Archive for the ‘House, Senate’ Category

The results of the 5th District congressional race are in and the message has been sent loud and clear—surely loud enough to be heard in Baton Rouge.

With political newcomer Vance McAllister walloping State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), the heir-apparent to Rodney Alexander’s 5th District seat not by a comfortable but by an astounding and resounding 60-40 margin (an actual vote count of 54,449 to 36,837), the Louisiana Tea Party and Bobby Jindal have to be reeling and wondering what the hell happened. And Riser especially has to be feeling quite flummoxed and embarrassed at this juncture—particularly given the fact that he could muster only 3,800 more votes than he got in the Oct. 19 primary while McAllister pulled in an additional 36,000 votes, a margin of nearly 10-1 in the number of votes gained.

Actually, when you break it all down, there was more than one message sent in this election that Riser entered as the odds-on favorite to walk into office on the strength of the fast one that the Jindalites tried to pull off, not the least of which is that the Duck Dynasty’s political clout appeared to eclipse that of the governor (Gotta give credit where it’s due). Jindal clumsily overplayed his hand when he maneuvered Alexander into “retiring” halfway into this two-year term of office so that he could take a cushy state job as head of the Louisiana Office of Veterans Affairs at $130,000 per year, a job that stands to boost his state pension (he was a state legislator before being elected to Congress) from about $7,500 per year to something north of $80,000 per annum.

Then, as part of the bargain, Riser formally announced the day after Alexander’s announcement that he would seek the position and miracle of miracles, large—no huge—Riser campaign signs literally (as in the day after Riser’s announcement) appeared overnight in Ruston. Political pundits all over the state all but conceded the seat to Riser but then who would bet against him given the fact the job was all but handed to him on a platter? Or so it seemed at the time.

One message was that voters resent being taken for granted, considered a pesky afterthought as it were. Since when does the coronation precede the decision of the electorate in this country? As comic Ron White is fond of saying, you can’t fix stupid and assuming the job was his by Divine Right was stupid—even if that Divine Right was the coveted Jindal anointment.

A second lesson that should sink in on the fourth floor of the State Capitol: instead of flitting around the country like a hummingbird on crack, perhaps Jindal should stay home and do the job to which he was elected—you know, Bobby, that of governor, the job you said you wanted. Forget Iowa. Forget New Hampshire. Forget Faux News. Forget those op-eds for the Washington Post. Do your damned job. Don’t worry about Obama; my grandfather always told me, “If you do your job and quit worrying about the other fellow doing his, you’ll find your own path much easier to walk.” Being absent from the state the equivalent of two of the first 10 months of the year just doesn’t cut it when there is plenty to do right here.

And while Riser was wearing his “guns for felons” NRA mantle like the breastplate of righteousness (Isaiah 59:17), Vance McAllister had the guts look to look beyond that easy position and to say that Medicaid should be extended in Louisiana because of the 400,000 citizens of this state who have no health insurance. And, the message that was apparently lost on Jindal, Riser and the rest of the Tea partiers, is that not all of those are deadbeats; many of them are the working poor—those working but earning too little to afford health care.

And they vote.

A lesson that the remaining 143 members of the Louisiana Legislature might do well to ponder: Despite recent evidence to the contrary, Louisiana apparently is not for sale. When the light is shone on privatization, campaign contributions, health care, inept and unqualified appointees such as Superintendent of Education John White and general mismanagement of the state’s finances, people don’t like what they’re seeing.

As the count mounted Saturday night, two stars—that of Neil Riser’s hopes to move on to Washington and that of Jindal’s already fading aspirations of occupying the White House—were for all intents, snuffed out, obliterated, imploded like a supernova. Jindal, instead of being sought after by the right wing talking head zealots, should now be shunned given that he can’t even deliver votes for a congressional candidate (or for a Republican candidate for governor of Virginia).

Legislators need to take a long, hard look at Jindal’s record of late. It’s really not all that impressive. He has lost court case after court case over retirement reform, vouchers, budgetary matters and public records even as he paid a single attorney more than a million dollars to defend those dogs. The FBI is looking into contract irregularities between DHS and CNSI. He fires anyone who disagrees with him, including members of a levee board who wanted to hold oil companies accountable for the egregious coastal erosion so that he could protect big oil (but he can’t fire the local political leaders in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes who followed with litigation of their own).

Those legislators would do well to understand that we the citizens of Louisiana are starting to take an interest in what goes on in Baton Rouge. Using campaign funds for such things as installment payments, gasoline and insurance on personal vehicles, paying for “campaign work” when there was no campaign, paying for roof repairs, purchasing LSU football tickets and pricey tabs in the Senate dining hall are perks not available to the great unwashed and we kind of resent that abuse. And make no mistake about it, it is abuse. You are not royalty; you work for us. Never forget that.

Accepting a hundred or so contributions from political action committees tends to drown out the voices of the school teacher, the retail store clerk, the truck driver, and hundreds of thousands of others who cannot afford to go up against those well-heeled corporate lobbyists who ply lawmakers with meals during the legislative session each year. It raises the question of just whom do you represent, the voters or the fat cats who pour money into your campaign so that they will have your ear when push comes to shove in Baton Rouge on key issues while the interests of those who elected you are ignored?

And finally, to Vance McAllister: Congratulations. Enjoy the moment because once you take office, you will be inside the Beltway and somehow that becomes intoxicating and those who go there with good intentions often fall victim to the lure of the siren song of power and influence.

Don’t let that happen because we will be watching and if you screw up, LouisianaVoice will treat you no differently than it treats any other crooked politician (I hate redundancy) who violates the public trust.

Perhaps it is fitting in this, the 100th anniversary of Sam Rayburn’s taking the oath of office in 1913 to begin his 48-year tenure in Congress, that we give McAllister the same advice Rayburn’s father gave him as he departed Texas for Washington following his first election:

Be a man.

Read Full Post »

The election in the hotly contested 5th District congressional race between State Sen. Neil Riser and Vance McAllister is less than 36 hours away and as Riser ramps up his negative campaigning, LouisianaVoice has come up with a bit more history on Riser the public servant.

We have already seen how he loves to spend campaign funds for personal expenses but his betrayal of landowners in his district and a list of campaign contributors to his previous state senate campaigns reveals a lot about Riser the man.

Less than a year ago, a group of unhappy landowners approached State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) for assistance with a problem involving the fencing of 55,000 acres of land in the parishes of Winn, LaSalle and Caldwell.

The eight-foot fence, the landowners complained, essentially barred them of their hunting rights because an obscure law making it illegal to hunt on any land area of less than 300 acres that is surrounded by a game fence. The fence erected by former Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Chairman Bill Busbice surrounds the landowner’s homes and provides only ingress and egress to their property. They also claim that the local eco system has been damaged.

The land purchase and fence erection were financed by an $87.86 million federal grant contained in former Gov. Mike Foster’s executive budget during his final year in office

“We contacted Neil Riser to see if there was anything that could be done,” said Gary Hatten of Olla. He said Riser researched and printed a number of laws he told them Busbice had violated and promised to help. “After a while, he (Riser) stopped taking our calls and no longer returned our calls.”

Riser likewise never returned calls by LouisianaVoice.

Today, Riser’s congressional campaign flyers adorn the fences around the 55,000 acres.

“How can we as sportsmen trust Neil Riser to represent us in Washington when he can’t and won’t represent us here?” Hatten asked.

Now let’s take a look at some of his campaign contributions during his two state senate campaign, the last of which he ran unopposed.

Between 2009 and 2012, Riser received nearly 100 political action committee (PAC) contributions from more than 70 PACs (some were credited with multiple contributions).

And we all know that PACs only contribute to campaigns in the interest of good, honest government with no quid pro quo expected, right?

Among the PACs ponying up money for Riser’s campaign:

Louisiana Bankers Association PAC, Hospital Political Committee, Louisiana Nursing Home PAC, AGRIPAC, Louisiana Medical PAC, Louisiana Homebuilders Association PAC, Louisiana Manufacturers PAC, Louisiana Optometry PAC, LSIPP (Louisiana Society of Interventional Pain Physicians) Pain Pac, CRPPA (Crescent River Port Pilots Association) PAC, International Paper PAC, Ryan Texas PAC, Louisiana Dealers Election Action Committee, Louisiana Orthopaedic PAC, ENPAC (Entergy) Louisiana, Spectra Energy Corp. DCP PAC, TINPAC & Committee for Responsible Government, Future PAC, Log PAC, Political Action Committee, Louisiana Realtors PAC, Louisiana Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ PAC, Sugar PAC, Baker Donelson Louisiana PAC, United Employees PAC, Adams & Reese Political Action Committee, Louisiana CPA Political Action Committee, NORPAC, NORTHPAC North, KB PAC, Common Sense Now PAC, ABC Pelican PAC, Louisiana Dental Political Action Committee, Louisiana Life & Health Insurance PAC, Louisiana Oil & Gas PAC, Louisiana Oil Marketers Association PAC, Louisiana Association of Wholesalers PAC, Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association PAC, Energy Transfer Partners Texas PAC, LASFAA PAC, Wal*PAC (Walmart), KCS Rail PAC, Louisiana LUPAC PAC, Health Agents PAC, AT&T Louisiana PAC, Allstate Insurance PAC, Delta PAC, IIA of Louisiana PAC, American Electric Power PAC.

Whew! That’s a pretty impressive list of special interests.

But wait! There’s more.

Also kicking in were such noteworthy patrons as Bobby Jindal (oh, wow, what a coincidence—the man who pulled all the strings, a maneuver intended to allow Riser to inherit Rodney Alexander’s old job until McAllister threw a monkey wrench into the works), Rodney Alexander (oh, wow again), Bill Cassidy, Jimmy Faircloth (starting to sound like a modern day version of the Good Ol’ Boys’ Club), PHRMA, Pfizer, Chesapeake Energy Corp. (can you say “fracking”?), Corrections Corp. of America (thar’s money in them thar private prisons), Check Into Cash of Louisiana, Inc. and Advance America (think backbreaking interest payday loans), and the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Alliance (you know, that outfit that 1) is prohibited by law from contributing to political campaigns because it is a public, non-profit organization even though it also gave Jindal $11,000, and 2) had its former president sentenced to 46 months in prison for rigging an association election).

The only question left unanswered is whether Riser, with his NRA membership in hand, has been granted hunting privileges on that 55,000-acre game preserve by Busbice for all that assistance he gave the disgruntled adjacent landowners.

Read Full Post »

When last we left Ray Griffin, that Republican State Central Committee member who purportedly doubles as a political pundit, he was lamenting the fact that 5th Congressional District candidate Vance McAllister, a “wealthy, self-funding political novice,” was (gasp) using his own money to bankroll his campaign against Bobby Jindal-anointed State Sen. Neil Riser.

That’s right. McAllister’s biggest sin, according to Griffin, was using his own money for political campaign purposes.

Strangely enough, Griffin, whom we still question as the real author of that post on The Hayride, managed to skirt entirely the issue of using political campaign funds for personal uses.

Well, call us nitpickers, but we at LouisianaVoice choose not to look the other way on such matters. In our perverted, warped minds, we look upon private use of campaign funds as a bit more egregious than spending one’s personal funds for political campaigns.

And apparently state campaign finance laws agree with us.

Louisiana Revised Statute 18:1505.2 (I) says it quite succinctly: “Campaign funds may not be used for any personal use unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of public office.”

Further down, in R.S. 18:1505.2 (J) 1(1), the law says it again, in a slightly different way: “…contributions received by a candidate or a political committee may be expended for any lawful purpose, but such funds shall not be used, loaned, or pledged by any person for any personal use unrelated to a political campaign, the holding of a public office, or party position (emphasis ours).

That should be clear enough.

But wait. Apparently it was not quite so clear for Riser.

From January through December of 2012, Riser made 12 monthly payments of $678.20 to Ford Credit in Dallas. The notation on the expenditure was “Truck Note.”

That represents a total of $8,138.84 he spent from his campaign funds in 2012 on his personal vehicle.

And it would be quite a stretch to claim he was using the vehicle for campaign purposes. The most recent election was in October of 2011—and he was unopposed for re-election.

Perhaps he was campaigning already for Congress. If he was, it would make him, Jindal and Rodney Alexander all liars; they claim there was no collusion in Alexander’s sudden “retirement” in favor of a $130,000-a-year job as head of the Louisiana Office of Veterans’ Affairs—a development that conveniently opened the door for Riser.

There were some other questionable “campaign” expenditures as well.

During 2012, Riser made 11 payments to T.A. Roberts Oil in Grayson for “fuel for campaign.” Those 11 fuel purchases totaled $6,656.86, or $605.17 per payment. Either he has a huge gas tank on that truck, or he was running a tab at Roberts Oil.

Riser also made two payments of $502.86 each ($1,005.72 total) on June 1 and Dec. 5 to Farm Bureau Insurance for insurance coverage on his truck

So, in 2012, Riser spent a grand total of $15,801.42 from his campaign funds on his personal vehicle.

But, hey, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Riser, who like his mentor Jindal, actively courts the religious right as the beacon of all things pure and righteous (he made numerous $25 contributions to protestant churches all over his district), is apparently almost as generous with OPM (other people’s money) when it comes to hiring staff members.

During 2012, he paid $13,550 to Annette McGuffee of Columbia ($5,250), Mason Dupree of Baton Rouge ($6,000), and Nicholas Walts of Columbia ($2,300) for “campaign work” even though there was no campaign in 2012 and Riser had won re-election unopposed the year before.

So now, we’re up to $29,351.42 in questionable expenditures from Riser’s campaign funds—in 2012 alone. And yes, there’s more.

How many of us would love to have a slush fund to dip into to pay for roof repairs? Well, Riser did so on two occasions in 2012. In March, he paid Home Hardware in Columbia $72.45 and in August he paid David Wilson Construction of Columbia $250. Both expenditures ($322.45 total) were listed as “Roof Repair.”

How about a couple of meals in the House Dining Hall totaling $538.46?

And $100 for membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC);

Of course, we can’t overlook those purchases from the Louisiana Senate: Shirts ($49.18), Windbreaker ($36.16), Umbrella ($26), Shirts ($47.60), T-shirt and lanyard ($15.09), lapel pins ($31.05), and $34 to the Louisiana Capital Foundation for “Ornaments”—all purchases ostensibly for “campaign purposes.”

Grand total: $30,551.41.

Now, let’s hit the high spots for the years 2009-2011:

  • Kwik Mart, Columbia—20 payments totaling $3,228.95 for fuel;
  • Mason Dupree—seven payments totaling $3,500 for “Campaign Work.” (Remember, he was unopposed in 2011.);
  • LSU Ticket Office—$2,000 for athletic tickets;
  • Riser & Son Funeral Home (Riser’s business) in Columbia—$1,013.67 reimbursement for purchase of an I-Pad (WHAT?!!);
  • William R. Hulsey, CPA, of Monroe—$370 for professional fees (probably trying to figure a way to take a business deduction on that I-Pad);
  • White Ford Co., Winnsboro—$678.20 for lease on vehicle;
  • Farm Bureau Insurance Co.—$670.10 for vehicle insurance;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$646.50 for Senate plates;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$183.33 for Senate china;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$187 for luncheon;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$337.14 for flags;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$147.60 for shirts and parade throws;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$101.90 for shirts;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$62.24 for a Senate jacket;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$108.10 for flags;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$26.32 for Senate pad folios;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$25.45 for shirts;
  • Louisiana State Senate—$18.50 for a watch;
  • Louisiana House Dining Hall—$91.41 for meal;
  • National Rifle Association—$125 for membership dues;
  • American Legislative Exchange Council—$100 for membership dues;
  • T.A. Roberts Oil, Grayson—three payments totaling $1,140.38 for fuel;
  • State of Louisiana—three payments totaling $740 for rent of Pentagon Barracks Apartment;
  • Ruston Flying Service—$100 for trip (we didn’t know you could taxi down the runway for $100);
  • Wal-Mart—$76.62 for a router;
  • Johnny’s Pizza—$30.72 donation (donation?);

So now we’re looking at a minimum of $46,000 in expenditures from Neil Riser’s campaign funds from 2009 through 2012—mostly in 2012, well after he was returned to office in 2011 with no opposition—that probably warrant a closer look by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Discounting the payments he made for “campaign work” to various individuals, there remains some $25,600 which should be counted as income. That amount includes truck payments, insurance, fuel, the router, roof repairs, LSU football tickets and of course, that I-Pad.

We have to wonder if Riser 1) claimed mileage on his income taxes and 2) if he reported the $25,600 as income. If the answers are yes to the first and no to the second, the IRS might suddenly take an interest and request a conference to go over his return.

And Neil Riser is asking voters in the 5th District to send him to Washington this Saturday so that he can join all the other Tea partiers in reining in all that wasteful governmental spending.

Wonder why Ray Griffin didn’t mention this in his column about campaign finance?

Read Full Post »

Bobby Jindal has completely lost touch with reality.

To be perfectly blunt, he is an imbecilic moron. (For those of you who think I should apologize for that characterization: okay, I’m sorry he’s an imbecilic moron.)

There, we’ve said it. We’ve tried to take the high road in our criticism of his actions and policies in the past but when he chooses to spend $2 million that the state does not have to build a monument that it does not need to his mentor who isn’t particularly memorable other than for the fact that he imposed and inflicted Bobby Jindal on the state, we can only throw up our hands in abject exasperation.

Our college and university physical plants are in desperate need of repairs and renovations—but there’s no money for that.

Most state employees have gone four years without pay raises because there’s no money.

The various state retirement plans have gigantic unfunded liabilities mostly because the state does not live up to its obligation to pay its share into those funds.

Higher education has been cut to the bone by this administration but there’s money to house the archives of former Gov. Mike Foster.

Our roads and highways are in deplorable condition—and there’s no money fix them. But we can erect a shrine to a former governor for the first time in the state’s history.

The administration has been conducting a fire sale of state property in order to raise one-time money to meet recurring expenses in an effort to plug a gaping deficit in the state budget but somehow we seem to need a museum for a governor who likes to ride a motorcycle without a helmet (and Lyndon Johnson once said that Gerald Ford played “too much football without a helmet.”)

Nearly a half-million people are without health care but Medicaid benefits have been cut.

What the hell?

Has anyone taken a look at some Jindal’s veto messages?

  • He killed a $190,000 appropriation for support services to the elderly;
  • He slashed $500,000 for the arts;
  • Appropriations for individuals with development disabilities in Jefferson Parish ($50,000), the Florida Parishes ($200,000), Capital Area ($200,000), the Metropolitan Human Services District ($50,000), the Northeast Delta ($50,000), Acadiana ($200,000), Calcasieu ($50,000), Central Louisiana ($50,000), Northwest Louisiana ($50,000): all vetoed because of a reduction to Medicaid utilization;
  • Continued operation of the Children’s Special Health Services Clinics across the state ($794,000);
  • Prevention and Intervention Services Program for the Family Violence Program ($1.17 million);
  • A $2 million reduction in the value of state contracts;

Yes, we are aware that these vetoes were from Act 1, the General Appropriations Budget and the $2 million appropriation for the Mike Foster Shrine comes from Act 2, the Capital Outlay Budget and yes, we know these are two different buckets. We know that, but waste is waste and payback is payback and this is both.

The state is spending the money to renovate the third floor of an old elementary school in Franklin (Foster’s home town) to house the archives of Jindal’s benefactor who served as governor from 1996 to 2004.

The first two floors of the former school building presently serve as the Franklin City Hall.

There are three very good reasons why the state should not be paying for this. One we’ve already mentioned: the state is broke, as in destitute—mostly because of Jindal’s penchant for giving away the store in the form of tax incentives, tax breaks and tax exemptions to business and industry and for the Louisiana Department of Economic Development’s designation of enterprise zones to businesses and industries, which awards more tax incentives even though the designation does not always translate to jobs.

The other two reasons are:

  • Mike Foster is a very wealthy man. If he wants to immortalize himself with a trophy room, let him pay for it.
  • Bobby Jindal should pay for it personally because he owes everything he has attained in his political life to the glaring blunder of Foster back in 1996: appointing Jindal head of the Department of Health and Hospitals at the tender age of 24 when he knew even less than he knows now about how things work.

The most absurd utterance of this entire sordid affair came from Foster himself when, in saying that the project came as a surprise to him, added, “I never liked to be the center of attention.” That ranks right up there with Jindal’s “I have the job I want.”

State Sen. Bret Allain (R-Jeanerette) said he included the project in the Capital Outlay Bill because he did not want Foster’s papers to be buried among a university’s collection, whatever that meant. Maybe he wants Foster to make him a governor the way he did Jindal.

No governor in Louisiana’s history has had his own library, museum or archives building. That’s what makes Jindal’s approval of Allain’s project so absurd—and outrageous and irresponsible.

Most Louisiana governors simply turn their papers over to the Secretary of State’s office where they are stored in the State Archives but Foster sent only those records involving state boards and commissions. Supposedly, everything else was taken to Franklin in a U-Haul towed by Foster on a Harley-Davidson 1450 cc V-twin (yeah, we had to Google that).

Of course with Jindal’s obsession with secrecy and the “deliberative process,” there won’t be a need for a museum or a library; any papers and records that he leaves behind can probably be stored in a cabinet beneath the bathroom sink—with room to spare.

Read Full Post »

So what, precisely, is Alfred “Butch” Speer trying to hide?

And why?

Whatever he is hiding and the reasons behind his actions constitute déjà vu all over again.

Speer, clerk of the Louisiana House of Representatives, has refused to disclose the one-page application forms which all recipients of legislative scholarships to Tulane University must complete.

The New Orleans Advocate, WWL-TV and New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche requested copies of hundreds of the documents to see if the legislators were awarding the scholarships to relatives of fellow politicians.

A 130-year-old program allows each of Louisiana’s legislators to give one student per year a one-year scholarship—worth $43,000 annually—to Tulane. The mayor of New Orleans is allowed to give out five four-year scholarships per year.

It’s a trade-off dating back to Act 43 of 1884 that benefits Tulane financially. The school has to eat more than $6 million per year in free tuition but receives sales and property tax exemptions worth more than $23 million a year, according to one source. http://www.tulanelink.com/tulanelink/scholarships_00a.htm


Ostensibly, the scholarships are supposed to go to deserving students in the respective legislator’s district—not to legislators’ family members—but that system fell into widespread abuse and news coverage in the 1990s created a public outcry that prompted some reforms to the much-coveted legislative perk. To no one’s surprise the House in 1996 killed a bill designed to abolish both the scholarship program and the Tulane tax breaks.

Victoria Reggie, widow of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and the daughter of Crowley judge Edmund Reggie, along with her five siblings were awarded 27 years’ worth of scholarships by the late Rep. John N. John and in 1993 then-New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy gave a four-year scholarship to his son. Former New Orleans Mayor Ernest Morial likewise gave his son and daughter and the daughter of a top aide and the children of two judges scholarships and former Mayor Moon Landrieu gave a scholarship to his nephew Gary Landrieu.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune went to court—and won—in its attempts to obtain Tulane records that showed other recipients of the scholarships included the children of Sens. John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston and U.S. Reps. Bob Livingston, Jimmy Hayes and Richard Baker.

But in 1983, Capitol News Service, operated by LouisianaVoice, broke a story that State Sen. Dan Richie of Ferriday had awarded his scholarship to a relative of State Rep. Bruce Lynn of Shreveport and that Lynn had given his scholarship to Richie’s brother.

The single-page document being sought by WWL, the New Orleans Advocate and attorney Goyeneche contains two statements: “I am related to an elected official,” and “I am not related to an elected official.” Each recipient is required to check the box next to the appropriate statement and if the student checks that he or she is related to an elected official, the student must list the official’s name and explain the relationship.

Simple enough.

Except that Speer is trying to keep nosy reporters from taking a peek at those records.

To illustrate to what length he is willing to go to protect those records, he first responded to the requests by claiming that the forms belonged to Tulane and were not in his possession.

But then Tulane officials promptly provided the forms to the legislative bodies, leaving Speer in a quandary. No problem, Deftly sidestepping state public records laws Speer, claiming to be speaking for Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp, said he had determined the records are not public and thus, he is not required to provide them.

He even promoted himself to a judgeship on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal which ruled in the 1990s legal battle that “All records related to the contract and the giving of scholarships fall within the broad definition of public records” when he said the application forms do not come under that definition because he was told the forms are only shown to legislators who request to see them.

“Therefore, only those forms Tulane University provided to a legislator for use in awarding a scholarship are public records,” Speer said in his letter.

Wow. What a legal mind.

So, is public servant Speer protecting the public’s right to know?

You can check that box “No.”

Public servant Butch Speer is in the business of protecting legislators from public embarrassment and by all measures, he does his job quite well.

Take our own experience with Speer in July of 2012. https://louisianavoice.com/2013/09/11/deliberative-process-defense-used-to-protect-alec-records-in-texas-reminiscent-of-2012-louisianavoice-experience/

Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray) is the state chairman for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and in July of 2012 he sent out a letter on state letterhead soliciting contributions of $1,000 each to help defray the expenses of “over thirty” state legislators to attend a national conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Salt Lake City on July 25-28.

Harrison (R-Gray) mailed out a form letter on July 2 that opened by saying, “As State Chair and National Board Member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, I would like to solicit your financial support to our ALEC Louisiana Scholarship Fund.”

The letter was printed on state letterhead, which would make the document a public record so LouisianaVoice immediately made a public records request of Harrison to provide:

  • A complete list of the recipients of his letter;
  • A list of the “over thirty” Louisiana legislators who are members of ALEC.

ALEC membership, of course, is a closely-guarded secret but once the letter was printed on state letterhead—presumably composed on a state computer in Harrison’s state-funded office, printed on a state-purchased printer and mailed using state-purchased postage—the request for a list of members was included in the request for recipients of the letter.

Harrison never responded to the request despite state law that requires responses to all such requests.

LouisianaVoice then contacted Alfred “Butch” Speer to enlist his assistance in obtaining the records and last Thursday, July 12, Speer responded: “I have looked further into your records request.” (Notice he omitted the word “public” as in “public records.”) “Rep. Harrison composed the letter of which you possess a copy. Rep. Harrison sent that one letter to a single recipient,” Speer said. “If that letter was distributed to a larger audience, such distribution did not create a public record.

“R.S. 44:1 defines a public record as: ‘…having been used, being in use, or prepared, possessed, or retained for use in the conduct, transaction, or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty, or function which was conducted, transacted, or performed by or under the authority of the constitution or laws of this state…’

“My opinion is that the solicitation of donations for ALEC does not create a public record. The courts have been clear in providing that the purpose of the record is determinative of its public nature, not the record’s origin.”

It seems a stretch to contend that the letter went out to only recipient soliciting a single $1,000 contribution to cover the expenses of “over thirty” legislators to attend the conference.

Still, Speer persisted, saying, “…it is my responsibility to consult with Representatives and make the determinations as to what records are or are not public in nature.”

No, it is apparently Speer’s responsibility to cover the backsides of wayward legislators.

“…The contents of (Harrison’s) letter speak for itself….The origin of a document is not the determining factor as to its nature as a public record. The purpose of the record is the only determining factor. Whether the letter was or was not ‘composed on state letterhead, on a state computer, printed on a state-owned printer and mailed in state-issued envelope(s) does not, per force, create a public record. If the letter were concerning ‘any business, transaction, work, duty, or function which was conducted, transacted, or performed by or under the authority of the constitution or laws of this state,’ then such a letter is a public nature,” he said.

Speer then offered a most incredulous interpretation of the public records statute when he said, “The fact that an official may be traveling does not place the travel or its mode of payment or the source of the resources used to travel ipso facto within the public records law. The purpose of the travel is the determining factor.”

You can tell Speer is a lawyer. They love to use ipso facto whenever they can. It appears to be their way of slipping in the Latin phrase which apparently means, “I’m way smarter than you.”

“What Rep. Harrison was attempting is of no moment unless he was attempting some business of the House or pursuing some course mandated by law,” he said. “Anyone’s attempt to raise money for a private entity is not the business of the House nor is it an activity mandated by law.

“Your personal interpretation of the law is not determinative of the actual scope of the law,” he told LouisianaVoice.

Speer apparently was overlooking the fact that the House and Senate combined to pay 34 current and former members of the two chambers more than $70,000 in travel, lodging and registration fees for attending ALEC functions in New Orleans, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Austin between 2008 and 2011.

Of that amount, almost $30,000 was paid in per diem of $142, $145, $152 or $159 per day, depending on the year, for attending the conferences. The per diem rates corresponded to the rates paid legislators for attending legislative sessions and committee meetings.

That would seem to make the ALEC meeting House business and thus, public record.

ALEC advertises in pre-conference brochures sent to its members that it picks up the tab for legislators attending its conferences. That would also raise the question of why legislators were paid by the House and Senate for travel, lodging and registration costs if ALEC also pays these costs via its ALEC Louisiana Scholarship Fund.

We have to wonder if Speer hangs out with Superintendent of Education John White to share strategy for shielding public records from the public.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »