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If you are a school teacher in Louisiana or if you have a teacher in your family, here are nine names you should remember next October when voters march to the polls to elect a governor, 39 state senators and 105 state representatives:

These are the nine members of the House Education Committee who yanked $39 million from local school districts—money that could have gone to supplement an already insulting pay raise for teachers, provide classroom supplies and help absorb increases in health insurance premiums.

Oh, and just in case you’d like to thank them, here are the five who voted to keep the $39 million in the Minimum Foundation Plan as adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE):

The $101 million for teacher pay raises (safe, for the moment) and the $39 million for local school districts were pat of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to move Louisiana back to the Southern Regional Average.

Instead, the nine Republicans, led by committee chairperson Landry voted to send the MFP back to BESE with a request to cut the $39 million for local school districts.

Landry, who has been less than a friend to public education throughout her legislative career, was steadfast, stating from the start she was going to make the recommendation to send the MFP plan back to BESE.

Edmonds, in an attempt to give credence to Landry’s position, raised the point that Louisiana spends $12,153 per student which he said was $3,000 more than Texas and $2,000 more than Florida. He managed to get Superintendent of Education John White to acknowledge that the state ranks 46th in efficiency of funds spent on students.

And while saying there will likely be no new funds for early childhood education, Edmonds somehow managed to overlook the fact that Texas pays its state legislators $7,200 per year, less than ONE-THIRD of the $22,800 for Louisiana legislators.

That’s right: Louisiana spends $10,000 more per year on legislators to come to Baton Rouge to hobnob with lobbyists, to enjoy sumptuous meals at Sullivan’s and Ruth’s Chris than it does to education our children.

Let that sink in: $22,800 per legislator for a part-time job (and if they have to travel to Baton Rouge or anywhere else on state business, they get $164 per diem, plus travel expenses).

At the same time, we spend $12,153 per student.

It’d be pretty interesting to find a ranking of the state’s “efficiency of funds spent” on legislators.

Louisiana’s students are the second-poorest in the nation, White said, ahead of only Mississippi.

But what’s important is the tons of additional REVENUE many legislators earn as attorneys, accountants, etc., representing state and local governments. There are literally more hidden perks to being a legislator than could be listed here—and I have unlimited space.

But I digress. Landry, in order to bolster her disdain for public education in general and Gov. Edwards in particular, even called on Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) to address her committee on the $39 million proposal.

In case you might not be aware, if Henry had an alias, it would be: “Dedicated political enemy of John Bel Edwards, no matter what Edwards might propose.”

So, what it all boiled down to was the Republicans in the legislator led by Henry and Speaker Taylor Barras (R-New Iberia), unable to block the pay raises of $1,000 per year for teachers and $500 per year for support staff, were damn sure going to throw up as many roadblocks as they could for any additional funding for teachers—even at the cost of depriving local school districts desperately needed funds for resources and salaries.

At a press conference at the conclusion of Tuesday’s committee meeting, the Louisiana Public School Coalition urged BESE to stand firm on its MFP proposal and to push legislators approve it as is.

White showed how political loyalties can shift, even at full throttle. First appointed by Bobby Jindal and reappointed during the Edwards administration, he said, “The previous administration swung and missed badly” at early childhood education.

Even more revealing that the fate of the $39 million was sealed well in advance was the participation—or lack thereof—of committee members. Each of the five Democrats asked several relevant questions and made valid points while fewer than half of the nine Republicans had a word to say during discussion of a pretty important piece of legislation. And those who did speak, like Edmonds, did so only as a means of supporting Landry’s motion.

The others were strangely mute—almost as if they already had their marching orders from Landry, Henry and Barras.

And that’s how democracy in the gret stet of Looziana works.

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You want to know how politicians skew their poll data?

A poll commissioned by Candidate A, for example may contain loaded questions like:

If you were asked to choose between Candidate A, who believes in the sanctity of life, and Candidate B, who believes in killing babies, would you vote for Candidate A or Candidate B?

Or:

If you were asked to choose between Candidate A, who believes people who rape and kill should be given stiff jail sentences and Candidate B, who believes we should open the prison doors, would you vote for Candidate A or Candidate B?

Candidate B, of course, actually stands for a woman’s right to choose and he believes our prisons are overcrowded with non-violent offenders, but Candidate A doesn’t couch his poll questions in that manner. Instead, Candidate B is a baby-killer who wants to turn hardened criminals loose on an unsuspecting public.

Or maybe, in Candidate A’s poll, Candidate A wants to bring jobs to the people of Louisiana while Candidate B, by tightening restrictions on tax giveaways to greedy corporations who don’t really produce that many jobs anyway, is cast as one who wants to drive business and industry from the state.

You may even be asked something like, “If you were told that Candidate A loves his family and teaches Sunday School and Candidate B beats his wife and kids, would you vote for Candidate A or Candidate B?”

Candidate A may be a womanizer who never sets foot in a church and Candidate B may be a devoted husband and father. No one has claimed that Candidate B beats his wife and kids, but you were asked a hypothetical question that implies that he does and phrased in that manner, you are naturally prone to support Candidate A even though you may know zilch about either candidate.

It’s really easy. And just because I’m using an example provided by the Trump campaign, don’t for a moment believe that the practice is limited to Republicans.

It’s not. They all do it.

But this one is especially egregious.

The Trump campaign, which somehow has me on its mailing list, sent this poll before the Mueller report was released. But to submit your response, you’re taken to another page which gives me the choice of contributing to his campaign in amounts ranging from $35 to $2,700.

“At this critical moment, we’re asking our strongest supporters:

“Do you think it’s time for this WITCH HUNT to conclude once and for all?

YES

NO

“This is the most important survey we’ve sent you this year.”

TAKE THE POLL

I tried to vote but without pledging a contribution, my poll response was blocked. In one attempt, I even received a text from the campaign informing me that I had entered an incorrect response.

So, by accepting responses only from those who contribute (and if one is prone to contribute to the campaign, it’s a pretty good bet the poll response would be sympathetic to Trump), the poll results necessarily showed heavy support for Trump, a fact he trumpeted in his tweets as “overwhelming evidence of a witch hunt.”

As pointed out earlier, this practice is by no means the exclusive tactic of Trump.

All candidates do it.

So, the next time you are polled about your political preference in the upcoming election cycle, be careful to listen to how the questions are phrased in order to get a good read as to how the poll is tilted in favor of a certain candidate.

And the next time you read about some candidate is doing well in his privately-commissioned poll, take it as biased—because it is. It’s going to be a poll tailored to the individual candidate and not an accurate reading of the electorate.

That’s just the way the game is played—by both sides.

And we are the losers.

 

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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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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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H24/7 WALL STREET, that independent service that publishes a multitude of surveys each day, has published a list of 38 metropolitan areas in the U.S. which have the highest poverty rates.

Four Louisiana metro areas made the list, ranging from 10th to 37th poorest.

New Orleans was not on the list, most likely because the affluent parishes of Jefferson and St. Tammany are included in the greater metropolitan area of the Crescent City.

The rankings are based on latest data released in September by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 24/7 Wall Street survey noted. And while poverty is on a general decline in the U.S. with 13.4 percent of Americans living below the poverty line, all four of the Louisiana metropolitan areas included in the list had poverty rates that exceeded 20 percent, as did 38 of the 382 metro areas reviewed in the U.S.

Seventeen of those 38 areas were in Texas and Georgia (5 metro areas each), Louisiana (4) and West Virginia (3). Texas had three cities ranked as the worst areas with McAllen, Texas ranked worst in the nation with a poverty rate of 30 percent, an unemployment rate in the highest 10 percent at 7.4 percent and a median household income of $37,106, also among the worst 10 percent.

All four Louisiana metropolitan areas—Monroe, Shreveport-Bossier, Hammond, and Alexandria—had unemployment rates that ranked among the highest 25 percent and three—Monroe, Shreveport-Bossier, and Alexandria—had median household incomes ranked among the worst 10 percent.

Monroe was the 10th poorest metro area in the nation, followed by Shreveport-Bossier (11th), Hammond (30th), and Alexandria (37th).

While the national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in 2017, Monroe had a jobless rate of 5.3 percent, followed by Shreveport-Bossier (5.5 percent) and Alexandria and Hammond (5.7 percent).

To review the complete list, go HERE.

Louisiana followed the trend of having a high poverty rate that coincides with low educational attainment and a large share of available jobs in low-paying sectors.

It’s a familiar story for the state that seems to have become locked into an unbreakable pattern of low positives and high negatives. Elected officials, meanwhile, continue to ignore the factors that keep its citizens among the lowest paid, unhealthiest, and worst educated in the nation.

And whenever efforts are exerted toward reversing the trend, there are always certain self-serving or bought-and-paid-for legislators standing by to block those efforts and lobbyists with different agendas who will wine and dine the lawmakers.

Even more disheartening, we continue to re-elect them.

Whoever said we get the government we deserve…..nailed it.

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