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Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

Perhaps I’m a prime candidate for self-flagellation but I would rather stand by what I believe in the face of ridicule and scorn—even from those I once considered friends—than surrender my self-respect for the sake of being liked by those who would turn on you in a heartbeat.

And I know no one would ever mistake me for Tom Petty but as he said in that great song, I won’t back down.

So go ahead, pile on the criticism and outrage at what I’m about to say but know this: If and when that awful day comes when some deranged individual bursts into a school, armed with an AR-15 somewhere in Louisiana, you’d better pray to God he doesn’t gun down your child or grandchild.

And make no mistake, it can happen here.

You might want to remember that, Sen. Bill Cassidy ($2.8 million), Sen. John Kennedy ($9,900) Rep. Garrett Graves ($6,000), Rep. Clay Higgins ($3,500), Rep. James Johnson ($1,000) or Rep. Ralph Abraham ($1,000), and—of all people—Rep. Steve Scalise ($23,850) before you accept any future campaign contributions from the NRA.

A further breakdown of contributions for just the 2016 election cycle can be viewed HERE. Rep. Charles Boustany, Kennedy, and Scalise each received $4,950 from the most powerful lobby in the universe.

Here is a partial listing of some of the recipients of the more generous NRA direct and indirect contributions These include contributions in support of these candidates and contributions in opposition to their challengers. They may cover several election cycles:

As for the latest slaughter, this one in Parkland, Florida (where, incidentally, a Denham Springs resident had two grandchildren enrolled—fortunately, they were unhurt), we can count on our members of Congress who, lacking the backbone to stand up to the NRA, will utter these same two worn-out clichés:

“Our thoughts and prayers (shortened to TAP) are with the families of the victims.”

“Now is not the time” to talk about legislation to curtail access to automatic weapons.

And, of course, mouthpieces for the NRA will continue to spew the garbage that the best deterrent against bad people with guns is good people with guns. Just what we need, a shootout between teachers with a pistol and a maniac with an AR-15—with school kids caught in the crossfire. Brilliant strategy.

The chorus of protest certain to arise from this post will consist of criticism of any advocacy of additional laws to control ready access to automatic weapons. That, I will admit, is a valid criticism: Those laws should have been enacted long ago but for the collective cowardice of Congress.

Some will say there are already laws on the books if we would just enforce them but there are gaping loopholes LOOPHOLES in the law that addresses access to automatic weapons like the AR-15, which seems to be the COMMON DENOMINATOR in these mass shootings. In fact, there is a package of BILLS—backed by the NRA—that would actually make it easier to purchase silencers like the one used in the Las Vegas attack that killed 59 people. Here’s another link to the AR-15 popularity.

The only people with real courage in this oft-repeated scenario are the ones like the teacher at Sandy Hook or the COACH at Parkland yesterday who shielded students from their attackers and took a fatal bullet in the process. Or the teacher at Parkland who had the presence of mind to herd 19 students into a CLOSET during the rampage.

Those are the heroes. Too bad we can look in vain for any member of Congress who would do as much. They would rather offer TAP and continue to take NRA money.

Sen. MARCO RUBIO ($4,950), Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart ($27,450), Gus Billrakis ($16,450), Vernon Buchanan ($15,450), Bill Posey ($13,500), Dennis Ross ($11,000), Charles Crist Jr. ($9,900), Daniel Webster ($7,950), Carlos Curbelo ($7,450), Brian Mast ($4,950), Theodore Yoho ($4,000), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ($2,000), Tom Rooney and Neal Dunn ($2,000 each), and Alcee Hastings, Matt Gaetz, and John Rutherford ($1,000 each) may also wish to justify their NRA contributions to their Florida constituents.

Full disclosure: I own a .22 rifle and a .38 revolver. Does that make me a hypocrite? Perhaps. But I do not own an AR-15 nor are either of my guns equipped with a silencer. I’m not a hunter but if I were, I fail to see why I need an automatic weapon to bring down Bambi. If I’m not good enough to do it in one or two shots, maybe it’s time to take my checkerboard to the park and hobnob with some other equally inept old geezer. And why would I need a bump stock to go squirrel hunting anyway?

Moreover, while I readily acknowledge the rights of non-felon mentally sane Americans under the Second Amendment, there’s this thought, for what it’s worth:

The universal expression in invoking the Second Amendment is the protection it gives us in preventing the “guvmint” from swooping in and confiscating all our weapons.

Well, to those folks, I say you might want to take a look around you.

Local police departments—even college and university police departments—are stocking up with heavy-duty MILITARY ARMAMENTS even as I write this. These are weapons designed for massive destructive force. Lethal would be a good word to describe them.

Why would a small-town police department need an armored urban assault vehicle? Why would it need a military helicopter?

And if the “guvmint” ever decided to swoop in and confiscate your weapons, what effect might your deer rifle have in preventing that? Against those kinds of weapons, even an AR-15 would be the equivalent of a bb gun against a grizzly bear.

So, go ahead. Take your best shot. I stand by my outrage at the silence and inaction of our political leaders in the face of such obviously escalating CARNAGE.

I don’t profess to have the answers. But I do know this: TAP and saying now isn’t the time ain’t the solution; it’s a weak-kneed cop-out. TAP aren’t going to stop a bullet and now most certainly IS the time to talk about it.

 

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Corruption.

As the March 12 opening day of the critical 2018 regular session approaches, and with the looming possibility of the call of a special session to address fiscal Armageddon, it’s an important word for Louisiana citizens to remember.

Corruption.

In a state where administrators, legislators, and judges all seem to be in it for personal enrichment, it’s a word that has become synonymous with political office—from small town mayors, city councils and police chiefs to the highest levels of state government.

Corruption.

Like a cancer, corruption metastasizes until it adversely affects every aspect of our lives: education, economics, environment, health, and not least, trust in our elected officials.

Michael Johnston and Oguzhan Dincer, both former fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, recently collaborated to conduct their fourth Corruption in America Survey, an undertaking first initiated in 2014 and repeated annually.

Since 2016, the survey has been hosted by the newly-founded Institute for Corruption Studies, an independent research institute within the Illinois State University’s Department of Economics.

More than 1,000 news reporters/journalists covering state politics and issues related to corruption across 50 states participated in the survey. Reporters from every state except North Dakota and New Hampshire participated.

Click HERE to read the complete results.

To no one’s surprise, Louisiana ranks among the worst states in terms of executive, judicial, and legislative sleaze—in both legal and illegal corruption.

What, exactly, it meant by legal and illegal corruption? After all, corruption is corruption, is it not?

Well, yes and no. Illegal corruption was defined by Dincer and Johnston as “the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”

How Gauche. Everyone knows that in Louisiana the preferred method is legal corruption, which the two researchers defined as “the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”

For evidence of that, one need look no further than the LouisianaVoice STORY of Aug. 28, 2016, to see how Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and a gaggle of legislators fell all over themselves in protecting the big oil and gas companies from their responsibilities to clean up after themselves. Here is a more detailed look at .

Who better to serve as director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority than former State Sen. Robert Adley of Bossier Parish, the top recipient of OIL AND GAS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?

And Bobby Jindal handed out appointments to the most influential boards and commissions to his biggest campaign contributors like candy on a Halloween night and even upgraded a major highway in South Louisiana to benefit a company run by another large contributor.

Dincer and Johnston said that official legal corruption is moderately to very common in both the executive and legislative branches of government in a “significant” number of states, “including the usual suspects such as Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York,” but that “Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana are perceived to be the most corrupt states” in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Illegal Corruption

Only 13 states were found to have moderately common to very common illegal corruption in their executive branches. Louisiana was one of those 13.

Only four states had illegal judicial corruption deemed to be moderately common (Alabama and Louisiana) or very common (Arkansas and Kentucky). Dincer and Johnston wrote that even a finding of only slightly common in illegal judicial corruption “is still worrying since it is the judicial branch of the government that is expected to try government officials charged with corruption.”

“State legislators are perceived to be more corrupt than the members of the executive branches in a number of states,” the researchers said.

To illustrate that, the survey found just six states with legislative illegal corruption that was very common (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana) or extremely common (Oklahoma and Pennsylvania).

Legislators were found by LouisianaVoice to have leased luxury vehicles for family members, purchased season tickets to college and professional athletic sports teams, hired family members as campaign staff, paid personal income taxes and state ethics fines—all with campaign funds and all of which were illegal.

One legislator even profited by conveniently investing in Microsoft just as his committee was pushing through approval of one of the company’s software programs at the same time other states were taking similar action. The simultaneous approvals gave Microsoft stock a significant boost.

Legal Corruption

“Legal corruption is perceived to be more common than illegal corruption in all branches of government,” the report said, with Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin scoring highest in legal corruption “in all branches of government.”

Those same three states, along with Arkansas, topped the list in legal corruption in the judicial branch where legal sleaze “is perceived to be ‘very common,’” it said, noting that in all four states, judges are elected as opposed to states where judges are chosen on merit and in which judicial corruption is not as common.

“…We expect our courts to rise above the day-to-day pressures and expectations of politics,” the report said. “That they apparently do not raises serious questions about the ways judges are elected in many states, how their campaigns are financed, and whether conflicts of interest arise as those who contribute to judicial campaigns are allowed to appear before those same judges as cases are tried.”

Louisiana, Alabama, and Wisconsin were joined by Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York as states where legal executive corruption was found to be either “very common” or “extremely common.”

Legal legislative corruption was found to be “extremely common” in 12 states: Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas.

Aggregate Corruption

Across the board, in terms of legal and illegal corruption in all three branches of government, few states do it better than Louisiana, results of the survey reveal, with the state ranking in the upper tier of corruption in all six listings.

That finding prompted the authors of the report to say that corruption in state government “is not just a matter of contemporary personalities and events, but is rather a result of deeper and more lasting characteristics and influences.

Nowhere, it would seem, is that truer than in Louisiana. Following is just a partial list of Louisiana public officials who have come face-to-face with corruption charges of varying degrees:

 

Louisiana Executive Corruption

Sherman Bernard: The first Louisiana Insurance Commissioners to be convicted, he served 41 months for extortion and conspiracy.

Doug Green: The second State Insurance Commissioner to go to jail, he was convicted on three counts of money laundering, 27 counts of mail fraud, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jim Brown: The third consecutive Louisiana Insurance Commissioner served six months for lying to the FBI.

Richard Leche: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison for accepting kickbacks on the purchase of 233 state trucks.

Edwin Edwards: Louisiana Governor sentenced to 10 years in prison after his conviction of extortion in connection with the awarding of state riverboat casino licenses.

Charles Roemer: Commissioner of Administration under Gov. Edwin Edwards, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to violate federal racketeering laws, violating the statute and engaging in wire and mail fraud as a result of the FBI’s Brilab operation which also resulted in the conviction of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. Roemer served 15 months in federal prison.

Jack Gremillion: Louisiana Attorney General of whom it was once said by Gov. Earl K. Long, “If you want to hide something from Jack Gremillion, put it in a law book,” was sentenced to three years in prison for lying to a federal grand jury about his interest in a failed loan and thrift company.

Gil Dozier: Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, initially sentenced to 10 years in prison for extortion and racketeering but had eight years added after presiding federal judge learned Dozier had attempted to tamper with a juror and to hire a hit man for an unidentified target.

George D’Artois: Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner was implicated in the 1976 murder of Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie but he died in surgery before he could be tried.

Cyrus “Bobby” Tardo: former Sheriff of Lafourche Parish sentenced to 29 years, five months after pleading guilty in 1989 to solicitation for murder, conspiracy, possessing an unregistered destructive device and using an explosive to damage a sheriff’s car. His victim? His successor and the man who defeated him for reelection as sheriff, Duffy Breaux.

Duffy Breaux: Lafourche Parish Sheriff sentenced to four years, nine months in prison for conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice in 1995.

Eugene Holland: The first of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to be convicted of a federal crime, sentenced to 16 months in prison for the theft of public funds to cover his utility bills and to pay for renovations to his house and barn. Pleaded guilty in 1996.

Chaney Philips: The second of three consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriffs to serve prison time after his conviction on nine counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, engaging in illegal monetary transactions, theft involving a federally-funded program, money laundering, and perjury—all related to his time not as sheriff but as parish assessor before being elected sheriff. Sentenced to seven years.

Ronald “Gun” Ficklin: Third consecutive St. Helena Parish sheriff to be convicted of federal criminal charges. Sentenced to five years, three months for trafficking cars with altered vehicle identification numbers, altering VINs, mail fraud, helping convicted felon possess a fun. Pleaded guilty in 2007.

Jiff Hingle: Plaquemines Parish Sheriff pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Bodie Little: Winn Parish Sheriff convicted in 2012 of drug trafficking, sentenced to 13 years, four months in prison.

Royce Toney: Ouachita Parish Sheriff, pleaded guilty in 2012 to hacking a deputy’s email and phone records and then trying to cover up his snooping. Sentenced to four years’ probation.

Walter Reed: St. Tammany Parish District Attorney (22nd JDC) sentenced to four years in prison in April 2017 for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements on tax returns. Sentence on hold during appeals process.

Harry Morel, Jr.: St. Charles Parish District Attorney (29th JDC) pleaded guilty in April 2016 to obstruction of justice in FBI inquiry into whether he used his position to solicit sex from women seeking official help. Sentenced to three years in prison.

Aaron Broussard: Former Jefferson Parish President pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiring to accept bribes from a parish contractor. Sentenced to 46 months in prison. While parish officials other than district attorneys and sheriffs are not generally listed here, Broussard is because of his high national profile following Hurricane Katrina.

Ray Nagin: New Orleans Mayor convicted in 2014, sentenced to 10 years in prison for bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, tax evasion for illegal dealings with city vendors. As with the case of Broussard above, mayors not normally included in this list because of the sheer volume. But because of his high profile following Katrina and as mayor of state’s largest city, it was decided to include him.

 

Louisiana Legislative Corruption

Larry Bankston: Former chairman of the Senate Judiciary B. Committee that handled gambling legislation was convicted in 1997 on two counts of interstate communications in the aid of racketeering involving alleged bribes from a Slidell video poker truck stop owner. Sentenced to 41 months in prison. Re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar by State Supreme Court. Currently suing State Attorney General for the cancellation of his contract to represent a state agency.

Gaston Gerald: State Senator convicted in 1979 of extorting $25,000 from a contractor. Sentenced to five years in prison. Re-elected while in prison and put a prison acquaintance on Senate payroll as an aide before he was expelled from the Senate in 1981.

Sebastian “Buster” Guzzardo: State Representative among more than 20 persons, including the leader of the New Orleans Marcello crime family and three reputed New York mobsters, convicted in the Worldwide Gaming investigation. Conviction was for conducting an illegal gambling business and for aiding a mob-controlled video poker company. Sentenced in 1996 to three months in prison.

Girod Jackson, III: State Representative who pleaded guilty in 2013 to tax evasion and tax fraud in connection with his business dealings with the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority. Sentenced to three months in prison, nine months of home detention despite recommendations of 12 to 18 months imprisonment.

William Jefferson: 18-year veteran of U.S. House of Representatives convinced in 2009 on 11 of 16 felony counts for taking bribes in connection with a Nigeria business deal. Seven of the 11 counts on which he was convicted were overturned on appeal. Sentenced to five years, five months after appeals. In 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, Jefferson interrupted rescue operations by using a Louisiana National Guard detachment to recover personal effects from his home. (His sister, Orleans Parish Assessor, also sentenced to 15 months in prison after admitting to funneling $1 million in public funds to her family’s bogus charities.)

Charles Jones: State Senator from Monroe, convicted in 2010 of filing false tax returns and for tax evasion, sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution. Was re-admitted to Louisiana State Bar on Monday (Jan. 29, 2017).

Harry “Soup” Kember: State Representative was sentenced to five years in prison after his 1986 conviction of mail fraud for pocketing part of a $150,000 state grant he secured for a constituent’s company.

Derrick Shepherd: State Senator sentenced to three years in prison in 2010 after admitting that he laundered money for a corrupt bond broker, netting $65,000 for the scheme.

Rick Tonry: Served only four months as a U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District after pleading guilty in 1977 to receiving illegal campaign contributions, promising favors in return for contributions and for buying votes in the 1976 Democratic primary.

 

Louisiana Judicial Corruption

Ronald Bodenhimer: The 24th Judicial District Judge was among four judges to be caught up in the FBI Wrinkled Robe investigation of Jefferson Parish Courthouse corruption and one of two to receive jail time. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2003 to planting drugs on a critic of his New Orleans East marina, for bond splitting, and for attempting to fix a child custody case on behalf of Popeyes Chicken Founder Al Copeland.

Wayne Cresap: The 34th JDC Judge for St. Bernard Parish was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2009 to accepting more than $70,000 in bribes and for letting inmates out of jail without paying their bonds.

Alan Green: Another of the four Judges of the 24th JDC in Jefferson Parish. Sentenced to 51 months in prison after his 2005 conviction of a $10,000 mail fraud scheme to take bribes from a bail bonds company.

William Roe: The 25th JDC Judge for Plaquemines Parish was sentenced in 2010 to three months in prison for unauthorized use of movables for pocketing more than $6,000 in reimbursements for legal seminars that he attended as judge. The money should have been deposited in a public account instead.

Thomas Porteous, Jr.: Only the eighth federal judge to be removed from office by impeachment in the Republic’s history, he was convicted in 2010 by the U.S. Senate on four articles charging him with receiving cash and favors from lawyers who had dealings in his court, used a false name to elude creditors, and deliberately misled Senators during his confirmation hearings. As if to underscore the gravity of the charges, all 96 senators present voted guilty on the first article which addressed charges during his time as a state court judge and his failure to recuse himself from matters involving a former law partner with whom he was accused of granting favors for cash.

There are scores of other examples, including city and parish elected officials, local police chiefs, and even a legislator who resigned rather than be expelled for spousal abuse. And former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain retired in 2016 under an ethics cloud even though he was official cleared of ethics charges. His son, Nate Cain and Nate’s former wife, Tonia, were indicted in August 2017 on 18 federal fraud charges over purchases he was said to have made with state credit cards during his tenure as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport.

Additionally, LouisianaVoice over the past three years documented numerous instances of abuse of power and outright corruption from troop commanders all the way up to the upper command of Louisiana State Police.

There were dozens more not listed and sadly, there will continue to be corruption in all three branches of state government so long as the people of this state continue to look away and ignore the widespread malfeasance and outright skullduggery.

And by ignoring the problem, we are necessarily condoning it.

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So, now Sen. John Kennedy is officially opposed to strengthening firearms BACKGROUND CHECKS.

His newest proclamation (which really isn’t new at all) raises the obvious question of whether there is any level to which he will not stoop to kiss the ring of Donald Trump and the rest of the NRA-purchased Republicans who insist that it is never the time to discuss ways to curb the number of MASS SHOOTINGS that have plagued this country for the past 35 years.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Sen. John Kennedy to join fellow Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy in voting for the so-called tax “reform” bill that is so heavily weighted in favor of the very rich but now he has underscored that Gawd-awful CAMPAIGN AD in which he said, “…love is the answer but you oughta own a hand gun, just in case.”

He even repeated the phrase during a Senate committee hearing, saying it was an old saying from back in Louisiana though, to be honest, I don’t ever recall anyone but Kennedy uttering such an inane statement.

So, obviously, while it is never the time to discuss a solution, it’s always the time to ensure that the mentally ill will have unfettered access to weapons.

Kennedy clashed with Bobby Jindal—and later with Gov. John Bel Edwards—over the budget, repeating his mantra: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” That, it turns out, was the most intelligent thing he had to say as State Treasurer. But the fact of the matter was—and is—that it was a combination of the two.

The problem is in the giveaways, as in tax credits, tax exemptions, tax incentives, and all the other breaks given away to industry that promised big jobs in exchange for keeping off the tax rolls but who failed to deliver. That spending problem created a critical revenue problem that was only partially alleviated by a 43 percent increase in college tuition.

Kennedy also proposed an across-the-board cut in state contracts. That was far too simplistic. A better solution would have been—and remains—to take a long, hard look at the multitude of contracts awarded by the sate to determine if they are really necessary.

Just as one example, the various studies of restoration of Louisiana’s coastline, like the bevy of studies awarded by the City of Baton Rouge to study traffic congestion, have brought the state no closer to resolving the problem than before tens of millions of dollars were spent on those studies.

But I digress. Kennedy, in constant search of a TV camera and microphone, has now gone beyond absurdity in opposing more stringent background checks. Does he not remember:

  • Sandy Hook?
  • Columbine?
  • Aurora?
  • Orlando?
  • Las Vegas?
  • San Bernardino?
  • Chattanooga?
  • Charleston?
  • Oakland?
  • Tucson?
  • Blacksburg?

I could go on, but what’s the point? People like Kennedy are imprisoned by their own closed minds and political calculations about how to best play to the emotions of the gun enthusiasts and to how best to go about assuring the continued flow of NRA campaign contributions. The KILLING FIELDS of America are without comparison anywhere else in the civilized world, according to statistics published by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Oops, I forgot. That should be the failing New York Times, according to Donald Trump, on whose coattails Kennedy so shamelessly ran in his senatorial campaign. So, it must be fake news, right?

Well, those figures quoted by the failing New York Times were provided by the FBI, which keeps meticulous records on such things.

Oh, I forgot again. The FBI is no longer credible, according to Grump, who arbitrarily decides who is and who is not trustworthy and who sets such a shining example for the likes of Kennedy, Bill Cassidy and the other Repugnacans in Congress who apparently are unable to make as simple a decision as when to go to the bathroom without a directive from Thumper.

Yes, I know the NRA gun-totin’ flag-waving zealots are going to have me pilloried by sundown but I can live with that and I have this to say to them:

I would rather stand for what is right for all the victims who were so needlessly slaughtered by obviously mentally disturbed people who should never have had access to weapons than to have all the campaign money the NRA dumps into the campaigns of the likes of John Kennedy.

Those are my principles, Mr. Kennedy, what, pray tell, are yours?

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I was in attendance at one of my grandchildren’s school Veterans’ Day programs on Thursday and unable to attend the first meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) in several months but suffice it to say something major is brewing with this newly-made over body.

And whatever it is doesn’t to appear to bode well for the Louisiana State Troopers’ Association (LSTA).

It was the first meeting of the commission since August which, coincidentally, was also the last meeting for former Chairman State Trooper T.J. Doss and former Vice Chair Monica Manzella. Both have since resigned and Doss, LouisianaVoice is told, has been on extended sick leave.

Doss was succeeded to the chairman’s position by Baton Rouge attorney Eulis Simien, Jr. and Dr. Michael W. Neustrom of Lafayette replaced Manzella as vice chairman.

But most puzzling was the executive session entered into by the commission.

When the motion was made to go into closed session the belated reason given was to discuss pending litigation—even though there is no pending litigation at the present time against the commission.

Upon exiting, however, commission legal counsel Lenore Feeney amended that reason, saying the executive session was for the discussion of “allegations of misconduct,” according to some in attendance.

And upon returned from behind closed doors, commission members were said to be in a much fouler mood than when they went in, an indication there may have been something a little more intense taking place out of sight of attendees.

Simien, normally an amiable sort, immediately launched into a lecture to those there about how business would be conducted differently in the future and that decorum would strictly adhered to.

If there is to be any investigation of “alleged misconduct,” it could be on one or both of two issues: that San Diego trip taken by State Police in October of 2016 and which resulted in disciplinary action against three troopers who have appealed their discipline to the commission.

The commission voted to consolidate the three appeals into one case and also decided to discard the non-report of Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend who was paid $75,000 to investigate and report on possible illegal campaign contributions by the LSTA to various politicians.

The campaign contributions were actually made through the LSTA’s executive director David Young’s personal checking account. Young subsequently billed the association for reimbursement in an apparent effort to circumvent state law prohibiting political activity by state classified employees.

Taylor’s contract, for which he was paid $75,000, called for him to investigate the matter and submit a report of his findings to the LSPC. Instead, he simply told the commission that he recommended “no action” be taken on the matter and the board, which had a completely different makeup at that time, accepted his report.

Since then, the entire board membership, as well as its executive director, has changed dramatically, with almost all the members resigning for various reasons.

Townsend has yet to submit a report the board even though he has been asked to do so on several occasions.

Now, apparently, with a new board in place—with the exception of two positions which remain vacant—a change of heart has taken place and the commission is at least acting like it is serious about investigating the contributions.

One thing is for certain, however:

If the commission was unsure of the real reason for Thursday’s executive session, that can only mean its purpose was illegitimate to begin with. There are specific reasons for executive sessions and the law is narrowly written so as to prevent abuse of the state’s open meeting laws.

To give one reason going into executive session only to change the reason upon exiting is subterfuge in its most blatant form and an action that thumbs its nose at the law itself—from an agency whose very purpose is to ensure compliance with the law.

If there is to be an executive session, public bodies in Louisiana are required to give notice in advance, as an agenda item—in other words, in writing—and to give the reason. Anything else is a lie. They can’t make up the rules on the fly. And they certainly can’t go into closed session and decide the reason for the secrecy after the fact.

Any legal counsel who advises a public agency, body, board, or commission should know the state’s open meetings law (R.S. 42:11) and the Executive Session provision (R.S. 42:16) forward and backward. That requirement comes with the job. http://parlouisiana.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Open_Meetings_Law.pdf

We thought they had learned that in one memorable meeting several months ago when Townsend suggested an executive session and when asked the reason, said—with a perfectly straight face—“We don’t have to give one.”

Uh…yes you do. And it’s more than a little disturbing that it took a layman to inform him of the law at that meeting.

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New Orleans native Donna Brazile has created quite a stir over her new book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. But her description of the infighting in the national Democratic Party is mirrored at least in part on a local scale by what has been transpiring in the Louisiana Democratic Party since State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson ousted Buddy Leach as State Chairman in 2012.

Brazile, in her book, described how candidate Hillary Clinton took over the Democratic National Committee’s funding during the primary season while still competing with Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for President. By gaining control of the party’s finances, Brazile said, Clinton effectively rigged the process to kill whatever chance Sanders may have had to win the nomination.

But paralleling the infighting that developed between followers of Hillary and Sanders, the Louisiana Democratic Party appears to have fallen into its own state of considerable disarray on Peterson’s watch. And its problems, like that of the DNC, can be traced back to money and power.

Back room deals, endorsements, and questionable expenditures in the recent campaign for state treasurer have raised a number of questions. For example:

  • Is State Sen. Neil Riser truly a Republican?
  • If so, why did he lavish money on traditionally Democratic organizations like the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), THE New Orleans East Leadership PAC, New Orleans East Leadership PAC, Louisiana Independent Federation of Electors, Algiers PAC, Jefferson United, and Treme Improvement Political Society in his campaign for state treasurer?
  • Are the aforementioned actually Democratic organizations or are they simply a means to raising money in exchange for the endorsement of the highest bidder?
  • If they are Democratic organizations, why didn’t they endorse Democrat Derrick Edwards in the first primary instead of waiting until Riser lost—he finished dead last among the four major candidates—to direct their support to Edwards?

BOLD’s open bidding policy pre-dates Peterson. In 2003, the organization endorsed Bobby Jindal over Kathleen Blanco for governor. Of course, that was after Jindal paid BOLD $10,000 for “consulting and printing.”

During his campaign, Riser’s expenditures included $15,000 to BOLD for printing (BOLD, which Peterson’s dad, Ken Carter, co-founded, subsequently listed Riser at the top of its sample ballots), $14.500 in two contributions to New Orleans East Leadership PAC, a $10,000 contribution to the Louisiana Independent Federation of Electors, $6,000 to Algiers PAC for printing, $5,000 to Jefferson United for undetermined expenses, $5,000 to Treme Improvement Political Society.

But the treasurer’s race is merely symptomatic of a far greater problem within the State Democratic Party.

One of Peterson’s first acts as the new State Chairperson in 2012 was to nullify all parish executive committee appointments made during Leach’s tenure. And it’s been downhill ever since.

In an organization that is perpetually financially strapped, the Executive Committee, once stacked with her appointees, awarded her an annual stipend of $36,000 plus expenses. This was done without the approval of the Democratic State Central Committee, most of whom were unaware of the stipend. She has continued taking the money in her second term, again without approval.

Stephen Handwerk, Executive Director of the State Democratic Party, pulls down nearly $100,000 in salary but he has been reluctant to make use of an available database to identify and engage Democratic voters, claiming he has insufficient staff to do so. Yet, he found the time to take a second salaried job with the Democratic National Committee, according to DNC expense reports.

Peterson also has made it a point to take care of family in her role as chairperson. Her sister, Eileen Carter, of Houma, was paid $13,000 during October and November 2015 for “organizational/grassroots consultation,” according to figures provided by the Louisiana Ethics Commission.

Other payments made by the Louisiana Democratic Party under Peterson include:

  • Twelve payments of $600 each to the Chicken Shack of Baton Rouge for party card distribution and catering. Chicken Shack is a business owned by former State Sen. Joe Delpit of Baton Rouge.
  • Four separate payments of $900 each to J&M Transportation of Slidell for state party card distribution. J&M is a limousine service.

Peterson denies being among the three prominent Democrats (including then-Sen. Mary Landrieu) who met with then-State. Rep. John Bel Edwards at New Orleans International Airport in 2015 and tried to convince him to withdraw from the governor’s race so that a moderate Republican might be elected. Landrieu has since apologized for her part in that effort but Peterson has not.

Peterson also threw up roadblocks to the State Democratic Party’s official endorsement of Derrick Edwards (no relation to Gov. John Bel Edwards) for treasurer until after the first primary, in which Edwards led all candidates as the only Democrat in the race.

According to the State Democratic Party’s by-laws, “The Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) shall conduct such activities, as it deems appropriate to elect Democratic candidates in national, state and local elections.”

Yet, there was Republican Riser’s name at the top of BOLD’s sample ballots which most likely accounts for Peterson’s reluctance to endorse Edwards at the outset.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, despite Peterson’s attempt to get him to drop out of the gubernatorial race, has been loath to support a replacement for her for fear of alienating the Legislative Black Caucus.

But the biggest concern to several Democratic Parish Executive Committee (DPEC) members is the lack of membership on no fewer than 29 parish executive committees, a condition critics attribute to Peterson’s lack of timely appointments.

“There are 29 parishes which have five or fewer members on their committee,” one DPEC member said. “There should be at least 15 members of each parish executive committee. That’s nearly half the state that has non-existent or non-functioning DPECs. Livingston Parish has only seven of 15 seats filled. One member of the Livingston DPEC has been working since February to get the seats filled but that still hasn’t been done even though names have been submitted.”

And nearly two years into Peterson’s second term as state chairperson, there are 33 DSCC vacancies. “If she fills positions at all, it’s usually with her minions,” one DSCC member said.

Parishes with one or more vacancies in DSCC representation include Caddo, Bossier, DeSoto, Sabine, Lincoln, Union, Ouachita, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge, West Feliciana, Caldwell, Catahoula, Franklin, LaSalle, Tensas, Concordia, East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Rapides, Lafayette, Vermilion, Calcasieu, Acadia, Iberia, St. Martin, East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Washington, St. Tammany, and Jefferson.

Meanwhile, Peterson in March of this year managed to get herself elected to the DNC as Vice Chair of Civic Engagement and Voter Participation. “How ironic is that?” the DSCC member asked.

“Karen Carter Peterson is an ambitious politician of questionable loyalties who has used her chairmanship of DSCC to build a fiefdom and to launch a national career, all at the expense of the organization she was elected to build and serve,” the DSCC member said.

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