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Hey, folks, you want to see how your government really works for you? Read on.

In May 2018, House Concurrent Resolution 47 by State Rep. Kirk Talbot (R-River Ridge) was approved unanimously by both the Louisiana HOUSE and SENATE.

The RESOLUTION called on the Louisiana Department of Insurance to “assemble a task force to address the high automobile insurance rates and (to) submit a report with findings and recommendations to the Senate and House committees on insurance by March 1, 2019.”

An 11-person task force was chosen on July 31 and Talbot, who received $19,000 in campaign contributions from insurance interests in 2019, was named chairman and Sen. John Smith (R-Leesville) was named vice-chairman. Also named from the legislature was State Sen. Wesley Bishop. [Smith was term-limited and unable to seek re-election in 2019 and Bishop in January pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.]

Other than those three, the committee was pretty much top-heavy with members from the insurance industry. Six members represented:

  • The Property Casualty Insurers Association;
  • The American Insurance Association;
  • The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies;
  • The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana;
  • The Professional Insurance Agents of Louisiana;
  • The Louisiana Department of Insurance.

One of those is Kevin Ainsworth, a registered lobbyist who lists Progressive Insurance among clients he represents before the legislature. He also is an attorney with the politically-connected firm Jones Walker, which has contributed more than $300,000 to political candidates since 2015.

Only two of the 11 members (other than the three legislators) could be considered consumer advocates and one of those has questionable credentials as a former appointee of Bobby Jindal:

  • A representative from the Louisiana Association for Justice, an organization comprised mostly of lawyers who, for the most part, represent consumer plaintiffs in civil lawsuits, and
  • A representative (Chance McNeely) of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association.

McNeely, you may recall, is the son-in-law of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco who was APPOINTED by Jindal as Assistant Secretary, Office of Environmental Compliance at the Department of Environmental Quality at $102,000 even as the Jindal administration was laying off employees by the hundreds. He didn’t miss a beat when John Bel Edwards became governor, moving seamlessly over to the job as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development at $99,000.

Given Chance’s track record on behalf of the general public at DEQ, the wisdom of his appointment to the insurance task force is questionable at best.

The task force met exactly three times— on Sept. 13, Oct. 18 and Nov. 14—for approximately 90 minutes per session to discuss the complex problem of Louisiana’s high auto insurance rates. And while the meetings were recorded, they were not videoed.

An actuarial subcommittee was appointed and was comprised exclusively of representatives of the insurance industry. The task force never investigated the findings of the actuarial subcommittee.

Moreover, the task force’s actuary report is not posted on any public website nor is it posed in the legislative archives, or the Department of Insurance Archives.

So much for transparency.

The March 1, 2019 deadline for the submission of recommendations to the Senate and House committees on insurance came and went with no recommendations being submitted.

Talbot on March 29, 2019, filed HB 372 entitled “The Omnibus Premium Reduction Act,” named for his task force and consisting of four parts which did little to actually lower insurance premiums.

Not only was there no report released by the task force, but the report has never been made public and no further action, meetings or inquiries have been made by the task force or any of its members to the actuarial subcommittee even though the actuary subcommittee has indicated that the four reform components of the Kirk Talbot bill would not lower rates.

No matter. Talbot and the insurance industry, through radio interviews, social media and numerous newspaper editorials, trumpeted the “drastically lower premiums” HB 372 would produce. Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), though not a member of the task force and though he never attended any of the committee’s three meetings, testified on the House floor that the task force bill had been thoroughly vetted

Even though the task force did not, in fact, “thoroughly vet” or investigate in any other manner the findings of the actuarial subcommittee, and upon information and belief by some observers that the task force was caught off-guard by the results of the actuarial subcommittee, it chose to run with the bill anyway because of political pressure from the insurance industry.

An army of lobbyists was engaged to pushing the bill through the legislature. It did pass the House by a vote of 69-30 but never made it to the Senate floor.

“It is clear…that the bill, heavily marketed by the insurance industry, was designed to increase rates under the subterfuge of reducing rates,” one opponent said of HB 372.

That’s not surprising. Several years ago, I had a legislator introduce a bill that would’ve mandated a 10% premium reduction for anyone who voluntarily took a defensive driving class, the idea being if a person volunteered for a defensive driving class, s/he would become a better driver, thus reducing the accident rate and, in the process, lower the cost of insurance claims. You’d think the insurance industry would welcome such a bill but instead, their lobbyist came out with guns blazing and shot the bill down in committee.

So now, it’s 2020 and as we are set to open a new session on Monday, no fewer than 59 bills dealing with some form of insurance have been pre-filed, 11 of which deal with auto insurance rates. Most of those 11 are redundant, with only about four separate issues actually being addressed.

And good luck getting any of those passed.

All of which goes back to my oft-repeated rhetorical question: Who do our elected officials really represent?

 

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Sometimes it seems the mindset of infallibility of prosecutors is such that they not only cannot admit their own errors, but sometimes even those of their predecessors.

Leon Cannizzaro wasn’t even the Orleans Parish district attorney when 17-year-old Jerome Morgan was convicted in the 1993 shooting death of 16-year-old in a Gentilly motel ballroom.

The DA at the time would have been Harry Connick, Sr., whose office was so notorious at hiding exculpatory evidence from defendants that national publications like THE NEW YORK TIMES, CURRENT AFFAIRS, and THE WASHINGTON POST ripped his office’s practices.

Connick’s reputation was enhanced—if that is the right word—by a model ELECTRIC CHAIR that occupied the desk of one of Connick’s prosecutors. Photographs of five African American men that Connick’s office had sent to death row at the Louisiana State Prison at Angola were “seated” in the photo. The center photo was of one John Thompson who had been sent to death row for a murder he didn’t commit and in fact, was nowhere near the scene of the murder when it occurred.

Thompson sat on death row for 14 years before the Innocence Project of New Orleans discovered exculpatory evidence Connick’s office had withheld and freed him in 2003. An assistant DA, it turned out, had hidden 10 pieces of exculpatory evidence, including test results and a pair of pants in order to protect the DA’s case against Thompson. The pants contained blood worn by one of the victims in the crime, blood believed to be that of the perpetrator. The blood type was B. Thompson’s was O.

He sued Connick and won a $14 million judgment—a million dollars for every year he was held in solitary confinement—but with Clarence Thomas writing the majority opinion, a split U.S. Supreme Court took Thompson’s reward away and he ended up with nothing for his 14 years awaiting his execution.

Thompson, who spent 14 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit and was denied a $14 million judgment for his wrongful conviction, died of a heart attack in 2017 at age 55—14 years after his exoneration.

Fully a quarter of Connick’s convictions during his 30 years as Orleans Parish DA were overturned, each time because of exculpatory evidence that was withheld from defense attorneys.

But Connick’s screw-ups didn’t stop Cannizzaro from attempting to go forward with re-trying Morgan after New Orleans Judge Darryl Derbigny vacated his conviction in 2014 after two witnesses who later recanted their trial testimony, saying that police had steered them to identify Morgan as the shooter when Clarence Henry was killed at a birthday party at the hotel.

In fact, Cannizzaro promptly moved to re-try Morgan and to charge the two witnesses, Hakim Shabazz and Kevin Johnson, with perjury while quietly forgoing any attempt to go after the police officers who the two said coerced their original testimony.

Their attorney even said as much. “If the DA is eager to prosecute for perjury,” said attorney Robert Hjortsberg, “then justice would dictate that he begin with prosecuting the corrupt NOPD officers who coerced false statements out of scared teenagers so they could close this case quickly rather than accurately. There is no justice for a victim’s family when the police don’t arrest the actual perpetrator. And the police department will never correct these lazy, corrupt practices unless the DA begins to hold the department accountable and truly treats all the people of this city fairly.”

Cannizzaro, while refusing to proclaim Morgan innocent of the killing, nevertheless in 2014 dropped the murder charge after a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling said prosecutors could not use transcripts from Morgan’s 1994 trial during a new trial.

That meant that for the first time in 20 years, Morgan was a free man and that should have ended his problems, but like the plot from a Stephen King novel, more horrors lay ahead for him as he encountered something called the BAIL BOND INDUSTRY.

“I am the victim not only of prosecutors who violated the law, but also of our money bail system and the predatory bail bond industry,” Morgan wrote in a letter to the letter of the New Orleans Advocate last year.

When Cannizzaro, in his dogged pursuit of Morgan, decided to re-try him, his bond was set at $25,000—this for a man whose conviction had just been set aside by a judge—and he spent an additional 18 days in jail while his family raised the bail money.

When, after 14 months, Cannizzaro finally relented and dropped all charges, Morgan assumed—wrongly, it turned out—that the bail bond company would return his bail money.

He said he learned that the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance had investigated the bail bond company that he had paid and found that it had overcharged him for his bail bond. But it was not just him, he said. “The commissioner found that dozens of bail bond companies have overcharged as many as 50,000 New Orleans families by an estimated $6 million,” he said. “That is a lot of people and a lot of money!”

He said he was angry at learning that he’d been overcharged but was confident that he and others would receive compensation.

“I figured the bail bond industry would not be happy about having to return the money. But I did not expect that the Legislature would introduce a bill — SB 108 — that would prohibit the insurance commissioner from ordering this money to be returned and another bill — HB 171 — whose purpose is to protect the bail bond industry’s profits.”

Morgan was referencing SB 108, which passed the Senate by a vote of 36-1 (Sen. Dan Claitor casting the lone nay vote) with two absences (with one of the bills authors, Jean-Paul Morrell, being among the two absentees), and sailing through the House by a vote of 85-0 with 20 absences (sponsor Raymond Garofalo was among the absentees).

So, what, exactly was SB 108, which was signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards as Act 54 of 2019?

Well, basically it says that the rates for underwriters writing criminal bail bonds throughout the state “shall not be subject to the rates set by the insurance commissioner, but shall be set and adjusted by the legislature.”

But then there’s this in Section B of the bill:

“In any parish having a population of more than three hundred thousand and fewer than four hundred thousand persons …no repayment of overcollections as determined by the commissioner shall be required nor shall such actions be considered a violation…”

Well, guess how many parishes just happen to have a population of between 300,000 and 400,000?

And just how did the bail bond industry manage to slide that bill through the legislature so easily?

The same way all controversial legislation seems to get passed: Political contributions or, for a lack of a better term: payoffs. A check of campaign finance records shows pages and pages and pages of political contributions by bail bondsmen. And you just know those contributions were made in the interest of good government.

Contributions were made not only to legislators but to sheriffs as well—25 that we found since 2011. Others were to judges. What political groups have the most clout in the legislature? Sheriff and judges. So when the New Orleans bail bondsmen need favorable legislation to protect their practice of gouging low-income defendants who lacked the expertise or the financial resources to fight back, who do you call on? Your friendly legislators, sheriffs and judges.

“It took 20 years for me to be exonerated,” Morgan said. “But it took only about a month for a bill to exonerate the bail bond industry that cheated my family and my community out of millions of hard-earned dollars.”

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Regular readers of this site know of my often expressed frustration with the lack of transparency of our elected officials, particularly after Bobby Jindal so shamelessly gutted the enforcement powers of the Louisiana Board of Ethics back in 2008, just days after taking office—a move, by the way, that conveniently accommodated a couple of his supporters in the legislature who were experiencing ethics problems that suddenly went away with Jindal’s “reforms.”

Regulars also are familiar with my general angst regarding the judges of the 4th Judicial District (Ouachita and Morehouse parishes) and judges in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal in particular.

Financial statements of elected officials—except judges—is relatively easily accessible on the Board of Ethics web page for those willing to do a minimal amount of digging. That’s how I learned of the questionable motives of one LEGISLATOR for voting in favor of a contract for a company whose stock he had only recently purchased and subsequently made a killing from.

As noted above, judges have somehow managed to hold themselves exempt from disclosure of any possible conflicts via their financial dealings—conflicts that can, and do, create an aura of distrust in our system of justice. (Financial disclosure reports are not to be confused with campaign finance reports, which even judges are required to disclose.)

So, I was more than a little thrilled today when I saw in my email inbox a press release from the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans.

The MCC, to fill void of accountability and transparency, has taken it upon itself to make financial disclosure statements available on nearly 300 judges, from district court levels all the way up to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Rather than write my own summary, I have opted to re-print the MCC press release in its entirety:

Today, the Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC) launched a new search engine on our website that enables the public to access the financial disclosure statements of all 289 Louisiana District Court Judges, Appellate Court Judges, and Supreme Court Justices for the past five years.

The MCC’s Louisiana judicial financial disclosure statement search engine is accessible here: https://metrocrime.org/judicial-financial-disclosure-statements/

Financial disclosures are required of all Louisiana elected officials and contain information regarding income, property and business ownership, non-profit affiliations, and major financial transactions.

Prior to today, there was no online access to financial disclosures filed by Louisiana judges. Rather, the only way to access judicial financial disclosures was by filing a public records request with the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Judicial Administrator.

“The Louisiana Supreme Court’s fails to recognize that judges are just as accountable to the public as any other elected official,” said MCC President Rafael Goyeneche. “The cumbersome process that the Supreme Court has devised for the public to obtain judicial financial disclosures needlessly restricts citizens’ access to these records and undermines public confidence in the judiciary. Going forward, judicial financial disclosures will be accessible to the public in the same manner as all other Louisiana elected officials.”

The Louisiana Board of Ethics provides online access to all financial disclosures required of elected officials and public servants serving on boards and commissions, with the exception of the judiciary. Providing these records online brings financial transparency of the judicial branch of government in line with that of the legislative and executive branches.

Campaign finance reports for all elected officials, including judges, are already publicly available on the Louisiana Board of Ethics website via the following link:
http://ethics.la.gov/EthicsViewReports.aspx?Reports=CampaignFinance

The MCC obtained these records by making a public records request to the Supreme Court’s Judicial Administrator and asking for financial disclosures of state judges from the past five years. The Judicial Administrator promptly furnished these digital records, and the MCC found all judges had appropriately submitted the financial disclosures according to requirements of Supreme Court rules. The MCC notified the Louisiana Supreme Court that we are launching the judicial financial disclosure search engine in a letter accessible through the following link:
https://metrocrime.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/1.10.20-MCC-Letter-to-LASC.pdf

“By not making these records readily available as other elected officials, the Supreme Court does a disservice to the Appellate and District Court judges who are doing a good job,” Goyeneche stated. “Openly sharing judicial financial disclosures should provide confidence to the public that their cases are being considered without conflicts of interest.”

…To which LouisianaVoice can only add: Amen!

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Google the definition of jury tampering and you get several hits, all of which say the same thing. I have chosen to include the following definition from the web page of USLegal:

  • A person commits the crime of jury tampering if, with intent to influence a juror’s vote, opinion, decision or other action in the case, he attempts directly or indirectly to communicate with a juror other than as part of the proceedings in the trial of the case. Jury tampering may be committed by conducting conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to communicate with a juror. (emphasis mine)
  • A juror includes any person who is a member of any jury, including a grand jury, impaneled by any court or by any public servant authorized by law to impanel a jury. The term juror also includes any person who has been summoned or whose name has been drawn to attend as a prospective juror. (emphasis mine)

Certainly, I am not an attorney nor am I a legal scholar by any stretch of the imagination.

But if the House does ultimately approve articles of impeachment for President Donald Trump—which now seems inevitable—then the question of jury tampering could conceivably arise, which could explain why Mitch McConnell advised Trump to back off his tactic of CRITICIZING SENATORS who may soon be sitting in judgment of him.

As a disclaimer, let me say up front this is not a partisan essay but a legitimate question about a legal conundrum that may need to be addressed down the road if the laws concerning jury tampering are to be enforced across the board at all levels of jurisprudence.

The potential problem revolves around the fact that (a) the House, which will have to vote to impeach, will act in the same role as a grand jury does when it indicts an individual and (b) the Senate will serve as the jury in the trial that would follow.

That means that every member of Congress—435 House members and 100 senators—would be serving at some point as either a member of the grand jury (House) or the petit jury (Senate).

So, when Trump goes tweets any criticism of any representative or senator over the issue of impeachment, is he committing the crime of jury tampering? When he says Republicans need to “GET TOUGHER AND FIGHT” on impeachment, could that be considered an attempt to influence a juror’s vote?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is one of Trump’s more vocal supporters who championed the impeachment of Bill Clinton but now rails against a similar move to impeach a president from his own party.

And Graham’s sometimes steadfast defense of Trump and his strident criticism of the impeachment hearings creates a glaring jury tampering problem in its own right.

You see, Graham heads up a political action committee (PAC) called FUND FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE. In fact, on the PAC’s web page is a quote from Graham: “I helped establish Fund for America’s Future several years ago to support conservative candidates for federal and state office. We will work hard to grow the Republican Party and chip away at the Democrats’ control of Washington.”

And as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Ay, there’s the rub” (often misquoted as “Therein lies the rub”).

Of 21 Republican senators up for reelection next year, 15 have accepted $110,000 between them from Fund for America’s Future this year alone—all since the subject of impeachment was first broached inside the Beltway. These senators, with the amounts they received, include:

  • Dan Sullivan, Alaska: $10,000;
  • Tom Cotton, Arkansas: $5,000;
  • Cory Gardner, Colorado: $5,000;
  • David Perdue, Georgia: $10,000;
  • Joni Ernst, Iowa: $10,000;
  • Mitch McConnell: $10,000;
  • Susan Collins, Maine: $5,000;
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi: $5,000;
  • Steve Daines, Montana: $10,000;
  • Ben Sasse, Nebraska: $5,000;
  • Thom Tillis, North Carolina: $5,000;
  • Jim Inhofe, Ohio: $5,000;
  • Lamar Alexander, Tennessee: $10,000;
  • John Cornyn, Texas: $10,000;
  • Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia: $5,000.

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy had no contributions from Graham’s PAC, though he did receive $11,200 from Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Republican power brokers. Several other senators also received contributions from the father and daughter from Nevada.

Additionally, several senators received contributions from Citizens United Political Victory Fund. That’s the PAC that convinced the SUPREME COURT to remove limits on corporations spending on political campaigns, a decision that led to the creation of super PACs.

Interestingly Citizens United Political Victory Fund provided compensation of an undetermined amount to Kellyanne Conway, who never passes up an opportunity appear on Fox News to defend Trump and to attack the impeachment hearings. No explanation was provided as to the purpose of that payment to her. That compensation, of course, further clouds the issue of jury tampering.

Cotton ($5,000), Daines ($10,000), and Graham ($5,000) also received funding from Citizens United Political Victory Fund while 10 received contributions from Citizens for Prosperity in America PAC, an organization that contributes 100 percent to Republican causes and candidates. Those included:

  • Sullivan: $15,000;
  • Gardner: $5,000;
  • Perdue: $10,000;
  • Ernst: $10,000;
  • McConnell: $5,000;
  • Daines: $5,000;
  • Tillis: $10,000;
  • Inhofe: $5,000;
  • Graham: $5,000;
  • Cornyn: $11,600.

Money is never given to any politician without the expectation of something in return. And inasmuch as these senators received these contributions this year with the full knowledge that they would likely be sitting as a jury in judgment of fellow Republican Trump, the question of (wait for it) quid pro quo comes into play and that would appear to constitute jury tampering.

In 1929, the Louisiana legislature voted to impeach Gov. Huey Long but he pulled a brilliant move that guaranteed victory. He convinced 15 senators to sign a pledge, the so-called “ROUND ROBIN” not to vote to convict. They were later rewarded with state jobs and other favors with some even alleged to have been paid in cash or given lavish gifts. That certainly was jury tampering by every definition of the term.

As far as we know, Trump has yet to attempt to get 34 senators to sign such a pledge.

As far as we know.

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Eddie Rispone, who will face incumbent John Bel Edwards in the Nov. 16 general election for governor, calls himself a political outsider. In fact, that appears to be about the only position he has taken in the entire campaign other than proclaiming ad nauseam that he is a “job creator.”

And if running for public office for the first time serves as the barometer for which the term is defined, then yes, he is a political outsider.

But if you include participation behind the scenes—as in pouring hundreds of thousand of dollars into various political campaigns in order to make one’s influence felt in the halls of the Louisiana Legislature—then no, Eddie Rispone is anything but a political outsider.

If allowing someone like Baton Rouge contractor Lane Grigsby control your campaign—even to the point of boasting that he will chair your transition committee following your election (as claimed Wednesday over a Baton Rouge radio program)—then Eddie Rispone would have to be considered the consummate political insider.

Rispone, by necessity, had to participate in the gubernatorial debates because he was pitted not against Edwards in the first primary, but against Congressman Ralph Abraham, to see who would face Edwards in the general election.

And now that he’s in the runoff, he seems to be dodging any face-to-face confrontation with Edwards. Just last night (Tuesday), he was a no-show at a statewide forum sponsored by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, leaving Edwards alone to field questions.

It’s a strategy, regrettably, that may be in Rispone’s favor. With no real proposals forthcoming from him other than his repeated claim that he is a “job creator,” and knowing that as the only Republican candidate in a very red state, he need only keep his head down and avoid major gaffs for the next three weeks.

The two are scheduled to participate in one final debate one week from today. We’ll see if Rispone keeps that date.

Since 2003, the first year that Bobby Jindal ran for governor, Rispone and various family members have forked over more than $944,000 in political campaign contributions to various candidates—including $19,000 to Jindal and $35,000 to David Vitter’s 2015 campaign for governor.

Rispone and family have also contributed:

  • $72,600 to Citizens for a Better Baton Rouge Political Action Committee (PAC);
  • $50,000 to Education PAC;
  • $100,000 to Empower Louisiana PAC (chaired by Grigsby);
  • $250,000 to the Louisiana Federation for Children PAC;
  • $40,000 to the Republican Party of Louisiana;
  • $175,000 to the Fund for Louisiana’s Future.

Like his protégé, Grigsby likes to play behind the scenes, preferring to act not as a king, but as a kingmaker. And by holding the purse strings, he wields far more power than many office holders do themselves but without the pesky necessity of answering to constituents.

As such, he has been the chief “sponsor” of Rispone’s candidacy, hoping to install his own candidate in the fourth floor of the House that Huey Built so that he, like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, can call the shots without being subjected to voters’ scrutiny.

And now we have Donald Trump spewing disinformation about John Bel Edwards on behalf of Rispone. Trump’s TV ads, which are peppering the airwaves, claim that Edwards is pro-abortion and anti-Second Amendment. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, Edwards has alienated the Democratic Party with his Pro-Life stance, based on his Catholic background—and don’t forget, he supported and signed a strong anti-abortion bill into law that is presently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

And his pro-Second Amendment record is out there everyone to see—even Donald Trump. But in a political campaign, anything goes—even outright lies.

Grigsby’s campaign contributions dwarf those of Rispone. He and his family members have poured more than $2 million into various political campaigns since 2003, meaning that between him and student Rispone, they have spent just a shade under $3 million on a wide array of candidates and causes.

Unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Rob Maness was on the Jim Engster Show on Wednesday morning and he made the claim that Grigsby is already spreading the word around Baton Rouge that he will chair Rispone’s transition committee after he’s elected governor on Nov. 16.

But Grigsby recently may have crossed an ethics line, assuming such a line even exists anymore—or ever did—in the world of Louisiana politics.

In the Oct. 12 primary election for State Senator from Baton Rouge’s 16th District, Democrat Beverly Brooks Thompson led a five-candidate field with 14,213 votes (34 percent) while incumbent Republican Steve Carter and Republican challenger Franklin Foil finished in a tie for second place.

With a three-candidate runoff looming, which would have been in favor of Thompson since only a plurality would be needed to win, Grigsby, desperate to install a Republican, tried to entice Foil into dropping out by promising him a judgeship.

As it turned out, that was unnecessary because a re-count gave Foil a four-vote win over Carter, placing him in the Nov. 16 runoff alone against the Democrat.

But Grigsby’s offer brings into sharp focus the problem with big money in political races. It is indisputable that any candidate—whether he has anything to offer or whether he is just an empty suit—with sufficient money for enough sound-bite television ads has a tremendous advantage over a candidate with plenty of substance but no money.

No one should be able to purchase a judgeship—or any other office. That flies in the face of everything this country is supposed to stand for, but apparently no longer does.

Kris Kristofferson wrote a beautiful song entitled Me and Bobby Magee. There’s a line in that song that says “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

To paraphrase that line, “Free elections is just another term for plutocracy.”

 

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