parish;
  • House Speaker Chuck Kleckley: $107 million in projects in Calcasieu Parish;
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue: $60 million in projects in St. Tammany Parish.

And then there are these little projects we found in last year’s capital outlay bill:

  • City Parish Golf Complex improvements (Orleans)—$9.1 million;
  • Junior Golf Training Facilities (Caddo)—$445,000;
  • Golf Course Development (Calcasieu)—$1.6 million;
  • Zephyrs Baseball facilities repair (Jefferson)—$1.5 million;
  • Professional Sports facilities improvements (Jefferson, Orleans)—$18.4 million;
  • New Orleans Sports Arena improvements (Orleans)—$41.5 million;
  • Bayou Segnette Recreation Complex (Jefferson)—$5.5 million;
  • Improvements to New Orleans Superdome—$6 million;
  • Recreational complex (Iberia)—$100,000;
  • Baseball stadium improvements (East Baton Rouge)—$1.4 million (Baton Rouge has no baseball team);
  • Improvements to amusement area, tennis center improvements (Orleans)—$1.2 million;
  • Repairs to Strand Theatre (Caddo)—$950,000;
  • Various community centers (statewide)—$11 million;
  • Various hall of fame projects (statewide)—$15 million.

One can just follow the money to see why legislators become shrinking violets when Gov. Bobby is holding that veto pen. Sure, there will be all manner of posturing, bluster and harangue but in the end, they always end up going along with whatever the governor wants.

And the governor wants what the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wants and ALEC wants to take the state out of state universities.

And Louisiana isn’t alone.

If you don’t believe that, just take a look at what is going on in Wisconsin, Illinois, Arizona and Kansas. http://neatoday.org/2015/02/19/cuts-to-higher-education-taking-public-public-universities/

  • Louisiana: Tuition costs have increased 90 percent since Gov. Bobby took office;
  • Arizona: Tuition has more than tripled while state funding has decreased by $3,500 per student;
  • Wisconsin: Like Louisiana, $2 billion tax cuts have resulted in $300 million in cuts to higher education that could eliminate the schools of nursing, law, business, pharmacy and veterinary medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison even as Gov. Scott Walker lobbies for $220 million in public donations to the Milwaukee Bucks to build a new team arena;
  • Illinois is losing $2.1 billion in tax revenues because of lawmakers’ refusal to extend taxes that are expiring even as colleges are facing a $400 million cut;
  • Kansas is projecting a loss of $5 billion in revenues because of reckless tax cuts and higher education, not surprisingly, is on the chopping block.

It’s not a coincidence, it’s a pattern. And what would one suppose these five states have in common besides this disturbing trend in higher education funding?

Republican governors who feel they owe their allegiance not to the voters of their states, oddly enough, but to ALEC and the Koch brothers who insist on defunding state colleges and universities in the hopes they will be forced to become private universities.

That, of course, will drive tuition up even further, necessitating much larger student loans and greater profits to lending institutions and Wall Street. It also will make a college education assessable only to the wealthy while relegating the rest of society to low paying jobs in the service sector in the absence of manufacturing jobs that have all been moved offshore.

Louisiana, says Moody’s latest assessment, has had the steepest declines in state funding in the nation from 2009 through 2014.

“As the state tries to close its widening budget gap, Louisiana public universities will face additional reductions in state appropriations,” the assessment said. “After five years of the deepest cuts to public higher education in the nation and significant expense reductions, these universities are ill-equipped to face additional credit stress.”

Moody’s said the timing and magnitude of budget cuts, the ability of universities to quickly align expenses with revenue, and the degree of financial cushion to absorb operating volatility “will factor into our assessment of ratings and outlooks for individual universities.

“Currently, Louisiana public university credit quality is lower than the median A1 nationally, reflecting historically weak state funding, anemic operating performance and limited liquidity,” the report said.

So while legislators wring their hands and gnash their teeth over the hard decisions they’re going to have to make this year, just remember no one held a gun to their heads and made them drop those golf courses and baseball parks into the Capital Outlay bill last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

And remember that Gov. Bobby and ALEC do not (boldface that: Do Not) have the survival of our universities as public institutions as a priority item. If they are ultimately forced to become private colleges, that will be perfectly fine with them.

With all due respect to Dr. Rallo, we shouldn’t expect too much from this governor in the way of meaningful solutions to a problem that has persisted since he became governor more than seven years ago—long before the latest decline in oil prices which he conveniently uses as a scapegoat for Louisiana’s fiscal ills.

The late Wiley Hilburn, who headed up the journalism program at Louisiana Tech University, once told us that Bobby visited the Ruston campus when he was Commissioner of Higher Education under former Gov. Mike Foster, ostensibly to get an overview of university operations. Instead he spent his entire visit in Hilburn’s office playing computer games.

Perhaps that’s what Louisiana’s public colleges and universities are to Gov. Bobby—a game with students serving only as action figures for his personal enjoyment.

It certainly appears that that’s all this state is to him.

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To call Gov. Bobby Jindal disingenuous would be to belabor the obvious. The evidence is there in plain view for everyone to see: his painfully patronizing platitudes, designed to appeal to his ever-shrinking core base, induce involuntary winces of embarrassment not only from his critics, of which there are many, but from objective observers as well.

But now it turns out that Jindal is trying his best to out-imitate Attorney General Buddy Caldwell as he heads into his final year as governor.

Caldwell, as some still may not know, was probably best known for his Elvis impersonation before being elected as the state’s highest legal counsel.

Jindal, not to be outdone, has set about impersonating everyone in sight, beginning on that fateful night in 2009 with his pitiful attempt at a Reagan-esque response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Woefully inept as a polished speaker, that performance was universally panned and his status as a rising star in the Republican Party appeared to have been prematurely snuffed out.

But Jindal is nothing if not resilient. Seemingly oblivious to critics, he has spent the ensuing six years doggedly trying to re-claim his status among the Michelle Malkins and Rush Limbaughs as the nation’s savior.

To do that required his forcing the media to give him ink in the daily newspapers and face time before the unblinking eye of network cameras. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did just that and he took full advantage. He grabbed every opportunity to express his concern on the nightly news. Of course, when the national media ignored that growing sinkhole that threatened only a few homes in Assumption Parish, so did Jindal. The fact that local media gave the hole that was swallowing entire trees ample coverage was insignificant since that could not enhance his national image, so one quick trip long after the sinkhole first developed had to suffice for someone so bent on burnishing his presidential image. In a way, it was reflective of the way George W. Bush had to be goaded into doing a flyover of the carnage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina and to rush through the photo opt with “heckuva job, Brownie.”

And then there was Jindal near the end of his first term and already running for re-election as he traversed the state handing out those cherished veterans’ pins in appreciation of those who had served the country in the armed forces.

A great gesture, right? Also reminiscent of President George Bush the First in his 1990 run-up to his 1992 re-election campaign when he was handing out those “Thousand Points of Light” awards to such people as Sam Walton and about 5,000 others.

But the most blatantly transparent rip-off of another’s idea by this governor, who can never be accused of originality, came with his Jan. 24 Prayerpalooza at the Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus.

That event, which crammed all of 3,000 attendees into the 18,000-seat P-Mac, was a direct clone of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s event, The Response, held four years ago in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Perry, you may recall, announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination only days after that rally.

Jindal might be wise not to base his decision to seek the nomination on his rally, which drew only about 10 percent of the 30,000 who attended the Houston rally despite (or perhaps because of) the participation of Cindy Jacobs.

Understandably, Jindal and his supporters have played down her part in this year’s event, even going so far as to take down the video that featured her endorsement of the Baton Rouge rally while all the other promotional videos were retained.

Jacobs apparently is a bit much even for Jindal. All she has ever done is suggest that her child’s stomach ache once prevented the assassination of President Reagan; that she could foresee terrorist attacks and prevent coups; that birds died and fell from the sky because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and that she had the power to raise the dead.

Undaunted, his weekly Team Jindal email blast described Jindal as “speaking to a crowd of thousands” at the prayer fest. While we do concede that the 3,000 in attendance did, in fact, constitute “thousands,” by purposely failing to mention the actual head count, Team Jindal was implying that the crowd numbered in the tens of thousands. Laughable as that may be, it is nevertheless a disturbing trait of this administration to parse words so as to convey the message that all is well in the land of Jindal.

And then there is the subtle, under-the-radar form of imitation that may have escaped observers’ attention: Jindal’s channeling of the later Gov. Earl K. Long.

Earl, many will recall, once said, “Someday the people of Louisiana are gonna get good government and they ain’t gonna like it.”

Prophetic words from a man who also once said, when asked by a legislator whether ideals had any role in politics, “Hell yes, I think you should use ideals or any other g—d— thing you can get your hands on.”

Louisiana history buffs (and those of us old enough to remember the events vividly) are aware that ol’ Earl’s train left the tracks during 1959, his final year in office. He was in and out of mental institutions and had an affair with stripper Blaze Starr that grabbed national headlines. He even cut a deal with former Gov. James A. Noe of Monroe to have Noe run for governor and Earl for lieutenant governor on Noe’s ticket. (Yes, candidates ran on tickets, from governor all the way down to comptroller of voting machines, back then.) The deal was for Noe to get elected, take office, and resign, allowing Earl to become governor. Up until the first term of former Gov. John McKeithen, a Louisiana governor could not serve consecutive terms, thus necessitating the flim-flammery. Noe and Long even had LSU All-American Billy Cannon campaigning with them under the banner of “The Noe Team is the Go Team.” The problem with that slogan, which no one apparently caught, was that Cannon, played under the system of former head coach Paul Dietzel in which LSU actually had three separate teams—the Go Team (which played offense only), the Chinese Bandits (exclusively defense) and the White Team (both offense and defense). Cannon played on the White Team.

That was the same election in which arch segregationist Willie Rainach, a state representative from Homer in Claiborne Parish, ran third behind New Orleans Mayor deLesseps  “Chep” Morrison and former Gov. Jimmie Davis. The Noe-Long team finished out of the money with Noe failing even to carry his own precinct in Monroe and Davis went on to defeat Morrison in the runoff election.

So now, we have the gubernatorial train barreling headlong toward a similar mental derailment. Jindal, caught up in the throes of delusions of grandeur (some would say delusions of mediocrity) that leave him convinced he is presidential timber, apparently feels his repeated budget fiascos are of little consequence. He has abandoned any vestiges of leadership except where it might appeal to his support base, which probably explains his actions with Common Core.

For it before he was against it (another imitation: remember John Kerry’s position switch on the Iraq war), Jindal issued an executive order declaring that parents should be able to opt their children out of taking the Common Core standardized tests this year.

Besides putting Jindal at odds with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the order calls into question the status of a couple of state contracts with a testing firm totaling $117 million.

Data Recognition Corp. (DRC) has contracts of $68.8 million and $48.2 million, both of which expire on June 30 of this year, that call for DRC to develop test forms, printing and distributing and collecting materials, scoring and reporting test results. It is unclear how much, if any of those contracts, are for Common Core testing, but if that is included in the contracts and the executive order is implemented, litigation is almost certain to follow. (And we know how well Jindal, represented by attorney Jimmy Faircloth, has fared in courtroom appearances.)

A pattern of irrational behavior on Jindal’s part is beginning to emerge as he flails away at attempts to grab onto some issue which will resonate with voters—even at the cost of abandoning the post to which he was elected by the people of Louisiana.

And we don’t even have to elaborate on his silly gesture of producing his birth certificate during the hoopla over President Obama’s citizenship. It was not only silly, it was pitifully superficial and sophomoric considering no one had even questioned his birthplace.

Jindal received the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at its 2011 national convention in New Orleans. But as he systematically tears down the programs designed to help the less fortunate among us, he ignores the philosophy of the man for whom that award was named. It was Jefferson who said, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” That sentiment was echoed more than a century later by President Harry Truman: “The whole purpose of government is to see that the little fellow who has no special interest gets a fair deal.”

There is no question that Jindal is an intelligent man. But intelligence alone cannot overcome the avalanche of problems besetting our state and that appears to be the one lesson which has thus far escaped him.

Perhaps A.E. Wiggin, the character from the novel Ender’s Game, said it best: “Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without education. Education appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence.”

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JINDAL PRAYER BREAKFAST(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

You’ve got to hand it to Gov. Bobby Jindal. If he ever knew when to shut up, he’s doing a dandy job of concealing that knowledge.

Team Jindal is an e-mail blast by an outfit calling itself Friends of Bobby Jindal providing those of us lucky enough to be on the mailing list a timely update on the governor’s travels, TV appearances, and op-ed writings. We’re not altogether certain how we managed to get on the mailing list but we’re glad we did.

Before we go any further, let the record show that there is no Google link to any such organization but there is a link at the bottom of the e-mail to this web page: www.bobbyjindal.com. It even has a prominent “Donate” button at the top of the page, just to right of the imposing—and more than a little official-looking—“Bobby Jindal Governor” banner.

As we said in an earlier post, we’re not sure why he needs donations given the fact that he is term limited and cannot run for governor for another five years and he remains an unannounced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination (though few doubt that is his intent).

But we digress.

Whoever sends out these e-mails does a much better job of keeping current than the person responsible for the web page. The e-mails come at least on a weekly basis while the last blog posting on www.bobbyjindal.com was on Aug 22 of this year. Given that, you’re just going to have to take our word for what we are about to quote Jindal on in the latest e-mail release.

Along with stories about Jindal’s most recent appearances on Fox News, there was a story about the governor’s welcoming Education Secretary Arne Duncan to New Orleans, a video of him promoting his upcoming prayer rally at the Pete Maravich Arena on the LSU campus, an announcement of a new plant to be built in Cameron Parish, a release about his executive order to better protect sexual assault victims, his participation in the opening of a new section of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and this quote from Jindal calling the CIA Report a partisan attempt to attack the record of President George W. Bush:

  • “It is clear that the Democrats wrote and released this report in an attempt to once again attack President Bush. I remain very proud to have worked for him, and proud that he kept America safe in the aftermath of 9/11. This report is one-sided and partisan. The Left hates the former President, they always have, and now, six years after he left office they are still campaigning against him. The undeniable truth of the matter is this – President Bush kept America safe after 9/11 from terrorists that wanted to kill us. This is simply a fact. President Bush is a good man and I am honored to have served in his Administration.”

Naturally, we were curious as to how the governor of Louisiana, who admittedly was smart enough to be a Rhodes Scholar but who has never served in the military, could be so knowledgeable about the methods employed to extract military intelligence from detainees.

So, fueled by that curiosity and lucky enough to catch Jindal in Baton Rouge between trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and the Fox News studios, we requested—and got—an interview with him. And anyone who knows of his reluctance to grant interviews to local media has to know what a journalistic coup that was.

We wanted to know his position on other controversial issues involving Republican presidents and he graciously agreed. Without bothering to go into lengthy explanations of our questions, we instead will simply list the name of the president (or other individual) and the issue most closely associated with him (in bold), followed by the governor’s take on that topic (in italics).

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation:

  • “Look, as much as everyone seems to think of Lincoln, he was really overrated as a president. Two things: First, he got us into an ugly war that produced more casualties than any other war in our history, a war that took years for us to recover from. He had Gen. Sherman burn Atlanta to the ground and what did Atlanta ever do to the country besides to give us Tara, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara? Second, he freed the slaves who already had good homes and were taken care of by their kindly masters. That was just another example of federal overreach. Look, Phil Robertson said it best when he said a year ago, and I’m quoting now: ‘I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person, not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word! Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.’ Now that’s Phil Robertson speaking, not Bobby Jindal, and we know how smart Phil is…” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/phil-robertson-black-people_n_4473474.html

Theodore Roosevelt and trust busting:            

  • “I just want to say this: Theodore Roosevelt was a RINO—a Republican in Name Only. He was the Democrats’ best friend. Make no mistake, he was a Roosevelt and a cousin to that other Roosevelt. And let me say this: Theodore Roosevelt was the true father of the welfare state. He is personally liable for the ill effects of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He had the audacity to try and browbeat a great American, J. P. Morgan, and even told Mr. Morgan right there in the Oval Office that any interest of his that had done anything wrong was in danger of being prosecuted. How can capitalism and American Exceptionalism function with that kind of pressure? http://www.ushistory.org/us/43b.asp 
  • And if you thought Roosevelt stopped there, you would be wrong. He had the taste of runaway power that only Washington can administer. He made Washington the nanny state for meat inspections just because a few pounds of bad hamburger meat made it to market. I say if you don’t like tainted meat, don’t eat it. That’s the American way.”

Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome scandal:

 Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression:

  • “Two things you have to understand: The Great Depression was unfortunate but those are the breaks. Stuff happens. And those displaced homeowners living in those Hoovervilles? What would you expect the President to do? Give them a handout and make them even more dependent on government? No! You have to make people self-reliant, instill pride in their determination to rise above their circumstances. There were New York stockbrokers to worry about; they’re the ones who make the country go. And while the situation with the Okies was certainly dire, the President must first concern himself with the captains of industry.” https://www.google.com/search?q=hoovervilles&hl=en&biw=1280&bih=607&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=WD-OVNwMw_OgBIfSgvAJ&sqi=2&ved=0CDYQsAQ

Sen. Joe McCarthy:

  • The liberal media killed him. He was a great American who had the commies in the State Department running scared until they framed him with that Edward R. Murrow interview.

Richard Nixon and Watergate:

  • “Two words: national security. Pentagon Papers. Nixon was a patriot. He was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee and brought down Alger Hiss.”

Republican deregulation agenda:

  • “The Dodd-Frank bill was a disaster. When you tie the hands of Wall Street, you tie the hands of the American economy. What could be more un-patriotic? The financial collapse of 2008 was all Obama’s fault; everyone knew he was running for the Democratic nomination and it caused a panic. Wall Street needs to be encouraged, not hog-tied. Wall Street is a microcosm of American capitalism. Where else can a CEO make $300 million a year and retire with a $200 million cash-out of his stock options and still draw $100 million a year. That’s the American dream.
  • Look, if it’s good for the Koch brothers, it’s got to be good for America. Why do you think they have invested so much of their personal fortunes into getting the right people elected? It’s because deep down, they care. Like former director of the Office of Management and Budget Gary Bass, I look at the current trend toward Republican control of Congress and the move toward deregulation and rollbacks of stifling regulation as the Contract with America on steroids. And that’s a good thing.

 President Obama’s energy policy:

Climate change:

(The last two quotes regarding Obama’s energy policy and climate change are verbatim utterances by Jindal—grammar, syntax and all.)

Thank you for your time, Governor.

“Any time. Well, not anytime…unless you’re Fox News.”

(Disclaimer: Although some quotes in this attempt at satire are accurately attributed, the actual interview never occurred and is not to be taken seriously. Do not read this while operating heavy machinery. May cause nausea, weak knees, enlarged ego, skin rash, or dizziness. Other possible side effects include rickets, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, temporary anger, swollen tongue, sudden increase or decrease in a desire for real news or unexpected or unusual stimulation of previously suppressed sense of humor. If you are up laughing more than four hours, consult a doctor. If you believed this was a real interview, see a shrink.)       

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The process of tracking PAC campaign contributions for the candidates for Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race and the six congressional seats up for grabs this November is a daunting task but one which we feel is important in order that voters can cut through all the trash ads on TV and make intelligent choices for themselves.

By now Louisiana citizens have to be completely turned off both U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and challenger 6th District Rep. Bill Cassidy as the distortions, half-truths and outright lies bombard our living rooms from both camps.

Political consultant Ray Strother recently said on Baton Rouge Public Radio’s Jim Engster Show that after 200 times, listeners/viewers tend to tune out a political ad. If that is really the case, we long ago stopped listening to ads for those two.

Today, we examine the PAC contributions of 4th Congressional District incumbent Rep. John Fleming, probably one of the most narrow-minded members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation.

And as you scroll down this list, be sure to ask yourself where you fit in the overall scheme of things. Do you really matter or do you, like the rest of us, simply become an insignificant pawn as these PACs ply our elected officials with dirty money so that they can continue their quest for more power and money—at our expense?

Fleming, a doctor who apparently did not make enough money as a medical practitioner, once ran a payday loan company, an enterprise that offers short-term loans to low income families at the friendly annualized interest rate of up to 390 percent.

He even boasted that he “only” had $600,000 left over after his businesses (UPS and Subway sandwich shops) brought in $6.3 million because the remaining $5.7 million went to business expenses that included paying some 500 employees, according to his own figures. If you don’t even allow for rent, utilities, equipment and insurance for his businesses, that would compute to only $11,400 per year per employee (again, using numbers provided by Fleming), which was the approximate poverty level in this country in 2010.

But try as you might, you cannot open a dialogue with Fleming on these issues. You see, he brooks no dissenting opinion on his Facebook page.

Fleming, in his four terms in office, has become notorious for blocking critical comments on his Facebook page so even if a constituent attempted to initiate a discussion about legitimate concerns, Fleming simply cuts them off. Apparently he represents only select people in the 4th District.

But he cannot block LouisianaVoice. And we invite open discussion. That is why we never block comments on our blog posts unless they are racist or otherwise offensive to any person or group. So long as the topic is about an issue, our readers have carte blanche to speak their minds, which is more than Fleming can say.

So, without further discussion, here are some of the major PAC contributors to Fleming:

BURGER KING CORP. PAC: $1,000

  • Burger King’s plan to buy Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton’s and relocate over the border to reduce its U.S. tax liability isn’t going over well with some of the fast food store’s customers. Instead of the usual chatter on Burger King Facebook posts, recent updates on the company’s social media page have drawn dozens and dozens of angry comments relating to the merger and promising to boycott the company over its tax practices.
  • “If you become a tax cheat you can count my family of seven as former customers,” reads one post with 97 likes. “If Burger King moves to Canada then US will boycott its restaurants,” says another that’s been liked over 700 times. The top comment on the store’s most recent post includes a promise to “never step foot in another Burger King again.”

AT&T PAC: $4,000

  • AT&T is the second-largest donor to United States political campaigns, and the top American corporate donor, having contributed more than US$47.7 million since 1990, 56% and 44% of which went to Republican and Democratic recipients, respectively. Also, during the period of 1998 to 2010, the company expended US$130 million on lobbying in the United States. A key political issue for AT&T has been the question of which businesses win the right to profit by providing broadband internet access in the United States.
  • Bobby Jindal rejected an $80 million federal grant for the expansion of broadband internet service in rural Louisiana even as AT&T was contributing $250,000 to the Foundation run by Jindal’s wife Supriya after Gov. Jindal signed SB- 807 into law (Act 433) in 2008 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and the State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act removed from local and parish governments their authority and responsibility to negotiate cable franchise agreements with companies that relied largely on locally-owned public infrastructure such as utility poles. The bill also allows AT&T to sell cable television service without the necessity of obtaining local franchises.
  • Bill Leahy, representing AT&T, sits on the Private Enterprise Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

EMPLOYEES OF NORTHROP GRUMMAN PAC: $9,000

  • From 1990-2002, Northrop Grumman contributed $8.5 million to federal campaigns. The company gave more than $1 million to federal candidates in 2005-2006 election cycle, compared to $10,612,837 given by all defense contractors in the same cycle. This donation amount was only behind that of General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin in the defense industry. Former Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems chief James Roche served as Secretary of the Air Force for two years under George W. Bush. Roche was eventually nominated to head the Army, but was forced to withdraw his nomination among accusations of mismanaging a contract with Boeing and of failing to properly handle the Air Force sexual assault scandals of 2003. At least seven former officials, consultants, or shareholders of Northrop Grumman” have held posts in the Bush administration.
  • Northrop Grumman has had to deal with multiple scandals during its history. In 1995, Robert Ferro, an employee for TRW, a company acquired by Northrop Grumman, discovered that satellite components manufactured for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) were faulty and likely to fail in operation. TRW allegedly suppressed Ferro’s report of the problem and hid the information from the Air Force, even after a satellite in space equipped with the faulty components experienced serious anomalies. Ferro later sued Northrop Grumman in federal court under the federal whistle-blower law. On April 2, 2009 Northrop Grumman agreed to pay $325 million to settle the suit. Ferro was awarded $48.8 million of the settlement.
  • The company was sued in 1999 for allegedly knowingly giving the Navy defective aircraft. This suit seeks $210 million in damages and is ongoing. Then in 2003, the company was sued for allegedly overcharging the U.S. government for space projects in the 1990s. Northrop Grumman paid $111.2 million to settle that suit out of court.
  • In 2010, Virginia’s computer operations experienced a week-long computer outage. Northrop Grumman operated these systems under a $2.4 billion contract. As a result, as many as 45,000 citizens could not renew their driver’s licenses prior to their expiration. Computer systems for 26 of the state’s 89 agencies were affected and some data may have been permanently lost.

COMCAST CORP.: $2,000

  • Comcast has the seventh largest lobbying budget of any individual company or organization in the United States. Comcast employs multiple former U.S. Congressmen as lobbyists. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which has multiple Comcast executives on its board, also represents Comcast and other cable companies as the fifth largest lobbying organization in the United States, spending $19.8 million in 2013. Comcast’s PAC, the Comcast Corporation and NBCUniversal Political Action Committee, is among the largest PACs in the US, raising about $3.7 million from 2011-2012 for the campaigns of various candidates for federal office. Comcast is also a major backer of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association Political Action Committee, which raised $2.6 million from 2011-2012.
  • Comcast also backs lobbying and PACs on a regional level, backing organizations such as the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association and the Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC. Comcast and other cable companies have lobbied state governments to pass legislation restricting or banning individual cities from offering public broadband service. Municipal broadband restrictions of varying scope have been passed in a total of 20 States.

CHESAPEAKE ENERGY CORP. PAC: $2,500

  • Former Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon borrowed as much as $1.1 billion against his stake in thousands of company wells. The loans, which had been undisclosed to shareholders, were used to fund McClendon’s operating costs for the Founders Well Participation Program, which offers him a chance to invest in a 2.5 percent interest in every well the company drills. McClendon in turn used the 2.5 percent stakes as collateral on those same loans. Analysts, academics and attorneys who reviewed the loan documents stated the structure raised the potential for conflicts of interest and raised questions on the corporate governance and business ethics of Chesapeake Energy’s senior management. The company disagreed that this is a conflict of interest or a violation of business ethics and issued a detailed statement.
  • Current CEO Doug Lawler is responsible for laying off over 800 employees—roughly 16 percent of the workforce—within a few months of taking the position. He released several directors and executives within two months of taking power. Shortly after the executive positions were cut, Lawler released waves of employees over the course of a few months. All of the layoffs culminated on Oct. 8, 2013 when Lawler released a staggering 800 employees nationwide, 640 of which were from the corporate office in Oklahoma City.[
  • On June 5, 2014, the state of Michigan filed felony fraud and racketeering charges against Chesapeake Energy, alleging that the company canceled hundreds of land leases on false pretenses after it sought to obtain oil and gas rights. Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette claimed that the company “obtained uncompensated land options from these landowners by false pretenses, and prevented competitors from leasing the land.” Chesapeake Energy disputed all charges.

CITIZENS UNITED POLITICAL VICTORY FUND: $5,000

  • The Citizens United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.
  • That ultimately led to the creation of the super PACs, which act as shadow political parties. They accept unlimited donations from billionaires, corporations and unions and use it to buy advertising, most of it negative.

CHEVRON PAC: $1,000

  • In 2003 a class action lawsuit against Chevron was filed in Ecuadorian court for $28 billion by indigenous residents, who accused Texaco of making residents ill and damaging forests and rivers by discharging 18 billion US gallons of formation water into the Amazon. Chevron claimed that the 1998 agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempted the company from any liabilities.
  • In 2011, Ecuadorian residents were awarded $8.6 billion, based on claims of loss of crops and farm animals as well as increased local cancer rates. The plaintiffs said this would not be enough to make up for the damage caused by the oil company. The award was later revised to $19 billion on appeals, which was then appealed again to the Ecuadorean National Court of Justice.
  • Chevron described the lawsuit as an “extortion scheme” and refused to pay the fine.
  • Chevron’s activities at its century-old Richmond refinery have been the subject of ongoing controversy. The project generated over 11 million pounds of toxic materials and caused more than 304 accidents. The Richmond refinery paid $540,000 in 1998 for illegally bypassing waste water treatments and failing to notify the public about toxic releases. Overall, Chevron is listed as potentially liable for 95 Superfund sites, with funds set aside by the EPA for clean-up.
  • Chevron’s operations in Africa have also been criticized as environmentally unsound. In 2002, Angola became the first country in Africa ever to levy a fine on a major multinational corporation operating within its borders, when it demanded $2 million in compensation for oil spills allegedly caused by Chevron.
  • On October 16, 2003, Chevron U.S.A. settled a charge under the Clean Air Act, which reduced harmful air emissions by about 10,000 tons a year. In San Francisco, Chevron was ordered to spend almost $275 million to install and utilize innovative technology to reduce nitrogen and sulfur dioxide emissions at its refineries. In 2000, after violating the Clean Air Act at an offline loading terminal in El Segundo, California, Chevron paid, a $6 million penalty as well as $1 million for environmental improvement projects.

GENERAL ELECTRIC CO. PAC:  $1,000

  • According to the New York Times story, GE reported U.S. profits of $5.1 billion in 2010 (and $14.2 billion worldwide). “Its American tax bill?” asked the Times. “None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion,” an amount GE balanced out against other tax obligations. The company accomplished this, the story said, due to “an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”
  • Earlier this year, GE filed suit seeking a $658 million federal tax refund. That sum represents the $439 million in taxes and $219 million in interest GE coughed up in 2010 after Internal Revenue Service auditors disallowed a $2.2 billion loss it claimed from the 2003 sale of a small subsidiary, ERC Life Reinsurance Corp., to Scottish Re Group for $151 million.

HOME DEPOT PAC: $2,000

  • The Home Depot was embroiled in whistleblower litigation. In July 2005, former employee Michael Davis filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Home Depot, alleging that his discharge was in retaliation for refusing to make unwarranted backcharges against vendors. Davis alleges that the Home Depot forced its employees to meet a set quota of backcharges to cover damaged or defective merchandise, forcing employees to make chargebacks to vendors for merchandise that was undamaged and not defective.
  • Home Depot has settled the dispute in 2008. In the settlement, Home Depot changed some of its corporate governance provisions. Home Depot also agreed to pay the plaintiff’s counsel $6 million in cash and $8.5 million in common stock.

HONEYWELL PAC: $4,000

  • The EPA says that no corporation has been linked to a greater number of Superfund toxic waste sites than has Honeywell. Honeywell ranks 44th among U.S. corporations causing air pollution. The firm released more than 9.4 million pounds of toxins per year into the air. In 2001, Honeywell agreed to pay $150,000 in civil penalties and to perform $772,000 worth of reparations for environmental violations.
  • In 2003, a federal judge in New Jersey ordered the company to perform an estimated $400 million environmental remediation of chromium waste, citing “a substantial risk of imminent damage to public health and safety and imminent and severe damage to the environment.” In the same year, Honeywell paid $3.6 million to avoid a federal trial regarding its responsibility for trichloroethylene contamination in Illinois. In 2004, the State of New York announced that it would require Honeywell to complete an estimated $448 million cleanup of more than 165,000 pounds of mercury and other toxic waste dumped into Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.

EXXON MOBIL CORP. PAC: $2,500

  • ExxonMobil has been accused of paying to fuel disinformation about and denial of anthropogenic global warming.
  • ExxonMobil has drawn criticism from scientists, science organizations and the environmental lobby for funding organizations critical of the Kyoto Protocol and seeking to undermine public opinion about the scientific conclusion that global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Mother Jones Magazine said the company channeled more than $8 million to 40 different organizations that have employed disinformation campaigns including “skeptic propaganda masquerading as journalism” to influence opinion of the public and of political leaders about global warming and that the company was a member of one of the first such groups, the Global Climate Coalition, founded in 1989. According to The Guardian, ExxonMobil has funded, among other groups, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland Institute, Congress on Racial Equality, TechCentralStation.com, and International Policy Network. ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations has drawn criticism from the Royal Society, the academy of sciences of the United Kingdom. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report in 2007 accusing ExxonMobil of spending $16 million, between 1998 and 2005, towards 43 advocacy organizations which dispute the impact of global warming. The report argued that ExxonMobil used disinformation tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry in its denials of the link between lung cancer and smoking, saying that the company used “many of the same organizations and personnel to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue.” These charges are consistent with a purported 1998 internal ExxonMobil strategy memo, posted by the environmental group Environmental Defense, stating:

“Victory will be achieved when

  • Average citizens [and the media] ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the conventional wisdom;
  • Industry senior leadership understands uncertainties in climate science, making them stronger ambassadors to those who shape climate policy;
  • Those promoting the Kyoto treaty on the basis of extant science appear out of touch with reality.”

 

  • In 2003, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that J. Bryan Williams, a former senior executive of Mobil Oil Corp., had been sentenced to three years and ten months in prison on charges of evading income taxes on more than $7 million in unreported income, including a $2 million kickback he received in connection with Mobil’s oil business in Kazakhstan. Documents filed with the court said Williams’ unreported income included millions of dollars in kickbacks from governments, persons, and other entities with whom Williams conducted business while employed by Mobil. In addition to his sentence, Williams must pay a fine of $25,000 and more than $3.5 million in restitution to the IRS, in addition to penalties and interest.

LOCKHEED MARTIN EMPLOYEES’ PAC: $6,000

  • Lockheed Martin is active in many aspects of government contracting. It received $36 billion in government contracts in 2008 alone, more than any company in history. It now does work for more than two dozen government agencies from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s involved in surveillance and information processing for the CIA, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Security Agency (NSA), The Pentagon, the Census Bureau and the Postal Service.”
  • Lockheed is listed as the largest US government contractor and “ranks third for number of incidents, and twenty-first for size of settlements on the ‘contractor misconduct’ database maintained by the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-DC-based watchdog group.” Since 1995, the company has agreed to pay $606 million to settle 59 instances of misconduct.
  • The company’s 2010 lobbying expenditure by the third quarter was $9.9 million (2009 total: $13.7 million).
  • Through its political action committee (PAC), the company provides low levels of financial support to candidates who advocate national defense and relevant business issues. It was “the top contributor to the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Republican Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, giving more than $50,000 in the most recent election cycle. It also topped the list of donors to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee before his death in 2012.
  • Lockheed Martin Employees Political Action Committee is one of the 50 largest in the country, according to FEC data. With contributions from 3,000 employees, it donates $500,000 a year to about 260 House and Senate candidates. That compares with $515,000 from General Dynamics’ political action committee and $122,850 from BAE Systems North America, the center’s data showed.
  • In March 2013, Maryland State Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola cosponsored a resolution which would give Lockheed Martin tax rebate worth millions of dollars, related to hotel taxes paid at their CLE facility in Bethesda, MD, even while he was allegedly dating Lockheed Martin’s lobbyist. This was after Montgomery County Council refused to pass a similar resolution.

 

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