Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

After more than eight years, the time has come to shut LouisianaVoice down.

Some, perhaps many, who read this will be delighted and that’s okay. It’s their right to disagree with me and I should have no problem with that—and I don’t.

Others will be delighted at my timing, which comes on the eve of our October fundraiser during which I spend a lot of time begging for your hard-earned money like some kind of shameless, money-grubbing televangelist (except I don’t own a Lear jet or reside in a gated mansion).

Having said that, I would suggest that those of you who have monthly contributions set up on Paypal deactivate your accounts. But please know that I appreciate your support through the years more than you could ever possibly know.

I’m not taking this action lightly nor am I exiting voluntarily. I have been diagnosed with macular degeneration and my vision has deteriorated significantly over the past few months. While I remain fully capable of most activities such as driving because my vision is not focused on a single item, reading has become difficult. Reading has been a lifelong passion and where I once routinely read half a book at a sitting, I now find it nearly impossible to read more than three or four pages before the words start to run together in an indistinct blur.

I still have a couple of books I want to try to write if I can pull it off but doing that and conducting research for and then writing LouisianaVoice posts has become a bit much, so I had to make a choice.

Having said all that, below is my final post on LouisianaVoice:

 

So, you think your voice matters?

You believe that when you sign a petition to be sent to your congressman or legislator, s/he actually bothers to read them?

The answer to both questions is an unqualified NO!

If you don’t believe me, sit in on a legislative committee hearing sometime—either live or online. Better yet, set yourself up for total humiliation and actually testify before a legislative committee and just watch the committee members’ eyes glaze over or even watch them get up and move about, talking to other members or even texting or leaving the room while you offer your thoughts about a bill.

Or, you could do what retired State Budget Officer Stephen Winham does on a regular basis—write your congressman. Winham does so on at least a weekly basis, sometimes several times a week. It’s become something of an obsession with him to try and get a direct answer from U.S. Sen. John Kennedy who has yet to actually address any issue Winham has raised, answering instead with canned, form letters.

How’s that for representative government?

In one recent exchange, Winham sent the following email to Kennedy:

SUBJECT:  2nd Amendment

On this and other subjects, your questioning of nominee Kavanaugh was excellent, but sometimes too scholarly for a layperson to follow. In the case of the 2nd amendment vis-a-vis Judge Kavanaugh’s stance as an constitutional originalist, the clause you discussed was never actually stated: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,..” 

The 2nd amendment is very simple. Although the Supreme Court in Heller held the 2nd clause, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” (and the one Judge Kavanaugh actually quoted) held precedence over the first.  I think you were trying to get Judge Kavanaugh’s take.  If so, you did not succeed. You also did not succeed in getting an answer to the question of, as an originalist, if a case came before the court overturning a Supreme Court decision on the basis that the original language was misinterpreted, how he would tend. In other words, even though Judge Kavanaugh continuously invoked precedents as modifying his legal stance as an originalist, he never answered the direct question of whether he would ever disagree with a precedent if he believed it was wrong based on the original language.

I personally believe Heller was a bad decision. IF we needed a militia, the need for assault weapons and other military and automatic weaponry might be justified. Since we don’t, it isn’t. You have taken a strong stance that seems consistent with Heller. Have you modified that stance in recent days? I sincerely hope so.

Stephen Winham

St. Francisville

 

Here is KENNEDY’S RESPONSE:

That, folks, is pure arrogance. I may be wrong on this point and if so, I stand corrected, but I believe Kennedy has yet to hold his first town hall meeting.

Need more convincing? Check out this VIDEO which they didn’t show you in high school civics class.

This is one of the reasons I launched LouisianaVoice in the first place. Yes, mine may accurately be called a negative voice. But when you realize that your voice, your ideas, your dreams, mean precious little to those in power, it’s pretty damned easy to be negative.

And just as the video demonstrates, all you have to do is follow the money to understand why corruption is legal in America.

So, let’s follow some money.

For the 2018 election cycle (that’s this year, as in right now, folks), click HERE to see the top 100 recipients of campaign contributions from lobbyists and from lobbyists and family members (in parentheses). Right there at number 19, with $225,000 ($244,000) is House Louisiana’s very own Steve Scalise. Here’s the LIST of lobbyist contributors to Scalise.

Not that he’s the only Louisiana member of congress to feed at the lobbyists’ trough. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy was 69th on the list, raking in $75,000 ($78,700) so far this year—and he’s not even up for re-election for another four years.

That’s nothing. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has received $77,000 ($80,600)—and he’s also not running because he’s retiring from congress. Yet, he continues to collect lobbyist money.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves was 89th, with a somewhat more modest $60,000 ($62,400).

In the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton received a whopping $3 million ($3.4 million) while Donald Trump received only $112,500 ($143,000). Click HERE for Clinton’s individual lobbyist contributors and HERE for Trump’s.

In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pulled in $2.2 million ($2.6 million) from lobbyists—both of which were $800,000 less than Clinton’s take in 2016). That same year, President Obama received $180,000 ($354,000) in lobbyist contributions.

Scalise, meanwhile, received $233,000 ($262,500) for the 2016 election cycle while Kennedy received $82,000 ($84,000) in his initial run for the Senate.

Charles Boustany received $283,000 ($302,600) in his loss to challenger Rep. Clay Higgins.

In Louisiana, 2014 was memorable for the bare-knuckled Senate fight between incumbent Mary Landrieu and successful challenger Bill Cassidy. In that race, Landrieu received $444,000 ($482,000) from lobbyists while Cassidy got $151,000 ($176,000).

Scalise received $93,500 ($103,500) and Graves got $71,500 ($74,300) in 2014.

Here are the top 100 recipients of lobbyist contributions for 2012, 2010 and 2008.

The next time you hear or see a political ad, remember this: The Russians didn’t invent campaign interference or manipulation. They were not the first by any means to spread misinformation and disinformation and they certainly didn’t invent planted or “fake” news. Political consultants have been doing that in this country for as long as we’ve been a nation. It’s not called “political science” for nothing.

What does all that mean? For openers, we’re all pawns in one gigantic chess game and the chess masters see us not as “deplorables,” as Hillary Clinton so infamously said, but as “disposables.” The bottom line, unfortunately, is that the system is hopelessly rigged so that corruption and power will long outlast exposure and prevail over the best-intentioned efforts at reform.

Call that cynical, jaded or pessimistic, it has become the sad reality of our time. Perhaps it was always this way and we just didn’t know it—until the emergence of the Internet, with its instant and universal access, brought us face to face with the truth.

Having said that, LouisianaVoice, in this, my last post, offers a first—my endorsements (for what they’re worth) for the Nov. 6 congressional races:

1st Congressional District: Tammy Savoie

2nd Congressional District: Cedric Richmond

3rd Congressional District: Mildred “Mimi” Methvin

4th Congressional District: Ryan Trundle

5th Congressional District: Jessee Sleenor

6th Congressional District: Garret Graves

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In the rancid, distorted, bigoted world of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, human life begins at conception and ends at America’s southern border.

And I’m not so sure the same can’t be said of the ass clowns we refer to as our Louisiana Congressional delegation.

Another certainty is that Session’s quoting the Bible notwithstanding, neither man can lay legitimate claim to being a Christian. That right was forfeited the instant the decision was made that innocent children, some of them still breast-feeding, should be ripped from their mother’s arms and warehoused in an empty Walmart store in Brownsville, Texas.

Acquaintances have ridiculed me for previous comparisons of idiot Trump to Hitler. Those comparisons were never more valid than now. When is the last time you saw an American president:

  • Rip more than 1300 children from their families for no greater offense than seeking asylum?
  • Incorrectly cite a Bible verse as justification for doing so?
  • Express the desire to emulate China’s President Xi in becoming President for life?
  • Have his lackeys follow the example of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un’s lackeys by sitting at attention when Dear Leader speaks? (and before you try to tell me he was “just kidding,” save your breath. He wasn’t. He was dead serious.)
  • Call the media “America’s greatest enemy”? (Okay, that may not be Hitler, per se, but it’s pretty darn close to another mad man named Nixon.)

And while we’re on the subject, I wonder if anyone has bothered to check to see if these might be private prisons contracting to hold these kids—for a nice profit, of course.

Oh, and don’t even bother to invoke the names of Obama or Clinton. Obama had his flaws as any human does, but he never once pulled the stunts and uttered the nonsense Trump has and while he had some less than stellar appointments to his cabinet, not one of them was named Scott Pruitt or Mick Mulvaney or Ben Carson or Betsy Devos or Wilbur Ross (Ross is the Commerce Secretary who was head of the Bank of Cyprus, an acknowledged vehicle for massive Russian money laundering. No Russian collusion? You can do your own Google search). And Clinton is not, was not, and will never be President so don’t even try to bring her into the mix.

In other words, let’s keep the conversation about a man who:

  • Repeatedly declared bankruptcy but always came back—with other people’s money, much of it from the Deutsche Bank, another bank that plays ball with the Russians who have money to wash;
  • Has a bad habit of not paying his contractors;
  • Ran a bogus real estate college in Florida that bilked students out of millions while failing to deliver on its promises—a college that was under investigation by the Florida attorney general…until Trump made a generous contribution to her election campaign, and then the investigation was conveniently dropped;
  • A man who has no respect for women whatsoever (don’t take Stormy Daniels’ word for it; just listen to the Billy Bush tape);
  • A man who does everything in his power to discredit, insult, and humiliate his justice department, the FBI, the IRS, the media, Congress, and anyone else who dares criticize him;
  • A man who cannot, for the life of him, maintain any consistency in his positions on issues, positions which sometimes change hourly;
  • A man who steadfastly refuses to make public his income taxes (gee, what could he be afraid of?);
  • A man who uses his position to help his family and himself financially (just look at the way in which he gave the Chinese firm ZTE a big break on his tariffs just as his daughter got nine trademark approvals from the Chinese government.)

I could go on, but why bother? If you are a Trump devotee, you’re not going to change your mind if it were proven that he was a serial axe murderer. You would simply regurgitate his and Fox News’ favorite response: fake news.

So, I will just end by saying this: If you are going to run around spewing your mantra of family values—whether as a Republican candidate or as a supporter of said candidate—while looking the other way as children are torn from their families, then you, my friend, are a damned liar and a hypocrite.

That goes for John Neely Kennedy, Bill Cassidy, Garrett Graves, Clay Higgins, Steve Scalise, Mike Johnson, or Ralph Abraham.

You are lying cowards, one and all, if you can advocate family values on one hand and imprisonment of children on the other.

And you’re certainly no Christian.

 

Read Full Post »

In 2013, the Louisiana Legislature passed and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law House Bill 703 which mandated that any state unclassified (appointive) employee earning $100,000 or more must be a bona-fide resident of the gret stet of Looziana.

The bill, which would become Act 264 of 2013 and which now goes by Louisiana Revised Statute 42:31, passed the HOUSE easily enough by a 70-20 margin with 15 members ducking out on the vote.

In the SENATE, however, it was quite another story with the bill squeaking through by a razor-thin 20-17 vote with two senators joining their 15 counterparts in the House in not voting.

The author of HB 703? That would be then-State Rep. John Bel Edwards.

Here are the specific provisions of the ACT:

  • Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, any person hired or employed in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, and whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall, within thirty days of being hired or employed at such salary, provide proof to his public employer that he has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  This requirement shall be deemed a qualification for the position for which the person was employed or hired, and for the duration of the person’s employment in the event the person’s salary is increased and the requirements of this Section are triggered.
  • All government agencies which hire or employ any person in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall verify that such person has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  The public employer shall verify the employee meets this requirement for the duration of this person’s employment.
  • Any person hired or employed in an unclassified position who does not meet the requirements of this Section, or who no longer meets the requirements of this Section, shall be removed and terminated within thirty days of the public employer learning such person does not meet the requirements of this Section.

Credit for the introduction and subsequent passage of the law has to go to the late C.B. Forgotston who spearheaded a one-man campaign against state government parking garages crammed with vehicles bearing out-of-state license plates.

C.B. took it as a personal affront that Louisiana tax dollars were being used to hire employees from other states who wouldn’t even bother to register their vehicles in Louisiana. His reasoning was the workers were perfectly willing to take money from the state but weren’t willing to pay their fair share of taxes by simply registering their cars here.

One of the biggest offenders, he learned, was the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

Of course, not all the out-of-state employees were pulling down a hundred grand a year but there was this one guy that LouisianaVoice had occasion to write about.

His name was David Lefkowith, though his friends just call him Lefty.

When they see him, that is. Trouble is, he is considered a ghost by some of his co-workers who assumed he was long gone from LDOE. That’s because he doesn’t appear at the LDOE offices in the Claiborne Building across from the State Capitol.

You see, Lefty resides in Los Angeles and commutes to Louisiana if and when he has occasion to drop in to pick up an Enterprise rental at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans and visit educational centers in Houma, Natchitoches, Lafayette, and Shreveport—but rarely Baton Rouge.

When LouisianaVoice first had occasion to write about Lefty back in 2012, he was knocking down $145,000 a year as something called the Director of the Office of Portfolio.

Act 264 of 2013 threw a monkey wrench in State Education Superintendent John White’s decision to pay Lefty $145,000 and when LouisianaVoice did a story recently about all the unclassified employees at LDOE pulling down $100,000 or more per year, a couple of LDOE employees expressed curiosity to LouisianaVoice as to why his salary was cut $45,000, to $100,000. LEFKOWITH IS NUMBER 197 on the list provided LouisianaVoice.

Well, truth be told, it was cut $45,000.10 to $99,999.90. That put him at a dime below the $100,000 threshold and allowed him to slither under the door.

That is a little trick White probably learned from Jindal who had a cute habit of issuing contracts of $49,999 in order to avert the requirement for proposals, or bids, for all contracts of $50,000 and above.

Still, commuting back and forth between California and Louisiana on a $100,000 salary doesn’t make much sense. It just doesn’t seem a sound fiscal decision unless LDOE pays for his flights back and forth.

Not so, says White.

I made a public records request for all expense payments made to Lefty and I also sent the following email to White:

From: Tom Aswell
Date: Friday, May 25, 2018 at 10:51 AM
To: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Subject: LEFKOWITH

John, for an employee no one in LDOE seems to remember seeing around the office, you certainly have paid him quite a tidy sum in travel and lodging expenses. I have a couple of questions in that regard:

  • How is he allowed to be a full-time employee of LDOE (at $100K per year) and reside in California?
  • What are his precise duties at LDOE. Please be specific?
  • What are his qualifications that you are apparently unable to find in a Louisiana resident?
  • Did you know him before he was brought into LDOE?
  • Does LDOE withhold state income taxes for Louisiana or California?

To his credit, White responded rather promptly, the very next day (a Saturday), in fact:

From: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2018 11:02 AM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: Re: LEFKOWITH

Here is the web site that lists what Dave has developed and leads at the Department: https://www.louisianabelieves.com/courses/all-things-jump-start.

Dave attended Yale University as an undergraduate and Stanford University for business school. He spent more than 30 years as a management consultant across a wide array of industries.  The work outlined above is unique among states and speaks to his capacity to lead the mission with which he has been charged. I was not familiar with him prior to becoming state superintendent.

Dave pays taxes in both states and is reimbursed for work-related travel within the state, as other state staff are. He pays his own commuting costs.

Thanks for the note.

John

As for Lefty’s management consultant duties, one of those was an ill-fated plan, uncovered by reporters Michael Pollock and Chris Davis of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune (Davis would move on to become leader of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg).

In 1998, when Jeb Bush was running for governor of Florida, Enron, then a fast-rising Houston energy broker, was in the process of diversifying into the potentially profitable new field of water supply privatization through a subsidiary called Azurix Corp.

Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) David Struhs, a Bush appointee, was simultaneously promoting two concepts on behalf of Azurix: auctioning off blocks of water to the highest bidders and obtaining underground water and storing it for later withdrawal through a process called aquifer storage and recovery (ASR).

Enron sank $900 million in Azurix, hoping to duplicate the proposed action in two other states, California and Enron’s home state of Texas, as well as in South America. Ultimately, however, Enron lost $500 million when the project failed to materialize, eventually selling what was left of the company in 2001 to American Water Works as a precursor to the eventual collapse of Enron.

Struhs also pushed another project to deregulate energy in Florida and to open the state to competition by allowing companies to build power plants, using existing power lines for the purpose of selling electricity to the highest bidding utility or other customers.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Struhs was his good friend, David “Lefty” Lefkowith, president of Canyon Group, Inc., of Los Angeles.

Back in 1991, President George H. Bush named 23 industrialists and environmentalists to the President’s Commission on Environmental Quality and named Struhs to run the commission. One of the 23 commission appointees was then-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.

When Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992, Struhs went to work for Lefkowith as vice president of Canyon Group. Lefkowith has represented as many as 60 different electric power companies through his company.

By 1998, Struhs was working for Jeb Bush and Lefkowith was on board with the ill-conceived Florida water privatization project. “I don’t think water is so damn special,” he said at the time. “If you let markets take over, you’d find water was cheaper, there would be more of it, and customers would be better served.” He neglected to explain how water quantity would increase.

Fast forward to 2002 and Struhs and Lefkowith were back at the forefront of market manipulation in Florida at the behest of Jeb Bush, but by now, their dealings were with electric power companies. Struhs was DEP Secretary and Jeb Bush had set up Energy 2020 Commission, a group assembled to study deregulation.

This time when Struhs brought him in as a consultant, Lefkowith was given unlimited access to all the emails of Bush’s Energy 2020 Commission members and staffers even though most of the 2020 commissioners never heard of him, never saw him (sound familiar?) and never knew he access to their correspondence.

On Feb. 4, 2001, Struhs’ deputy chief of staff, Mollie Palmer, ordered a half-dozen top DEP employees to start sending Energy 2020 Commission documents to Lefkowith with emails from Energy 2020 Chairman Walter Revell or from commission executive director Billy Stiles to be “forwarded to Lefty upon receipt.”

After receiving a copy of that memo, Pollock and Davis requested copies of all documents sent to Lefkowith but DEP officials responded that no documents existed. (That sounds much like the responses received by Capitol News Service from the Division of Administration and from the Louisiana governor’s office.)

“Who is this guy to get this information?” asked Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe. “From the tone and tenor of these emails and communications, he is directing energy policy (for the state). What authority does he have to do that? And for what purpose?”

Democratic State Sen. Kip Campbell of Tarmarac was even less forgiving of the practice. “Suppose I was sending letters to Struhs, like ‘here is my thought process on what we are going to do legislatively.’ And Lefkowith knows this ahead of time. Lefkowith might be working for Calpine and all those other companies and selling that knowledge for profit. I’d be willing to wager he probably was.”

Lefkowith also attended strategy sessions with Gov. Jeb Bush to discuss findings of the Energy 2020 Commission.

In addition, he lobbied Florida utility representatives in private meetings on the issue of building power plants in order to broker power sales.

He would later use the information he had obtained as confidant to Struhs and Jeb Bush to wrangle a consulting job with the Florida PSC.

So, yes, Lefkowith has worked with a lot of different entities but appears to have trouble remaining at one job for very long.

Now about White’s claim that Lefty pays his own commuting costs.

A check of his travel, lodging and meal expense reports provided by LDOE pursuant to our public records request turned up a couple of interesting tidbits, not the least of which was that the records appear to be incomplete with Lefkowith claiming many days of travel in Enterprise vehicles but hotel expense records that can only be described as spotty and sporadic with a lot of gaps. Accommodations for days at a stretch are unaccounted for.

From 2013 through current available 2018 dates, travel records show that LDOE has shelled out more than $21,880 for auto rentals, meals, lodging, and airplane flights to Austin, Texas, Cincinnati, and New Jersey.

On one occasion, on September 3, 2013, he drove an Enterprise rental vehicle 833 miles from New Orleans to Houma and Shreveport and back and even though he was in a rental, he charged LDOE for 99 miles at 51 cents per mile, collecting $50.49 in mileage. (Note: at the time, state regulations allowed employees to be reimbursed for a maximum of 99 miles traveled in personal vehicles as a means to encourage them to drive state vehicles. Regulations do not permit mileage payments while driving rentals.)

In July 2017 Lefkowith rented an Enterprise vehicle for 21 days, paid for by LDOE, and drove the car, a Chrysler Pacifica, from his Los Angeles home to New Orleans, a distance of 1,169 miles on your dime—$609.94 in dimes, to be precise.

So much for White’s claim that Lefkowith pays his own commuting expenses.

For that matter, the idea of paying his own commuting expenses on a $100,000 (oops, sorry. $99,999.90) per year salary just doesn’t make sense.

It’s enough to make one wonder just how many expense reports requested by LouisianaVoice were not forthcoming.

Surely any omissions were simply oversights.

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

I’m no economist and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I make no claims to be gifted in predicting the future. After all, I smugly opined on the day that Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency that he would crash and burn within six weeks. He may yet crash and burn but it’s taken a tad longer.

But it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see a repeat of the 2008 financial collapse and when it happens, don’t forget to thank Louisiana’s two senators and four of our six representatives. I mean, Stevie Wonder can see the idiocy of the actions of Congress in rolling back the reforms put in place by the DODD-FRANK rules following the disastrous Great Recession brought on by the recklessness of the banking industry.

The HOUSE voted 258-159 on Tuesday to allow banks with up to $250 billion in assets (that’s roughly eight times the size of Louisiana’s $30 billion budget and our legislators can’t even get a grasp on that) to avoid supervision from the Fed and STRESS TESTS. Under Dodd-Frank, the tougher rules applied to banks with at least $50 billion in assets.

Louisiana House members who voted in favor were Garrett Graves, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham, and Steve Scalise. Only Rep. Cedric Richmond voted against the measure while Paramilitary Macho-Man, the Cajun John Wayne, Clay Higgins took a powder and did not vote.

The measure, S-2155, had eased through the SENATE by a 67-31 vote back on March 14 and both Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy voted in favor. Kennedy, who loves to preach about revenue and spending, should know better: he was Louisiana State Treasurer for eight years, from 2000 to 2008. You’d think he might have learned something during that time. Guess not. But what could you expect from someone who thought he had “reduced paperwork for small businesses by 150 percent” during his tenure as Secretary of Revenue?

You can be sure that the banking industry lobbied Congress hard for this. Their lobbyists may well have outnumbered—and outspent—the NRA and perhaps even big oil and big pharma in its efforts to show members the right thing for baseball, apple pie and the American Way. Here is a blurb from the Arkansas Banking Association to its members on Monday, the day before the House vote, for example:

ABA (the American Banking Association) is asking all bankers to make a final grassroots push by calling their representatives and urging them to vote “yes” on S. 2155. ABA and all 52 state bankers’ associations sent letters to the House on Friday urging passage of S. 2155. Take action now.

Here is a copy of the ABA LETTER to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the letter sent by the state ASSOCIATIONS, including the Louisiana Bankers’ Association.

It’s almost as if the bankers, their lobbyists and their pawns in Congress have had their collective memories erased.

Remember “TOO-BIG-TO-FAIL” or costs of somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 TRILLION (with a “T”) to the U.S. economy the last time banks got a little carried away with their subprime mortgages and insane investments of OPM (other people’s money)? Remember how the runaway train wreck of 2008 darned-near destroyed the economy not just of this country, but the entire GLOBAL ECONOMY?

Remember how Congress had to bail out the incredibly reckless banks and how not a single person ever did jail time for the manner in which greed and more greed took over for sound fiscal judgment?

Remember the run-up to the 2008 collapse? Deregulation? Warren Buffet’s referring to derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction” (was anyone listening)? Enron? Worldcom? Countrywide? Merrill Lynch? Wells Fargo’s manipulation of customers’ accounts? Lincoln Savings & Loan? Pacific Gas and Electric? Arthur Anderson? Lehman Brothers? Bear Stearns? AIG? Washington Mutual?

Did anyone learn a damned thing? Judging from the rollback of Dodd-Frank, the answer to that critical question must be a resounding “NO.”

And lest you feel a pang of sympathy for those poor, over-regulated banks, consider this: PROFITS for AMERICAN BANKS during the first quarter of 2018 increased by 28 percent, shattering the prior record set just three quarters earlier.

The “blockbuster earnings report” was attributed to tax cuts implemented by the Trump administration, which should give you a pretty good idea about just who the tax bill was designed to help in the first place.

And here’s something that will give you a warm fuzzy: American banks are sitting on almost $2 trillion of capital that will help them survive the next recession—whether you get through the next downturn or not. That theory that excess capital would be plowed back into the economy just didn’t seem to pan out. Wall Street is counting on the Dodd-Frank deregulation allowing banks to return as much of that surplus cash as $53 billion back to SHAREHOLDERS.

Reinvestment? More jobs? Stimulating the economy? Fuggedaboutit.

It’s all about the shareholders.

Always has been, always will be.

And you can bet the shareholders won’t fuggedaboutit when it comes to chipping into the campaign coffers of those members of Congress who had the good sense to vote to lift the unreasonable burden of overregulation off the poor, struggling banking industry.

But what the hell? I’m not an economist. I’m just one of those purveyors of all that fake news.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »