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Allstate Insurance only wants its good hands on your wallet.

State Farm isn’t such a good neighbor, after all—especially in your time of greatest need.

Farmers has seen a thing or two and has learned a thing or two—about low-balling claims.

Nationwide isn’t on anyone’s side, no matter what Peyton Manning says.

And lest one think that political grandstanding by some members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation is a viable substitute for effective representation and an avenue to disaster recovery…think again.

U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves, apparently hoping to bolster his 2019 gubernatorial campaign, has issued a series misleading, mistaken and inappropriate claims about the disbursement of recovery funds.

His claim that his House colleagues are questioning what the state did with $438 million in recovery funds was absurd because, simply put, the money had never actually been received.

And he knows it. The claim was grandstanding in its purest form and made only in the interest of political capital to be gained. Flood victims in his district would be far better served by a more positive use of his office.

Sometimes you have to wonder why, when these guys are elected, they can’t just do their damned job.

Of course U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, also said to be casting a solicitous eye toward the governor’s mansion, couldn’t help offering, as is his custom, yet another of his trite homilies when he described the governor’s handling of the flood recovery contract as a “Three Stooges-like performance.” http://www.theadvocate.com/louisiana_flood_2016/article_a41326a0-1326-11e7-8805-574e2f9c803c.html

And the contract to administer the anticipated $1.6 billion in federal recovery funds was a major embarrassment because of the involvement of attorney Larry Bankston in trying to disqualify the low bidder when his son was employed by a firm affiliated with one of the losing bidders. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_aae4b7aa-101f-11e7-924b-037340aec399.html

Edwards must feel as if he’s being pecked to death by a duck.

Greater good could be achieved for all by taking the higher ground to enlightenment (to borrow a phrase employed by The Cincinnati Enquirer in describing a debate between William Howard Taft and former Democratic Secretary of State Richard Olney in the 1904 presidential race between Theodore Roosevelt and Alton B. Parker) instead of acting like a bunch of kids in a schoolyard fight.

People have been suffering for eight months now and they want to get back into their homes. They don’t need cheap campaign rhetoric; they want real answers.

And to compound their frustration, they now know they cannot look to their insurers for relief, either, thanks to lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2017/03/thousands_to_receive_small_pay.html

Thanks to a tactic affectionately known as Delay, Deny, Defend, introduced to Allstate and State Farm by McKinsey and Co. just in time for Hurricane Katrina, policyholders learned that insurers would rather fight than pay up. For every claimant who stuck it out and won a big award from his insurer, hundreds did just what the companies anticipated: they caved in and took settlements of pennies on the dollar simply because they didn’t have the resources to fight back.

http://www.delaydenydefend.com/excerpt/

Less than a week following the devastation of Katrina, Nationwide, on September 4, 2005, instructed its claims adjusters that “if loss is caused by both flood and wind, there is no coverage,” according to Mississippi Gulf Coast U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor.

Nine days later, on September 13, Taylor said State Farm instructed its adjusters that “where wind acts concurrently with flooding to cause damage to the insured property, coverage for the loss exists only under flood coverage.”

On-site damage assessment by engineer Jerome Quintero of Rimkus Consulting Group, contracted by Allstate to handle claims, said there was “insufficient physical evidence to determine the proportion of wind versus storm surge that destroyed (a) structure.”

That was in June 2006. But on November 4, Quintero’s conclusion of “insufficient physical evidence” was altered to read “Storm surge and waves destroyed the residence” by Rimkus staff who never visited the site. Quintero’s name was signed to the revised report without his knowledge, Taylor said.

So, in just those three examples, we have Nationwide, State Farm and Allstate implicitly telling their adjusters to blame Hurricane Katrina’s damage on water alone, thereby passing an inflated $23 billion bill on to American taxpayers.

Did we say inflated? Well, yes. As if that were not enough, Allstate devised a clever way of enriching itself while passing the cost of those claims on to the taxpayer-funded National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Documents obtained by LouisianaVoice show that Allstate, which had an arrangement with NFIP under which it paid Allstate for handling flood claims, took full advantage of that position to protect its own financial interests.

If Allstate found itself on the hook for wind damages, it would use one formula for paying claimants but if it determined the damages were caused by flooding, a second, separate formula was employed. The difference was eye-opening, to say the least.

The formulae varied, depending upon location and on whether or not Allstate deemed damage to be from wind or flooding.

In one location for which LouisianaVoice was provided documentation, for example, if damage was from wind, Allstate paid 83 cents per foot for removal and replacement of drywall (sheetrock). If it was determined to be flood damage, that same dry wall removal and replacement—paid for by American taxpayers—was $1.53 per foot, a difference of 70 cents per foot. Painting that drywall cost Allstate 35 cents per foot if the damaged was caused by wind but cost NFIP (taxpayers) 58 cents per foot if it was determined to be flood damage.

For an average 2,000-square-foot home, that is an extra cost of $1,747 that’s passed on to taxpayers for the drywall and an additional $1,148 for painting—a total overcharge of $2,895.

Assuming Allstate handled 20 percent of total claims for Katrina and Rita in Louisiana and Wilma in Florida, the company would have handled some 48,000 claims, costing the federal government as much as $645 million in inflated claims costs, including overhead and profit, which are also calculated into each claim.

In Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the costs of removal and replacement of drywall was 50 cents per foot for wind damage and $1.12 per foot for flood damage. Painting was 26 cents per foot for wind and 83 cents for flood.

To remove and replace electrical outlets, the cost difference was even starker. For wind damage, the cost was $45.62 but if the damage was caused by flooding, Allstate reported a cost of $219.27 to NFIP.

Kermith Sonnier of Oberlin, Louisiana, is a public claims adjuster and provides the source of much of the information cited here. Company adjusters work for insurance companies and their work is generally geared toward saving the company every dime they can by low-balling claims or by denying them outright.

A public claims adjuster is independent who works only for claimants and Sonnier has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money doing just that.

Sonnier, with 38 years’ experience, was once a company adjuster for Farmers Insurance—until he learned a thing or two about the company.

He enjoyed an impeccable reputation in the claims adjustment industry, having worked the Exxon-Valdez claim in 1989, which until the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, was the worst oil spill in history.

In 1994, he was hired by Pilot which was under contract to Farmers to work claims stemming from the Northridge earthquake in California that year. But beginning in 1996, he said, Farmers began pressuring him to lower his loss estimates. He refused because he saw no grounds to do so and Farmers terminated him in 1997 despite a spotless work record. It gave as its reasons that it was reducing its work force even though it continued to hire other adjusters.

He sued for wrongful termination and won a stunning $10 million judgment against Farmers.

http://slabbed.org/2010/11/15/adjusters-special-employees-not-contractors-farmers-lost-10-4-million-wrongful-termination-case-filed-by-you-wont-believe-who/

He, along with other experts in the field of insurance claims, will be working closely with LouisianaVoice in the coming weeks as we explore how those goods hands people, those good neighbors and those who purport to know a thing or two and who claim to be on your side will, when the chips are down, will do everything legally possible—and sometimes things not legal—to minimize or even deny your claim altogether.

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There was a popular game about 40 years ago called “Whack-a-mole.” (For all I know, it may well still be around.) Anyway, the object of the game was for a player to “whack” a rodent with a rubber mallet each time it appeared out of one of five holes. The problem was each time a mole was “whacked”, it invariably popped up again from one of the remaining four holes.

So it is with certain news stories that just when you think you’ve written about all there is to say on the subject, up pops another angle to pursue.

This time though, two separate—and seemingly unrelated—stories that have been covered extensively in the past by LouisianaVoice have now converged to warrant a fresh look at old news.

Before I go any further, I should acknowledge the ever-sharp eyes of my bronchitis-infected friend and Ruston High School classmate John Sachs (Class of ’61). It is he, after all, that brought an otherwise routine local news story in the Farmerville Gazette to my attention. (I guess I’m going to have acquiesce and give him that honorary Deputy Ace Reporter badge he’s been clamoring for.)

Eagle-Eye John called me about efforts to hire a private prison management company to take over management of the 380-bed Union Parish Detention Center. You may recall that LouisianaVoice had a couple of stories about the facility last year, on MAY 10 and MAY 31 about a convicted rapist who was allowed out of his cell to rape a female prisoner. Twice.

That incident, deplorable as it certainly was, is not what this is about, however.

The Gazette story recounted the reason for the decision by LaSalle Corrections to decline Union Parish’s offer. Those reasons dealt with the potential shortage of prisoners if Gov. John Bel Edwards is successful in reducing the number of state inmates and the financial impact of such a move.

Another factor, said LaSalle Chief of Operations Johnny Creed, was the size of four other facilities in north Louisiana managed by LaSalle: Richwood Correctional Center (1,129 inmates), Jackson Parish Correctional Center (1,285), LaSalle Correctional Center (785) and Catahoula Correctional Center (835).

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And then Creed said the thing that caught Sach’s eye, prompting him to call me with his croaking voice and rattling cough: “As small as (Union Parish Detention Center) is, we would need to bring our work release inmate that work for Foster Farms from our Richwood facility.”

Wait. What?

Foster Farms has 100 work release inmates working at its cotton-pickin’ chicken-pluckin’ plant in Farmerville?

Isn’t this the same plant that Bobby Jindal, with the support of State Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West Monroe), gave $50 million to in order to get Foster Farms to take over the plant from Pilgrim’s Pride back in 2009?

Wasn’t Foster Farms supposed to provide up to 1,100 jobs with that $50 million?

Does Foster Farms get a $2,400 tax credit for each inmate it employs in the work release program?

And aren’t work release programs something of a cash cow for sheriffs and private prisons farming out prisoners to work for just a smidgen more than minimum wage?

Yes,

Uh-huh.

Yep.

Hell, yes.

You mean to tell me Foster Farms gets a $240,000 tax credit (that’s credit, not a deduction, meaning that’s $240,000 income on which Foster Farm pays no taxes) for hiring 100 prisoners at $7.75 per hour (about 60 percent of which goes to the local sheriff), jobs that should be going to local folks?

Very perceptive, Grasshopper.

This, folks, is yet another lingering smell that hits our olfactory like a pair of dirty socks but which we affectionately call the Jindal Legacy.

The work release program is such a golden egg that sheriffs all over the state, reading the tea leaves shaped like dollar signs, rushed to build their own programs, complete with barracks and vans for workers. And to make sure the beds stayed filled, which is the only way they can get the maximum state dollars, the accommodating Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association lobbied (read parties, booze, women and campaign contributions) Louisiana’s law and order legislators to be more law and order-oriented and pass stiffer penalties for even the most insignificant crimes.

To see just how lucrative this could be for a small parish like Union, let’s run the numbers.

State law allows the sheriff or operator of the private prison to take up to 62 percent of a prisoner’s earnings. One hundred prisoners working 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year at $7.75 per hour. That comes to $1.55 million earned by the prisoner.

The Union Parish Detention Center is unique in that it is the only such facility in the state in which neither the sheriff nor a private company has operational controls. It is operated by committee comprised of a member of the Union Parish Police Jury, the district attorney and parish police chiefs. Lincoln Parish at one time was run in the same manner but it is now run by the sheriff.

If the parish takes “just” 60 percent, that’s $930,000 per year for the sheriff/operator. And that’s over and above the rate the state pays the sheriff/operator to house the prisoners. More than six years ago, LOUISIANA VOICE published a story that examined some of the housing contracts between the state and several Louisiana parishes.

Despite the money generated by the work release program, the Union Parish Detention Center has continued to lose money. That is the reason for the unsuccessful attempt to lure LaSalle into managing the center.

We followed our December 2010 post with a story in AUGUST 2015 that illustrated the abuses that can occur when someone with the right connections can use that advantage to manipulate a system like work release for his own monetary gain.

Jail operators, be they sheriffs or private corporations, love the money the work release program brings in to augment that paid by the state for housing the prisoners.

And businesses like Foster Farms love being able to hire 100 prisoners at near-minimum wage and receive a $240,000 tax credit in the process.

It’s a win-win for everyone but the taxpayers.

So, bottom line: Thar’s gold in them thar jails.

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Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based national policy resource center, has released an extensive study entitled Megadeals: The Largest Economic Development Subsidy Packages Ever Awarded by State and Local Governments in the United States.

Louisiana, with giveaways totaling $3,169,600,328, ranked sixth behind New York, Michigan, Oregon, New Mexico and Washington in the total dollar amount of so-called megadeals, the report shows, $65 million more than much-larger Texas, which had $3,104,800,000.

Louisiana, with 11, tied with Tennessee for fifth place in the number of such budget-busting deals behind Michigan’s 29, New York’s 23 and 12 each for Texas and Ohio.

The report, authored by Philip Mattera and Kasia Tarczynska, is somewhat dated in that it was published in 2013 but it still offers some valuable insights into how states, Louisiana in particular, was more than willing to give subsidies worth millions upon millions of dollars to corporations in the name of new jobs that rarely, if ever, materialized.

The subsidies included in the report, it should be noted, do not include tax incentives, which is another type of inducement. Accordingly, Wal-Mart, which has received more than $1.2 billion in total taxpayer assistance, is not included because its deals were worth less than $75 million each. Good Jobs First has documented giveaways to Wal-Mart in a separate report.

The single biggest example of corporate socialism contained in the report is the 30-year discounted-electricity deal worth an estimated $5.6 billion given by the New York Power Authority to Alcoa. In all, 16 of the Fortune 50 corporations (excluding Wal-Mart) were included as recipients of the report’s megadeals.

The biggest single deal for Louisiana—and the fifth-biggest overall—was the $1.69 billion subsidy in 2010 for Cheniere Energy in the form of property tax abatements and other subsidies for the Sabine Pass natural gas liquefaction plant. That project, the report said, created 225 new jobs—a cost to the state of more than $7,500 per job, the largest single cost-per-job project contained in the report.

Shintech, received a 2012 deal worth $187.2 million in subsidies to the company. That project was said to have created 50 new Louisiana jobs at a cost of $3,744 per job.

One of the biggest recipients of governmental largesse since the year 2000 has been General Motors with more than $529 in subsidies nationwide. Yet, it was General Motors who pulled up stakes pulled up stakes in 2012, leaving upwards of 3,000 former employees without jobs.

The megadeals cited by Good Jobs First in its report were dwarfed, however, by the seemingly insane subsidies given to banks and investment firms since 2000.

Of the top 21 recipients of bailouts by the federal government, the smallest was that of a company most probably never heard of: Norinchukin Bank, a Japanese cooperative bank serving more than 5,600 agricultural, fishing and forestry cooperatives from its headquarters in Tokyo—and it received $105 billion (with a “B”).

That’s nothing when compared with the heavy hitters. In all, 12 foreign corporations received loans, loan guarantees or bailout assistance from a generous federal U.S. government, led by the $942.7 billion received by the United Kingdom’s Barclays.

But Barclays ranked only fifth in terms of subsidies received in the form of federal bailouts:

Consider, if you will, the top four:

  • Bank of America $3.5 trillion;
  • Citigroup $2.6 trillion;
  • Morgan Stanley $2.1 trillion;
  • JPMorgan Chase $1.3 trillion.

All of this, of course, was the direct result of deregulation pushed by a congress whose members were supported by generous campaign contributions from CEOs, officers and stockholders of those very firms.

And yet we have elected officials—and citizens—who dare to rail against so-called welfare cheats, the costs of illegal immigrants, and the costs of health care for the poor.

These are the same people who wring their hands at the cost of social programs yet justify the expenditure of billions of dollars per day in military contracts to campaign contributors to support wars with no apparent objective (other than political payback) and with no end in sight.

These are the same ones who look us in the eye and tell us they support free market capitalism.

But pure capitalism doesn’t give away the public bank in order to entice some company that was probably coming to your state anyway. After all, if Louisiana truly has all these rich oil and gas deposits (and it does), does anyone really believe the oil and gas companies are going to locate their refining plants and pipelines in Idaho in order to mine for Louisiana’s resources?

You can check that box “no.”

What is the logic behind subsidies to lure an industry just so it can exploit cheap labor? Wouldn’t it be smarter to invest in public education and higher education so that our citizens might be capable of demanding higher wages for their knowledge and skills? Why would we opt to perpetuate the cycle of poverty by sacrificing taxpayer dollars to the advantage of some faceless corporation who cares not one whit for our citizens?

Free market capitalism doesn’t reward corporations with these kinds of subsidies while the recipients are simultaneously sending job oversees, depriving Americans of job opportunities.

Pure capitalism would dictate that each and every business in America succeed or fail on its own merit, without having to depend on governmental handouts.

Anything else has to be considered as something akin to (gasp) ….socialism.

But insisting on capitalism for the poor and socialism for corporations and the wealthy is a formula for disaster if ever such formula existed. The two philosophies are simply not compatible

And you will never get that lesson from the disciples of Ayn Rand.

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Less than three months ago, on June 24, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order in which he mandated more scrutiny over how significant industrial property tax breaks are doled out to manufacturers. http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2016/06/john_bel_edwards_signs_executi.html

Theoretically, the order gave local governments that would lose out on property taxes a say in approving exemptions for heavy industry, and companies applying for five-year renewals of five-year tax breaks totaling $11 billion would be required to prove the breaks would create and/or retain jobs.

But the Commerce and Industry Board may be trying an end run around Edwards’ order.

The board waited until late Friday afternoon (one of Bobby Jindal’s favorite tactics of making announcements as the week’s news cycle winds down) to give public notice of a Monday board meeting during which it is scheduled to vote on redirecting millions in local property tax revenue from disaster-affected parishes to corporate tax exemptions, without any input from the local bodies losing that revenue.

One of the exemptions to be voted on Monday would “renew” an exemption for Georgia Pacific, a Koch brothers company, costing East Baton Rouge $1.9 million in property taxes.

Exemptions are costing $16.7 billion in lost property tax revenues to local governments, schools and law enforcement, according to the nonprofit Together Louisiana, which will hold a press conference to oppose the proposed exemptions Monday at 9:15 a.m. prior to the 10 a.m. board meeting. http://togetherbr.nationbuilder.com/about

The board meeting will be held in the LaSalle Building at 617 North Third Street in Baton Rouge. The Together Baton Rouge press conference will be held in front of the LaSalle Building.

The exemptions being voted on at Monday’s meeting are being considered in direct violation of Governor John Bel Edwards’ Executive Order issued, and “effective immediately,” on June 24th, 2016, which stated that no future industrial tax exemptions would be approved without the consent of the local governmental bodies — school boards, sheriffs, municipalities and parish governing authorities — whose tax revenue was at stake.

No public hearings, public deliberations or local votes have taken place on any of these proposals, despite the clear requirement of the Edwards executive order. Here is the full agenda for Monday’s board meeting: http://www.opportunitylouisiana.com/docs/default-source/boards-reports/MeetingCategory/louisiana-board-of-commerce-and-industry/9-12-16-c-amp-i-board-agenda.pdf?sfvrsn=0

 

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CONSEQUENCES OF VOTING

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:

Melvin L. “Kip” Holden (DEM)             Defeated         506640            45%

“Billy” Nungesser (REP)                     Elected            628876            55%

Turnout: 40.2% 

We’re not yet halfway through the 2016 legislative session in which lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards are struggling to close a $2 billion budget gap for the coming fiscal year but attention has been diverted from that knotty problem by one of the most bizarre political behavior since Earl Long’s mental crash of 1959, accompanied by a whirlwind tour of the Southwest and his fling with stripper Blaze Starr.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser fell for a phishing scam that’s been around at least three years and in doing so, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Louisiana’s electoral legacy of a revolving door for scalawags, con men, thieves and clowns is securely intact. And while we’re at it, let’s not leave out outright idiots and demagogues.

You’d think we had at least partially rid ourselves of that ilk with the exit of Bobby Jindal, but you’d be oh, so wrong. There apparently is no shortage of egos or stupidity to go around and sadly, we keep electing them. The legislature is riddled with those who have set themselves apart from reality.

Thanks to the diligence of Baton Rouge Advocate reporters Rebekah Allen and Richard Thompson, we are now assured that Billy Nungesser is heir-apparent to the title of Chief Clown in residence—a worthy successor to Jindal, we might add.

The two reporters on Sunday (April 10) broke an astonishing story that Nungesser, abetted by state Republican Chairman Roger Villere, not only fell for a huge scam involving a supposed agreement between a Delaware-based corporation, a Lake Charles refinery, and the Iraqi government, but he did it without the knowledge or consent of Gov. John Bel Edwards on whose behalf he claimed he was acting. http://theadvocate.com/news/politics/15398751-125/lt-gov-billy-nungesser-gop-chairman-roger-villere-work-to-recruit-unlikely-iraq-to-louisiana-busin

For sheer audacity, it even surpassed Huey Long’s classic “Round Robin” pledge by 15 senators to block his impeachment back in 1929. Huey, after all, was battling for his political life while Nungesser was only feeding his inflated ego like a ravenous wolf devouring a fresh deer carcass. And he fed it with a story that had no basis in fact. And he did it for all the world to see. And then he apologized. Sort of.

While Baton Rouge was metaphorically wiping its eyes and laughing at this buffoon, we did a quick Internet search and found that a former East Baton Rouge parish councilman and failed mayoral candidate fell for a variation of the same scheme involving the same Delaware corporation three years ago. More about that later.

First, here is what has transpired thus far:

  • Villere, the state GOP brain bust…er, trust, apparently approached Nungesser for a new billion-dollar deal that involved a plan by Alexandros, Inc. http://alexandrosinc.com/index.html to partner with Pelican Refinery of Lake Charles http://www.pelican-refinery.com/index.html in signing a 25-year agreement to become the exclusive shipping company for the Iraqi government’s oil marketing arm, interchangeably called the State Organization for Marketing Oil and the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO). The plan called for the transporting of up to 150 million barrels of Iraqi oil each month. http://www.alexandrosinc.com/shipping.html
  • Alexandros, headed by CEO Markos Fuson of California, proposed reopening the former Avondale Shipyard on the Mississippi River near New Orleans. The facility shut down in 2014.
  • Alexandros also proposed building more than 40 new ships, “super-tankers,” capable of hauling 200 million barrels of oil per month.
  • Fuson supposedly committed to investing 100 percent of his profits from the venture in Louisiana’s motion picture industry and to then invest his share of film profits into an as-yet-to-be-created charitable foundation that would provide education, health care and housing assistance to Louisiana’s minorities.
  • Pelican Refining’s role in the scenario was unclear, given the fact the Lake Charles facility only produces asphalt and road oil. It has not processed sweet or heavier crude oil in more than a decade, The Advocate quoted the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources as saying.

If all that sounds implausible enough, consider this: Nungesser, salivating over the prospects of establishing himself as the state’s economic emancipator, then took matters into his own hands. In quick succession, he:

  • Issued a press release in March saying that Iraqi’s export agency had signed off on Alexandros’s request to partner with Pelican Refining to purchase light and heavy crude oil from SOMO.
  • Inexplicably sent the press release only to the Washington Post which, recognizing a con when it saw one, chose not to publish the release.
  • Represented himself in the news release as well as in letters to representatives of the Department of State and to Iraqi officials as Louisiana’s economic development recruiter (he’s not; that duty falls to the Secretary of Economic Development, in this case, Donald Pierson). “The honorable governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, has given me a directive to expedite economic stimulus for the state of Louisiana,” Nungesser lied in his letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, adding, “This request for Your Excellency’s advocacy is part of my office’s effort to fulfill that directive.”
  • Wrote similar letters to Stuart Jones, ambassador to Iraq, and to Secretary of State John Kerry in which he again passed himself off as the state’s key economic development leader. “It is with sincere gratitude that I, Billy Nungesser, as the lieutenant governor of the state of Louisiana, respectfully request the Department of State’s additional advocacy to the Republic of Iraq on behalf of the state of Louisiana,” he wrote to Kerry and Stuart.
  • Said in his letters that he copied Edwards with all correspondence. Not so, said a spokesman for the governor’s office, who said Edwards never received a copy.
  • With egg all over his face, denied reading, let alone writing the letters that he signed. Instead, he officially kicked off the blame game, saying first that Villere, an old friend and political ally, had told him he wanted a letter expressing the state’s interest.
  • In the lowest of lows, blamed his staff, saying the letters should never have made their way to his desk. “We’re changing the way some things flow in my office to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he was quoted as saying by The Advocate.
  • Apologized to Edwards. “I would have never used the governor’s name without his permission,” he added.

Falah Alamri, SOMO director general, said the entire deal was a scam, “a hundred percent not real,” The Advocate story says.

But wait. Jeff DeRosia, operations manager for Grand Isle Shipyard in Galliano, says otherwise. “I know they’re real. One hundred percent,” he said. DeRosia, it should be noted also is executive vice president of domestic sales for Alexandros, according to Alexandros documents.

So just where does Villere figure in this entire sordid mess? Who knows? He did, however write his own letter back in February to the Iraqi prime minister and the minister of Oil, Adil Abd al-Mahdi in which he laid out the “urgent next steps that the state of Louisiana and the United States insist upon.” Some of those steps included SOMO’s granting legal authority and the issuing of contracts to Pelican Refining.

It’s still unclear how Villere considered himself in a position to insist on anything on behalf of the United States or Louisiana governments.

The three—Nungesser, Villere and DeRosia—would have been wise to do even the slightest bit of investigation before going off the reservation the way they did.

Our own quick search found a Web site called Ripoff Report in which a Baton Rouge writer in February 2013 warned of a similar scheme by Alexandros. http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Alexandros-Inc/Highland-California-92346/Alexandros-Inc-Attempt-to-Defraud-with-Fake-Documents-Highland-California-1053139

In that report, Terry Easley produced a letter purportedly from the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization attesting to a professional relationship between Alexandros, Inc., Fuson, and the Iraqi government. The letter was signed, supposedly by Sarmad H. Abd, SOMO general manager of contracts, and John Percy de Jongh, Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Easley pointed out discrepancies in the letterhead of that sham letter, comparing it to one he received on April 29, 2013, from SOMO Director General Alamri. The Alamri letter, he said, was on the correct letterhead, complete with correct logos, addresses and contact information in both English and Arabic. Here are the contents of that letter:

TO: Mr. Terry L. Easley

Email: [REDACTED]

Subj./Fraud Document

Reference to you letter dated 26th April 2013.

Please note the following:

1-The Document attached to your above letter is fraud and has never been issued by SOMO.

2-SOMO has no business relationship whatsoever neither with a company named “Alexandros, Inc.” nor with a person called “Sarmad H. Abd”.

3-Our policy is to deal directly and exclusively with End Users (refining system owners) and not through traders or middlemen.

Best Regards,

Dr. Falah J. Alamri

Director General

/04/2013

Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) Fax: + 964 1 7726 574 / + 964 1 7742 979

PO Box 5118 Email: info@somooil. Gov. Iq

Baghdad – Iraq Web: www.somooil. Gov. Iq

The fake letter that precipitated the above response from Alamri, Easley said, was also copied to one Darrell Glasper of Baton Rouge. Glasper, for those outside the Baton Rouge area, was a member of the Baton Rouge Metro Council and ran for mayor-president against incumbent Kip Holden in 2008. He later admitted to paying for a campaign flier during that election which included doctored photos depicting Holden after being severely beaten by the husband because of an affair between the two.

Ironically, seven years later Nungesser would defeat Holden in an election for the lieutenant governor’s office.

The Baton Rouge media and a prominent blogger lost no time jumping all over the hapless and apparently clueless Nungesser.

Reporter Stephanie Grace, saying on Tuesday (April 12) that Nungesser had gone rogue, pointed out that in a 2011 forum between lieutenant governor candidates, Jay Dardenne pounded Nungesser on the duties of the office while Nungesser countered by saying he was one who followed his gut and “thinks outside the box.” http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/15457076-133/stephanie-grace-nungesser-goes-rogue-on-whacky-economic-deal

Grace said in his first big move after taking office in January, he “proved he’s thinking much further outside the box than anyone could have imagined.”

Saying that Nungesser “has no authority over economic development, no right to speak for the governor, and no place contacting the U.S. government, a national news organization, or a foreign head of state” on behalf of Edwards, she did give him a backhanded compliment in noting that he “basically fessed up to have had no idea what he was doing.”

She suggested that Nungesser make a call to Dardenne, who now serves as Commissioner of Administration. “I’m guessing he’d (Dardenne) would be perfectly happy to, once again, school Nungesser on what the day job entails—and what it doesn’t.”

Political blogger Lamar White wasn’t quite as kind.

In his post today (April 12), White suggested that far from being funny, Nungesser’s actions are impeachable. https://cenlamar.com/2016/04/12/lt-gov-nungessers-scam-deal-isnt-funny-its-impeachable/

I disagree. I think to save himself further humiliation, he should take it upon himself to resign.

Even more biting, however, was White’s quote from Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, another political blog: “I always used to wonder what kind of person fell for those Nigerian prince email scams. This says a lot.”

White called Nungesser’s actions “an enormous embarrassment to Louisiana, a blatant usurpation of the statutory power of the Lt. Governor’s office.” He said it also “demonstrates both an enormous disrespect to Gov. John Bel Edwards, for whom Nungesser deliberately misrepresented as working under his authority and blessing, and a fundamental and damaging misunderstanding of the duties of his office.”

He referred to Nungesser’s claim of never having read the letters he signed and his blaming of his staff as “pathetic.”

Not overlooking the role of the state GOP chairman in the fiasco, White said Villere’s “intimate involvement, at the very least, warrants an investigation into criminal conspiracy.”

But then he observed, perhaps correctly that Nungesser need not fear the consequences. “Louisiana is too busy laughing at him to worry about actually holding him accountable.”

There is a lot of stupid to go around in Baton Rouge but with this stunt, Nungesser may have laid claim to franchise rights.

And that is particularly pathetic.

CLOWN IN CHIEF

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