Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until now.

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

Two words: Joshua Pellerin.

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


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

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

Wait. The U.S. Senate?

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

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

That doesn’t make any since.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contests for the U.S. House and Senate are going virtually unnoticed as the nation becomes more and more transfixed, shocked—and disgusted—at each new charge of sexual abuse and deleted emails that arises in a sordid presidential race no one dared imagine could ever happen in this country.

Also generally overlooked are scores of local elections scattered across Louisiana’s landscape.

One of those is the race for Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Incumbent Mayor-President and erstwhile candidate for Lieutenant Governor Kip Holden is term-limited and has now set his sights on the 2nd Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond.

Predictably, the job has attracted quite a few applicants—12 to be precise. One of those is Republican State Sen. Bodi White of Central, coincidentally, the largest fundraiser to date.

With just over three weeks to go before the Nov. 8 election, White has begun his TV ad blitz. And like candidates before him (including Holden in his initial run) has included a campaign promise to “improve public education” by “building more schools.”

White knows full well there is no way he can make good on such a preposterous promise because the mayor-president has absolutely zero to do with education. That’s the responsibility of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board into whose operations the mayor and parish council have no input.

He knows that but to voters who do not know, it sounds wonderful, like a promise from on high. And that’s the sad part; voters are generally uneducated on the issues and their decisions are often based on cockamamie sound bytes like the one currently being aired by White. He could just as easily say he’s going to build a wall along our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. There are, I’m certain, voters who would buy into that just as quickly.

But there’s more to white than blustering campaign rhetoric.

In 2008, he introduced a bill in the Legislature to create the Central Recreation and Park District and take Central out of BREC (BREC is an acronym for Baton Rouge Recreation—we don’t get it, either).

On May 6, 2008, he revealed his ownership interest in a tract of land BREC wanted for a park. Then on May 14, 2008, White and BREC director Bill Palmer announced a “compromise” under which White would withdraw this legislation to take Central out of BREC.

That “compromise” consisted of a resolution for BREC to purchase some of White’s business partner’s land and develop the adjacent land for the company by whom White was employed.

Not too shabby a deal if you can swing it and apparently his position as a state representative gave him just the political stroke to pull it off. No abuse of his office there.

In addition, BREC agreed to pay Parcel 52, LLC, $130,000 to help build a 750-foot-long road with curbs and sidewalks to the BREC site. The road goes through the center of the eight-acre commercial property owned by Parcel 52, LLC, and adds significant value to the commercial property, which could be developed for 10-20 commercial sites or offices. http://www.tigerdroppings.com/rant/politics/bodi-white-proof-that-louisiana-has-low-standards-brec-bribed-him/28772800/

Parcel 52, LLC was registered with the Secretary of State. The partners in the company were Brandon and E. Gordon Rogillio, Jr.  and Rep. Mack (Bodi) White. White, who later relinquished his interest in the property, is a realtor who works for Brandon Rogillio. http://centralcitynews.us/?p=3373

Gordon Rogillio later explained that White invested nothing in the property and received nothing in the transaction. http://centralcitynews.us/?p=3427

White’s boss prospered nicely, however, and therein lies the possible quid pro quo.

A timeline provided by a local newspaper, the Central City News, published by former State Rep. Woody Jenkins, further revealed details of the entire transaction: http://centralcitynews.us/?p=3373

In a throwback to the days of raging newspaper wars (days we sorely miss, by the way), a rival publication, Central Speaks, attempted to exonerate White from any wrongdoing in the BREC flap. http://www.centralspeaks.com/old/rep-bodi-white-brec-sports-park-just-the-facts/

Just another day in good old-fashioned Louisiana politics.

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He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth, partly fiction
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home

(The Pilgrim—Kris Kristofferson)

It was the noon hour in Walk On’s on Poydras Street in New Orleans and a noisy lunch crowd was packed in as one of the flat screen televisions was demanding my attention with a re-play of the Boston Red Sox players celebrating their American League East Championship after two straight years of finishing dead last in the division.

I watched because the Red Sox have been my favorite team since Ted Williams won an American League batting championship with a .388 average in 1957 at age 38. I was 14 at the time. He retired in 1960, hitting a home run in his last at-bat. (My second favorite team is the Chicago Cubs: Dare I hope for a dream World Series between the two? Hey, it could happen.)

He walked into the Restaurant a few minutes late (after I had called to say I would be two hours late). Seeing him looking around for someone he’d never met, I signaled to him to let him know I was his lunch appointment. “Sorry I’m late. I made some money today,” he said as he slid into the booth.

Danil Ezekiel Faust is a candidate for Congress from Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District and he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell because he has no money and he’s running against an incumbent (Steve Scalise) who has millions.

And that is precisely why he’s running.

The money he made was as an online trader

A Puerto Rican Irish Jew, Faust, a Democrat, is what Kris Kristofferson calls a walking contradiction: He is a former manager of an Arizona hedge fund who continues to play the market but who at the same time despises Wall Street and everything it stands for.

His hero also happens to be is favorite American President: Andrew Jackson. “They can take down those statues of Confederate soldiers, but not Andrew Jackson. The man took a bullet in the chest defending his wife’s honor. He was opposed to a National Bank…and he was right. He is a real American hero,” overlooking the fact that Jackson also signed into law the Indian Removal Act that stained America’s history with the Trail of Tears.

And like so many others, he insists there is entirely too much money in politics.

He also is a strong proponent of wind energy, a sure way to gin up substantial opposition (read: campaign contributions for his opponent) from the fossil fuel industry. He is pro-choice and an unabashed supporter of gay rights and equal pay for women.

And he keeps right on a-changin’ for the better or the worse
Searchin’ for a shrine he’s never found
Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse
Or if the goin’ up was worth the comin’ down

 “If I had the money to play on a level playing field, there’s no doubt I could win,” he said between bites of his heart-attack inducing bacon cheeseburger.

But he has no official organization. His campaign headquarters are in his former residence upstairs over the Three-Legged Dog at 400 Burgundy in the French Quarter. His business cards are from a computer program.

Most of all, though, he has no financial backing. Scalise, on the other hand, earlier tied by blogger Lamar White to a Ku Klux Klan event at which David Duke was the main speaker, has the Koch brothers and their Americans for Prosperity (AFP) pouring money into his re-election campaign through various Super PACs which, unfortunately drowns out the message of any underfunded opponent.

“AFP, I believe, held a big social event on the same night at Acme Oyster House right next door to Scalise’s headquarters,” he said.

No one can be heard over the roar of cash being poured into the campaign of an entrenched—and bought—incumbent. And there is no greater concentration of bought politicians than in the U.S. Congress.

Never mind that Scalise voted against federal funding to assist Super Storm Sandy victims in New Jersey but now is demanding federal funds for Louisiana’s flood victims. http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-louisiana-floods-20160822-snap-story.html

Faust, a native of Puerto Rico (take note, birthers: he can never be President), stopped temporarily in New Orleans en route to his intended destination—New York, where he planned to take a job with another hedge fund. But while in New Orleans, he fell in love. With New Orleans and its diverse culture “and its laid-back way of life.”

He took a job as a doorman at a French Quarter strip club. It was while working at that job that he began watching and listening. He learned some unforgettable lessons about the realities of life and the local power structure. In short, he knows where a lot of political skeletons are buried. “It was nothing for politicians and powerful businessmen to come into the club and drop $10,000,” he said.

He said the much-ballyhooed Operation Trick or Treat conducted a year ago by the Louisiana State Police (LSP) and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) was a sham. The clubs that played ball and made the right political contributions were never investigated, he said.

He also said the LSP and ATC sweep in Operation Trick or Treat and a campaign to limit the number of strip clubs in the French Quarter was the idea of established strip clubs friendly with ATC’s then-director Troy Hebert “to keep down competition.”

So what made Danil Faust run?

“I kept hearing that David Duke was going to run,” he said. “But in the end, he got in the U.S. Senate race instead. I even heard Troy Hebert was running.”

Hebert, who also opted to join the crowded (24 candidates) Senate race, does not reside in the First Congressional District but in Louisiana, residency is not a requirement. (The First Congressional District, by the way, was used by Bobby Jindal as a springboard to the governor’s office.)

“Other than Scalise, no one is running for the office,” he said. Actually, there are seven candidates on the ballot, but like Faust, none of the other five challengers is given a chance in this election.

But that’s what happens when big money like the Kochs, George Soros, Donald Sussman, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Stephens, Hank Greenburg, and the Devos family, to name but a few, overpowers and corrupts the electoral process. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/superpac-donors-2016/

And no matter if his passion is Andrew Jackson, or if he works as a hedge fund manager, an advocate of wind power, a strip club doorman or a political candidate, Danil Ezekiel Faust remains his own man.

But if this world keeps right on turnin’ for the better or the worse
And all he ever gets is older and around
From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse
The goin’ up was worth the comin’ down

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You may have seen one or more of a series of http://www.vote-4-energy.org/ television ads by the American Petroleum Institute (API) that have been running on a more regular basis than lawyer commercials recently.

Intended to give us a warm fuzzy feeling about Big Oil, it’s no coincidence they’re airing in an election year.

The primary trade association of the oil and gas industry, API boasts nearly 400 members. http://www.polluterwatch.com/american-petroleum-institute

Though it spent only about $200,000 on the 2012 election, it literally pours money into other programs—$33 million on lobbying between 2008 and 2012—and was instrumental in funding a $27 million anti-science “scientific” study to refute research linking benzene to cancer.

API was also not above embellishing job creation claims, touting 20,000 new jobs as opposed to the 6,000 estimated by the U.S. State Department and Cornell University.

API also donated money to the National Science Teachers Association for distributing a short film promoting the petroleum industry. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/American_Petroleum_Institute#Concerns_about_API-funded_research

If there remains any doubt to the underlying intent of the recent glut of ads, a leaked memo written by API CEO Jack Gerard in August 2009 revealed that a number of trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, coordinated “Energy Citizens’ rallies in key Congressional districts in an effort to ramp up political opposition to climate and energy legislation.

Directly funded and organized by API and member companies, the “rallies” were coordinated by oil lobbyists and API member Chevron even bused it employees to events.

API also contributed $25,000 to Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party organization founded and chaired by billionaire oilman David Koch. http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/03/energy-industry-trade-groups/

Which brings up Koch Industries, headed by David and brother Charles, both major players in the American political arena.

In just one state for example, Texas, the Kochs are proving our repeated position that money has supplanted the importance of voters in influencing election outcomes by dumping money into the campaigns of 66 candidates—15 for the U.S. House of Representatives, three for the Texas Supreme Court, 31 for the Texas House of Representatives, 16 for the State Senate and one for the State Railroad Commission (the Texas equivalent to the Louisiana Public Service Commission).

Here is a complete state-by-state listing of Koch-supported candidates (Note: only legally-required reported contributions are listed but Koch, in addition to monetary contributions has been known to exert pressure on its employees as to which candidates they should support.

And it’s not as if the Kochs are alone, nor is this an effort to say that only Republicans are beneficiaries of the avalanche of campaign funds that has occurred since the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court opened the spigot of campaign cash.

Politics has become a game played by any billionaire with an agenda—to the overall detriment of the average citizen, whose numbers comprise 99.9 percent of the nation’s population. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/superpac-donors-2016/

So just how much Super PAC money, so-called outside spending (which does not include individual contributions to thousands of candidates in federal, state and local elections), was lavished on behalf of or in opposition to candidates in the 2012 elections?

The 1,310 super PACs raised $828.2 million for the 2012 election cycle, which was just two years after Citizens United, and spent $609.4 million. https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2012&chrt=V&type=S

This year, in the Presidential, and Congressional elections alone, spending has already surpassed $1.8 billion. Of that amount, more than $248 million has come from PACs. http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/03/daily-chart-1

Before all is said and done, it is expected that more than $5 billion will be spent on the Presidential election. That figure includes money to be spent by candidates, political parties and outside groups (PACs), and includes money spent on presidential primaries—more than double the cost of the 2012 campaign.

All of which raises a moral question: if political donors are so civic-minded (as most insist they are) as opposed to an eagerness to promote a personal agenda (as most will go to great lengths to deny), why don’t they put their money to use for an even greater good?

Has it ever crossed the minds of the Kochs or any of the other members of the mega-rich influence-purchasers what even a small portion of that kind of money would mean to St. Jude or other children’s hospitals?

Have they ever considered underwriting cancer research on such a scale? What about feeding the hungry or even helping restore the country’s crumbling infrastructure? After all, they use the same highways, rely on the same water and sewer services, depend on the same police and fire protection.

So much good could be accomplished with the billions of dollars that are wasted on the campaigns whose promises are as empty and meaningless as the hopes and dreams of the poorest of our poor?

Yes, the Kochs give millions to charities but then spearhead coalitions of businesses and industries that pour hundreds of millions into efforts to pass anti-environmental legislation or they endow chairs at schools like Florida State University on condition that they get the final say in the hiring of faculty members who will teach their political and economic philosophy.


But we as a nation have somehow seen a trend away from using our wealth to accomplish the greater good for all our citizens. Instead, we’re seeing the wealthiest using their monetary buying power to purchase influence so they can accumulate even more wealth.

And we wonder why there is an ever-widening disconnect from the American political process.

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Cameron, Vermilion, Plaquemines and Jefferson are attempting to accomplish what Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East could not: hold oil and gas companies responsible for the destruction of Louisiana’s coastline.

On July 28, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry expressed his “disappointment” that Vermilion Parish had the audacity to file a lawsuit over damages to the parish coastline Vermilion District Attorney Keith Stutes said was caused by drilling activities of several dozen oil and gas companies.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Landry, in a rare display of political accord, intervened in the lawsuit with Edwards asking the oil and gas industry to settle the litigation and to assist the state in footing the cost of restoring the cost, which is expected to reach tens of millions of dollars over the next half-century. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/28/vermilion-sues-oil-and-gas-companies-over-coastal-/

Calling lawsuits filed by Cameron and Jefferson parishes as well as Vermilion “counter-intuitive,” Landry said, “We cannot allow these differing and competing interests to push claims which collectively impact the public policy for our coast and our entire state.”

Two weeks later, on Aug. 10, Landry was practically effervescent as he all but took full credit when 24th District Judge Stephen Enright dismissed a similar lawsuit by Jefferson Parish. “I intervened in this lawsuit because I was concerned that the interest of the State of Louisiana may not have been fully represented or protected.

“I accept the court’s ruling because addressing the issues associated with permit violations through the administrative process is a cost-effective, efficient way to resolve any violations,” he said. “That was clearly the purpose of the Legislature creating this regulatory scheme.”

Funny how Landry would choose to use the word scheme.

Scheme, after all, would appear to be appropriate, considering how much money the industry has invested in campaign contributions to Louisiana politicians.

Copy of Campaign Contributions

And there’s certainly no mystery why Landry is so protective of the industry. In fact, he might be described as Jindal 2.0 because of his determination to protect the industry to the detriment of the citizens od Louisiana.

After all, of the $3.3 million Landry received in campaign CONTRIBUTIONS between July 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2015 (during his campaign for attorney general), more than $550,000 came from companies and individuals with strong ties to the oil and gas industry.

Moreover, more than $600,000 in campaign contributions to Landry came from out-of-state donors, with many of those, such as Koch Industries ($10,000), one of America’s biggest polluters, also affiliated with the oil and gas industry.




(Koch Industries, by the way, with ties dating back to the right-wing extremist group, The John Birch Society—Fred Koch, Charles and David Koch’s father, was a charter member—has run afoul of federal law on numerous occasions, including fraud charges in connection with oil purchases from Indian reservations.) http://www.corp-research.org/koch_industries

One $5,000 donor, Cox Oil & Gas, was from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, according to Landry’s campaign finance records. That contribution date was May 20, 2014 but Cox Oil Offshore, LLC, Cox Oil, LLC, and Cox Operating, LLC, all of Dallas, contributed $5,000 each three weeks earlier, on April 28, 2014, those same records show.

Besides the Cox companies, Landry received more than $300,000 from firms and individuals from Texas, many of those from Houston and the surrounding area.

Landry, like Jindal and the bulk of legislators, has sold his soul to an industry that has ravaged our coastline, polluted our land and waterways, and failed to restore property to its original state when operations have concluded, all while reaping record profits and enriching stockholders.

LouisianaVoice has long adhered to the idea that there is far too much money in politics and that most of it comes from special interests. The reality is that citizens have long been removed from the political process.

If you don’t believe that, drop in on a House or Senate committee hearing on some controversial issue. Invariably, the issue will have already been decided by a quiet influx of special interest money and intense lobbying. As you sit and watch and listen to testimony of citizens, pay close attention because you will be the only one besides those testifying who will be doing so.

Watch the committee members. They will be checking emails or texts on their phones, talking and joking among themselves or just milling around, exiting the rear door of the committee room to get coffee—anything but listening to citizens’ concerns. Only on the rarest of occasions could a committee member give you a summation of the testimony.

The only time many legislators really take their jobs seriously is when they are discussing a bill with a lobbyist and that is unfortunate.

Once you’ve heard committee testimony go upstairs to the House or Senate chamber and take a seat in the front row of the spectator gallery. Observe how few of the senators or representatives is actually paying attention to the proceedings. The scene below you will underscore the adage that there are three things one should never see being made: love, sausage, and laws.

And while you’re at it, watch the lobbyists working the room. As you observe the absence of interaction between legislators and average citizens, do the math and deduce the way lawmakers are influenced. You won’t get far before you encounter the old familiar $.

Like him or not (and in Louisiana, it’s fairly accurate to say most don’t though they can’t give you a really sound reason why), President Obama pretty much nailed it when he was running for re-election in 2012.

Jane Mayer, in her excellent book Dark Money, quoted Obama from his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas (the same town where Theodore Roosevelt demanded in 1910 that the government be “freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests”), about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 and the ensuing glut of Super PAC money into the political arena:

  • “Inequality distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder.”

Meanwhile, Landry ramps up his war of words and political ideology with Gov. Edwards (perhaps in an effort to deflect attention away from his own flawed agenda). The most recent salvo was fired last week over the administration’s hiring of former Sen. Larry Bankston, a one-time convicted felon as legal counsel for the State Board of Contractors—never mind the fact that Landry also hired an employee formerly convicted of fraud for the attorney general’s fraud section. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/article_fe56114c-6ad7-11e6-8e7e-6f06140ad60e.html

It would appear that in Louisiana, the state has long since been sold out to the highest bidder as witnessed by the combined efforts of Jindal, Landry, legislators, and the courts to protect big oil at all costs.

As further evidence of this, consider the words of Gifford Briggs, Vice-President of and lobbyist for the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) in the run-up to the 2015 statewide elections immediately after Landry had indicated he might oppose then incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Asked if LOGA would support Landry, Briggs, the son of LOGA President Donald Briggs, said, “We can’t officially endorse any candidate. Our PAC can, but not us. Having said that, Jeff Landry is looking like a very good candidate for Attorney General.”


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