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Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

A question for Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis:

How much is enough?

And that’s not a rhetorical question. We really want to know what your limits are.

According to Francis, a wealthy man in his own right, he should be entitled to a free lunch.

Literally.

You see, the political campaigns of Public Service Commission (PSC) members, the Louisiana Insurance Commissioner and judges at every level are financed in large part by the very ones they regulate or do business with on a daily basis.

But apparently that association is not cozy enough for Francis, who wants to remove all restrictions on accepting free meals from representatives of utilities, motor carriers, and others regulated by the PSC.

Granted, the PSC purports to hold itself to a higher standard than actual ethics rules allow. Legally, elected officials are allowed to accept up to $60 per day in food and beverage under the guise of “business” lunches or dinners. But, as Baton Rouge Advocate columnist and resident curmudgeon JAMES GILL writes, the PSC, at the urging of members Foster Campbell and Lambert Boissiere, rammed through a rule barring all freeloading.

That didn’t sit well with Francis, who is financially solvent enough to daily feed the entire commission out of his petty cash account.

Saying he wanted the commission to be run like a business, he sniffed that a working lunch is “pretty standard procedure in the real work world.”

Our question to Francis then is this: since when is government run like a business? Businesses are run to make a profit; government is run to provide services for its citizens. The two concepts are like the rails on a railroad track: they never cross though they often do appear to converge.

And then there is our follow up question to Mr. Francis: isn’t it enough that you manage to extract huge sums of money from the industries you regulate in the form of campaign contributions? Why would you need a free lunch on top of that?

After all, your campaign finance reports indicate you received $5,000 from AT&T, $5,000 from ENPAC (Entergy’s political action committee), $5,000 from Atmos Energy Corp. PAC, $2,500 from the Louisiana Rural Electric Cooperative, $2,500 from Dynamic Environmental Services, $2,500 from ADR Electric, $2,500 from carbon producing company Rain CII, $2,500 from Davis Oil principal William Mills, III, $2,500 each from Jones Walker and the Long law firms, each of whom represents oil and energy interests. There are plenty others but those are the primary purchasers of the Francis Free Lunch.

LouisianaVoice would like to offer a substitute motion to the Francis Free Lunch proposal. It will never be approved, but here goes:

Let’s enact a law, strictly enforced, that will prohibit campaign contributions from any entity that is governed, regulated, or otherwise overseen by those elected to the Public Service Commission, the Louisiana Insurance Commission, judgeships at all levels, Attorney General, and Agriculture Commissioner.

  • No electric or gas companies, oil and gas transmission companies, or trucking and bus companies or rail companies could give a dime to Public Service Commission candidates.
  • Lawyers would be prohibited from contributing to candidates for judge or Attorney General.
  • Insurance companies would not be allowed to make contributions to candidates for Insurance Commissioner.
  • Likewise, companies like Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF, who control 75% of the world pesticides market, and Factory farms like Tyson and Cargill, which account for 72 percent of poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production worldwide, could no longer attempt to influence legislation through contributions to candidates for Agriculture Commissioner.
  • Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) could no longer accept contributions from individuals or companies affiliated in any way, shape or form with education.

While we’re at it, the Lieutenant Governor’s office oversees tourism in the state. In fact, that’s about all that office does. So why should we allow candidates for Lieutenant Governor to accept campaign contributions from hotels, convention centers, and the like?

This concept could be taken even further to bar contributions from special interests to legislators who sit on committee that consider bills that affect those interests. Education Committee members, like BESE members, could not accept funds from Bill Gates or from any charter, voucher or online school operators, for example.

Like we said, it’ll never happen. That would be meaningful campaign reform. This is Louisiana. And never the twain shall meet. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would see to that.

But wouldn’t it be fun to watch candidates scramble for campaign funds if such restrictions were to be implemented?

We might even see a return of the campaign sound trucks of the Earl Long era rolling up and down the main streets of our cities and towns after all the TV advertising money dries up.

Ah, nostalgia.

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A couple of reports, unconfirmed to this point, have been swirling about concerning the ongoing investigation into that San Diego trip taken by State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and 16 or so subordinates, including the four who went by state vehicle via Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Altogether, the jaunt cost Louisiana taxpayers more than $73,000.

But there also are confirmed developments that might have raised some concern on the part of those who want to see an unbiased investigation that will lead to appropriate action on the part of Gov. John Bel Edwards. It seems, however, that initial concern has been defused.

First, the unsubstantiated reports that, while lacking official confirmation, come from those close to the investigation who are considered reliable.

  • Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office is said to have begun an investigation on its own, separate and apart from that of the governor’s office. A spokesperson for the AG said that could be neither confirmed nor denied. “Our office has a policy of not commenting on such matters so as not to compromise any investigation it may be conducting,” she said.
  • Another well-placed source said the FBI is also conducting an investigation of Edmonson and LSP, though Edmonson earlier denied any such investigation. Our source of that story said he initially provided information to the FBI but now that the agency’s investigation is underway, he has not been involved in further dialog with agents.

Conspicuously absent is any report that the Office of Inspector General, that fiercely independent investigative agency, has undertaken any effort to look into possible criminal wrongdoing at LSP. That could, of course, be because OIG isn’t as independent of the governor’s office as it likes to claim.

It likewise would be reassuring if East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore initiated a grand jury investigation or at least weighed in if for no other reason than to say he was taking a wait and see approach to the governor’s investigation. After all, any crime committed in the East Baton Rouge Parish falls under his jurisdiction.

The two unconfirmed reports aside, LouisianaVoice has learned that Mark Falcon, an attorney for the Division of Administration (DOA), is assisting DOA auditors in their investigation of LSP. Richard Carbo, communications director for the governor’s office, said, “He is not the lead investigator; he is assisting the auditors in their work.”

Mark Falcon did, however, assauge concerns when he offered full disclosure in informing Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne that he is the brother of Floyd Falcon, legal counsel for the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA), the lobbying arm of LSP.

It was LouisianaVoice’s story about the LSTA’s practice of laundering illegal campaign contributions through the personal bank account of its executive director David Young more than a year ago that prompted Floyd Falcon to refer to me as “a chronic complainer,” a characterization that has likely only intensified in his mind, given the manner in which the LSP saga has played out thus far.

But Mark Falcon’s voluntary disclosure of his relationship with Floyd Falcon and the manner in which he presented it is encouraging and provides optimism that the DOA investigation will be complete and above-board.

That is particularly important because two of those who took that trip to San Diego had their travel and lodging expenses on the trip picked up by the LSTA. Only the meals for Trooper Alexandr Nezgodinsky, a native of San Diego, and Lt. Stephen Lafargue were paid for by the state. Several others who made the trip are also LSTA members but had their expenses paid by the state.

In another development, LouisianaVoice received a rather dubious response to a public records requests regarding other trips Edmonson took to receive various awards.

Here is a copy of our request:

From: Tom Aswell
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 3:55 PM
To: ‘Michele Giroir’; ‘Doug Cain’
Subject: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS

Pursuant to LA. R.S. 44.1 (et seq.), I hereby submit my formal request for the opportunity to review all travel records, including airfare, other travel, lodging, meals, registration fees and any and all other expenses incurred by all personnel (by name) who attended the presentation of any and all of the below awards bestowed upon Col. Mike Edmonson:

  • FBI Washington DC, Top 25 Police Administrators Award, 2009;
  • Sheriff Buford Pusser National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award, 2013;
  • Human Trafficking, Faces of Hope Award, 2013
  • Inner City Entrepreneur (ICE) Institute—Top Cop Award, 2013
  • American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators Martha Irwin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Highway Safety, 2014
  • New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, Captain Katz Lifetime Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Safety, 2015.

 Also, please provide me with the opportunity to review:

  • all travel records, including airfare, other travel, lodging, meals, registration fees and any and all other expenses incurred by all personnel (by name) who attended the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association annual conventions/conferences in Destin/Sandestin, Florida for the years 2008 through 2016;
  • all travel records, including airfare, other travel, lodging, meals, registration fees and any and all other expenses incurred by all personnel (by name) who attended the Washington (D.C.) Mardi Gras festivities for the years 2008 through 2017;
  • all travel records, including airfare, other travel, lodging, meals, registration fees and any and all other expenses incurred by all personnel (by name) who attended the New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities for the years 2008 through 2016 (exclusive of security details assigned to the event).

Here is the response I received yesterday (Monday, March 6):

From: Michele Giroir
Sent: Monday, March 6, 2017 8:12 AM
To: Tom Aswell
Cc: Doug Cain; JB Slaton; Faye Morrison
Subject: RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS

Mr. Aswell, in partial response to your below public records request, I have been advised that LSP does not maintain any records relating to travel expenses, etc., for attendance at the presentation of the following awards bestowed upon Col. Mike Edmonson:

  • FBI Washington DC, Top 25 Police Administrators Award, 2009;
  • Sheriff Buford Pusser National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award, 2013;
  • Human Trafficking, Faces of Hope Award, 2013
  • Inner City Entrepreneur (ICE) Institute –Top Cop Award, 2013
  • New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, Captain Katz Lifetime Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Safety, 2015

 The remaining requests are still being handling and further responses will be forthcoming.

Any questions that you may have should be addressed to Major Doug Cain.

With kindest professional regards, I am,

Sincerely,

Michele M. Giroir

Attorney Supervisor

 Not complete sold on that explanation, I emailed Cain:

“Doug, I find it inconceivable that LSP has no record of expenses for these trips. Is it the position that LSP keeps no such records or are you saying no expenses were incurred?”

His response? “No expenses.”

“Not even for those who went with him?” I wrote back (because we know by now he rarely travels alone).

“No sir,” he responded.

So the bottom line is we are being asked to believe that Edmonson, who packed 15 of his people off to San Diego, all of whom combined to run up expenses of more than $73,000, including salaries and travel, lodging and meal expenses, either took no one with him on the other trips and he didn’t consume any meals on his trips or perhaps he took traveling companions, none of whom spent a dime of state funds.

Either scenario requires a leap of faith to believe.

(To be incredulously continued.)

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1399909

Bloomberg News Service on March 1 published a STORY that said global megabanks have paid $321 billion in fines for such non-banking-like practices as money laundering, market manipulation and even terrorist financing since the market crash of 2008.

And while $321 billion may sound impressive, Bloomberg failed to mention that because of those same banks, President George W. Bush had little choice but to sign the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that pumped more than twice that amount, $700 billion of taxpayer bailout funds, into the failed banks that precipitated the Great Recession of 2008.

Most financial advisers would describe that as a negative return on investment.

Adding insult to injury, $1.6 billion of that $700 billion was used to award multi-million dollar bonuses to CEOs of the very firms that got us into the mess to begin with. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/16b-of-bank-bailout-went-to-execs/

Bloomberg also failed to mention that those fines had little effect on those who perpetuated the crimes but did have a significant impact on stockholders and retirees, those, in other words, who had nothing to do with the massive fraud carried out on such a grand scale.

In fact, in 2010, former Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo was fined $22.5 million and ordered to pay another $45 million in restitution as his penalty for reaping a profit of $141.7 million from stock sale, according to Mary Kreiner Ramirez and Steven A. Ramirez, authors of The Case for the Corporate Death Penalty (New York University Press, 2017). So, despite the penalties, he walked away with a net gain $74.2 million, or a 52 percent return, sending a clear signal his peers that “crime does in fact pay,” the authors wrote.

There are also two questions Bloomberg neglected to address:

  1. What the total cost of the runaway greed and reckless actions of firms like AIG, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Countrywide, and J.P. Morgan to stockholders, retirees and American taxpayers in general?
  2. How many top tier officers at these firms who condoned, encouraged and/or actively participated in the illegal practices went to jail?

The answer to the first question is an eye-popping $15 trillion, according to Ramirez and Ramirez.

The answer to the second question is just as unbelievable: ONE.

In fact, as of Jan. 28, that last date that STATISTICS were updated by the Bureau of Prisons, there were exactly 555 people serving federal jail sentences for banking, insurance, embezzlement and counterfeiting. That comes to .3 percent (three-tenths of one percent) of the total federal prison population.

By contrast, there were 82,109 in federal prison for non-violent drug offenses (46.4 percent of the total), and 14,853 imprisoned on immigration charges (8.4 percent).

At this point it might be fair to ask just who did the most lasting damage to the nation’s economy?

It would also be fair to question why, if only one Wall Street banker went to jail, how is that there are 555 imprisoned for banking- and insurance-related offenses? The answer to that is those offenders, situated on Main Street instead of Wall Street, lacked the political clout in Washington that the leaders of the megabanks enjoyed.

Is that an over-simplification of the circumstances? Probably, but it’s interesting to compare the actions of different White House administrations in handling financial crises.

President Obama’s first Attorney General, Eric Holder, in his “too big to fail” proclamation, said, “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications…it (prosecution) will have a negative impact on the economy.”

Obama, for his part, said, “One of the biggest problems about the…financial crisis and the whole subprime lending fiasco is that a lot of that stuff wasn’t necessarily illegal, it was just immoral or inappropriate or reckless.”

Wasn’t necessarily illegal? Both statements stretch credulity to its breaking point and are in themselves, disgraceful because federal laws were clearly broken knowingly and willfully.

It wasn’t always that way. For example, in the wake of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, more than 1,100 bankers were indicted and 839 were convicted.

Enron, the seventh-largest company in the U.S. at the turn of the century, is another example of how the feds went after those who played fast and loose with the rules. President George H.W. Bush called on Enron CEO Kenneth Lay to run the World Economic Summit in Houston in 1990 and in 1992, Lay co-chaired the reelection campaign of Bush the First.

Enron and its affiliates also contributed more than $888,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2000, the year that George W. Bush was elected President and another $1.3 million to the Republican Party. Lay and his wife personally contributed $238,000 to George W. Bush campaigns and inauguration celebrations and raised another $100,000 from friends. To the younger Bush, Lay was known as “Kenny boy.”

Still, Enron and its top executives were not immune from prosecution by Bush the Second.

Despite the access to the highest levels of government enjoyed by Enron and Lay, he and Jeff Skilling, his successor as Enron CEO, were indicted by the Department of Justice in 2004 and though the two combined to spend some $60 million on their defense, Lay was convicted on all counts and Skilling on 19 of 28 counts of securities fraud.

George W. Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the Enron investigation because Enron and Lay both were major financial supporters in Ashcroft’s Missouri unsuccessful Senate re-election campaign. His chief of staff, David Ayers, also took himself out of the investigation of Enron. That was as it should have been.

Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, was convicted of shredding Enron documents and both Enron and Arthur Andersen soon ceased to exist.

The same fate befell CenTrust Savings Bank, Drexel Burnham Lambert investment bank, and WorldCom—all because of flagrant violations of federal securities laws and each was prosecuted by the administrations of the two Bushes. WorldCom, in fact, was the largest bankruptcy in history when it went under in 2002.

Evidently, those firms were not considered too big to fail.

By contrast, Obama’s Attorney General Holder and Lanny Breuer, chief of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Criminal Division, did not remove themselves from DOJ’s investigation of the investment banks that brought on the Great Recession of 2008. This despite the fact that both men had worked for the same law firm of Covington & Burling which included among its clients such eminent Wall Street banking firms as Bank of America (Countrywide’s successor), Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase.

In fact, at the time Holder was tapped as attorney general, he was co-chairing Covington & Burling’s white-collar defense unit. Good training in case you’re ever called on to investigate your former bosses.

Breuer returned to Covington & Burling in 2013 followed by his boss Holder in July 2015, giving Holder at least a reason for his strained, if not borderline unprincipled logic for not pursuing criminal indictments against the megabanks.

Following Holder’s departure, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates (Remember her? She’s the one President Trump fired after she refused to enforce his illegal immigration order) issued a DOJ memo (turns out she was pretty good at memos that cut right to the chase) on Sept. 9, 2015, that reversed Holder and Breuer’s DOJ policy toward pursuing individual accountability, both criminally and civilly, for corporate wrongdoing. The memorandum said the policy change was to maximize DOJ’s “ability to deter misconduct and to hold those who engage in it accountable.”

The comparison between the approaches of two Bushes and Obama to bankers’ disdain for securities laws to the detriment of the entire country represents a stark role reversal for the perceived political philosophies of the Republican and Democratic administrations.

And now, President Trump has expressed his determination to roll back the Dodd-Frank bill passed after the 2008 recession for the express purpose of preventing a recurrence of the runaway greed that nearly wrecked the world economy.

In fact, he wants to remove all regulation of Wall Street banks, quite possibly the most dangerous single cartel in American society.

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Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson just cannot help himself. He can’t.

While he stood in front of the TV cameras and said he is ultimately accountable for the state of chaos his office finds itself in, he still refuses to accept responsibility for specific actions.

Back in 2014, when LouisianaVoice first became aware of Edmonson’s ability for deception through the latest revelations about his usurping an award from one of the most respected State Troopers in Louisiana, he has repeatedly attempted to shift blame onto others.

And while I am by no means qualified as a psychologist or a psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Vaknin, in his book Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, classifies this behavior as a form of narcissism. More about that later but first, let’s examine the brief history of our coverage of Edmonson and Louisiana State Police (LSP).

  • In the closing minutes of the 2014 legislative session, State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), an announced candidate for State Treasurer, slipped an amendment onto an otherwise benign, obscure bill that would have increased Edmonson’s retirement by some $55,000 per year. Riser (did we mention he’s a candidate for State Treasurer) assured fellow legislators that the bill had no economic impact and the bill with the attached amendment sailed through with even then State Rep. John Bel Edwards voting in favor.

LouisianaVoice received an anonymous tip about the ruse and broke the story and the backlash was immediate. Edmonson, as his emerging behavioral traits would reveal over time, disavowed any knowledge of the effort by then Capt. Jason Starnes, though it’s absurd to think Starnes would ever attempt such a move without the blessings of his boss. Edmonson, in fact, later admitted that he was aware of the amendment and did, in fact, give the go-ahead to Starnes.

Starnes, meanwhile, has seen his career skyrocket. His salary has gone from $59,800 as a lieutenant to his current salary of $150,750, an increase of 152 percent. Most recently, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given a $25,000 raise—after Edmonson assured the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) in August that the creation of the post of supervisor of management and finance would not incur any additional costs.

  • When LouisianaVoice learned that the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA) had laundered campaign contributions to various politicians through the personal bank account of the LSTA executive director, Edmonson again denied any involvement. But how many really believe the LSTA would act of its own accord in approving campaign contributions?
  • Edmonson also denied that he asked the LSTA to write a letter to Governor-elect John Bel Edwards in December 2015 endorsing Edmonson for reappointment to lead state police for another four years. LSTA ultimately ditched the idea, but how did it come up in the first place? Edmonson desperately wanted to hold onto the job and sources say his denial notwithstanding, he requested the LSTA to write such a letter.
  • Now he’s claiming he had no knowledge of the side trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon taken by four troopers as they drove Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Charles Dupuy’s state vehicle to San Diego for the convenience of Edmonson.

Yet, there was his signature on the expense report of Maj. Derrell Williams, head of Internal Affair, who was the senior officer of the four who drove the vehicle. So how could he have not known?

  • His explanation? It was a signature stamp affixed to the report by his secretary. Not his fault, in other words.

Seriously, Mike? You’ve already thrown the four who drove Dupuy’s Ford Expedition at your direction under the bus. Now you’re going to throw your secretary under the bus as well?

We’re beginning to detect a disturbing trend here.

At least you admitted that Michelle Hyatt, wife of Lt. Rodney Hyatt, was a civilian passenger in the Expedition along with the four troopers in that cross-country jaunt. It’s going to be interesting to see how you manage to shift that responsibility onto your subordinates.

Now, back to Dr. Sam Vaknin and his book about narcissism. Among his descriptions of narcissistic behavior:

  • A “consummate manipulator of human emotions.”
  • Convincing, deviously successful.
  • Uses anything and anyone to secure his dose of “narcissistic supply” and discards, without hesitation those he deems “useless.”
  • They disguise their behavior in order to “humiliate, create dependence, intimidate, restrain, control and paralyze.”
  • They employ “very simple” deceptive mechanisms to achieve their goals.
  • He usually is unaware of why he is doing what he is doing and is generally unable to predict the outcomes of his actions and is “powerless” to modify his behavior.
  • He is unable to determine why he does what he does or why he chooses one mode of action over other available under the same circumstances.

GEORGE SIMON, Ph.D., puts another way:

  • When they blame others for their wrongful acts, it’s simply an attempt to justify their stance by casting themselves as being in a position where they simply had no choice but to respond the way they did. In this way, they simultaneously evade responsibility as well as manipulate and manage the impressions of others. The tactic goes hand in hand with the tactic of portraying oneself as a victim. It’s typically an effective tactic that gets others to pay attention to everyone or everything else except the disordered character and his wrongful behavior as the source of a problem.

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When Lloyd Grafton tendered his resignation from the Louisiana State Police Commission over the shoddy way the commission had forced Executive Director Cathy Derbonne out the month before, it prompted a heated exchange between Grafton and Jared Caruso-Riecke, one of the newer members of the commission which has undergone considerable change in makeup in the past 12 months.

The confrontation between the two also prompted a few choice comments from member Calvin Braxton Jr. of Natchitoches who expressed his displeasure at the direction the commission, the State Police equivalent of the Civil Service Commission, has been going over the past year.

The commission has become increasingly politicized as it has come under the influence of the State Police upper management and the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA). The appointments of Caruso-Riecke of Covington and Monica Manzella of New Orleans, along with the election of T.J. Doss, the State Police representative on the commission, as its president only served to accelerate that shift.

The hiring of outside legal counsel Taylor Townsend, a former state senator and a political supporter of Gov. John Bel Edwards, to conduct a perfunctory investigation of political activity by LSTA members has further distanced the commission from even any pretense of functioning as an independent body.

Manzella, appointed last October, is an assistant city attorney for the City of New Orleans and has signed off on Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) contracts between the City of New Orleans and State Police. Under LACE, state police are paid by the local district attorney to help beef up traffic enforcement. Some have characterized her work on the contracts and her appointment to the commission as a possible conflict of interest.

But with last week’s outburst over Grafton’s comments about his perceived lack of integrity on the commission, it is Caruso-Riecke who bears a closer look because of his association with a racing team that openly boasts of evading law enforcement in attempting to set new cross-country speed records at speeds of up to 140 mph on public highways.

Caruso-Riecke, of Covington, heads up Riecke Construction which has “designed, acquired, and built numerous commercial, residential, and industrial developments throughout the Gulf South for several generations,” reads an online biography of CARUSO-RIECKE. Though he is involved in several other business enterprises, the “several generations” hints that the company’s financial success may have pre-dated his involvement in its operation and that he now benefits from the labors of his predecessors.

(Of course, it’s possible that he took over a mediocre company and propelled it to outrageous success through hard work and shrewd business tactics. On the other hand, it would appear problematic for anyone to maintain a hectic playboy persona while occupied with building a company from the ground up.)

Regardless, Caruso-Riecke, who also stars in a TV reality show, pointed out in January that he takes no per diem or mileage for attending commission meetings. But with $70 million in the bank, why would he? He loves to perpetuate his image of a fast-living bon vivant as evidenced by several online YouTube videos.

In one, he is interviewed by a member of his “Team Riecke” about the modifications to a Mercedes used in cross-country rally competition. Features include two in-dash police scanners, each with more than 1,000 channels, plus a handheld scanner and several cellphones—all used to evade law enforcement on public highways.

At one point, as Riecke pontificates on the features of his rally car in the YouTube INTERVIEW, he reaches into the back seat and retrieves a cover for the police scanners, explaining as he does so (to the amusement of the interviewer) that some states “frown” on such scanner equipment. The cover, when put in place, conceals the scanners and makes the dash appear as a solid component.

One might think he is a modern-day Burt Reynolds reprising his Smoky and the Bandit role—except Burt ain’t nearly cool enough; Burt doesn’t perch a pair of sporty, expensive sunglasses on his forehead in the same cool manner that Caruso-Riecke does.

In the second YouTube POST (warning: graphic language), Riecke places a casual $50,000 bet that another team, obviously friends, can’t beat the record of 32 hours, 51 minutes for driving from New York to Los Angeles. As the bet is made and as team members prepare to depart, one member boasts that the team has 10 separate license plates to help evade law enforcement as he demonstrates a quick plate change for the camera. He explains that if they are spotted and they hear officers on the scanner giving out their plate numbers, they can pull over and switch plates.

The team succeeds in making the New York to L.A. run in 31 hours, 59 minutes, eclipsing the old record by 52 minutes. At one point, they reveal they have averaged about 140 mph over a single 500-mile stretch.

So, what it’s now come down to is that in vetting appointees to the Louisiana State Police Commission, Gov. Edwards has selected a man last June whose hobby is evading law enforcement as he races around the country on public highways at speeds far exceeding 100 mph, laughing about concealing police scanners and apparently condoning switching license plates to further avoid arrest.

Apparently, he thinks he is Peter Pan and will never have to grow up.

And when he’s not behind the wheel, he casually bets against someone’s ability to average 90 mph from New York to Los Angeles. That’s an average speed, folks, for 2800 miles, but at speeds up to 140 mph in some stretches. He so cool that he loses a $50,000 bet in the same blasé manner others would in giving a homeless man a buck or two at a busy intersection.

And now he’s one of the newest appointments to the commission charged with maintaining the integrity of the Louisiana State Police by making sure officers and management play by the rules.

What’s wrong with this picture?

For openers, it should cause one to wonder about integrity on so many levels—that same integrity that Grafton attempted to address but was shouted down by Caruso-Riecke.

Which begs the question of how Caruso-Riecke got appointed in the first place.

Well, when all else fails, follow the money.

For starters, here are just a few political contributions by Caruso-Riecke and his companies:

  • Bobby Jindal—$16,000;
  • John Kennedy—$1,000;
  • Walter Reed—$7,000;
  • Mike Strain—$9,500;
  • Daniel Edwards (Gov. John Bel Edwards’ brother and Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish—$4,500;
  • John Bel Edwards—$5,500.

You’d think that someone with a net worth of $70 million could’ve been a little more generous with the one who would appoint him to his present position on the commission.

 

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