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Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth, partly fiction
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home

(The Pilgrim—Kris Kristofferson)

It was the noon hour in Walk On’s on Poydras Street in New Orleans and a noisy lunch crowd was packed in as one of the flat screen televisions was demanding my attention with a re-play of the Boston Red Sox players celebrating their American League East Championship after two straight years of finishing dead last in the division.

I watched because the Red Sox have been my favorite team since Ted Williams won an American League batting championship with a .388 average in 1957 at age 38. I was 14 at the time. He retired in 1960, hitting a home run in his last at-bat. (My second favorite team is the Chicago Cubs: Dare I hope for a dream World Series between the two? Hey, it could happen.)

He walked into the Restaurant a few minutes late (after I had called to say I would be two hours late). Seeing him looking around for someone he’d never met, I signaled to him to let him know I was his lunch appointment. “Sorry I’m late. I made some money today,” he said as he slid into the booth.

Danil Ezekiel Faust is a candidate for Congress from Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District and he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell because he has no money and he’s running against an incumbent (Steve Scalise) who has millions.

And that is precisely why he’s running.

The money he made was as an online trader

A Puerto Rican Irish Jew, Faust, a Democrat, is what Kris Kristofferson calls a walking contradiction: He is a former manager of an Arizona hedge fund who continues to play the market but who at the same time despises Wall Street and everything it stands for.

His hero also happens to be is favorite American President: Andrew Jackson. “They can take down those statues of Confederate soldiers, but not Andrew Jackson. The man took a bullet in the chest defending his wife’s honor. He was opposed to a National Bank…and he was right. He is a real American hero,” overlooking the fact that Jackson also signed into law the Indian Removal Act that stained America’s history with the Trail of Tears.

And like so many others, he insists there is entirely too much money in politics.

He also is a strong proponent of wind energy, a sure way to gin up substantial opposition (read: campaign contributions for his opponent) from the fossil fuel industry. He is pro-choice and an unabashed supporter of gay rights and equal pay for women.

And he keeps right on a-changin’ for the better or the worse
Searchin’ for a shrine he’s never found
Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse
Or if the goin’ up was worth the comin’ down

 “If I had the money to play on a level playing field, there’s no doubt I could win,” he said between bites of his heart-attack inducing bacon cheeseburger.

But he has no official organization. His campaign headquarters are in his former residence upstairs over the Three-Legged Dog at 400 Burgundy in the French Quarter. His business cards are from a computer program.

Most of all, though, he has no financial backing. Scalise, on the other hand, earlier tied by blogger Lamar White to a Ku Klux Klan event at which David Duke was the main speaker, has the Koch brothers and their Americans for Prosperity (AFP) pouring money into his re-election campaign through various Super PACs which, unfortunately drowns out the message of any underfunded opponent.

“AFP, I believe, held a big social event on the same night at Acme Oyster House right next door to Scalise’s headquarters,” he said.

No one can be heard over the roar of cash being poured into the campaign of an entrenched—and bought—incumbent. And there is no greater concentration of bought politicians than in the U.S. Congress.

Never mind that Scalise voted against federal funding to assist Super Storm Sandy victims in New Jersey but now is demanding federal funds for Louisiana’s flood victims. http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-louisiana-floods-20160822-snap-story.html

Faust, a native of Puerto Rico (take note, birthers: he can never be President), stopped temporarily in New Orleans en route to his intended destination—New York, where he planned to take a job with another hedge fund. But while in New Orleans, he fell in love. With New Orleans and its diverse culture “and its laid-back way of life.”

He took a job as a doorman at a French Quarter strip club. It was while working at that job that he began watching and listening. He learned some unforgettable lessons about the realities of life and the local power structure. In short, he knows where a lot of political skeletons are buried. “It was nothing for politicians and powerful businessmen to come into the club and drop $10,000,” he said.

He said the much-ballyhooed Operation Trick or Treat conducted a year ago by the Louisiana State Police (LSP) and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) was a sham. The clubs that played ball and made the right political contributions were never investigated, he said.

He also said the LSP and ATC sweep in Operation Trick or Treat and a campaign to limit the number of strip clubs in the French Quarter was the idea of established strip clubs friendly with ATC’s then-director Troy Hebert “to keep down competition.”

So what made Danil Faust run?

“I kept hearing that David Duke was going to run,” he said. “But in the end, he got in the U.S. Senate race instead. I even heard Troy Hebert was running.”

Hebert, who also opted to join the crowded (24 candidates) Senate race, does not reside in the First Congressional District but in Louisiana, residency is not a requirement. (The First Congressional District, by the way, was used by Bobby Jindal as a springboard to the governor’s office.)

“Other than Scalise, no one is running for the office,” he said. Actually, there are seven candidates on the ballot, but like Faust, none of the other five challengers is given a chance in this election.

But that’s what happens when big money like the Kochs, George Soros, Donald Sussman, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Stephens, Hank Greenburg, and the Devos family, to name but a few, overpowers and corrupts the electoral process. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/superpac-donors-2016/

And no matter if his passion is Andrew Jackson, or if he works as a hedge fund manager, an advocate of wind power, a strip club doorman or a political candidate, Danil Ezekiel Faust remains his own man.

But if this world keeps right on turnin’ for the better or the worse
And all he ever gets is older and around
From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse
The goin’ up was worth the comin’ down

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Before you accept the state’s Shelter at Home program, you may want to consider the quality of workmanship—or lack thereof—that some 2016 flood victims who have participated are experiencing. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_3116e8b6-7abb-11e6-91c5-d3139b79d965.html?sr_source=lift_amplify

While you should beware of shoddy work by contractors, you should also consider that all work done will likely need to be re-done and makeshift (inferior) plumbing will have to be replaced at your cost.

If that is not enough to convince you, you may wish to follow an important trial scheduled to begin in the 19th Judicial District courtroom of District Judge Tim Kelly on October 3.

The upcoming trial is over the foreclosure on rental property owned by Metairie resident Tony Pelicano and his company, L&T Development. Pelicano also has legal action pending against defendants the State of Louisiana through the Office of Community Development, The Shaw Group, Inc., Woodrow Wilson Construction Co., both of Baton Rouge, and Western Surety Co. of Sioux Falls, S.D.

Pelicano purchased a rental house on Turnbull Street in Metairie on April 28, 2005, just in time for it to be heavily damaged four months and one day later when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on Aug. 29.

Pelicano, like victims of the flood almost exactly 11 years later (Aug. 11-14), was solicited by the state to take part in a state-sponsored recovery program.

In the case of Katrina, it was the Office of Community Development (OCD) that oversaw the Post-Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance and Household Transition Program. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/pdredge/pdr_edge_research_041913.html

With the floods of 2016, it is the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) that took over the Shelter at Home Program.

http://gov.louisiana.gov/page/shelter-at-home-program

The Shelter at Home Program provides up to $15,000 to make a flood-damaged home habitable while the dwelling is being repaired. But the homeowner has no say in the choosing of a contractor to do the work. Nor does the homeowner receive any of that $15,000; all monies paid out go to the contractor.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s déjà vu all over again.

Despite the fact that Tony Pelicano is himself a contractor, he was told that not only could he not select his contractor for the Rental Assistance Program, but he could not even do the work himself. Nor did he receive funds to pay the contractor; that was paid by the State Office of Community Development directly to the contractor.

In both cases, the homeowner has no say about the quality of work, is unable to withhold payment should the contractor, who was not of his choosing, should do substandard work. http://www.wafb.com/story/33133888/video-raises-questions-about-shelter-at-home-program

http://www.wbrz.com/news/shelter-at-home-program-leaves-mess-in-st-amant-home/

And that is precisely why Pelicano is headed for trial the first week in October.

At the outset, a community block grant was awarded in the amount of $75,000 with the additional $14,595 in costs to be paid by Pelicano at closing.

OCD then selected Woodrow Wilson Construction Co. to serve as contractor. When Pelicano requested the ability to select his own contractor, “OCD advised him he was not entitled to have any say nor (sic) input with respect to the employment of Woodrow Wilson for the rehabilitation and reconstruction project,” one of Pelicano’s court filings says.

In September, 2009, Pelicano was personally solicited by the State of Louisiana, through Mark Maier, Program Director of the Small Rental Property Program for OCD and a principal of Maier Consulting, to submit an application to become the first test applicant with the Small Rental Program through the State Office of Community Development, Pelicano says in a sworn affidavit.

“This Program administers federal funds to small rental property owners in order to facilitate the reconstruction of small rental properties in order to return them to commerce, post-Katrina, and provide affordable housing for Katrina victims,” he said. “This is accomplished through a forgivable loan of $75,000.00 and we personally put up the additional sum of $14,595.00 from our own personal funds.

In May 2012, Pelicano said he attended a meeting in Baton Rouge attended by Maier, OCD Supervisor for the Small Rental Program Brad Swayze and Dan Rees, also of OCD. When Pelicano protested that construction change orders were made without his knowledge or consent, he says he was threatened and told he had no rights to his own property. Pelicano claims he was told if he contacted the media, his bank note would be accelerated and that a lawsuit would be filed against him—“threats that OCD fulfilled,” he says.

Those change orders included, among others:

  • Substituting non-pressure treated lumber instead of the pressure treated lumber called for in the building specifications;
  • Sloppy fittings of windows which allowed moisture to invade the structure;
  • Relocating the hot water heater to a location that could pose a threat of fire, and
  • Cutting a hole in the door in order to make the hot water tank fit.

Pelicano subsequently hired a professional engineering and inspection firm, Gurtler Brothers of New Orleans, to evaluate the reconstruction efforts. He presented copies of the firm’s photos-and-report and asked that immediate action be taken to remedy the conditions of the property.

“OCD refused,” he says, “and instead, contacted another construction company, Lago Construction Co. (which is not an engineering nor a qualified inspection firm) to conduct an ‘impartial’ inspection.”

Lago then issued a report passing off defects “as either minor or simply not in need of fixing,” Pelicano says.

Incredibly, Pelicano later learned that Lago was a business partner with Maier Consulting, headed by that same Mark Maier who simultaneously served as Program Director of the Small Rental Property Program for OCD. http://images.bimedia.net/documents/Lago+-+SRPP+Labor+Analysis+10-25-12.pdf

No conflict of interest there, right?

Oh, wait. It gets better.

The head of Lago, Praveen Kailas, whose family poured more than $23,000 into Bobby Jindal’s campaigns in 2003, 2007 and 2011, pleaded guilty in 2013 to federal charges of fraudulent billing in the…(wait for it)….Louisiana Road Home’s Small Rental Property Program. http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/southcentral/2013/08/22/235416.htm

Jindal’s office said it launched an internal investigation but dropped the probe when Mark Maier, the consultant (and, did we mention, coincidentally, Program Director of the Small Rental Property Program for OCD?) wrote a note absolving Lago of any wrongdoing.

He wrote a note, folks, clearing his business partner of wrongdoing but relied on that same business partner to block recovery by a man ripped off by the very program he headed.

Perhaps someone should have written a note for Richard Nixon, or John Wayne Gacy, or Mark David Chapman, or John Hinckley, Jr., or former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, or former Federal Judge Thomas Porteous.

We could go on but you get the idea: He wrote a damned note to clear his partner but that same tainted relationship played a major role in events that today see the state trying to foreclose on Tony Pelicano.

What could possibly be wrong with this picture?

What could possibly go wrong with the Shelter at Home Program?

And did Jindal return any of that $23,000 from the third (at a minimum) convicted felon who contributed big bucks to his campaigns?

Or did he write a note on their behalf?

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They have full arrest powers but instead of patrolling the state’s highways and arresting drug dealers, they patrol the more placid State Capitol complex.

You won’t see them providing security for the governor or trotting onto the field at Tiger Stadium along with Les Miles and the Tiger football team. Nor will you ever see their commander standing stoically behind the governor during press briefings.

They’re not even allowed to head up security at the Capitol during the legislative session. That honor goes to the more glamorous State Police detail.

They have the same arrest powers as the high-profile State Troopers, charged with enforcing the same laws for the benefit of public safety and protection of the state’s citizens while securing the safety of the myriad of state offices.

And they must go through the same training and certification qualifications as State Troopers.

Though Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers conduct investigations and all other duties that State Troopers perform, they are, for all intents and purposes, invisible to all but state employees. Both they and the more prestigious Louisiana State Police (LSP) are part of the Department of Public Safety and both patrol the entire state. But make no mistake, the DPS Police are the stepchildren of DPS.

Held to the same standards as State Troopers, State Capitol Police get the equivalent of table scraps. DPS police patrol throughout the state in patrol cars eight- to 10 years old and with as much as 300,000 miles on them, according to one DPS officer.

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, meanwhile, just got a brand new SUV issued to him. “Edmonson tells us over and over that he’s ‘working’ on something,” the DPS officer said. “I guess that ‘something’ was that $43,000 raise he got on August 1. I guess it’s good to be the king when your living expenses are paid by somebody else.”

Despite repeated promises, pay for DPS police officers lags further and further behind that of their counterparts over at Independence Park.

The evidence is right there in black and white for all to see.

Here is the comparison between comparable ranks, based on years of service:

  • DPS Police Officer 2: $24,066 to $57,900 per year;
  • State Trooper: $46,600 to $94,750;

 

  • DPS Sergeant: $29,500 to $66,300;
  • LSP Sergeant: $51,500 to $104,700;

 

  • DPS Lieutenant: $33,758 to $75,920;
  • LSP Lieutenant: $56,900 to $115,700.

Adding insult to injury, the DPS pay grid stops at the rank of lieutenant, meaning $75,920 is the most a DPS officer can anticipate making.

The LSP pay grid, on the other hand, keeps going to Captain ($64,750 to $131,670) and major ($69,300 to $140,900).

Edmonson, who was not making the pay grid maximum (he was making $134,351.10), was recently granted a $43,100 pay increase to $177,435.96. The increase was approved by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Chief of Staff Ben Nevers who previously served in the State Senate.

Nevers received $1,500 in campaign contributions from the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) last year. The controversial contribution was funneled through LSTA Executive Director David Young who was reimbursed by the LSTA.

Others who got raises included Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy ($140,890.10 to $161,304.78), Jason Starnes (promoted to Lt. Col. And raised in salary from $128,934.26 to $150,751.90, and Deputy Superintendents Adam White, Glenn Staton and Murphy Paul, both receiving raises from $140,900 to $150,750. All this despite an executive order issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards freezing all merit increases from June 29, 2016 through June 29, 2017.

http://www.doa.la.gov/osr/other/JBE%202016/JBE16-32.htm

With the latest glut of increases, Edmonson, Dupuy, Starnes, Staton, Paul and White all now make salaries that exceed the maximums on the State Police pay grid.

When Edmonson came to the Louisiana State Police Commission last month with the proposal to create the new position to which Starnes was approved by the LSPA last week, he told commission members there would be no additional costs but Starnes got an immediate increase of $21,850. Moreover, the opening for the new post was never formally announced, thus barring others the opportunity to apply for the position.

LouisianaVoice has learned that several legislators are upset at the latest pay raises, Edmonson’s in particular, and that the Legislative Fiscal Office has begun inquiries as to who authorized them.

This gambit comes only two years after a furtive attempt to increase Edmonson’s retirement benefits by $55,000 per year despite his having locked his retirement years before by opting to participate in the former Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).

LouisianaVoice learned of the attempt, made via an amendment to an obscure bill in the closing hours of the 2014 legislative session. That attempt, from which Edmonson attempted to disassociate himself, was thwarted by a combination of negative public reaction and by a lawsuit filed by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge).

But now he’s back and time it looks as though he may have focused unwanted attention on himself and his agency.

Sometimes it’s best to keep a low profile, but in the case of DPS, it certainly hasn’t been very profitable—or fair.

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co–opt

verb \kō-ˈäpt\

  • to use or take control of (something) for your own purposes

LouisianaVoice and The Hayride come down on the same side of an issue about as often as Bobby Jindal balanced the State Budget without imposing draconian mid-year cuts.

We are both in accord in the belief that there’s something that doesn’t pass the smell taste in the suspicious manner in which an investigation of political contributions by State Troopers was quietly dropped by the attorney hired to conduct the investigation—only to see that attorney retained to represent the state in a high-dollar lawsuit against oil companies over coastal land loss.

But the folks over at The Hayride should check the time line a little more carefully before trying to claim credit for breaking the story.

In its Thursday (Sept. 8) post, The Hayride said, “our own John Binder was at the forefront in reporting on the (contribution) scandal, following up with updates on the investigation, and exposing how deep it goes.”

That’s a pretty interesting claim given that LouisianaVoice and The Baton Rouge Advocate have attended every meeting of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) meeting (except when Advocate reporter Maya Lau was pulled off the story following the police shootings in July).

John Binder has yet to make an appearance at any of those meetings.

Moreover, to our knowledge, Binder’s first story about the contributions being laundered through Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) Executive Director David Young was posted on Jan. 14 of this year. http://thehayride.com/2016/01/trooper-gate-illegally-funneling-money/

That was more than a month after our Dec. 9, 2015, story. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/

Moreover, The Hayride gave attorney Taylor Townsend credit for revealing that three members of the LSPC also had made political contributions in violation of state law when in fact, LouisianaVoice announced that fact before Taylor’s revealed it to the commission. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/04/14/two-more-members-of-lspc-quit-over-political-contributions-while-pondering-probe-of-lsta-for-same-offense/

Co-opt.

But enough of that. At least we’re in accord in our conviction that there’s something rotten in Denmark over the sleazy way in which it was announced that (1) no witnesses were interviewed, thus no written report was generated, (2) because there was no report, there are no findings to be provided the media, ergo (3) it’s nobody’s damned business what his “official investigation” found.

That’s correct, public records requests have hit the proverbial stone wall. In fact, LouisianaVoice has learned that there is a recording of a meeting of the Troop I affiliate of LSTA at which a member acknowledged that the LSTA violated the law in the manner in which the donations were approved by LSTA directors, funneled through Young, who was then reimbursed for “expenses.”

When a request for a copy of that recording was made of Townsend, he never denied the existence of the tape but said that because the tape was never introduced into evidence, it is not public record.

First of all, why was the recording not included as evidence? Second, why did Townsend not interview a single member of the LSTA?

So the obvious lesson here is if you don’t want your buddies (or one of your appointees) to be found guilty of some impropriety or if you don’t want to embarrass the agency you head, the obvious solution is to terminate the “investigation” short of interviewing witnesses or introducing key evidence (like an incriminating recording) and never issue  written report. That way, you keep your “findings” away from the nosy media. Hell, Nixon could’ve learned from these guys.

For a $75,000 contract, taxpayers deserve a little more thorough effort on the part of their “investigator.” To call Townsend’s efforts at a legitimate investigation and his lame explanation to the commission an exercise in duplicity would be charitable.

It would be enough if that were the end of the story. But it’s not…and it gets worse.

The fact that Gov. Edwards selected J. Michael Veron of Lake Charles and Gladstone Jones of New Orleans to represent the state in the legal action against the oil companies doesn’t concern us so much because (1) a lawsuit to force big oil to bear the cost of cleaning up after itself is long overdue, and (2) both men have proven track records in such litigation, having major decisions in the past. After all, in litigation with so high stakes, you want the best—even if they were major contributors to Edwards’ campaign—which they were. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/environment/article_36a72414-6fd3-11e6-84fb-533941a35403.html

The fact that he chose to include Townsend, basically inexperienced in such litigation but a major Edwards fundraiser, on the heels of a complete—and shameful—whitewash in a probe that at least peripherally involved State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, re-appointed by Edwards, only reinforces our skepticism and our belief that the “investigation” was ordered quashed from the very top—by Edwards.

Of course Attorney General, in kicking off his 2019 gubernatorial campaign (can anyone seriously doubt he’s running?) has refused to concur in the attorneys’ appointments, which is an entirely different sideshow that’s certain to get even more interesting.

The Advocate’s Lau reported that Matthew Block, Edwards’ executive counsel, said the governor was not aware that Townsend had been hired by the LSPC until after it happened. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_2d629298-712d-11e6-b66b-4f996a7bf239.html

Block’s claim, to say the least, stretches credulity.

And then there was Thursday’s closed door meeting of the LSPC.

The commission went into executive session not once, but twice and that second time may have been in violation of the state’s open meeting laws.

At issue was the promotion of Maj. Jason Starnes to the position of Department of Public Safety Undersecretary to succeed Jill Boudreaux who retired (for a second time) earlier this year.

Starnes, a classified member of LSP, had been transferred by Edmonson to an unclassified non-state police service position as Interim Undersecretary, Custodian of Records of the Office of Management and Finance within the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS). https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

That move, the complaint says, was in violation of Rule 14.3(G), which says:

  • No classified member of the State Police shall be appointed, promoted, transferred or any way employed in or to any position that is not within the State Police Service.

When the matter of a rule change to allow the appointment came up on the agenda, the commission went into closed session a second time.

When we pointed out state law prohibits carte blanche closed-door meeting, Townsend said the executive meeting was to discuss “personnel matters,” which is permitted under law.

La. R.S. 42:17 Exceptions to open meetings

  1. A public body may hold an executive session pursuant to R.S. 42:16 for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person, provided that such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, before the scheduled time contained in the notice of the meeting at which such executive session is to take place and that such person may require that such discussion be held at an open meeting. However, nothing in this Paragraph shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract. In cases of extraordinary emergency, written notice to such person shall not be required; however, the public body shall give such notice as it deems appropriate and circumstances permit.

(2) Strategy sessions or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining, prospective litigation after formal written demand, or litigation when an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigating position of the public body.

(3) Discussion regarding the report, development, or course of action regarding security personnel, plans, or devices.

(4) Investigative proceedings regarding allegations of misconduct

But, we said, the executive was not to discuss personnel matters, but to discuss policy, which must be discussed in open meeting.

You can guess who prevailed in this mini-debate. Townsend, again earning his fee, decided that since Edmonson claimed he never actually “appointed” Starnes because that can only be done by the governor, there was no need for action by the commission. Neither Townsend nor Doss bothered to mention that while Edmonson said he never “appointed” Starnes, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Web page first listed Starnes as Undersecretary but then took the page down following the official complaint registered by retired State Trooper Bucky Millet of Lake Arthur.

As for the first executive session, it appeared to be legal. It was to discuss a settlement proposal in a legal matter, which was ultimately rejected by the commission.

A proposal by Commission President T.J. Doss to revamp the duties of the LSPC Executive Director was tabled following complaints by other members that they had not had an opportunity to review the changes.

Doss was caught off guard but recovered after we asked if the proposed changes, which would sharply curtail the executive director’s powers and responsibilities by transferring them to the LSPC, represented a power grab by Edmonson. The proposals certainly left that impression but Doss denied that was the motive behind the proposed changes.

The commission also rejected Doss’ call for a three-member “executive committee,” saying that was simply another layer of bureaucracy.

Nice to know there is still a sliver of sanity on the commission.

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Cameron, Vermilion, Plaquemines and Jefferson are attempting to accomplish what Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East could not: hold oil and gas companies responsible for the destruction of Louisiana’s coastline.

On July 28, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry expressed his “disappointment” that Vermilion Parish had the audacity to file a lawsuit over damages to the parish coastline Vermilion District Attorney Keith Stutes said was caused by drilling activities of several dozen oil and gas companies.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Landry, in a rare display of political accord, intervened in the lawsuit with Edwards asking the oil and gas industry to settle the litigation and to assist the state in footing the cost of restoring the cost, which is expected to reach tens of millions of dollars over the next half-century. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/28/vermilion-sues-oil-and-gas-companies-over-coastal-/

Calling lawsuits filed by Cameron and Jefferson parishes as well as Vermilion “counter-intuitive,” Landry said, “We cannot allow these differing and competing interests to push claims which collectively impact the public policy for our coast and our entire state.”

Two weeks later, on Aug. 10, Landry was practically effervescent as he all but took full credit when 24th District Judge Stephen Enright dismissed a similar lawsuit by Jefferson Parish. “I intervened in this lawsuit because I was concerned that the interest of the State of Louisiana may not have been fully represented or protected.

“I accept the court’s ruling because addressing the issues associated with permit violations through the administrative process is a cost-effective, efficient way to resolve any violations,” he said. “That was clearly the purpose of the Legislature creating this regulatory scheme.”

Funny how Landry would choose to use the word scheme.

Scheme, after all, would appear to be appropriate, considering how much money the industry has invested in campaign contributions to Louisiana politicians.

Copy of Campaign Contributions

And there’s certainly no mystery why Landry is so protective of the industry. In fact, he might be described as Jindal 2.0 because of his determination to protect the industry to the detriment of the citizens od Louisiana.

After all, of the $3.3 million Landry received in campaign CONTRIBUTIONS between July 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2015 (during his campaign for attorney general), more than $550,000 came from companies and individuals with strong ties to the oil and gas industry.

Moreover, more than $600,000 in campaign contributions to Landry came from out-of-state donors, with many of those, such as Koch Industries ($10,000), one of America’s biggest polluters, also affiliated with the oil and gas industry.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/06/10/americas-20-worst-corporate-air-polluters/#10b98e794c70

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/koch-industries/koch-industries-pollution/

(Koch Industries, by the way, with ties dating back to the right-wing extremist group, The John Birch Society—Fred Koch, Charles and David Koch’s father, was a charter member—has run afoul of federal law on numerous occasions, including fraud charges in connection with oil purchases from Indian reservations.) http://www.corp-research.org/koch_industries

One $5,000 donor, Cox Oil & Gas, was from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, according to Landry’s campaign finance records. That contribution date was May 20, 2014 but Cox Oil Offshore, LLC, Cox Oil, LLC, and Cox Operating, LLC, all of Dallas, contributed $5,000 each three weeks earlier, on April 28, 2014, those same records show.

Besides the Cox companies, Landry received more than $300,000 from firms and individuals from Texas, many of those from Houston and the surrounding area.

Landry, like Jindal and the bulk of legislators, has sold his soul to an industry that has ravaged our coastline, polluted our land and waterways, and failed to restore property to its original state when operations have concluded, all while reaping record profits and enriching stockholders.

LouisianaVoice has long adhered to the idea that there is far too much money in politics and that most of it comes from special interests. The reality is that citizens have long been removed from the political process.

If you don’t believe that, drop in on a House or Senate committee hearing on some controversial issue. Invariably, the issue will have already been decided by a quiet influx of special interest money and intense lobbying. As you sit and watch and listen to testimony of citizens, pay close attention because you will be the only one besides those testifying who will be doing so.

Watch the committee members. They will be checking emails or texts on their phones, talking and joking among themselves or just milling around, exiting the rear door of the committee room to get coffee—anything but listening to citizens’ concerns. Only on the rarest of occasions could a committee member give you a summation of the testimony.

The only time many legislators really take their jobs seriously is when they are discussing a bill with a lobbyist and that is unfortunate.

Once you’ve heard committee testimony go upstairs to the House or Senate chamber and take a seat in the front row of the spectator gallery. Observe how few of the senators or representatives is actually paying attention to the proceedings. The scene below you will underscore the adage that there are three things one should never see being made: love, sausage, and laws.

And while you’re at it, watch the lobbyists working the room. As you observe the absence of interaction between legislators and average citizens, do the math and deduce the way lawmakers are influenced. You won’t get far before you encounter the old familiar $.

Like him or not (and in Louisiana, it’s fairly accurate to say most don’t though they can’t give you a really sound reason why), President Obama pretty much nailed it when he was running for re-election in 2012.

Jane Mayer, in her excellent book Dark Money, quoted Obama from his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas (the same town where Theodore Roosevelt demanded in 1910 that the government be “freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests”), about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 and the ensuing glut of Super PAC money into the political arena:

  • “Inequality distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder.”

Meanwhile, Landry ramps up his war of words and political ideology with Gov. Edwards (perhaps in an effort to deflect attention away from his own flawed agenda). The most recent salvo was fired last week over the administration’s hiring of former Sen. Larry Bankston, a one-time convicted felon as legal counsel for the State Board of Contractors—never mind the fact that Landry also hired an employee formerly convicted of fraud for the attorney general’s fraud section. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/article_fe56114c-6ad7-11e6-8e7e-6f06140ad60e.html

It would appear that in Louisiana, the state has long since been sold out to the highest bidder as witnessed by the combined efforts of Jindal, Landry, legislators, and the courts to protect big oil at all costs.

As further evidence of this, consider the words of Gifford Briggs, Vice-President of and lobbyist for the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) in the run-up to the 2015 statewide elections immediately after Landry had indicated he might oppose then incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Asked if LOGA would support Landry, Briggs, the son of LOGA President Donald Briggs, said, “We can’t officially endorse any candidate. Our PAC can, but not us. Having said that, Jeff Landry is looking like a very good candidate for Attorney General.”

 

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