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Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

Somebody wants a piece of Calvin Braxton and they’re willing to go to great lengths to extract their pound of flesh—even to the point of sending anonymous emails and letters to LouisianaVoice in an effort to use this medium as a vehicle on which to ride him out of town.

There also is a seven-page letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards from a Baton Rouge attorney “respectfully” requesting that charges be brought against Braxton and that he be removed from office.

Braxton is President of Natchitoches Ford-Lincoln as well having interests in several other automobile dealerships and businesses in the Natchitoches, Leesville and Marksville areas.

http://natchitochesford.com/

https://coraweb.sos.la.gov/CommercialSearch/CommercialSearchDetails.aspx?CharterID=342154_7Q83

He also is a member of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) which hears appeals of disciplinary action taken against Louisiana State Troopers and which recently conducted a sham investigation of political activity by the board of directors of the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA, not to be confused with LSPC) that one commission member said appeared to be “something suspect.”

And that, apparently is the crux of the vendetta against Braxton.

Commission regulations, like State Civil Service regulations governing state employee activity, prohibit state troopers from participating in political campaigns by endorsing, campaigning for, or making contributions to candidates. Those regulations were put into effect as a trade-off to protect state employees from being pressured into supporting a particular candidate or incumbent at the risk of losing state employment should the wrong candidate win.

But members of the association Board of Directors, as evidenced by an audio recording of one of the association’s affiliate members—a copy of which LouisianaVoice has experienced considerable resistance in obtaining—made the decision to funnel its campaign contributions through association Executive Director David Young. Young wrote more than $45,000 in personal checks to various candidates, including $10,000 each to Bobby Jindal and Gov. Edwards, over a period of several years and was “reimbursed” by the association for his “expenses” on behalf of LSTA.

https://www.latroopers.org/about

Young told the commission in February that the contributions were structured in that manner because there were “questions regarding the ability of a state employee to make a contribution. So in order to avoid any of that, if I make a contribution as a non-state employee, there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.”

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_ffd5d5d3-e12a-575a-8b44-d4079c73bb30.html

The only problem with that circular logic is that the money eventually still came from the individual troopers in the form of membership dues and that was what raised the objections by several retired members of LSTA in the first place.

Braxton has been something of a thorn in the side of the LSTA as well as other members of the LSPC. In that same February meeting, Braxton objected to the approval of the January minutes because the minutes as proposed did not adequately or accurately summarize some of the key points raised about the contributions in January.

He became a marked man from that point on and it didn’t help when at the July meeting, he nominated member Lloyd Grafton of Ruston as the new commission chairman. He cast the lone vote for Grafton as Thomas J. “T.J.” Doss, the State Police representative on the commission, was elected.

http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/b713f7b7dd3871ee86257b9b004f9321/85d048928ae51fa086256e9a004cc8e8?OpenDocument

Now Doss, a state trooper, must preside over appeals by fellow state troopers and could conceivably be called upon to investigate or rule on disciplinary matters involving his superiors which could cause a serious conflict of interests.

But the effort to oust Braxton, or to at least make him uncomfortable, started long before his nomination of Grafton. In fact, it started just about the same time he questioned the minutes of the January meeting back in that February meeting.

It began with an email to LouisianaVoice in which it was claimed—without any documentation—that Braxton had threatened a state trooper over the trooper’s arrest of Braxton’s daughter for driving while intoxicated.

That was followed by an anonymous letter postmarked July 5 in which the writer, in longhand, began by extolling the efforts of LouisianaVoice “to expose the corruption and dishonesty that permeates some of our Louisiana agencies—most notably La. State Police.” The writer at least gets credit for a smooth diversionary tactic.

After blowing smoke up our toga, the writer went on to describe how he/she likes to eat out often but “It’s amazing (and shocking) what one can overhear in a restaurant while waiting for companions to arrive. More amazing is that people are stupid enough to bandy about sensitive matters (and names) in public places.”

The writer, who signed the letter “Citizen Chicken” because of not feeling “comfortable enough to sign my name,” went on to say in the two-page letter how he/she “recently heard snatches of a conversation that…made me suspect State Police was the topic.”

Apparently hearing with amazing clarity in a crowded restaurant, the writer described the discussion as touching “on some official who was throwing his weight and position around and threatening folks. Seems this official’s daughter wad been picked up for DWI. ‘Braxton’ contacted the troop and reportedly told them that they had better hope they never came before him on disciplinary charges.”

The conversation, the writer said, conveniently “quieted then” and no more was heard.

“I believe what I heard was clearly a report of intimidation by someone who (I later discovered) was a commissioner of LSP.”

Wow! That’s really a thorough summation of an incident about which the writer could only pick up “snatches.” It would appear the writer might have a rewarding career as an investigator for the Attorney General or the Office of Inspector General or perhaps even some federal agency.

The really weird part is while Braxton is from Natchitoches, the letter’s envelope was postmarked Baton Rouge.

Before I go any further, it should be pointed out that if Braxton did indeed try to browbeat or intimidate a state trooper over doing his job, he should be called on the carpet for that. There’s no excuse for that type of behavior, which would appear to be documented by more official documents than an anonymous letter which I’ll get to momentarily.

I attempted to talk to Braxton about this at the July commission meeting but members had been already instructed in an executive session earlier in that meeting not to talk to the media and Braxton complied with that, even to the point of walking away from me.

But even as the commission as a body—and the LSTA legal counsel—choose to ignore or even justify the attempted circumvention of rules regarding the campaign contributions, it’s interesting to see the determined backdoor effort to bring down Braxton for his alleged lapse in judgment and abuse of his position—if, of course, that is in fact what happened.

On the heels of that anonymous letter, LouisianaVoice received another anonymous, unmarked envelope containing a five-page official State Police Incident Report.

That report, submitted by Troop E Commander Capt. Jay Oliphant, Jr., described the Dec. 5, 2015, early morning stop of a Ford truck on LA. 494 and the DWI arrest of Braxton’s daughter. She subsequently submitted a breath sample which showed a blood alcohol concentration of .139%. A reading of .08 percent is considered intoxicated under state law and the driver was arrested for first offense DWI, for speeding 68 mph in a 55 mph zone, improper lane usage and an open container violation.

Oliphant said in his report that he contacted Braxton later on Dec. 5 “as a courtesy” and advised him of the arrest and that Braxton accused the trooper, Jayson Linebaugh, of targeting “a select group of individuals, maybe even him or his family,” according to the report.

The report also claimed that Braxton said “he might not help Trooper Linebaugh if he gets in a bind on the job, which requires him to appear before the Louisiana State Police Commission” and that he “was not through” with the matter.

A week later, on Dec. 12, Oliphant’s report said, Braxton called him and demanded that Trooper Linebaugh be reassigned to New Orleans for 60 to 90 days to “get his mind right.” Oliphant said he advised the only way a trooper would be assigned to New Orleans would be to supplement the New Orleans Police Department in an ongoing criminal enforcement detail, but “not as punishment for arresting his daughter.”

As it turns out, that anonymously sent copy was not the only copy of Oliphant’s report that LouisianaVoice received.

A routine public records request was made of Gov. Edwards’ office for any correspondence from LSTA attorney Floyd Falcon pertaining to Calvin Braxton and the governor’s office promptly emailed a copy of that report prefaced with a two-page letter from Falcon addressed to Edwards and dated July 11, 2016. That was just three days prior to LSPC’s most recent meeting at which the “investigation” of the campaign contributions was conveniently swept under the rug with the recommendation by LSPC special counsel Taylor Townsend that no further action be taken on the matter.

Townsend, who holds two state contracts through LSPC totaling $75,000, received taxpayer funding to conduct an “investigation” for which there is no final written report. There are those, including Commission members, who would like to see what they got for their money.

Townsend, it should be noted, also has contributed $10,000 to Edwards’ campaigns.

Falcon, in his letter, itemized ways in which he said Braxton “abused his position,” and ended by requesting that Edwards “immediately have specifications of charges prepared and served on Calvin W. Braxton, Sr. and that after a public hearing that he be removed from office for cause. We suggest he not be allowed to participate or vote on Commission matters until these charges are resolved.”

While LouisianaVoice in no way condones Braxton’s actions if events did come down as described in Oliphant’s report. His actions, if true, are inexcusable. But Falcon’s letter is itself a pretty bold position from a legal representative of LSTA which certainly abused state regulations against participating in political activity, the pitiful excuse for a thorough “investigation” notwithstanding. There can be no defense of that “investigation”—the conclusion of which left one commission member wondering “if someone could start an association of state employees, appoint himself as executive director, collect membership dues and make political contributions in his name and then be reimbursed with members’ dues.” Civil Service regulations, like those of the LSPC strictly prohibit such political activity but, of course, a silly little matter like a state law didn’t deter LSTA.

You can read Falcon’s letter and Oliphant’s accompanying report in their entirety HERE

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Call it the summer doldrums or whatever you wish. The truth is there hasn’t been much political blog activity—from any of us.

It’s not that there is a dearth of news to report; between killings by cops, killings of cops, terrorist attacks, political accusations, political promises that border on fantasy, e-mail scandals and plagiarized speeches, there’s more than enough to go around. But somehow, we’ve become inured, victims of a malady we can only identify as scandal fatigue for lack of a better term.

But LouisianaVoice, with the help of a couple of volunteer researchers, is working on a project that should generate considerable readership interest—unless, of course, readers are also victims of the summertime lethargy that seems to be at least somewhat contagious.

But we’d be less than honest if we didn’t admit we get pretty discouraged when we expose wrongdoing—some of it even criminal in nature—on the part of elected and appointed officials and nothing is done about it.

What more needs to be done, for example, than to point out the illegal use of campaign funds for such personal use as season tickets to sporting events, luxury car leases and even paying ethics violation fines and personal federal income taxes from campaign funds? Yet, nothing is done.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/05/17/improper-spending-of-campaign-funds-appears-to-be-the-rule-rather-than-the-exception-in-louisiana-random-check-reveals/

What more needs to be done than to publish official investigative reports of a state trooper having sex in his patrol car while on duty to bring severe disciplinary action down on that officer?

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/10/04/you-couldnt-time-an-egg-with-this-guy-state-police-lt-has-sex-twice-on-duty-once-in-back-seat-of-patrol-car-still-on-job/

It took LouisianaVoice weeks and many stories before official action was finally taken against a state trooper who went home to sleep during his shift so that he could work his second job the next day before he was finally fired. And even though we revealed that his supervisor allowed this practice to go on for years, the supervisor was simply transferred—even after we published audio recordings of that same supervisor refusing to accept a citizen’s complaint after he had denied refusing the complaint.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/11/gift-cards-for-tickets-payroll-chicanery-quotas-short-shifts-the-norm-in-troop-d-troopers-express-dismay-at-problems/

After we ran a story about a legislator, who made thousands of dollars by purchasing stock in a company he knew was going to be approved for a major program with the Department of Education, that legislator was re-elected.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/03/27/senate-education-chairman-appel-purchases-discovery-stock-week-before-company-enters-into-state-techbook-agreement/

When we outed Frederick Tombar III, the $260,000 per year director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation, over his sexually explicit emails sent to two female employees, he promptly resigned only to turn up at Cornerstone Government Affairs, a consulting company headed by former Louisiana Commissioners of Administration Mark Drennan and Paul Rainwater.

https://louisianavoice.com/category/campaign-contributions/page/9/

When we ran the story of a clerk in Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe with ties to powerful attorney and banking interests who was failing to show up for work, both the Louisiana Attorney General the Office of Inspector General punted on their investigations.

When a north Louisiana contractor sued the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development over attempts by DOTD employees to extort payoff money from him, he won more than $20 million. Instead of paying up as it should, however, the state simply said it doesn’t have the money to pay the contractor who was forced into bankruptcy by the department’s criminal activity. Yet, no one at DOTD was fired, much less prosecuted.

http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/local/2015/12/04/contractor-wins-20m-suit-against-dotd/76813444/

Department of Public Safety Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux twerked the system by taking an incentive buyout for early retirement that netted her an extra $59,000. She promptly promoted herself and came back to work the next day at a salary bump. Ordered to repay the $59,000 by then Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, she never did.

https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

But a caseworker for the understaffed and overworked Office of Children and Family Services was arrested with all the appropriate posturing and chest-thumping by law enforcement officials—including State Police—for payroll fraud after allegedly falsifying reports on monthly in-home visits with children in foster care.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/13/dcfs-funding-slashed-necessitating-driveway-visits-but-overworked-caseworker-is-arrested-for-falsifying-records/

The lesson here is obvious: if you’re politically connected, you can scarf off $59,000 with no repercussions but if you’re a lowly civil servant striving to meet impossible work demands brought about by budgetary cuts, you’re SOL. It’s not that we condone the payroll falsification, but justice should that should be administered evenly and blindly—but somehow never is.

The stories we have written about the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry and what the board does to dentists to destroy their practices and their very lives are horrific. Some of the investigative tactics and the retributions against defenseless dentists are sadistic at best and criminal at worst. Yet the board is allowed to continue its practices unchecked.

And as recently as May 2, we have the announcement from Gov. John Bel Edwards of the appointment of TERRENCE LOCKETT of Baton Rouge to the Louisiana Auctioneers Licensing Board. His appointment was made despite his being ordered in 2013 to pay $600 in penalties for his failure to file lobbying expenditure reports from March-December 2011 and his second-offense DWI in April 2014, which was reduced to a first-offense DWI.

http://gov.louisiana.gov/news/gov-edwards-announces-boards-and-commissions-appointments-5-2

By now, you’ve probably detected a trend.

It’s more than a little frustrating to see these transgressions reported, to know they are seen by those in a position to do something, and yet see these same ones in charge do nothing—or do so little as to make any discipline meaningless.

LouisianaVoice over the next few days will examine ethics fines that have gone uncollected for years, critical legislative audits of state agencies about which nothing seems to get done, and campaign contributions and lobbying activity that fortify the positions of special interests while diminishing to virtual insignificance the influence and interests of Louisiana’s citizens.

And nothing gets done.

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It’s really interesting—and disappointing—to see how the very ones charged with enforcing our laws can be so condescendingly smug about getting away with actions they have to know—but can’t bring themselves to admit—are wrong from a legal, moral and ethical standpoint.

To no one’s surprise, the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) is both capitalizing on what it terms as “civil unrest” and crowing about the outcome of Thursday’s meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC).

But the association’s braggadocio was careful to cloak an ongoing effort for yet another pay raise (the third in just over a year) in a carefully worded, three-sentence explanation.

And the election of a new commission president could present a whole set of new problems.

To bring you up to date, the LSPC accepted the recommendation that no action be taken in any investigation of wrongdoing by state troopers responsible for (a) making the decision to actively support political candidates with campaign contributions and (b) laundering the money through the bank account of LSTA Executive Director David Young. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/14/expectations-of-state-police-commission-report-on-lsta-campaign-contribution-probe-dies-with-a-pitiful-whimper/

The Code of Governmental Ethics, Section VIII of R.S. 18:1505.2 (B) lists the making of contributions or loans “through or in the name of another” as a prohibited practice. http://ethics.la.gov/Pub/Laws/cfdasum.pdf

That’s pretty specific and clear-cut. And that prohibition is equally applicable to boty civil service employees and state police, even though the two answer to different boards—state employees to the State Civil Service Commission and state troopers to the LSPC.

And if the LSPC cratered to pressure from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, with the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards serving as the official conduit, there are other ongoing investigations and one of those investigating agencies, the FBI, is not likely to succumb to pressure from the sheriffs or Edwards.

The State Ethics Board also has been asked to look into the contributions laundered by LSTA to a number of statewide political candidates since 2003, including Bobby Jindal and Edwards, both of whom received $10,000 from the association. Edwards has since returned his contributions to LSTA.

Here’s the text of an email from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn that went out Friday morning, the day after the LSPC unanimously accepted the recommendation of commission attorney Taylor Townsend that no action be taken on the investigation:

From: Hillary Moses <hmoses@latroopers.org>
Date: July 15, 2016 at 10:53:37 AM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: A Message from LSTA President Jay O’Quinn

Members, 

During this time of civil unrest, please remain vigilant in keeping yourselves and your families safe.  I only wanted to take a few moments to inform you of a few details regarding yesterday’s Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) meeting.  Most of you are aware that, many months ago, certain individuals alleged that LSTA members and David Young were guilty of misconduct related to political activity.  The LSPC began an investigation into the LSTA based on these allegations and assigned attorney Taylor Townsend to conduct the investigation.  The LSTA cooperated fully, and Mr. Townsend acknowledged his appreciation of our cooperation when he released his findings in yesterday’s public meeting.  Mr. Townsend stated that the LSPC has no authority over the LSTA or its Executive Director, facts that were previously acknowledged.  Mr. Townsend further declared that no individual trooper was guilty of misconduct. The commission then voted unanimously to take no action and announced the matter closed.  

In regard to the proposed rule changes affecting the Louisiana State Police pay plan, Rodney Hyatt testified on behalf of the department.   After some debate, Rodney and TJ Doss, our representative on the Commission, successfully persuaded the Commission to table this matter until the next LSPC meeting.  This was done to allow the department time to ascertain the effects of the rule change and make any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.    

Lastly, by vote of the six Commission members, TJ Doss was elected as Chairman of the LSPC.  Please join me in congratulating TJ.  He has proven to have the motivation and ability to lead the LSPC.  To have the other Commission members recognize his ability and leadership is an enormous, well-deserved compliment.  Thanks to all members who took time to attend yesterday’s meeting, and thank you to those who continue to support the LSTA.  The many phone calls, messages, and words of encouragement mean more than you know.  Please feel free to share this information with members who may not have an e-mail address separate from the department. Thank you, and stay safe. 

Jay 

Way to go, guys. You pulled a fast one. It’s not enough to get away with it, but you have to top it off with bombast and swagger—just to show you can. Real class. But you might do well to remember two applicable quotes: It ain’t over ’til it’s over (Yogi Berra) and Pride goeth before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

If you read O’Quinn’s email carefully, you may have noticed two other things worth reexamination.

The e-mail skimmed over (we think deliberately) the testimony of State Trooper Rodney Hyatt with the two sentence explanation that Hyatt and commission member Thomas J. Doss, himself a state trooper, persuaded the commission to table an unspecified matter for 30 days to allow times to ascertain effects of a new rule change and to make “any necessary adjustments to protect the pay plan.”

That unspecified matter was a pay plan, adopted last November giving troopers an automatic yearly 4 percent pay hike but rescinded last month because any rule that affects wages or hours can go into effect only upon the governor’s signature—and that signature has never been provided. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

It was Doss who insisted that a new rule eliminating the longevity pay plan be tabled for 30 days. His motion was a transparent effort to send signals to the LSTA to step up its lobbying efforts with the governor’s office to get Edwards’ signature on last November’s pay plan, effectively killing the substitute plan. Eight months apparently was not sufficient for Doss and Hyatt; they need another 30 days, it seems.

Even as state civil service employees have gone without pay increases for five years or longer, state police have already received pay raises over the past 18 months totaling as much as 50 percent for some troopers.

The proposed longevity pay plan, which gives automatic yearly pay raises (that other state employees have been denied) aside from any merit increases, could give the impression that state police under its present leadership are just a tad greedy.

Obviously that’s not applicable to all state police officers—just those at the top who are attempting this as a means of consolidating power by buying the loyalty of the rank and file troopers. It was no accident that Thursday’s LSPC meeting was attended by nearly two dozen troopers from headquarters.

It was also Doss who was chosen as the new President of LSPC. The only dissenting vote was cast by Calvin Braxton of Natchitoches who nominated and voted for Interim President Lloyd Grafton of Ruston.

With the killing of the LSTC money laundering investigation and the 30-day delay on adopting a substitute to the proposed longevity pay plan in order for the LSTA to gets its ducks (read: politicians) lined up, the election of Doss as the new president was the perfect trifecta for Mike Edmonson.

The commission’s Web page contains the traditional mission statement:

Our mission is to provide a separate merit system for the commissioned officers of Louisiana State Police. In accomplishing this mission, the program administers entry level law enforcement examinations and promotional examinations; process personnel actions; issue certificates of eligibles; schedule appeal hearings on disciplinary matters on a monthly basis and pay hearings when necessary. Review, develop and implement State Police Commission rules, perform investigations, review contracts, review and accept or denies performance appraisal programs, and issues general circulars and transmittals. To enable the Office of State Police to meet the staffing needs in a timely fashion by hiring and promoting the best qualified applicants. 

So now the following questions must be asked:

  • Could there be a conflict of interest in his serving as president of the commission that is charged with performing investigations of wrongdoing and ruling on appeals of disciplinary matters?
  • What will happen should State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson come under investigation by the commission?
  • What will be Trooper Doss’s position should one of his fellow troopers—a close friend—come under investigation for some transgression?
  • How will Doss handle appeals from trooper friends disciplined by Edmonson? Will he support his friends or go against his commander?

These are serious questions that someone should put to the State Board of Ethics.

In the seven years that Doss has served as a full-time trooper, he has received pay increases totaling 36.5 percent—from $37,500 to $59,000.

But never fear. If past is indeed prologue (William Shakespeare: The Tempest), his seat on the commission is the fast track to lucrative promotions.

We have already begun a dangerous descent on a slippery slope and that slide must be reversed. Too often and for too long we have benignly looked the other way when we are confronted with unethical, immoral and illegal behavior by our public officials.

It is no longer sufficient to simply smile and say, “Well, that’s just Louisiana politics as usual.”

It may well be politics as usual, but it’s time for the citizens of this state to unite and demand one simple thing of our public officials:

Do the right thing. Not because we say so, but because it IS the right thing. Better yet, do it when no one is looking. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.

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“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

–Alexander Pope

The so-called “investigation” by the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) into the laundering of campaign money by the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) through the association’s executive director turned into a major sham that only served to reinforce the old adage that crap flows downhill.

But the good news is state civil service employees may now pursue a method whereby they can make their own heretofore verboten political campaign contributions.

Hyped for two weeks as an investigation that would “name respondents” for the association’s deliberate circumvention of state regulations prohibiting political activity on the part of individual state troopers, the “report” of Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, hired to conduct the investigation and to make recommendations back to the commission, was a major dud in every respect.

His recommendation at Thursday’s (July 14) meeting: Do nothing. Punt. Abdicate the commission’s responsibility.

The term “deliberate” is not used lightly here. It was, after all, LSTA Executive Director David Young, in whose name more than $45,000 was contributed to various political candidates, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, who told the commission that the campaign contributions were made through him in order that “there could never be a question later that a state employee made a contribution.” Young said he wrote the checks, dating back to 2003 and the association would reimburse him. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/15/louisianavoice-exclusive-at-long-last-it-can-be-disclosed-that-the-reason-for-all-the-problems-at-state-police-is-us/

For two weeks, word has circulated that Townsend’s report would name names and would be sharply critical of the association’s practice.

There is even word of an audio tape at a contentious meeting of association members from Troop I in Lafayette at which it was disclosed by association representatives that LSTA officers made the decision as to whom would receive campaign contributions.

That tape was never mentioned in Townsend’s brief “report” on Thursday (July 14). Nor were any names given as those directly responsible for the decision to contribute campaign money to candidates.

Instead, Townsend said the commission has no jurisdiction over the association or over Young. While that was an accurate assessment openly acknowledged before Townsend was ever brought on board, it was also acknowledged prior to his being hired that the association did have investigative and disciplinary powers over individual state troopers found in violation of state law. And while Townsend was quick to absolve the commission of any responsibility for Young and the association, he conveniently neglected to bring up the commission’s responsibility for enforcement of laws and regulations when individual state trooper actions are involved.

Because the LSTA is a 501(c) non-profit charitable organization, it is free, under certain restrictions, to make political contributions. So, by having Young make personal contributions in his name and then filing an expense report, the LSTA conveniently bypasses state law by funneling money to political candidates through Young.

Carrying his verbal report to its obvious conclusion, state civil service employees may need no longer worry about a similar prohibition against their making campaign contributions. All they have to do is form an association and get IRS approval of their status as a 501(c).

Of course, while state police have received two recent pay increases totaling 50 percent in some cases (and, by the way, they still want more), state civil service workers have been routinely denied even their paltry 4 percent annual merit increases for more than five years now, so they, unlike their fortunate state trooper counterparts, could hardly be expected to afford to make token campaign contributions.

So, the question is how is it that an investigation which only a couple of weeks ago seemed almost certain to result at least in suspensions for identical infractions that forced three of the LPSC members to resign since April was suddenly rendered impotent? https://louisianavoice.com/2016/04/14/two-more-members-of-lspc-quit-over-political-contributions-while-pondering-probe-of-lsta-for-same-offense/

To find the answer to that, one must go right to the top—the man who ran on the strength of his West Point Code of Honor.

It was John Bel Edwards who reappointed State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, most likely solely on the strength of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association insistence.

Asked by LouisianaVoice on Oct. 27, 2015, at 10:57 a.m. (before he took the oath of office) what his intentions were regarding the reappointment of Edmonson Edwards professed he had no intentions either way:

Please tell me your intentions as to the re-appointment of Mike Edmonson.

 

Tom Aswell

LouisianaVoice

 

From: John Bel Edwards

Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 12:50 PM

To: Tom Aswell  

Subject: Re: QUESTION

 

I don’t intend one way or the other

Being as charitable as possible, we now are forced to speculate that Edwards was being less than truthful at the time.

Edmonson was Bobby Jindal’s boy so why would Edwards feel obligated to keep him on? The LSTA even drew the line and said no to Edmonson’s request to have the association write a letter to Edwards recommending his reappointment.

Well, before he was Bobby Jindal’s boy, he was the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association’s boy. The Sheriffs’ Association wanted him to stay around because he is easily controlled and manipulated by the sheriffs.

The Sheriffs’ Association endorsed Edwards when the outcome of his runoff election against U.S. Sen. David Vitter was still in doubt. He needed that endorsement and the condition that went with the endorsement was that Edwards would keep their boy on. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/16/lsp-unable-to-locate-sergeants-critical-letter-warning-of-danger-edmonson-is-reappointed-by-gov-elect-edwards/

And don’t forget that Daniel Edwards is Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish—and an influential member of the Sheriff’s Association—and probably has more than a little influence with his brother, the governor.

Consequently, anything that might implicate—or even embarrass—Edmonson would, by extension, embarrass Gov. Edwards and the Sheriffs’ Association. Accordingly, the report by former State Sen. Taylor Townsend had to be watered down or even killed.

In short, everyone simply circled the wagons.

And that’s now what we were led to expect from one who espouses the West Point Code of Honor.

(Note to self: Stop expecting.)

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A couple of weeks ago, LouisianaVoice revealed that convicted Ponzi scheme operator Steven Hoffenberg had established a super PAC for the benefit of Donald Trump and had pledged $50 million of his own money to the effort to raise $1 billion on behalf of the presumed Republican nominee. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/21/operator-of-1990s-ponzi-scheme-outed-by-ruston-newspaper-re-surfaces-quarter-century-later-as-major-trump-fund-raiser/

Many north Louisiana residents were victimized by his scam before John Hays and his Morning Paper in Ruston outed Hoffenberg for what he was—a snake oil salesman. Now he’s out of jail and his story just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser as we plunge deeper into that rabbit hole.

Hoffenberg, who bilked investors out of about $475 million, the largest Ponzi scheme on record at the time B.B.M. (before Bernie Madoff), appears to have made a strong rebound and the cast of players also has expanded to include his former high-rolling business partner, child trafficking, a “Christian” credit card scheme, movie stars, a prince, and Bill Clinton.

LouisianaVoice has since learned that though he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and ordered to make restitution, he has repaid only about $200 million to investors whose savings he wiped out. He even claimed in 1996 that he was too destitute to post $100,000 bail.

So how is it that after serving 18 years of that sentence, he (a) now has $50 million to toss at Trump and (b) why haven’t authorities ordered that money to go into a pool to repay investors?

As with most questions of a rhetorical nature, there are no clear-cut answers. There is no black or white, only varying shades of gray. Facts, accusations and outright lies become so intertwined that it becomes virtually impossible to separate one from another in trying to make sense of it all.

If you listen to Hoffenberg today, you get the idea he is doing his dead-level best to make his investors whole, a seemingly benevolent gesture to be sure. Incredibly, he still heads Towers Investors, the company through which he ran his Ponzi scheme from the late 1970s until 1993. The corporation’s Web page includes this MESSAGE:

Today, that same Web site attempts to shift the blame for the bilking of 200,000 individuals of their savings to fellow wealthy Wall Street prodigy Jeffrey Epstein who Hoffenberg now says is the one who ran the pyramid scheme through his Towers Investors company.

Typically, Hoffenberg says on his Web page that “authorities figured out what was happening” with his gigantic scam. It seems he still cannot bring himself to admit that a small town newspaper publisher was the one who “figured out” what was going on and ultimately was the one who brought the scheme crashing down, sending Hoffenberg to a federal lockup for 18 years in the process. Hays, as we pointed out in our story last month, won awards for his work on the story and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

So who is Jeffrey Epstein and how does he figure in the Hoffenberg-Trump-Clinton saga? A former school teacher, he worked for six years at the Wall Street banking firm Bear Stearns before launching his own financial investing firm in 1982.

The London Daily Mail on May 29, published an exclusive story that detailed the complicated partnership between Epstein and Hoffenberg, Hoffenberg’s $1 billion lawsuit that accuses Epstein of running the Ponzi scheme through Hoffenberg’s company, Towers Financial Corporation.

When Hoffenberg was first charged, prosecutors tried to offer him a reduced sentence in exchange for information about Epstein and his part in the scam but Hoffenberg refused at the time to cooperate.

Epstein, meanwhile, continued to live large. He owns a luxury townhouse in Manhattan, an $11 million mansion in Pam Beach, Florida, and a private island in the Virgin Islands. He current resides in the Virgin Islands, according to the Florida sex offenders’ registry.

Sex registry? Just when you think this story couldn’t get any more salacious, it does.

In unrelated legal action, two unidentified women are claiming they were sexually abused by Epstein in the early 2000s when they were teens. They said he made them into sex slaves and passed them on to his friends. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/broward/article5342709.html

In 2008, Epstein was accused of sending staff members to recruit underage high school girls in West Pam Beach to travel to his mansion to provide massages and sex. His legal defense team included Alan Derchowitz, Roy Black and Kenneth Starr. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/03/25/jeffrey-epstein-how-the-billionaire-pedophile-got-off-easy.html

Starr became a household name with his report that led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Starr would then go on to become head of Baylor University but ironically was forced to step down over his handling of a sex scandal at the Baptist school that also brought down the school’s football coach. Black is best known as the attorney who defended William Kennedy Smith against rape charges in Palm Beach.

The three lawyers negotiated the deal of the century, prompting speculation that Epstein benefitted from his high-level social and political contacts. Those included actors Kevin Spacey, Chris Tucker and Woody Allen, Prince Andrew, and Bill Clinton, who used Epstein’s Boeing 727, The Lolita Express, on at least two dozen occasions. http://www.dailywire.com/news/5749/both-trump-and-clinton-went-jeffrey-epsteins-sex-amanda-prestigiacomo

Not even a prestigious publication like Newsweek could resist the temptation of covering the Epstein-Clinton-Prince Andrew connection in January 2015. http://www.newsweek.com/2015/02/06/sex-offender-who-mixes-princes-and-premiers-302877.html

Epstein’s 2008 plea agreement revealed that prosecutors suspected him of abusing up to 40 underage girls but gave him a secret plea bargain in lieu of prosecuting him. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3364381/Notorious-billionaire-pedophile-ex-bestie-Prince-Andrew-Jeffrey-Epstein-hugs-squeezes-bum-one-young-blonde-escapes-New-York-Caribbean-holiday-beauty.html

As a sidebar to all this sleazy mess, Law Newz, an online legal news service, reported on Monday (July 4) that Trump himself is accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Epstein’s presence in 1994.

In the Doe v. Donald J. Trump federal civil case, a witness statement is attached to the lawsuit in which the alleged witness claims to have “personally witnessed the plaintiff being forced to perform various sexual acts with Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were advised that she was 13 years old.”

The witness statement went on to say, “I personally witnessed four sexual encounters that the plaintiff was forced to have with Mr. Trump during this period, including the fourth of these encounters where Mr. Trump forcibly raped her despite her pleas to stop.” http://lawnewz.com/celebrity/why-isnt-anyone-paying-attention-to-the-sexual-assault-lawsuit-against-trump/

Of course, so-called witnesses can—and often do—say things under oath that are far removed from the truth. LouisianaVoice is in no position to authenticate or refute the claims but the fact that they are now part of court record gives them added significance. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3564767/Donald-Trump-furiously-denies-woman-s-claims-raped-tycoon-billionaire-pedophile-Jeffrey-Epstein-s-sex-parties.html

Thrown into the mix of this bizarre story is Hoffenberg’s latest scheme, the “Christ Card,” a special “Christian” credit card being peddled to churches across the U.S. “The Christ Card holders have the benefit of gaining discounts in all of their purchases under the walk in grace serving out Lord Jesus Christ as customers and as our partners in faith, in our Christ Card family,” says Hoffenberg’s pitch on his Towers Investors Group Web page. http://towersinvestors.com/portfolio-view/christ-card/

Hoffenberg claims to have been converted to Christianity while serving time for cheating investors and now he’s pushing an idea that has spawned numerous scams—Christian debt. This, of course, is not say his promotion is another scam but he does have the pedigree as one who preys on others’ and as one ready, willing and able to lighten unsuspecting victims’ wallets.

He claims to have already completed the negotiation phase for the marketing of the card to more than 700,000 registered Christian churches in the U.S., according to another Web page of WHAM, Inc. http://whaminc.us/investor-questions-wham-answers

That number dwarfs the number of investor he bilked with his Ponzi scheme back in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. In WHAM’s post of only three weeks ago, Hoffenberg was quoted as saying, “Towers Investors/ WHAM INC Steven Hoffenberg anticipate completion and delivery of the Christ Credit Card to the end users within the next 90 days. This multi-year endeavor by Steven Hoffenberg will change the entire financial picture for WHAM investors.” http://whaminc.us/

So what is WHAM, Inc. and how does it figure in all of this? Well, according to Globe Newswire’s Web posting of Feb. 8, 2016, WHAM acquired 100 percent of all stock owned by Hoffenberg’s New York Post Publishing (not to be confused with Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, previously run briefly by Hoffenberg—got it?), Christ Credit and the trademarks of Christ Donations, Christ Faith Card com., and a few other enterprises run by Hoffenberg—including the “billions of dollars in the Jeffrey Epstein contract with Towers investor victims.” Epstein, the Globe Newswire post says, was Hoffenberg’s “best friend and former partner.” https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/02/08/808616/0/en/Additional-Details-Regarding-WHAM-INC-Collection-of-Jeffrey-Epstein-s-Billions-for-the-Towers-Investor-Victims.html

But given the Hoffenberg-Epstein relationship, the Epstein-Clinton ties, and the Hoffenberg-Trump connection (Hoffenberg’s latest marriage to his publishing company president was performed just outside Trump Towers where Hoffenberg maintains his offices), we can’t help be intrigued at this sordid story.

HOFFENBERG WEDDING PARTY

The Hoffenberg wedding party outside Trump Towers (from left to right: Associate Publisher of Post Publishing Flo Anthony, Post Publisher and the new Mrs. Hoffenberg, Maria Santiago, Hoffenberg, best man Steven Jude, pastor Copper Cunningham, and video photographer, identity unknown).

And given that Hoffenberg was first ratted out for swindling Louisiana residents by a north Louisiana publisher, we feel it newsworthy to monitor developments in these interconnected stories as they occur.

And whether subsequent events adversely affect any Republicans or Democrats who might be stupid enough to be caught up in this tangled web of deceit is immaterial to us. Any association with Hoffenberg or Epstein—either by Trump or the Clintons—cannot possible be in the best interests of the average American citizen.

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