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Sean Morrison is fighting a tough battle in one of the reddest of a decidedly red state’s parishes. But he doesn’t make any apologies for his positions and he stands ready to take the fight to the special interests.

Morrison says he is not beholden to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) or any other special interest group in his quest to fill the unexpired term of District 90 State Rep. Greg Cromer who resigned to become mayor of Slidell on July 1.

In fact, Morrison, chairman of the St. Tammany Democratic Parish Executive Committee, took the rather unusual step of releasing a copy of LABI’s candidate QUESTIONNAIRE, the answers to which are virtually certain to keep him from getting the organization’s seal of approval—which is fine with him.

The survey, he said, “asked candidates to oppose policies that are good for working families like workplace fairness, job safety protections, access to justice for all Louisianans in our courts, access to high quality healthcare, promoting wage fairness, and an ongoing review of Louisiana’s billions in corporate tax giveaways.”

He said, “We need leaders in Baton Rouge who aren’t already influenced before they get there. I’m promising this: to fight hard to do what is right under the circumstances every single time,” Morrison said.

Born in Missouri, he grew up in Texas and moved around a lot as a child. From small towns like Egan, Louisiana, to Stillwater, Oklahoma, Sean saw all aspects of American life. His father, Michael, has worked in the oil and gas industry his entire career. His mother, Christy, is a school teacher in Houston.

Morrison studied political science, psychology, and philosophy at Tulane. He graduated with honors from Case Western Reserve Law School with a focus on international law and war crimes. He went to law school with one goal – to prosecute war criminals. Case Western Reserve had just the program, so Sean packed a U-Haul and drove it all the way from New Orleans to Cleveland. The gambit paid off. For six months he worked with the prosecution for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the aftermath of their brutal civil war.

Following law school, he got a job working with a large Cleveland law firm. One morning he woke up and saw his whole future laid out before him. It was full of billable hours, corporate meetings, and Cleveland winters. So, he hopped on a plane to American Samoa and became a criminal prosecutor there. It was not long until the island was hit with a devastating tsunami. He immediately transferred to the Department of Commerce, where he worked on rebuilding the community, revitalizing its broken economy, and planning to prevent future disasters. “It was there that I learned that serving people through government was the most rewarding work anyone could do,” he says.

When he returned, he began working to conserve the Gulf Coast, it’s beaches, wetlands, and fisheries for future generations. He entered the job in the wake of scandal, as the Executive Director and others were jailed for corruption. As part of the new team, Sean helped reorganize the department, put in place new legal and fiscal systems, and rebuilt the reputation so that today the Department of Marine Resources is considered the gold standard of government in Mississippi (though Louisianans, after eight years of Bobby Jindal, are leery of anything bearing the label “gold standard”).

“I have dedicated my career to helping people through public service,” he says. “I have seen how the government is supposed to operate, and what gets in the way. Too often it is the legislators enacting laws that make it impossible to provide decent service to the people. As more and more politicians claim that there’s nothing to be done (and then set about proving it), I’ve come to know that all we need is public servants willing to roll up their sleeves, stop playing politics, and start doing the hard work of government. I have that experience and I can get the job done.”

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So STEVE SCALISE says he would vote in favor of IMPEACHMENT of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Isn’t that special? Especially considering House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) went on record opposing such a move and even though Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) subsequently announced he was TABLING his efforts to impeach Rosenstein.

Maybe Scalise was just having a little problem with premature calculation of his re-election odds in a district that elects the likes of David Duke, Bobby Jindal and….Steve Scalise.

Maybe that’s why Tammy Savoie has decided to challenge him in this fall’s elections.

Or maybe it was because Scalise was one of Louisiana’s five Republican representatives who cast a big, fat NO vote to funding election security.

That’s right. Every single Republican House member from Louisiana voted against HOUSE RESOLUTION 6147 last Thursday. In fact, of the 235 Republicans in the House, 232 voted against funding for election security against Russian hacking. The remaining three just didn’t vote. Of 193 Democrats in the House, 182 voted in favor with 11 not voting.

Scalise is most likely in lock-step with the Republican Party that thinks the Mueller investigation has gone on too long and cost too much.

Let’s COMPARE.

Since Nixon was elected in 1968, Republicans have held the White House for 28 years and Democrats for 20. During the Republicans’ 28 years, there were 120 criminal indictments, 89 criminal convictions, and 34 prison sentences in the Executive Branch.

During the Democrats’ 20 years, there were three criminal indictments, one criminal conviction, and one prison sentence.

Even more telling is the COST COMPARISON of the various presidential investigations.

For all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth Republicans are doing about the escalating cost of the Russia probe, it’s interesting to note the costs of presidential investigations:

  • Nixon: $47.1 million;
  • Carter: $1.2 million;
  • Reagan: $81.1 million;
  • George H.W. Bush: $.65 million;
  • Clinton: $83.3 million;
  • George W. Bush: $3 million;
  • Trump: $17 million (revised from the $6.8 given in the link above).

And those figures don’t even include the $30 million or so spent on investigating Benghazi or Hillary Clinton’s emails—a 789-day investigation (Mueller’s probe is just over a year old to date) that produced zero indictments. And don’t forget this investigation was carried out by a Republican-majority Congress.

Is Hillary Clinton clean? Is she spotless? I doubt it. I’m not particularly fond of her or her husband but when you combine the investigations of Bill and Hillary ($111 million) and you get one criminal conviction, it comes off as a bit whiny of Republicans to piss and moan about the Russia investigation.

In fact, Trump has spent more than FOUR TIMES AS MUCH on his golfing trips ($80 million to $90 million) to Mar-a-Lago as Special Prosecutor  Robert Mueller has on the Russia investigation.

Scalise appears to have chosen to ignore that fact and that makes him look a tad petty.

Of course, Trump’s aides defend the expenditures by saying the president is working while there. That being the case, why doesn’t he just stay in Washington and work? Of course, if he did that, his properties couldn’t make a profit from the staff members, Secret Service agents and media that accompany him to Mar-a-Lago.

And Scalise is front and center in his defense of Trump and his condemnation of Mueller and Rosenstein.

And perhaps that is why Tammy Savoie is offering the voters of Congressional District 1.

A native of Jefferson Parish, she enlisted in the Louisiana Air National Guard in 1978 while studying psychology at the University of New Orleans.

As a single mother with a baby on her hip and a Ph.D. in her pocket, she went on active duty as an Air Force psychologist in 1984, treating service members and their families at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

She served as Chief of Psychological Services at Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan in 1999, where she created drug abuse and prevention programs. As Mental Health Flight Commander at Laughlin AFB, Dr. Savoie formed the first-ever Critical Incident Stress Team, coordinating the city’s emergency response teams, Border Patrol, and base agencies to provide crisis intervention services.

She was appointed Deputy Commander of the Air Force’s research office in London in 2008 and in 2011, she was deployed to Afghanistan to improve mental health services for U.S. troops. She traveled throughout the Middle East as the Chief of International health.

She retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2016 after a 22-year career with the Air Force. A resident of St. Tammany Parish, she now provides mental health services to veterans and to the Red Cross. She also is an adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

In making her formal announcement upon qualifying to run last week, she said she is running on a platform of campaign finance reform. She said she is not accepting any PAC money in her campaign, preferring to running a grass-roots campaign.

“I will not put partisan politics above the interest of the citizens of the First Congressional District,” she said. She said she wants to close gun legislation loopholes that currently allow easy access to guns.

She also said she will work for salary equity for women and for other women’s rights issues and for a reduction in the infant mortality rate.

“I believe all Americans should have a right to health care,” she said. “Steve Scalise is happy to vote to knock 23 million Americans out of health care.

“We are hurting economically in Louisiana,” she said. Scalise voted against increasing the minimum wage not once, but twice. He has demonstrated his indifference to the interests of the people of Louisiana. He has voted against bills to reduce violence against women. He is against collective bargaining and he supports President Trump’s tariffs that will hurt Louisiana’s farmers.

“Donald Trump is no fan of American institutions. He supports a regime that has infiltrated our electoral process.

“Steve Scalise is complicit in Trump’s programs. He has sold our country to the highest bidder. He has not kept the executive branch in check.

“I will not give in to the corporate powers that control the Republican Party,” she said.

Savoie said her campaign will target the Independent and Democratic voters of the district, who she said outnumber Republicans.

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Facing discipline that included recommendations of demotion, reassignment, removal from the SWAT team and a 160-hour suspension without pay, he RESIGNED from the Opelousas Police Department.

When he next popped up, he was working as a public information officer for the St. Landry Sheriff’s Office where he tried to transform his image into that of some sort of John Wayne-George Patton clone.

But that went south as well when it was learned that his salary was being garnished by the FBI because he had paid NO FEDERAL INCOME TAXES for several years and that he was about $100,000 behind in his CHILD SUPPORT payments.

So, it was only natural that Clay Higgins would benefit from the 2016 Trump wave that would sweep him INTO OFFICE as U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s Third Congressional District.

During the 2016 campaign, he was taped by his ex-wife in a TELEPHONE CONVERSATION in which he said, “I’m just learning really about campaign laws…but there’s going to be a lot of money floating around.”

Higgins has established himself in the same mold as state and federal offices-holders Leander Perez, John Rarick, and David Duke in the two short years he has served in Congress.

Mildred “Mimi” Methvin wants to alter the image of the 3rd Congressional District to reflect a more rational approach to addressing the district’s problems at what she calls a “pivotal moment” for the district, state and the country.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Mimi Methvin, right, discusses her candidacy for U.S. Representative from the 3rd Congressional District with Ellen Torgrimson, New Orleans, of the League of Women Voters.

She is one of six challengers to Higgins—three other Democrats (one of whom just switched from Republican a few weeks ago), a Libertarian, and a Republican. If qualifications and past performance are any kind of barometer, she would be the hands-down selection as the candidate with the best chance of unseating the enigmatic Higgins.

Mildred “Mimi” Methvin, left, formally qualifies to run for U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District last Wednesday. Looking on is Meg Casper of the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.

Methvin has worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office and served 26 years as a U.S. magistrate judge. Magistrate judges are selected on the basis of merit and she was vetted for each of her three terms. In that position, she mediated several complex litigation cases and in 2009, she returned to private practice, having just won a $1.2 million award for a Rapides Parish teacher.

“Our Constitution is a moral covenant,” she says. “The question that must be addressed is this: Does the voice of the average American still count or is the voice of corporate America the only voice heard?

“The people of the 3rd District need to be independent, not bought by the special interests,” she said.

To that end, unlike Higgins, she has eschewed PAC contributions while Higgins has accepted nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars in PAC money thus far, including contributions from political action committees representing big oil, utilities, defense contractors, health care companies, insurance companies, chemical companies, the NRA (through Russian operatives perhaps?), and even an outfit called the “Support to Ensure Victory Everywhere PAC.”

Methvin listed health care, coastal restoration, and income equality as issues that are important to the district. She was harshly critical of what she described as the transfer of wealth to corporations and of recent attacks by the Trump administration on NATO—and of Higgins’ voting record in Congress.

“Congressman Higgins has turned his back on promises he made as a candidate. Ninety thousand of his constituents have lost their health care while he has put dollars in the pockets of the rich. He is in lock step with the corporations.”

She accused Higgins of “incontrovertible fealty to party loyalty” over the interests of his constituents.

Having once presided over a major case in which a sheriff’s department was held liable for beating an innocent suspect with a metal baseball bat, Methvin definitely has the chops to be tough while standing up for the interests of the citizens of the district.

Higgins’ unwavering devotion to Donald Trump notwithstanding, this could be the most interesting race of all six congressional districts.

 

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Justin DeWitt is the only challenger to 6th District U.S. Rep. Garret (one “t”) Graves to meet the July 8 Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadline for financial reporting and unlike the incumbent he is challenging, you won’t fine any PAC contributions in his report.

Democrat DeWitt, the only openly LGBTQ candidate to ever seek a congressional office in Louisiana, has raised a little more than $23,000 in a grassroots effort to dislodge Republican Graves, whose federal campaign finance report reads like a Who’s Who of Political Action Committees:

Airlines for America PAC, Allied Pilots Association PAC, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association PAC, Ally Financial, Inc. Advocacy PAC, Amazon PAC, the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s SKINPAC, American Academy of Physician Assistants PAC, American Airlines Inc. PAC, American Bankers Association PAC, American Air Liquide Holdings PAC, the American Cable Association PAC, American Chemistry Council PAC, American Commercial Lines PAC, Acadian Ambulance Service Employee PAC, Action Committee for Rural Electrification, AECOM PAC, Agricultural Retailers Association PAC, Airline Pilots Association PAC, Airbus Group PAC.

And those are just the first three pages. The entire list of PAC contributors is 38 pages long.

That $23,000 isn’t nearly enough to mount any kind of campaign and DeWitt is keenly aware of that fact but he says he’s running “because I flooded in ’16. I lost everything and got nothing but TAPs (thoughts and prayers) from Graves.”

Thousands of people lost everything in that flood, so what inspired him when no one else is running for that reason?

“I’m running because I’m pissed. Graves wants to take FEMA appropriations for victims and funnel that money into the Amite Diversion Canal. Those victims need help now.

“I want to change the entire flood insurance program,” he said. “We need an overall disaster insurance program. Instead, we have a national flood insurance program that has rates that are impossible for the average family to afford. It’s evil to profit off people who are suffering.

“I’m a political newcomer,” the 30-year-old member of a surveying crew says. One news report identified him as a surveyor—he’s not—and to show how those with power work to protect each other, the Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board threatened DeWitt with disciplinary action. “I never described myself as a surveyor because I’m not,” he said, “but that didn’t deter the board from trying to take action.”

He describes himself as “a working man from a working-class background” as opposed to Graves, who, like his mentor Bobby Jindal, never worked in the private sector.

He said if he is elected, “I will continue to work hard for all the people of the 6th Congressional District, Louisiana, and the nation—not for the corporations and special interest groups. I will work to protect our environment and the rights of all people, and to protect the vital program that ensure a good quality of life for working and middle-class people. That includes healthcare for all who need it and, importantly, Medicare and Social Security for our seniors who have paid into those programs for a lifetime and who should not have to fear a future without the financial resources to live comfortably.”

He said one of the biggest problems with congress and any other elective office is the influence of money from special interests. “The PACs have drowned out the voice of the people to the point the average person cannot be heard over the lobbyists and special interests,” he said. “That’s why you won’t see any PAC contributions in my finance reports. And it’s not because they haven’t offered—they have. We turned them down. We’re depending on social media to get our message out.”

Candidate qualifying runs from July 18 to July 20.

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Editor’s note: The following (with added comment) is a guest column provided to LouisianaVoice by the Healthcare Alliance for Regulatory Board Reform (HARBR):

By Christian Wolff

Louisiana Senate Bill 286, dubbed the Physician’s Bill of Rights, fell into a “coma” before the Louisiana Legislature on last Wednesday but not before an outburst over the testimony of the bill’s author.

Sen John Milkovich (D-Shreveport) was in the middle of explaining the obvious conflict of interest on the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners when he was interrupted by New Orleans attorney Jack Stolier who twice shouted that Milkovich’s testimony was a “bald faced lie.” (Milkovich’s testimony and Stolier’s off-camera interruption can be heard beginning at the 7:15 MARK of this video of the House Health and Welfare Committee.)

Milkovich had just referenced an “affair” between Dr. Cecilia Mouton, then an investigator for the board of medical examiners, and Stolier, who represented physicians before the board in disciplinary matters.

But hey, the brief flareup was by far the most interesting—and probably the most intelligent—moment of this session sadly marked by legislative ineptitude, indecision, and concerted efforts to bow to the will of special interests st the expense of constituents and Louisiana (See the disgraceful Senate passage of the Payday Loan bill. How anyone can hold out one scintilla of hope for this bunch is beyond comprehension).

After Stolier was escorted from the committee room by Capitol security personnel, Milkovich read from a March 18, 2016, LouisianaVoice post which alluded to the relationship between the two. He also cited a letter from a board director which acknowledged a “personal relationship” between the two. Mouton, now Director of Operations for the board, and Stolier have since married but Milkovich called the romantic link between Mouton, who was prosecuting doctors, and Stolier, who was defending them, a blatant conflict of interest.

This, folks, is typical of the manner in which both the Board of Medical Examiners and the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry disregard due process and run roughshod over members of the medical profession who are charged and deemed guilty without even a nod at procedure. Guilty until proven innocent turns legal procedure on its head and is the very reason why some sort of checks and balances are desperately need to bring these rogue board under control.

But instead, the board, without objection, agreed that the bill be involuntarily deferred, meaning that for all practical purposes, it is dead for this session. (This, by the way, is the same Board of Medical Examiners that has defied a court order and continues to refuse to allow the legislative auditor to see its records so the auditor can do his job.)

Typically, the House does not entertain motions to override/hear bills that were involuntarily deferred in a committee.

This is the same legislature that is on the verge of approving (the Senate already has, by a 20-17 vote) an increase to 167 percent in interest rates payday loan predators can charge, along with doubling loan origination fees. Looks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been busy this session—as it has in past years.

Advocates of SB 286 praised it on May 2 as an excellent piece of legislation. It was referred to it as “landmark” bill with implications for the due process reforms of healthcare licensing boards in every state in the nation.

Legislators’ indifference—not unlike their indifference to solving the state’s fiscal ills—could open the state up to litigation, leaving it to Attorney General Jeff Landry to try and defend the state, an interesting proposition in itself. Such potential litigation already has a precedent: a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v Federal Trade Commission. In that decision, SCOTUS laid out conditions by which licensing and regulatory boards could and could not act as agents of their respective states.

In order to be considered a “state agency,” boards now need to show that they have a voting minority of “market place participants” in the profession being regulated. The other means by which a state regulatory or licensing board may come into compliance with the SCOTUS decision, and now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandate, is to have demonstrable and meaningful state oversight by an entity or entities which are not marketplace participants in the profession regulated by the board over which they are providing oversight.

The concern of SCOTUS and the FTC is that without meeting at least one of these two conditions, licensing and regulatory boards might act in their own interests rather than in the interest of the public. Moreover, SCOTUS and FTC, are concerned that beyond acting in the interest of their own professions over the interest of the public, boards may act in the interest of boards themselves over the fair and equal interest of given licensees or classes of licensees. This might be called “market capture via regulatory capture” and would be to the detriment of patients, the public, and licensees alike.

States whose regulatory boards do not comply with the conditions set forth in North Carolina Dental Board leave every member of every board including administrative staff and legal counsel legally exposed in their professional capacities and as individuals. Suits might be based in the violation of anti-trust laws, or on injury against persons (such as licensees) who were harmed without the benefit of due process of law.

Healthcare licensees in every state across the nation are being awakened to the injustices which have befallen physicians, and increasingly, other healthcare providers, since the passing of the short-sighted Healthcare Quality Improvement Act in 1986.

Louisiana is not alone by any stretch. It was foolish and immature for the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee to put SB 286 to rest in the way it did. When the Physicians’ Bill of Rights awakens from its “Involuntary Deferment” it may well be in a different state already positioned to make the proper move. The first state will set the landmark precedent and if the precedent does not affect national policy, it will be followed by every state in the nation.

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