Archive for the ‘Campaign Contributions’ Category

Colorful. Vindictive. Unorthodox. Illegal. Underhanded. Flamboyant. Egotistical. Unethical. Dishonest. Freewheeling. No holds barred. Down and dirty. Deceitful. Unprincipled. Crooked. Bombastic. Pompous. Arrogant. Self-serving. Zealous.

These are just a few adjectives (believe me, there are many, many more) used by various news reporters down through the ages to describe Louisiana politics and its practitioners.

It may not compare to the quote about U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper by George Smathers, his opponent for the U.S. Senate in Florida way back in 1951:

“Are you aware,” Smathers told a rural, largely unsophisticated gathering, “that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy and that he and his wife matriculated together before they were married.”

But there are other ways to undercut a political opponent without ever resorting to smear tactics, half-truths, or innuendo and U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican, may have just found a way to damage the aspirations of two of his Democratic opponents for the U.S Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter.

Besides the descriptions applied to Louisiana politics in the opening paragraph, astute politicians—particularly conservative Republicans—have allowed two other words to creep into the political lexicon: Evangelicalism and Privatization—as homage to two blocs that have gained considerable stroke in recent years: the religious right and disciples of Milton Friedman’s free market economy.

Boustany, however, also is effectively employing Subterfuge and Misdirection in the tried and true fashion of a slight of hand stage magician and no one has noticed.

Until now.

So, in light of his somewhat low-key TV ads, how is he attempting to obtain an edge through furtive means?

Two words: Joshua Pellerin.

Since 2012, Pellerin, manager of Pellerin Real Estate Holdings and of Pellerin Energy Corp., has contributed at least $8,800 to Boustany’s campaigns for the U.S. House and, since 2015, another $6,800 to his campaign for the Senate.


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Pellerin also is the former manager of Preventive Vascular Screenings, LLC, and Pellerin Imaging Group, LLC.

Boustany is a cardiovascular surgeon, which makes the connection between the two men logical and explains why Pellerin would give financial support to Boustany’s campaigns for the U.S. House and now the U.S. Senate.

Wait. The U.S. Senate?

If you scroll down the list of the 24 candidates vying for the U.S. Senate, you will see that number 21 on that list (they’re in alphabetical order) is none other than Democrat Joshua Pellerin.

So we have a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate contributing $5,600 to the campaign of one of his leading opponents for the position—a Republican, no less.

That doesn’t make any since.


Unless Pellerin is a “dummy” candidate inserted into the race in an effort to draw votes away from fellow Democrats—Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard.

So who is the “dummy” candidate on the Republican side to draw votes from Boustany’s biggest challenger, fellow physician and Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming? Why, that would be none other than the ultimate dummy, David Duke. Fleming and Duke are battling for much of the same constituency—the Trumpers—and while Duke is destined to finish near the bottom, Fleming’s biggest hope is to pull enough votes from the former high potentate, imperial wizard, exalted grand sovereign (or whatever they call themselves these days) to sneak into the runoff.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time such a dummy candidate has been propped up to split an opponent’s vote. There were rumors, denied by Edwin Edwards, that he had his supporters contribute to the campaign of Tea Party Republican Lenar Whitney two years ago in an attempt to boost her into the runoff which would have greased the skids for him to waltz into Congress. If true, it didn’t work as Garrett Graves ran a strong second to Edwards in the crowded primary and then easily defeated the former governor in the runoff.

The biggest problem facing Boustany is getting Pellerin’s name out there before a sufficient number of Democrat voters. For his part, Pellerin, who has amassed a war chest of only about $300,000 (as opposed to more than $4.3 million in contributions to Boustany), has been making the rounds of Democratic forums in South Louisiana.

With only three weeks before the Nov. 8 election and with such a meager bank account (much of which was contributed by several physicians in the Lafayette area), Pellerin’s best hope to gain name recognition will be those public forums. And with so few Louisiana voters inclined to vote for Democrats these days, it won’t take much chipping at the Campbell-Fayard base to deal crippling blows to their campaigns.

And typical for Louisiana, all it may take is a dummy.

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Attention State Civil Service employees:

·       There’s no money available for your pay raises for what now, the fifth straight year? The sixth? I’ve lost count.

·       The Office of Group Benefits, by the way, will be increasing your monthly health premiums again.

Attention State Troopers:

·       Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the necessary documents clearing the way for pay increases as much as 8 percent for you—this in addition to last year’s two pay increasing totaling some 30 percent.

·       And by the way, Gov. Edwards’ signature also clears the way for annual guaranteed pay increases of 4 percent per year for State Police.

The State Police Commission (LSPC) will meet on Thursday (Oct. 13) to make it official.

Attention Department of Public Safety police officers:

·       You are not included.

·       Meanwhile, State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson’s hunt continues to identify the DPS malcontents who have the audacity to complain about being repeatedly left out in pay raises. Keep your heads down, guys.

The commission also will consider stripping away some of the duties of the commission executive director, according to the commission agenda published on its Web page. This is an obvious effort for Edmonson to seize more power through his puppet, Commission President/State Trooper T.J. Doss. http://laspc.dps.louisiana.gov/laspc.nsf/b713f7b7dd3871ee86257b9b004f9321/0449c2895409d86986258027004fff12/$FILE/10.12.16%20Revised%20Agenda%20(October%2013,%202016).pdf

LouisianaVoice also has learned that the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) is actively considering amending its by-laws to give it authority to purge its rolls of certain of its members, namely a couple of state police retirees who have questioned certain association activities.

And why not? Obviously pumped by the sham “investigation” of the association leadership’s decision (in open violation of state law) to contribute to political campaigns, including those of former Gov. Bobby Jindal and current Gov. Edwards, the LSTA is feeling pretty confident that it can do whatever the hell it wants with complete impunity.

The commission, you will recall, hired Natchitoches attorney Taylor Townsend, a former legislator, to conduct an in-depth investigation into the decision of certain LSTA leaders to become actively involved in political campaigns by having the LSTA executive director make the contributions in his name and then reimbursing him for his “expenses.” The action, nothing other than money laundering, was cleared by Townsend after he apparently got his marching orders from Edwards who didn’t want any embarrassment after reappointing Edmonson after becoming governor.

Townsend, a major supporter of Edwards and who helped head his transition team after he was elected, subsequent to his quiet recommendation of “no action” regarding the LSTA campaign contributions, was rewarded with appointment to the legal team pursuing legal action against the oil industry to force it to restore the state’s wetlands damaged by drilling. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_354f2c5c-8cc9-11e6-8564-5bb2846bb2e6.html

Townsend, instead of submitting a written report as most investigations require, simply told the commission he recommended “no action,” and the commission complied with no comment. Townsend even admitted he did not admit a recording of an LSTA chapter meeting in which is was admitted that the LSTA violated the law into evidence.

So now that the LSTA has survived that mini-scandal, it wants to rid its membership of retirees who dared question the association’s activities.

One of those retirees, Bucky Millet of Lake Arthur, has become a real burr under the commission’s and the LSTA’s saddles and the LSTA officers desperately want him out. He has attended every commission meeting for nearly a year now and is scheduled to attend Thursday’s meeting. Even worse than attending the meetings, he asks questions and that’s something the State Police hierarchy doesn’t particularly like. 

If the LSPC follows form, it will retreat into yet another executive session where it can discuss a course of action out of earshot of the public.

LouisianaVoice will be there.

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Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany apparently moved back to Louisiana for crawfish and now does his best to ignore a new book with a spectacular claim that he was somehow tied to prostitutes murdered in Jefferson Davis Parish (he is suing the author and publisher over that story).

Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming is running TV ads proudly tying his agenda to that of Donald Trump (though Fleming may now wish to put distance between him and the GOP presidential nominee in light of the release of a recording of Trump’s recent conversation about women).

Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell is opting for his “straight talk” TV ads, lashing out at fellow Democrat Caroline Fayard as never having held office and that she “wants to start at the top.”

Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy would “rather drink weed killer.”

Independent former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Director Troy Hebert just wants to sue somebody.

Absent in all the white noise are any real solutions to problems the nation faces—such as rotting infrastructure, jobs, education, climate change, and closing the racial and economic gaps that continue to divide the country.

And then there is that mysterious ESAFund.com TV ad that attacks both Boustany and Fleming.

The ad blasts Fleming for living in a “million-dollar mansion” in the Washington area and Boustany for getting rich while in Congress and for voting for a pay raise for himself.

Well, as it happens, both Boustany and Fleming are physicians so they probably are rich and likely can afford to live where they choose.

As for Boustany’s “vote” to raise his pay, that claim is downright misleading—and inaccurate.

The fact is, in 1989 Congress passed an obscure bill designed to allow them to avoid the stigma of voting for pay raises. The way it works is if there is no vote specifically not to raise congressional salaries, the pay raise kicks in automatically. Cute.

Accordingly, members of Congress do not vote for pay raises—because they don’t have to—and any claim to the contrary is simply untrue. http://www.politifact.com/florida/article/2011/nov/23/truth-about-congressional-pay-raises/

So, just who is this ESAFund that is behind this attack ad?

Well, it is, of course, a super Pac and it has already spent $5.5 million on the 2016 federal elections, including the ad currently being run in Louisiana. https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/detail.php?cmte=C00489856

Officially known as Ending Spending Action Fund, it claims to be “an independent organization that proudly supports candidates regardless of party affiliation who favor enhancing free enterprise, reducing the size of government, and balancing our nation’s budget.” http://esafund.com/

All of which sounds awfully close to the Tea Party’s platform except ESAFund and the Tea Party often find themselves supporting opposing candidates as in Kansas’ First Congressional District. http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/house-races/289027-conservative-allies-on-opposite-sides-in-gop-primary-fight

Perhaps the biggest irony of ESAFund is that it is a super PAC that is campaigning to end Citizens United, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for super PAC spending in political campaigns. http://endcitizensunited.org/ending-spending-action-fund/

And while the current ad blitz goes out of its way to slam Boustany and Fleming, who, coincidentally, are near the top in most polls, it is careful not to attach its own candidate’s name to the ad. That’s because super PACs are limited as to their direct involvement in the campaigns of individual candidates.

A quick glance at recent history, however, reveals an undeniable link to Kennedy’s campaign. In fact, when former Kennedy top aide Jason Redmond shut down his own Super Pac, Make Louisiana Proud, in July of this year, about $120,000 of its cash and in-kind funds were transferred to ESAFund and ESAFund reciprocated by officially endorsing Kennedy.


All of which makes sense. Kennedy, who once seemed to have an insurmountable lead, has seen his support slipping. That should come as no surprise, given the political heavyweights who are also seeking the Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter.

With other candidates hitting the airwaves with their ads, it was inevitable that Kennedy would see some of his support being drained away, especially given his original decision not to advertise until after the general election. That obviously has changed and Kennedy has begun his own TV ad campaign.

A super PAC is freed from restrictions imposed upon traditional campaign committees so long as it:

Neither gives money directly to a candidate or other political committees that give directly to candidates, and

It does not coordinate how it spends its money with a federal candidate.


Here is a list of  http://esafund.com/candidates/ endorsed by ESA.

So, while the ESAFund ad attempts to sound principled, and with no attempt here to defend Boustany or Fleming, it still is an attack ad and nothing more.

Before accepting any ad, especially those employing actors posing as concerned Louisiana citizens who almost certainly are not residents of this state (who knows where they actually reside and vote?), remember the number one rule:

Follow the money.

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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.


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


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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