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Archive for the ‘Corruption’ Category

So, what, exactly, is going on with the Donald Trump campaign and a cluster of political consulting firms linked to Bobby Jindal political guru Timmy Teepell and his political consulting firm, OnMessage?

As reported earlier, OpenSecrets has learned that Trump’s campaign stopped reporting payments to four of the affiliated ad buyers following the 2016 election cycle, but that his 2020 campaign has continued to use the same individuals employed by the four firms in enabling illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA.

Illegal campaign coordination allegations could be brought against National Media, Red Eagle Media Group and American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG), all three of which share storefront offices in Alexandria, Virginia. The addresses for the entities are either 815 or 817 Slaters Lane in Arlington.

America First Action, America First Policies, and the Trump Campaign, along with the NRA made the media buys through the three consulting firms and a fourth, Harris Sikes Media, which appears to be little more than a shell corporation, existing on paper only, but which gives two addresses: 817 Slaters Lane in Alexandria and Suite 700 at 11350 Random Hills Road in Fairfax, Virginia.

A computerized GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION provided by OpenSecrets shows how the NRA and the three pro-Trump political action committees made their media buys by funneling money through OnMessage, Red Eagle, Harris Sikes Media, and AMAG with the same three employees of National Media—Jonathan Ferrell, Megan Burns, and Ben Angle—actually conducting the media buys on behalf of the four firms. Scroll down to the graphic and move your mouse back and forth over it to see how the money flowed from the various PACs into the four consulting firms, all four employing the same personnel for media buys.

National Media also lists its address as 817 Slaters Lane in Alexandria.

The Trump campaign reported payments of more than $214,000 to Harris Sikes but gave the address of Harris Sikes on its Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing list as 817 Slaters Lane in Arlington. There is a Slaters Lane in Alexandria, but not in Arlington.

Likewise, the Trump campaign’s Federal Elections Commission (FEC) disclosures give the address for Harris Sikes as 11350 Random Hills Road in Alexandria instead of Fairfax. There is no Random Hills Road in Alexandria.

Common vendors are one of the red flags federal regulators watch for when tracking whether or not communications may constitute illegal coordination between a campaign and an outside group like, in this case, the NRA.

Teepell has been a PARTNER at OnMessage since 2011, joining the firm immediately after managing Jindal’s successful re-election campaign. He re-joined the Jindal team briefly in 2015 for Jindal’s anemic bid for the Republican presidential nomination which never saw him break through the 1 percent rating in preference polls. Jindal was never able to move up from the so-called kiddie table in the GOP debates.

The Ballotpedia web page linked in the preceding paragraph describes OnMessage as “an Annapolis-based political consulting firm” instead of 817 Slaters Lane in Alexandria, Virginia, as provided on its home web page.

Earlier stories have revealed that as much as $30 million in Russian money was funneled through the NRA during the 2016 election with much of that money being spent by the NRA on pro-Trump media ads.

The NRA also used an apparent shell firm called Starboard Strategic, Inc., to produce political ads for Senate candidates who in turned employed OnMessage. Starboard Strategic, which is the NRA’s top election contractor, and OnMessage share the same office address.

Federal law permits outside groups and campaigns to use common vendors but the firm working for either client is required to prevent employees from sharing election-related information.

Brad Todd, a partner of Starboard, declined to provide proof that Starboard has firewall policies in place. Todd, it should be noted, is also a founding partner of OnMessage which also REFUSED to provide its firewall policy and details about how it is enforced.

Another pro-Trump PAC, Rebuilding America Now, has come under scrutiny from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller for allegedly accepting money from a foreign federal contractor barred by the federal campaign finance rules from donating to a super PAC.

Rebuilding America Now spent nearly $23 million during the 2016 campaign with almost $500,000 of that going through National Media.

So, it would seem that Baton Rouge’s very own (or more accurately, Livingston Parish’s very own) Timmy Teepell has found himself smack dab in the middle of a big ol’ mess of campaign chicanery.

He might be a campaign wizard in Louisiana representing the likes of Bobby Jindal but when playing in the major leagues, the players are a bit more experienced and a heckuva lot smarter.

And campaign flim-flammery, rule-bending, and creating a gaggle of shell corporations to rival the operations of some sort of offshore banking scheme, all designed to circumvent campaign finance rules, may not be such a good idea.

And the waters around OnMessage and its affiliates just get murkier and murkier.

Were it not for the pullout of troops from Syria, the government shutdown, and the Mueller probe, this story might have made its way to the front pages of major newspapers and at least a mention on CNN.

That it did not is regrettable because this has all the earmarks of a major news story.

 

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Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle appear to have made media buys during their respective 2015 campaigns through a political consulting firm affiliated with a shell company said to be at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the NRA, according to an investigation by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

Read the full story HERE.

Donald Trump’s campaign funneled money to ad buyers which in turn set up illegal coordination between the campaign and the NRA by routing funds through a secretive shell company for the 2016 campaign and has continued to use the same individuals working for the same firms for his 2020 campaign. The payments were made through Harris Sikes Media, LLC, a company that appears to exist only on paper but which shares a mailing address with several other companies.

Three of the companies—National Media Research, OnMessage, and Harris Sikes—list their address as 817 Slaters Lane in Alexandria, Virginia. Three others—American Media & Advocacy Group, Red Eagle Media Group, and Purple Strategies, LLC, give their address as 815 Slaters Lane in Alexandria.

Funny thing is, there is no such street as Slaters Lane in Alexandria, Virginia.

And one of those companies, OnMessage, is headed up by none other than Bobby Jindal’s very own political guru, Timmy Teepell of Baton Rouge.

National Media, American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG), and Red Eagle Media Group are all facing allegations of illegal coordination of campaign funds because besides sharing identical or similar addresses, they also share staff and resources.

The analysis of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) found that Trump campaign ad disclosure forms on file with stations across the country have continued to include signatures and names of individuals working for National Media, despite no mention of National Media or its affiliates on required federal disclosures. Those individual ad buyers’ names simultaneously continued to be included in ad documents for the NRA and America First, but with the ad buyers’ affiliation listed as National Media or one of its affiliates.

The three ad buyers whose names have popped up the most on political ad records for all three groups are Ben Angle, Megan Burns and Jonathan Ferrell, CRP says. And even though their names appeared on filings from Harris Sikes Media, all three are listed as employees of National Media and its affiliates. Their names and/or signatures have appeared on FCC political ad filings for AMAG, Red Eagle and National Media.

NRA’s relationship with Purple Strategies is obscured through a network of affiliated companies. Documents filed with the FCC indicate that the NRA routinely does its ad buys through American Media & Advocacy Group and Red Eagle Media. Both companies give the same Alexandria, Virginia, address—815 Slaters Lane.

Court records reveal, however, that like the address, Red Eagle Media does not actually exist, but rather is a fictitious business created and owned by National Media.

Harris Sikes Media’s registered agent, attorney Joel Dahnke, is also the registered agent for National Media.

The Trump practice of routing funds through Harris Sikes Media —a previously unreported shell company that was not known to be affiliated with National Media — appears to be a new tactic, and Trump is the first major federal candidate known to have been a part of it, according to CRP’s review of FCC records.

The only other political ad disclosures in FCC records dating back to 2015 that mention Harris Sikes Media are for former U.S. Rep. and current Attorney General Jeff Landry and Louisiana Rising, the political action committee associated with Scott Angelle’s failed gubernatorial campaign.

“Using shell entities to circumvent campaign coordination rules is hardly a new concept, and something that often occurs without consequence — giving consultants free rein to exploit these tactics,” the CRP report said.

Just another way in which so-called “dark money” is used to usurp the democratic process in this country, effectively stifling the voice and the will of the people. Instead of focusing on the all-too-real issues facing us, we are instead seduced into voting for the candidate with the sharpest, most appealing TV ads.

We now vote the candidate who can make the best use in a 30-second spot of catchy phrases like “border wall,” “drain the swamp,” “make America great again,” “I believe love is the answer but you oughta own a hand gun just in case,” and “I’d rather drink weed killer.”

Real depth of thinking that addresses myriad problems, right?

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Apparently, if you are drowning, lifeguards are under no obligation to protect you from harm.

If a maniac is careening down the interstate, weaving in and out of traffic at breakneck speeds, state police are not required to protect other motorists.

If that same maniac causes an accident in which you are gravely injured, first responders have no duty to try and save your life.

If someone is breaking into your home, don’t bother calling 911; they don’t have to come to your aid. Not their job.

The fire department is no longer duty-bound to respond when your home is consumed in flames.

If you witness child abuse, don’t bother calling Child Services. They have paperwork to do.

Teachers are under no requirement to teach our kids.

Why bother the rape crisis hotline? You were probably dressed provocatively anyway and brought it on yourself.

The Hippocratic Oath is out the window for physicians.

The rules of the game have apparently changed. Police departments exist now to promote fundraising projects for benefits and pensions.

Sheriffs’ departments are only for awarding political allies with jobs as deputies.

Social welfare agencies exist only to allow employees to qualify for retirement.

Extreme? Of course.

Fantasy? Not necessarily.

Not if the ruling by a federal judge in Florida is any indication of the future.

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom has dismissed a lawsuit by 15 students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who somehow had the audacity to expect that school officials and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office had a duty to protect them from a mass murderer.

Read the full story HERE.

In an incredible reach, Judge Bloom said that Broward schools and the sheriff’s office had no legal duty to protect students during the attack in which Nikolas Cruz killed 17 and wounded another 17 on Feb. 14, 2018.

She said the two agencies had no constitutional duty to protect students who were not in custody.

As outrageous as her decision is, one of our readers informs us she was merely complying with established U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The first, titled TOWN of CASTLE ROCK v. GONZALES, said a police department could not be sued for failure to enforce a restraining order after the estranged husband of a woman killed their three children. The other, DeSHANEY v. WINNEBAGO COUNTY, said that a state government agency’s failure to prevent child abuse by a custodial parent does not violate the child’s right to liberty for the purposes of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Next, there will be no responsibility on the part of federal agencies to protect us from tainted meat, workplace dangers, environmental threats, consumer fraud, employer harassment, racial discrimination, bogus universities, or payday loan abuses.

Oh, wait. Strike that last paragraph. We’re already there.

As our late friend C.B. Forgotston would have said: you can’t make this stuff up.

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There is an interesting story in today’s Baton Rouge Advocate (click HERE to read the story) about former Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

It seems that in addition to being forced from office by his settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit, his successor, Kyle Ardoin, diverted $90,000 in state funds earmarked for computer upgrades to pay Schedler’s portion of the settlement.

That’s questionable use of public funds by practically any definition I know but beyond that little indiscretion lies a more fundamental question and that is just why was the state on the hook for the bulk of the payout for his behavior in the first place?

Schedler resigned in May of this year in the wake of accusations that he had sexually harassed a female employee for years.

The woman filed suit against Schedler and the state and the case was settled in August for $167,500, plus another $35,000 in attorney fees.

Of that $202,500 total, Schedler personally paid only $18,425 with state taxpayers picking the remaining $184,075–$90,450 covered by the secretary of state’s office and $93,625 by the Office of Risk Management, the state office that insures all state agencies in cases of legal liability.

But why would taxpayers be called upon to foot the bill for nearly $185,000 for personal actions committed by Schedler?

That was the question posed by a reader who said, “We need somebody to pass a law that anybody settling a sexual harassment case related to their employment with the state has to pay ALL of it from their own pockets. If Schedler wasn’t 100 percent responsible for this, who was, the state? And who, in this case, is the state?

Good questions all and an observation that cuts the heart of the legal issue.

To our reader’s advocacy that a law needs to be passed, he’s correct—except the law is already in place. It’s just not applied by judges who preside over these cases.

There is even a legal term (Latin, what else?) that addresses this very case.

RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR is the Latin phrase for “Let the master answer.” While it is an English Common Law doctrine (Louisiana’s laws are based on the Napoleonic Code), it would still apply in Schedler’s—and others’—cases if only the judges would apply the principle.

Established in the 17th century, the doctrine was adopted in this country and has been broadly applied in agency law. Literally, Respondeat Superior means the employer (in this case, the state) is liable for the injuries caused by an employee who is working within the scope of his employment relationship (emphasis mine). The person who does the work for the employer is the agent and the theory behind the law says the principal (employer, or agency) controls the agent’s behavior and must then assume some responsibility for the agent’s actions.

It means that if, as a state employee, your supervisor or legal counsel directed or advised you to do something later determined to be illegal, then the state would be liable for any fines, courts costs, etc. If, however, you did something illegal at work that was not work-related (harassment or assault of a subordinate, stealing from the coke machine, extortion, etc.), then you and you alone should be held liable for any damages imposed. If, the first case, the court had imposed a $50,000 fine, the Office of Risk Management would be responsible for paying the penalty. In the second case, if you were fined (whatever amount), the full responsibility for payment should fall upon you because what you did was not job-related, or within the scope and authority of your job responsibilities.

The question then becomes was the employee (Schedler) acting within the scope of employment during his off-the-rails behavior. The answer, of course, is certainly not.

That is the sticking point here and, in a case involving LouisianaVoice a few years back. We sued Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols over her failure to provide public records in the time prescribed by law. LouisianaVoice won the case and Nichols was personally assessed financial penalties. But she appealed, lost and eventually settled with LouisianaVoice. But the state paid for all her attorney fees at the state and appeal court levels as well as for the settlement itself.

The judge held her personally liable because she did not rely on the advice of the DOA legal counsel in dragging out her response to our records request. She was not, the court deemed, acting “within the scope of her employment” by delaying production of the records. Still, when push came to shove, it was the state, i.e. taxpayers, that paid in the end.

Same with Schedler. Sexual harassment certainly is never within the scope of anyone’s employment. Therefore, what Schedler did, he did as a freelancer, not as part of his duties as an employee (or in this case, the very head of the agency). Accordingly, he should have been held personally liable for all damages and legal costs.

That he was not speaks to the inexcusable laxity exercised by the court system in this case. This was the ideal chance for the judiciary to send a clear message to public servants—and employees in the private sector—that acting outside the boundaries of their job descriptions has consequences.

Sadly, that opportunity was missed.

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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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