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This is the story of the “Mysterious X” that catapulted Jerry Larpenter into the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office way back in April 1987.

Going into the beginning of April of that year, Charlton P. Rozands was still the sheriff, but at that particular point in time, he was:

  • Under federal indictment;
  • Dying of cancer.

Rozands and his two sons, along with Chief of Detectives Aubrey Authement and deputy Elmore Songe were all INDICTED on charges ranging from malfeasance in office, improper removal of weapons from the sheriff’s office, unauthorized and illegal personal use of weapons being held as evidence, and the disposal of weapons being held as evidence but which had been in Authement’s possession.

In fact, the sheriff’s cancer was so advanced that he was said to have been heavily medicated on morphine that he was unable to be arraigned and could not perform the simplest of tasks.

ROZANDS DIED ON APRIL 19 (from the Houma Daily Courier)

Six days before his death, on April 13, Larpenter signed the required OATH OF OFFICE oath of office as Rozands’ Chief Criminal Deputy.

On the second page of that document, in the left-hand margin, is the signature, “C.P. Rozands, Sheriff.”

Except it’s not Rozands’ signature. A comparison of that signature with a document actually signed by Rozands makes that point abundantly clear.

COMPARE SIGNATURES

Several people who were in positions to know have told LouisianaVoice that Rozands would have been physically unable to sign anything because of the advanced stages of his cancer and because he was heavily medicated with morphine. What is not clear is who actually signed his name.

In fact, at some point prior to Larpenter’s signing his oath of office, sources tell LouisianaVoice that a meeting was held to discuss a successor. Said to have been at that meeting were Rozands’ wife Mae, his two sons, and Houma attorney William F. Dodd, legal counsel for the sheriff’s office. He remains the sheriff’s legal counsel today.

The meeting was held to discuss the succession to Rozands who by this time obviously near death. At the time, 1987, state law allowed an official’s widow to assume his seat but Mrs. Rozands let it be known she wasn’t interested in the job. Nor were either of their sons.

The choices were quickly eliminated until there was only Larpenter who, when asked, said he would take the job.

The affidavit was quickly drafted, presumably by Dodd, that named Larpenter as Chief Criminal Deputy, which would make him next in line for the office of sheriff.

But to make the appointment official, Rozands was required to sign it. With him unable to affix his signature, he supposedly signed with an “X.”

But did he? One person close to the series of events said, “I don’t think Rozands would have waited until he was that sick to appoint Jerry Larpenter. They were close, but I think if Rozands had wanted Larpenter as his Chief Criminal Deputy, he would have appointed him while he was well enough to know what he was doing.”

Besides the job promotion and salary boost that came with Larpenter’s ascension into the sheriff’s chair, it also gave him the decided advantage of running as an incumbent in the next regular election only months away in October 1987.

In that election, the incumbency proved beneficial, all right. Larpenter, running against eight opponents, got a whopping 44 per cent of the vote, a full 30 points of his closest competitor, who got 14 percent. In the November runoff, he received 69 per cent of the vote to win his first of seven terms, interrupted only by his unsuccessful run for Parish President in 2007.

Each one of his elections—he was unopposed in 2015—were won by wide margins.

But the details of how he went from obscure deputy to sheriff for those few months in 1987 remain murky and clouded with questions of whether Rozands actually scrawled that “X” or it was done by someone in his name.

It’s almost as big a mystery as that entry in Larpenter’s campaign expense report. He lists an expenditure of $15,400 to an outfit named WEBCORP in Missouri for bulletproof vests for the sheriff’s department.

It’s awfully magnanimous of him to spend his own campaign funds to purchase equipment for his deputies—especially when Web Corp isn’t in the business of bulletproof vests. It’s an Internet web-building company.

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Here’s a pretty interesting scenario:

The administration, abetted by a Republican congress:

  • Dismantles consumer protection laws. Done.
  • Repeals environmental protection regulations. Check.
  • Does away with civil service protections. In progress.
  • Guts Medicaid, Medicare, and social security. Working on that.
  • Passes more tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations. Proposed.
  • Moves low-interest federal student loan programs to private banks that charge higher interest rates to already cash-strapped middle- and low-income students. Proposed.
  • Tightens restrictions on illegal immigration—not for the reasons given, but instead, to ensure maximum occupancy of private prisons that are paid according to the number of beds filled. Ongoing;
  • Continues to offer “thoughts and prayers (TAPs) but does little else in the way of addressing the growing problem of mass shootings in America—because that’s the way the NRA wants it. No problem.
  • Systematically undermines organized labor so that worker protection, benefits, pay, etc. are minimized. Ongoing.
  • Screams “law and order” on the campaign trail but ignores, even attacks, the rule of law when it is to their benefit. Just watch the nightly newscasts.
  • Attacks the news media, the one independent institution capable—or willing—to keep check on political misdeeds and wrongdoing. A given.
  • Spew more patriotic rhetoric in order to gin up the war machine in countries where we have no business so more Americans can die needlessly so that the MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX that outgoing President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961 can continue to prosper and thrive. This tactic has never wavered.
  • Continue the practice of rolling the flag, the Bible, and the false label of patriotism into some sort of one-size-fits-all commodity to be sold to evangelicals like Disney souvenirs or McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Don’t believe me? Watch the mass hypnosis of a Trump rally; it’s the same misplaced trust in a mortal being as the personification of some sort of divinely-inspired savior that we saw with Jim Jones and David Koresh.
  • Repeals banking regulations in order that the country’s financial institutions will be free to plunge the nation—and perhaps the world itself—into another financial crisis as bad, or worse, than the 2008 collapse (and for the information of some who apparently do not know, Dodd-Frank did not enable the last crisis because Dodd-Frank was not enacted until 2010, two years after the collapse). Passed and signed by Trump.

All these objectives, and more, when carried out, will have the cumulative effect of creating economic chaos which in turn will drive housing prices spiraling downward as the market is glutted by foreclosures as before. Layoffs will follow, resulting in high unemployment and homelessness. Businesses will close, causing more economic uncertainty. With instability in the Mideast will come higher oil prices.

That’s when the vultures will move in, snapping up property at bargain basement prices from desperate owners who will be forced to sell for pennies on the dollar because they have no negotiating leverage.

It’s all part of the Shock Doctrine principle that author Naomi Klein wrote about—and it works.

When the recovery does come, it’ll be too late for most. And these investors, these people who propped up the Republican Party, will be holding all the cards. The already gaping abyss between the haves and have-nots, between the 1 percent and the rest of us, will grow ever wider and those in control now will then be in even more control than before as more and more of the country’s wealth flows upward. Trickle down was—is already—a distant fantasy.

So, just who would be in a position to pull off such an economic coup at the expense of American citizens?

Try the Brothers Koch—Charles and David—and their cabal of fat cats.

You can begin the discussion by asking one simple question: why else would they commit their network of billionaires to spending $400 million in the 2018 midterm election cycle (double what they spent in the 2014 mid-terms and a 60 percent increase over 2016) if they did not stand to gain something from it?

If your answer is that they only want good, clean government, you’re just fooling yourself. No one throws that much money at dirty politicians and expects it to come back crisp and clean.

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said, “We will be spending more than any midterm in our network history.”

Russian collusion? These guys can play hardball just as well as the Russians can and they do it legally, through their PACs, their foundations, and their personal bankrolling of campaigns.

Facebook account hackings? Try i360, the Koch Industries data analytics company that compiles information on nearly 200 million active voters.

Want to hear how they wrap themselves in the flag? Try some of their front groups: Americans for Prosperity, Libre Initiative, Concerned Veterans for America, Generation Opportunity, and Freedom Partners Action Fund.

Truthout, an online political news organization that is a tad more left-leaning than Faux News (that’s parody, for those of you who don’t recognize it), has compiled a list of 2018 KOCH CANDIDATES to whom they are funneling campaign contributions.

Here are the benefactors of KochPAC’s generosity from Louisiana:

  • S. Rep. Garret Graves of Baton Rouge: $5,500 to Garret Graves for Congress;
  • S. Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier Parish: $5,000 to Mike Johnson for Louisiana;
  • S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Metairie: $85,000 to his Scalise Leadership Fund; $10,000 to his The Eye of the Tiger Political Action Committee (how’s that for appealing to all those rabid LSU fans?), and another $10,000 to Scalise for Congress ($105,000 total);
  • S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge: just a measly $1,000 (an insult) to his Continuing America’s Strength and Security (more flag-draping nomenclature) PAC.

But it doesn’t stop with Louisiana. Not by a long shot.

The Kochs also contributed:

  • $10,000 to Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ Preserving America’s Traditions (Guess it’s a foregone conclusion that his opponent has no interest in preserving any of the country’s traditions.)
  • $10,000 to Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt’s (get this) Rely on Your Beliefs Fund (now if that doesn’t choke you up, you’re obviously an anarchist);
  • $5,000 to Virginia’s Rep. Dave Brat’s Building and Restoring America Together PAC (oh, puh-leeze!);
  • $10,000 to Texas Rep. Pete (please tell us he’s not related to Jeff) Sessions’s People for Enterprise Trade and Economic Growth (PETE—how clever, but shouldn’t it be PETEG?) PAC;
  • $5,000 for Texas Rep. Will Hurd’s Having Unwavering Resolve and Determination PAC;
  • $5,000 to Texas Rep. Mike Conaway’s Conservative Opportunities for a New America PAC;
  • $10,000 to Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus’s Relight America PAC;
  • $5,000 to Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry’s Patriots for Perry PAC (the obvious implication being that no patriot could possibly be for his opponent);
  • $10,000 to Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly’s Keep America Rolling PAC (Could this be a subliminal reference to the “Let’s roll” words of Todd Beamer who tried unsuccessfully to disarm hijackers on United Flight 93 just before it crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside on 9/11?).

None of this is intended to diminish, ridicule, or scorn the true patriotic love of this country on anyone’s behalf. Patriotism is a wonderful thing as long as it is kept in perspective. But to allow the love of country to blind you to the shortcomings of our so-called leaders who sell patriotism like a carnival barker sells tickets to a lurid peep show is not my definition of the word. It in fact cheapens the definition.

To paraphrase our most recent former governor, at the end of the day, no one—and I do mean NO ONE, without exception—contributes to a political campaign in the amounts doled out by the Kochs and their ilk, without expecting something in return. That something is always personal enrichment.

So, before you base your decision on a candidate based on the half-truths and outright lies of TV political ads, check to see who gets what in the form of CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS.

Make your decision an intelligent one, not one based on looks or sound bites. Like anything else worthwhile, it takes a little work to do it right.

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He probably won’t make the formal announcement of his candidacy for governor until September or October, but make no mistake about it, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is in full campaign mode. If there had been in lingering doubts before, that much was made evident Wednesday by his inappropriate yet totally predictable CALL for Robert Mueller to end his investigation of the man on whose coattails Kennedy ran for—and won—his senate seat.

This was more than Kennedy’s typical down-home, cornball, Will Rogers country feed store philosophy that he is so proud to bestow and which TV reporters are so eager to foist upon their viewers. This was pure, old-fashion political sycophancy at its very worst.

Someone recently said the most dangerous place in Washington was to stand between Kennedy and a TV camera but his toadyism is both shabby and shameful in its transparent attempt to please Donald Trump and to cash in on Trump’s inexplicable popularity with Louisiana voters.

Inexplicable because everything—and I mean everything—the man stands for goes against the interests of the most vocal of his supporters. All you have to do to verify that claim is to compare his record with his actions. Instead, his supporters choose to listen to his rants and to read his sophomoric tweets which stand in stark contrast to his official actions behind the scene:

  • Safe drinking water? Who needs it?
  • Consumer protection? Why?
  • The former head of the Bank of Cyprus, a leading conduit for Russian money laundering is now Secretary of Commerce so you do the math.
  • Medical care? Hmph.
  • Employee benefits like pensions and overtime pay? Nah.
  • Net neutrality? Don’t need it, don’t want it, can’t use it (besides, that was an Obama policy so, out it goes).
  • Tax reform? You bet—for the wealthy.
  • Protection of endangered wildlife? Hell, there must be a hundred species of animals out there. That’s way too many.
  • Banking regulations to avoid another recession like we had in 2008? Just signed off on the rollback of Dodd-Frank, thank you very much.
  • The head of EPA is less concerned about protecting the environment than in enriching himself with European vacation trips on your dime and installing $45,000 soundproof phone booths in his office and blaming his staff whenever he gets caught wasting taxpayer funds.

Nixon was a crook, Lyndon Johnson lied us into an unwinnable war that cost 58,000 American lives, Bill Clinton had a basketful of scandals, and George W. Bush lied to us about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, but I daresay Trump is far and above the biggest crook—and the most ill-prepared to be president—who ever occupied the Oval Office. There will be those who will deny that to the death, but it doesn’t change the facts.

And before you call me a wild-eyed liberal or something worse, keep this in mind: I was a Republican longer than a lot of you have been alive. I was a Republican when we could caucus in a telephone booth. But I didn’t leave the party, it left me. It took me a long time, but I finally saw what the Republican Party stood for and it wasn’t for any of the things that I learned from the Bible—things like charity, understanding, kindness, compassion, taking care of the sick, and feeding the hungry. You know, Christian virtues the evangelicals claim to espouse but who instead turn around and condone, encourage even, the most unchristian behavior imaginable. We call that hypocrisy where I come from.

At various times, Trump has:

  • Told us not to the trust the FBI;
  • Told us not to trust the Justice Department;
  • Told us not to trust the free press, and
  • Told us not to trust the courts.

These are the only institutions that can hold him accountable and he is trying to undermine every single one of them. If that doesn’t worry you, it damn well should.

So, in order to appease Trump and his followers in Louisiana, and apparently in order to solidify his support for a gubernatorial run in 2019, Kennedy slobbers all over himself in calling for Mueller to end his investigation “because it distracts in time, energy and taxpayer money.”

And Trump’s governance by tweets is not a distraction? His constant reversals of positions are not a waste of time, energy and taxpayer money?

Trump reminds me of an editorial cartoon I spotted this week:

  • He doesn’t believe the intelligence agencies;
  • He doesn’t support the rule of law;
  • He doesn’t support the special counsel;
  • He doesn’t support the mission of federal regulators;
  • He doesn’t support the right to demonstrate peaceably;
  • He has no concern about the integrity of fair elections;
  • He doesn’t care about the “huddled masses.”

Hell no. He’s a true patriot.

And Kennedy is sucking up to him in grand fashion.

Kennedy, you cited a laundry list of things that need to be done. I seem to remember that when you ran for the senate, there were things you were going to work for. But now it seems you are beginning to “distract in time, energy and taxpayer money” by running for governor when you should be doing your job—kind of like the way you criticized Bobby Jindal for running for president when he should have been tending to his job as governor. You sounded so sensible when you criticized Bobby for not doing his job and yet…

But just for the sake of argument, let’s compare the distraction that you claim the Mueller investigation of one year—one year, John—has become with past INVESTIGATIONS investigations and the presidents. We’ll start with the granddaddy of ‘em all:

  • Watergate (Nixon): 4 years, the resignation of a president and more than 20 indictments/pleas;
  • Michael Deaver perjury charges (Reagan): A shade over three years and one indictment;
  • Iran-Contra (Reagan): six and one-half years and 14 indictments/pleas;
  • Lyn Nofziger improper lobbying (Reagan): About 16 months, two indictments/pleas;
  • Samuel Pierce influence peddling (H.W. Bush): Almost nine years (and he was only in office for four): 18 indictments/pleas;
  • Whitewater/Paula Jones/Monica Lewinski (Clinton): Seven years, 15 indictments/pleas, impeachment of a president (acquitted);
  • Mike Espy gifts (Clinton): Seven years, 13 indictments/pleas;
  • Henry Cisneros perjury charges (Clinton): Nine years, 8 indictments/pleas;
  • Alexis Herman influence-peddling (Clinton): Two years, one indictment/plea;
  • Valerie Plame leaks (George W. Bush): Three years, one indictment/plea;
  • Russia (Trump): One year, John, just ONE YEAR, and more indictments/pleas already than you can count.

In case you weren’t counting, John, that’s four separate investigations costing $80 million during Clinton’s administration. I’m not saying they weren’t warranted because they were. But I don’t recall anyone ever saying those investigations should’ve been shut down.

So, John, why don’t you read up on Will Rogers, do a few more hominy and grits folksy quotes and leave the real work to those charged with doing the job?

Or maybe come up with another ad about drinking weed killer for your gubernatorial campaign.

 

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The powers that be in state and local government, i.e., agency and departmental heads, like to give the impression that personal activities on the job, particularly as they might involve office computers and personal email messages, are strictly verboten.

That’s not to say, of course, that while the lowly peons are held to this higher standard of professional excellence, supervisors don’t shop Amazon.com or book cruises or Disney vacations while at work.

But, hey! Everyone fudges on those restrictions. It’s the rare employee indeed who doesn’t sneak in a little self-time on state computers and telephones.

But the Hon. JIMBO STEPHENS, newly-elected judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, or at least Rayville attorney John Hoychick, Jr., acting on his behalf, has taken the practice to new heights with an email blast to a gaggle of attorneys seeking campaign contributions for Stephens.

Hoychick included in his email at least five attorneys working on the public dime, either for the City of Monroe, the University of Louisiana Monroe, or the gret stet of Looziana as well as no fewer than seven barristers in the employ of CenturyLink, the telecommunications company headquarter in Monroe.

Louisiana agencies some of the recipients work for are employed by include the Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Family Services (where the rank and file workers are chronically short-staffed and overworked but not, apparently, the attorneys).

Stephens, who defeated 4th JDC Judge Sharon Marchman in last October’s ELECTION, apparently wishes to retire his campaign debts and Hoychick is not the least bit shy in calling on some 140 attorneys in his email blast to do just that.

And while it may be a breach of protocol to solicit contributions from them at their taxpayer-funded jobs, it nevertheless serves as a classic illustration of how judges tend to lean on attorneys who might at some time in the future appear before them to argue a case or two—and woe unto one who has not paid his dues (at least that seems to be the mindset).

A “Sponsor Couple” can buy in for a mere 500 bucks while those on a tighter budget can get by for $150 as a “Supporter Couple,” according to Hoychick’s email solicitation.

(I just hope Stephens’s fundraiser doesn’t cut into LouisianaVoice’s ongoing fundraiser.)

Curiously, the email (or at least the one forwarded to LouisianaVoice) doesn’t give a date, time, or location for the highly anticipated “kickoff event.” But not to worry: checks, “payable to Judge Jimbo Stephens Campaign Committee,” can be brought to the event (wherever) “or mailed to Judge Jimbo Stephens Campaign Committee.”

Surely, the State of Louisiana, ULM, the City of Monroe, or CenturyLink won’t mind if their staff attorneys take a little time to write a check to the good judge. After all, if there’s important legal work to be done, it can be pawned off on an overworked paralegal or legal secretary.

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With a flurry of (count ‘em) 37 bills dealing with gambling gaming, there is probably none more interesting to the folks in Tangipahoa Parish than identical bills introduced in the Senate (SB-417) and House (HB-438) that would facilitate the move of a Bossier Parish casino to property along the Tangipahoa River.

Brent Stephens is owner of the current license for Diamond Jacks in Bossier City. He and his company, Peninsula Pacific, acquired the license for Diamond Jacks in June 2016 after Legends, the previous owner, was released from bankruptcy the previous year. Stephens operates at least two other gaming properties in Louisiana—the Amelia Belle in Amelia in St. Mary Parish following Hurricane Katrina, and Evangeline Downs in Opelousas in St. Landry Parish.

His first choice for relocating Diamond Jacks was Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish but he encountered a couple of insurmountable snags: he couldn’t get political support and he couldn’t find any landowners willing to sell.

He then turned his attention to Tangipahoa Parish and was initially looking at sites around Manchac adjacent to I-55 but abandoned that idea for reasons known only to him.

He then settled on an area south and west of Hammond along I-12.

And though the governor has made a point of staying out of all the gaming legislation (with the exception of two: a non-gaming-related proposal involving Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans and one to permit gaming on land within 1200 feet of an authorized berthing site, both of which he supports, he has said he would sign the Tangipahoa Parish bill if it made it to his desk.

And that is one great big IF—as in, not likely.

Despite strong support from Parish President Robby Miller, the parish council, and 48 percent and a large contingent still undecided among Tangipahoa Parish voters, there remains two chances—slim and none—that the Tangipahoa River will become a Mecca for casino gamblers.

That’s because of the formation of a rather unique alliance against the proposal: Tangipahoa Parish churches and video poker.

Whoever coined the phrase that politics makes strange bedfellows was dead right. There can be no stranger bedfellows than fire-and-brimstone-breathing protestant ministers and video poker operators.

And while ministers can exert considerable influence, video poker operators are every bit as powerful, if not more so. That’s because while casino operators are prohibited from making political contributions, there are no such restrictions on the video poker industry.

Video poker interests are well-represented on both sides of the legislative aisles, meaning they spread a lot of campaign money around and enjoy substantial influence at the capitol.

Throw in State Rep. Sherman Mack and you have some formidable opposition.

  • Mack, from the Livingston Parish town of Albany, just happens to be Chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee.
  • Mack is casting a lustful eye at the district attorney’s office for the 21st Judicial District which includes the parishes of Livingston, St. Helena and….Tangipahoa.
  • That office is currently occupied by four-term DA Scott Perrilloux who is considered vulnerable.
  • Mack does not want to be labeled as a “pro-gaming” legislator should he decide to challenge Perrilloux.

HB-438 was introduced by Rep. Stephen Pugh (R-Ponchatoula) and SB-438 by Sen. Bodi White (R-Central). Only White’s bill has made it out of committee (on March 20) and it now awaits debate on the Senate floor. Should it pass the full Senate, it will then be sent to Sherman’s committee where in all likelihood, it will die an ugly death.

And therein lies the real political story.

The bill does two things:

  • It authorizes the Tangipahoa River as a designated waterway on which gaming may be conducted, and
  • It calls for a parish-wide referendum.

But in case it passes the full Senate, makes it out of Mack’s Criminal Justice Committee, and gains approval by the full House, then and only then does the proposal move onto the State Gaming Board which would have to approve the move.

Because the Tangipahoa is barely large enough to entertain tubers and the occasional Bateau boat, it ain’t about to accommodate a full-blown floating casino. The alternative would be a “free-standing” casino and the odds of that getting approved are pretty long.

Just another example of the interesting political issues that color Tangipahoa Parish.

 

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