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There is so very much going on at both the state and national level and LouisianaVoice has stumbled upon a thread that connects, however tenuously, the events swirling around Donald Trump and the redacted information coming out of the special prosecutor’s office and the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s office and a couple of familiar state political players—via the NRA.

That’s a helluva salient lede. I was taught by Wiley Hilburn, my Louisiana Tech journalism professor, to write, short, succinct sentences in my opening paragraph. I don’t think a 63-word opening sentence would have cut it in my classes, but it’s the best I could do. And just for lagniappe, throw in a little Russian spy story for added spice.

First, a couple of observations on the local level. To the surprise of a few observers, some interesting wannabes have dropped out of next year’s governor’s race and a couple of others have jumped in.

Businessman Eddie Rispone filed official paperwork back in October and on Thursday, 5th District U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, who on Monday said he was too busy in Congress to run, changed his mine and entered the race, saying, “I intend to win.”

In between, two who certainly had their eyes on the office, Attorney General Jeff Landry and on Sunday, Dec. 2, U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, opted out. Landry and Kennedy, both Republicans, have kept up continuous barrages of criticism of Gov. John Bel Edwards and are expected to continue taking shots through their respective press offices that attempt to deflect any of Edwards’s positives and to create, if they have to, negatives. real or imagined.

By “creating,” I mean people like Rep. Cameron Henry of Metairie who refused to go along with the Revenue Estimating Conference recently—apparently as an attempt to thwart the governor’s efforts to raise teachers’ pay. Louisiana’s teachers would do well to remember the actions of Henry and House Speaker Taylor Barras of New Iberia, both of whom seem to exist only to block any legislation proposed by Edwards.

Barras would be wiser to try and resolve the myriad of problems plaguing the sheriff’s office in his home parish than spending time picking fights with the governor. As for Henry, he just seems to be a wet-nosed upstart who needs a nap and a pacifier.

But, unless there’s another Republican, a heavy-hitter who can legitimately go toe-to-toe with Edwards, it appears from right now, 10 months out, the governor will return for another four years in office. He’s proven himself to be a champion of the state’s teachers, he’s favored by the all-powerful (some say all too-powerful) Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association (his brother is sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish), he’s for raising the minimum wage (an entirely sensible thing to do), and his Obamacare expansion, like it or not, has brought a lot of federal money into the state. And he hasn’t raised taxes.

(As a side note, I heard AFL-CIO President Louis Reine on the Jim Engster Show on Thursday and a caller took him to task because of his support for raising the minimum wage above the impossible-to-live-on $7.25 an hour rate, claiming it would hurt business and hurt the very people Reine and the AFL-CIO purport to want to help. That caller obviously does not live on minimum wage, or he would never be so dense as to oppose a decent living wage for working people. Other states have raised the minimum wage and seen no ill-effects on business—or workers. It’s a false argument (dare I say fake news) promoted by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry whose members enjoy $3 billion per year in tax exemptions, credits, and incentives—at the expense of the working people of this state who have to make up the tax shortfall created by those breaks.)

But back to the governor’s race. Who do you know who is still in his 40s , has already served three years as a congressman and eight years as governor (who would love to eclipse Edwin Edwards’s record of four terms), who is so ego-driven that he thought he was presidential timber, and who writes for the Wall Street Journal so as to keep his name before the public?

What might be the odds that Bobby Jindal might somehow think he can fool the people of this state again? Especially with Timmy Teepell telling him how smart and how great he is—all the while raking in consulting fees for himself and his firm, OnMessage?

But wait!

What did I just read about Donald Trump, the NRA and OnMessage? Oh, yes, that story (CLICK HERE) on Daily Kos about how the NRA illegally coordinated $30 million in political spending to benefit Trump in the 2016 election. The NRA, it turns out, was infiltrated by accused Russian spy MARIA BUTINA who was working for powerful Russian banker ALEXANDER TORSHIN. Donald Trump Jr. met with Torshin at a private dinner hosted by the NRA.

And much of that $30 million, it turns out, was RUSSIAN MONEY funneled through the NRA.

The NRA used an apparent shell firm called Starboard Strategic, Inc. to produce ads for Senate candidates who employed a Republican consulting firm called OnMessage. Starboard Strategic and OnMessage both share the same Alexandria, Virginia, address as National Media, which had staff members working for Trump. By law, Trump campaign staffers and National Media staffers were required to be completely and totally separate. Otherwise, the limits on campaign contributions would’ve been $5,000, not $30 million.

Guess who is a partner in the OnMessage firm? None other than Baton Rouge’s very own Timmy Teepell, the political guru to whom Bobby Jindal turns for those sweet nothings whispered in his ear—for a very bigly fee, of course.

But back to MARIA BUTINA: She’s in jail as I write this, pondering a plea bargain with federal prosecutors. But who was she photographed with at an NRA event? None other than Bobby Jindal, who I’m sure was clueless (as he is about most things) as to her real motives as a Russian agent.

JINDAL AND THE RUSSIAN SPY

But then, not all Republican operatives may have been completely ignorant of her intent. She had a boyfriend. His name is Paul Erickson. He’s a Republican operative and you can read about him HERE and HERE.

To paraphrase our late friend C.B. Forgotston, not even Alex Jones (https://www.infowars.com/) can make this stuff up.

 

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On Monday (Nov. 13), Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell issued a glowing PRESS RELEASE in which he announced what he described as a project to provide high-speed internet service to more than 54,000 homes and businesses in the 24-parish PSC District 5.

Yet, only two months earlier, Campbell had appeared before the Claiborne Parish Police Jury to publicly trash a proposal by Claiborne Electric Cooperative to provide even faster and more comprehensive internet service to an estimated 65,000 homes and businesses in its five-parish service area—at a comparable customer cost.

Campbell, an Elm Grove populist Democrat who lost to John Kennedy in the 2016 U.S. Senate race, who lost to Bobby Jindal in the 2007 governor’s election and who three times ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House from Louisiana’s 4th congressional district, seems to be running for something again but there don’t seem to be any other offices for him to seek.

In September, he presented his timeline of events concerning the approval process for Claiborne’s proposed high-speed broad internet service. One cooperative member who was present for that performance described Campbell’s remarks as “hyperbole,” adding that many of Foster’s claims “were outright wrong.”

“Then when he had his say, for which he caught a lot of flak from citizens in attendance, he promptly left as (Claiborne CEO) Mark Brown was given the opportunity to present his side of the situation,” the member said, pointing out that he is neither an employee nor a board member of Claiborne Electric. He asked that his name not be used.

“There was a marked difference in the points of view with Mr. Brown’s position being a lot more straightforward and fact-based,” he said. “That Campbell made his accusations and factually incorrect statements and then left without hearing Mr. Brown’s EXPLANATION was one of the rudest displays I’ve seen in a public forum.”

In his press release, Campbell said the “Connect America” program of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “is helping fiber, wireless and satellite internet providers meet the need for broadband service in unserved or underserved areas of North Louisiana.”

He said that FCC records indicate that 54,580 homes and businesses in his PSC district are eligible for high-speed internet service funded by Connect America.

That represents just a fraction of almost a million people—325,000 households—in the 24 parishes.

What Campbell describes as “high speed” internet is a download speed of 10 megabytes per second and an upload speed of one megabyte per second at an estimated cost of $60 per month per customer.

Claiborne’s proposal calls for the same $60 monthly rate for 50 megabytes to one gigabyte of service for 10,000 more customers in the five-parishes of Bienville, Claiborne, Lincoln, Union and Webster than for Campbell’s entire 24 parish district.

Campbell claims that if the Claiborne project fails, customers would be on the hook for the costs, ignoring the fact that the proposal calls for a construction phase-in that would allow the project to be scrapped if it did not meet projections.

“Foster Campbell ignores the fact the 69 co-ops around the country have already done projects like that proposed by Claiborne and none of those have failed,” the Homer member said. “He also ignores that about 75 other co-ops around the country are in the process of starting fiber optic systems.”

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Foster’s behavior is a strange reversal of traditional Democratic support for electric cooperatives begun under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt and championed by such notables as Lyndon Johnson. In fact, Foster’s rhetoric is reminiscent of Bobby Jindal’s REJECTION of that $80 million Commerce Department grant to install high-speed broadband internet for Louisiana’s rural parishes back in 2011.

In that case, Jindal was in lockstep with the AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC) which in 2010 had staked out its opposition to federal encroachment onto the turf of private business despite the fact that private business had been painfully slow in responding to the needs of rural America dating back to the early days of electric power and telephone service.

And therefore, since AT&T was a member of ALEC and since AT&T was opposed to the grant, therefore, so was Jindal. In Jindal’s case, AT&T had also made a six-figure contribution to his wife’s charitable foundation, giving Jindal another reason to take up the ALEC banner.

AT&T, in fact, even took the City of Lafayette to court to fight the city’s efforts to construct its own fiber optic high speed broadband internet system. It was a costly fight for both sides but Lafayette eventually emerged victorious despite AT&T’s best efforts.

Foster Campbell, in his press release noted that AT&T would be responsible for $17.2 million, or 79 percent of the FCC-funded broadband expansion into PSC District 5 while CenturyLink of Monroe would have responsibility for $3.9 million (18 percent) of the cost and satellite provider ViaSat would spend $1.5 million (3 percent).

So, why is Campbell now sounding so downright Jindalesque in his opposition to Claiborne Electric?

For that answer, one would have to take the advice FBI agent Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat, gave to reporter Bob Woodward during the Washington Post’s investigation of Nixon and Watergate:

Follow the money.

  • CenturyLink made two $1,000 contributions to Campbell’s various state campaign fund in 2011 and 2012, according to Louisiana Ethics Commission records.
  • Glen F. Post, III, of Farmerville in Union Parish, is President of CenturyLink. He personally contributed $11,500 to Campbell between 2003 and 2014.
  • Stacy Goff is Executive Vice-President of CenturyLink. He chipped in another $500 for Campbell in 2005.
  • AT&T gave $10,000 to Campbell in campaign contributions between 2003 and 2010.
  • William G. “Bud” Courson and James W. Nickel of Baton Rouge are registered lobbyists for AT&T. Their firm, Courson Nickel, LLC of Baton Rouge, contributed $2,000 to Campbell from 2002 to 2014.

CENTURYTEL

COURSON NICKEL

Post contributed another $3,000 to Campbell’s unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2016 and Nickel and Courson also contributed $500 and $1,000, respectively, to that campaign, federal campaign finance records show.

Altogether, Foster Campbell had at least 30,500 reasons to oppose Claiborne Electric’s proposal to provide high speed broadband internet service to its members.

Because he indisputably had skin in the game, he should have recused himself from the discussion in order to avoid any conflict of interests.

Therein lies the problem of regulators accepting contributions from those they regulate.

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So, just why did Second Circuit Court of Appeal candidate Judge James “Jimbo” Stephens of Baskin pay a convicted drug dealer to help him get out the vote for his re-election campaign when all across the country there are full-fledged efforts to prevent volunteers from transporting voters to the polls?

Apparently, the answer depends upon whose ox is being gored. Put another way, perhaps there’s a double standard being applied as conditions dictate.

The FRANKLIN SUN recently ran an article in which it cited state campaign finance records as showing that Stephens’ re-election campaign shelled out $500 to Tyrone “K9” Dickens’ company, K-9 Outreach, last May.

Stephens, in an interview with THE OUACHITA CITIZEN, a sister publication to the Winnsboro newspaper, said his campaign paid Dickens to help get out the vote but later tried to walk back that statement. Under further prodding, Stephens admitted his campaign paid Dickens for a “sponsorship” that involved the use of his (Stephens) campaign materials.

Dickens, who vehemently denied that he was paid to help Stephens, has a long STRING OF ARRESTS dating back to 1986 on multiple drug charges, including distribution of cocaine, distribution of methamphetamine, indecent behavior with a juvenile, two charges of forcible rape (both dismissed), domestic abuse battery, and violation of a protective order.

Dickens’ former wife told authorities that a protective order was useless because her former husband often boasted of his political connections with police, judges, and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo

“Judge Stephens never paid me, never, to help him with no campaign or to help get no vote,” Dickens told The Citizen. “I don’t know where that lie came from.”

Tyrone Dickens: “Wen (sic) God on your side don’t tell me you can’t change. It was a (sic) honor to be ask (sic) by governor John Bell (sic) Edward (sic) to help with his campaign again. A (sic) honor to stand beside attorney & State Representative Katrina Jackson, Judge Milton Moore, & Kevin Horn, people who I look up to they never forget where they came from. An’t (sic) God good. Its (sic) change going to come.”

“We were told that he (Dickens” was reformed and a community leader,” Stephens said. “I do not know his personal background. I hope Mr. Dickens will support us.”

In something of a surprise, Dickens told The Citizen that he was going through the legal process of getting his criminal record expunged.

A north Louisiana source told LouisianaVoice that State Rep. Katrina Jackson and 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Milton Moore (see photo above) are working behind the scenes to get Dickens a “gold seal” pardon from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Dickens: “It feels good to be able to stand with State Representative Katrina Jackson (center) & Supreme Court Judge Marcus Clark (right)in the House of Representative (sic) Chambers. Both of which I had the privilege of campaigning for, and ultimately led to them being elected!”

In addition to the local district attorney’s office’s dismissing charges against Dickens, former 4th Judicial District Assistant DA Madeleine Slaughter paid Dickens $900 from her campaign to distributed push cards at the parish fair when she ran unsuccessfully for Ouachita Parish clerk of court. Slaughter is currently employed as an assistant attorney general under AG Jeff Landry.

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LouisianaVoice may have to move its operations to Iberia Parish just to keep up with the shenanigans of Sheriff Louis Ackal, District attorney Bofill Duhé and Assessor Ricky Huval.

We might as well for any information we might pry out of the office of Attorney General Jeff Landry about his investigation of a criminal case in Iberia involving the son of a supporter of both Landry and Duhé.

Landry is so preoccupied with his dual role as Donald Trump’s leading Louisiana lackey and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ primary adversary, it’s going to be interesting to see how he manages to do his job as attorney general.

Meanwhile, there’s the question of Duhé’s First Assistant District Attorney Robert C. Vines and his part in the investigation of the illegal manipulation of the Cypress Bayou Casino’s employee and payroll databases.

The Cypress Bayou Casino is run by the Chitimacha Indian Tribe in St. Mary Parish and in June 2016, the tribe’s chairman, O’Neil Darden, Jr., was ARRESTED by State Police on charges of felony theft, accused of stealing from the tribe by tinkering with the casino’s data bases that resulted in his receiving and “annual bonus” of several thousand dollars to which he was not entitled.

Duhé’s office is handling the prosecution and Vines was named lead prosecutor.

The problem with that is Vines is also the prosecutor for the Chitimacha Tribal Court. He was appointed to the post in January 2016 by….(wait for it)….Darden.

That case was originally set for trial last January but was removed from the docket and continued to May 1. But that trial date also was continued and the matter is now set for trial August 29.

Meanwhile, LouisianaVoice has received a non-response response to our public records request into the status of its investigation of Taylor Richard, accused of sexually molesting toddler siblings, daughters of his girlfriend.

Taylor Richard’s father, James Richard is a political supporter of both Duhé, having contributed $2600 to his campaign in 2014 and 2015, and Landry.

Landry got the case because Renee Louivere, who had previously worked as an assistant district attorney for the 16th Judicial District which includes the parishes of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary. She left the DA’s office and enrolled as Taylor Richard’s legal counsel while in private practice.

But then she returned to the DA’s office and currently works in the St. Martinville office. That created a conflict which allowed Duhé to punt the case to Landry and the AG’s office in Baton Rouge.

Last Thursday, we received the following email from Landry’s office:

From: LADOJ – Public Records Center <louisianaag@mycusthelp.net>
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2018 2:21 PM
To:
Cc: wisherr@ag.louisiana.gov
Subject: [Records Center] Public Records Request :: R000178-070918

RE: PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST of July 09, 2018, Reference # – R000178-070918

Dear Mr. Tom Aswell,

In response to your public records request pursuant to La. R.S. 44:1 et seq, which our office received on July 09, 2018, the information you requested has been processed. You sought records related to the following:

“The AG’s investigative file for Taylor Richard of Iberia Parish.”

Louisiana’s Public Records Law, specifically La. R.S. 44:3(A)(1), exempts records held by the office of the attorney general which pertain “to pending criminal litigation or any criminal litigation which can be reasonably anticipated, until such litigation has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled…”

As the matter of Taylor Richard is pending criminal litigation, the file you seek is not subject to disclosure and our office must respectfully decline to produce these records at this time.

Louisiana Revised Statutes 44:3(A)(4), however, allows release of the initial report for this matter. Copies of these records are invoiced below.

After a diligent search, our staff have (sic) identified three (3 ) pages of records which are responsive to your request. The records are not electronic. If you wish to receive physical copies of these records, pursuant to La. R.S. 39:241 and La. Admin. Code Title 4, Part 1, Section 301, there is a charge of .25 per page. The billing is as follows:

3 pages @ .25 per page = $0.75 

TOTAL:  $0.75

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact our office. 

Best regards,

Luke Donovan
Assistant Attorney General

Besides brushing up on grammar, Landry’s office could also stand a remedial course in math.

What we got was two, not three, pages of a heavily-redacted report (a third page was blank) that confirmed that the AG’s office was indeed investigating a complaint of the sexual battery (redacted) against a female of (redacted) age in a New Iberia home by Taylor Richard.

The only way it could be determined that the battery was against a child was that the complaint was made by an employee of the “Department of Child Services” (actually, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services).

The report had one other grisly revelation. It noted that the sexual battery was “completed” and not simply attempted and after the words Criminal Activity on the complaint form was the word “Other.”

We can hope it won’t take Landry two years to complete this investigation the way it did for him to finish up the probe of the Union Parish jailhouse rape. But this is Jeff Landry and if he can’t see a political advantage, he just doesn’t give a rat’s behind.

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So STEVE SCALISE says he would vote in favor of IMPEACHMENT of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Isn’t that special? Especially considering House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) went on record opposing such a move and even though Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) subsequently announced he was TABLING his efforts to impeach Rosenstein.

Maybe Scalise was just having a little problem with premature calculation of his re-election odds in a district that elects the likes of David Duke, Bobby Jindal and….Steve Scalise.

Maybe that’s why Tammy Savoie has decided to challenge him in this fall’s elections.

Or maybe it was because Scalise was one of Louisiana’s five Republican representatives who cast a big, fat NO vote to funding election security.

That’s right. Every single Republican House member from Louisiana voted against HOUSE RESOLUTION 6147 last Thursday. In fact, of the 235 Republicans in the House, 232 voted against funding for election security against Russian hacking. The remaining three just didn’t vote. Of 193 Democrats in the House, 182 voted in favor with 11 not voting.

Scalise is most likely in lock-step with the Republican Party that thinks the Mueller investigation has gone on too long and cost too much.

Let’s COMPARE.

Since Nixon was elected in 1968, Republicans have held the White House for 28 years and Democrats for 20. During the Republicans’ 28 years, there were 120 criminal indictments, 89 criminal convictions, and 34 prison sentences in the Executive Branch.

During the Democrats’ 20 years, there were three criminal indictments, one criminal conviction, and one prison sentence.

Even more telling is the COST COMPARISON of the various presidential investigations.

For all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth Republicans are doing about the escalating cost of the Russia probe, it’s interesting to note the costs of presidential investigations:

  • Nixon: $47.1 million;
  • Carter: $1.2 million;
  • Reagan: $81.1 million;
  • George H.W. Bush: $.65 million;
  • Clinton: $83.3 million;
  • George W. Bush: $3 million;
  • Trump: $17 million (revised from the $6.8 given in the link above).

And those figures don’t even include the $30 million or so spent on investigating Benghazi or Hillary Clinton’s emails—a 789-day investigation (Mueller’s probe is just over a year old to date) that produced zero indictments. And don’t forget this investigation was carried out by a Republican-majority Congress.

Is Hillary Clinton clean? Is she spotless? I doubt it. I’m not particularly fond of her or her husband but when you combine the investigations of Bill and Hillary ($111 million) and you get one criminal conviction, it comes off as a bit whiny of Republicans to piss and moan about the Russia investigation.

In fact, Trump has spent more than FOUR TIMES AS MUCH on his golfing trips ($80 million to $90 million) to Mar-a-Lago as Special Prosecutor  Robert Mueller has on the Russia investigation.

Scalise appears to have chosen to ignore that fact and that makes him look a tad petty.

Of course, Trump’s aides defend the expenditures by saying the president is working while there. That being the case, why doesn’t he just stay in Washington and work? Of course, if he did that, his properties couldn’t make a profit from the staff members, Secret Service agents and media that accompany him to Mar-a-Lago.

And Scalise is front and center in his defense of Trump and his condemnation of Mueller and Rosenstein.

And perhaps that is why Tammy Savoie is offering the voters of Congressional District 1.

A native of Jefferson Parish, she enlisted in the Louisiana Air National Guard in 1978 while studying psychology at the University of New Orleans.

As a single mother with a baby on her hip and a Ph.D. in her pocket, she went on active duty as an Air Force psychologist in 1984, treating service members and their families at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

She served as Chief of Psychological Services at Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan in 1999, where she created drug abuse and prevention programs. As Mental Health Flight Commander at Laughlin AFB, Dr. Savoie formed the first-ever Critical Incident Stress Team, coordinating the city’s emergency response teams, Border Patrol, and base agencies to provide crisis intervention services.

She was appointed Deputy Commander of the Air Force’s research office in London in 2008 and in 2011, she was deployed to Afghanistan to improve mental health services for U.S. troops. She traveled throughout the Middle East as the Chief of International health.

She retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2016 after a 22-year career with the Air Force. A resident of St. Tammany Parish, she now provides mental health services to veterans and to the Red Cross. She also is an adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

In making her formal announcement upon qualifying to run last week, she said she is running on a platform of campaign finance reform. She said she is not accepting any PAC money in her campaign, preferring to running a grass-roots campaign.

“I will not put partisan politics above the interest of the citizens of the First Congressional District,” she said. She said she wants to close gun legislation loopholes that currently allow easy access to guns.

She also said she will work for salary equity for women and for other women’s rights issues and for a reduction in the infant mortality rate.

“I believe all Americans should have a right to health care,” she said. “Steve Scalise is happy to vote to knock 23 million Americans out of health care.

“We are hurting economically in Louisiana,” she said. Scalise voted against increasing the minimum wage not once, but twice. He has demonstrated his indifference to the interests of the people of Louisiana. He has voted against bills to reduce violence against women. He is against collective bargaining and he supports President Trump’s tariffs that will hurt Louisiana’s farmers.

“Donald Trump is no fan of American institutions. He supports a regime that has infiltrated our electoral process.

“Steve Scalise is complicit in Trump’s programs. He has sold our country to the highest bidder. He has not kept the executive branch in check.

“I will not give in to the corporate powers that control the Republican Party,” she said.

Savoie said her campaign will target the Independent and Democratic voters of the district, who she said outnumber Republicans.

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