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Archive for the ‘Legislature, Legislators’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/spreading-the-free-market-gospel/413239/

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

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

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It seems that the folks at Louisiana State Police (LSP) headquarters over at Independence Park rather pompously refer to Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers as Gray Shirts because DPS uniform shirts are gray as opposed to the blue worn by State Troopers (and we thought the Blue-Gray business ended 151 years ago. Not true. We’re told that a State Trooper will not obey a direct order from a DPS captain. Can’t you just imagine an Army private ignoring an order from a Marine captain? And they say the FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA don’t cooperate.).

In the wake of significant pay raises for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson and his inner circle and revelations of the glaring disparity in the salaries of (LSP) and (DPS) officers, it’s interesting to go back a couple of years and review an email Edmonson sent to DPS personnel. Our interpretations are inserted in bold face parentheses:

 

From: Mike Edmonson Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 5:19 PM

To: _DPS_Commissioned Personnel_DPSPolice Subject: Personal Note

As you likely noticed, several e-mails have been sent to all commissioned personnel over the last few weeks discussing HB 872 and how that piece of legislation impacts troopers. Apparently those e-mails have fueled concerns and in some cases discontent within the ranks of DPS police. Let me reassure all of you that you remain a very important part of the DPS family (“But don’t any of you DPS lieutenants or captains try giving orders to my troopers.”) and while HB 872 does not specifically affect you (“It doesn’t affect you, so just keep your mouths shut”), my staff and I are well aware of the deficiencies within your current pay ranges. (“Guess what? Those deficiencies are about to become even greater.”)

The “fix” for that problem is somewhat more complicated than the “fix” for State Police because DPS personnel are part of the Civil Service classified service while troopers are part of the State Police classified service. Adjustments to State Police salaries may be made independent of Civil Service and thus do not affect the parity of all other employees who are part of that classified service, typically a major impediment to salary adjustments. We are however undeterred by the challenges of operating within the current structure of Civil Service. (“We at LSP are getting ours.”) and I have directed the staff of Operational Development to begin evaluating and analyzing the current pay levels for DPS police officers. (“It takes two-plus years to do this evaluation? Funny it didn’t take that long to get your $43,000 raise.”) In particular we want to identify which other Civil Service positions are similar in minimum qualifications and duties and thereafter evaluate the salary schedules of those positions in comparison to ours.

It should be noted that all eligible DPS officers received their 4% merit adjustments last year and will receive another this year amounting to an 8% total salary increase. (“Meanwhile, State Troopers will be getting 30 percent bumps and I’m gonna get a 32percent raise.”) Troopers, on the other hand, received anywhere from 0-3% merit adjustments. Moreover, the approval of HB 872 by the legislature is only the preliminary step in implementing a new pay grid for troopers. The new fund established to achieve that goal has a current balance of zero. We fully anticipate that sufficient monies will be accumulated over time to make the new grid a reality, but like the study and adjustment of DPS salaries, it will take time. (“Don’t hold your breath, Gray Shirts.”)

I understand the financial urgency that some of you feel at being improperly compensated and the frustration with the required process. But it has been disheartening to me that some within the ranks of DPS have seen fit to anonymously complain to legislators, the media and others outside our organization about feeling neglected and mistreated. (“That’s because if I ever learn who you are, you will be punished.”) Such communications are counterproductive to our efforts and can actually undermine our attempts to make adjustments to DPS salaries by drawing unnecessary attention to our plans. (“We have to keep our plans secret.”) Please understand that such communications put at risk the success of our efforts on your behalf. (“Strike that ‘on your behalf’ part.)

The study by Operational Development is the first step in what can sometimes be a laborious process but we will move as quickly as possible at finding an appropriate solution. Once our recommendations are finalized we will work with Civil Service in an effort to address the compensation issues. I will personally appear on your behalf before the Commission to make the case for pay adjustments (“What part of ‘Don’t hold your breath, Gray Shirts’ do you not understand?”). I pledge to keep you informed of our progress (So why has it been more than two years since we’ve heard from you?) and I would ask that you be patient during this process and have faith in me and my staff as I do in each of you. (We’ve seen what faith in you and your staff got us…nothing.) Be safe and may God continue to bless our families and guide each one of us. I will be visiting your sections soon.

Colonel Michael D. Edmonson

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They have full arrest powers but instead of patrolling the state’s highways and arresting drug dealers, they patrol the more placid State Capitol complex.

You won’t see them providing security for the governor or trotting onto the field at Tiger Stadium along with Les Miles and the Tiger football team. Nor will you ever see their commander standing stoically behind the governor during press briefings.

They’re not even allowed to head up security at the Capitol during the legislative session. That honor goes to the more glamorous State Police detail.

They have the same arrest powers as the high-profile State Troopers, charged with enforcing the same laws for the benefit of public safety and protection of the state’s citizens while securing the safety of the myriad of state offices.

And they must go through the same training and certification qualifications as State Troopers.

Though Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers conduct investigations and all other duties that State Troopers perform, they are, for all intents and purposes, invisible to all but state employees. Both they and the more prestigious Louisiana State Police (LSP) are part of the Department of Public Safety and both patrol the entire state. But make no mistake, the DPS Police are the stepchildren of DPS.

Held to the same standards as State Troopers, State Capitol Police get the equivalent of table scraps. DPS police patrol throughout the state in patrol cars eight- to 10 years old and with as much as 300,000 miles on them, according to one DPS officer.

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson, meanwhile, just got a brand new SUV issued to him. “Edmonson tells us over and over that he’s ‘working’ on something,” the DPS officer said. “I guess that ‘something’ was that $43,000 raise he got on August 1. I guess it’s good to be the king when your living expenses are paid by somebody else.”

Despite repeated promises, pay for DPS police officers lags further and further behind that of their counterparts over at Independence Park.

The evidence is right there in black and white for all to see.

Here is the comparison between comparable ranks, based on years of service:

  • DPS Police Officer 2: $24,066 to $57,900 per year;
  • State Trooper: $46,600 to $94,750;

 

  • DPS Sergeant: $29,500 to $66,300;
  • LSP Sergeant: $51,500 to $104,700;

 

  • DPS Lieutenant: $33,758 to $75,920;
  • LSP Lieutenant: $56,900 to $115,700.

Adding insult to injury, the DPS pay grid stops at the rank of lieutenant, meaning $75,920 is the most a DPS officer can anticipate making.

The LSP pay grid, on the other hand, keeps going to Captain ($64,750 to $131,670) and major ($69,300 to $140,900).

Edmonson, who was not making the pay grid maximum (he was making $134,351.10), was recently granted a $43,100 pay increase to $177,435.96. The increase was approved by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Chief of Staff Ben Nevers who previously served in the State Senate.

Nevers received $1,500 in campaign contributions from the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) last year. The controversial contribution was funneled through LSTA Executive Director David Young who was reimbursed by the LSTA.

Others who got raises included Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy ($140,890.10 to $161,304.78), Jason Starnes (promoted to Lt. Col. And raised in salary from $128,934.26 to $150,751.90, and Deputy Superintendents Adam White, Glenn Staton and Murphy Paul, both receiving raises from $140,900 to $150,750. All this despite an executive order issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards freezing all merit increases from June 29, 2016 through June 29, 2017.

http://www.doa.la.gov/osr/other/JBE%202016/JBE16-32.htm

With the latest glut of increases, Edmonson, Dupuy, Starnes, Staton, Paul and White all now make salaries that exceed the maximums on the State Police pay grid.

When Edmonson came to the Louisiana State Police Commission last month with the proposal to create the new position to which Starnes was approved by the LSPA last week, he told commission members there would be no additional costs but Starnes got an immediate increase of $21,850. Moreover, the opening for the new post was never formally announced, thus barring others the opportunity to apply for the position.

LouisianaVoice has learned that several legislators are upset at the latest pay raises, Edmonson’s in particular, and that the Legislative Fiscal Office has begun inquiries as to who authorized them.

This gambit comes only two years after a furtive attempt to increase Edmonson’s retirement benefits by $55,000 per year despite his having locked his retirement years before by opting to participate in the former Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP).

LouisianaVoice learned of the attempt, made via an amendment to an obscure bill in the closing hours of the 2014 legislative session. That attempt, from which Edmonson attempted to disassociate himself, was thwarted by a combination of negative public reaction and by a lawsuit filed by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge).

But now he’s back and time it looks as though he may have focused unwanted attention on himself and his agency.

Sometimes it’s best to keep a low profile, but in the case of DPS, it certainly hasn’t been very profitable—or fair.

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Once again, and for the sixth consecutive year, State Civil Service employees are being forced to go without a pay raise.

And on the heels of this, the Office of Group Benefits is raising premiums by about 7.5 percent.

But not to worry: what Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Mike Edmonson couldn’t accomplish two years ago via what was literally a last-minute amendment to an obscure legislative bill, State Police Maj. Jason Starnes has done for him—and for himself and other high-ranking troopers, as well.

The tactic was pulled off so quickly and with such surprise that it could be considered a variation of the old smash and grab move where you strike suddenly, grab what you can and make a fast getaway.

Edmonson got a healthy salary increase of $43,100 (32 percent), from $134,350 to $177,450, effective Aug. 1, LouisianaVoice has learned.

Edmonson says several sheriffs, national guard officers and some State Police majors were making more than he did and that the increases were needed to make state police salaries more competitive.

But Edmonson also receives free housing, meals and furnishings, free butler, cooks and lawn care (courtesy of prisoners of the Louisiana Department of Corrections), a state vehicle and fuel—all at taxpayer expense.

So, just how competitive does he need to be?

Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charles Dupuy also got a 14.5 percent raise, from $140,900 to $161,300, a jump of $20,400.

Starnes, promoted to LSP Chief Administrative Officer on Aug. 15, received a $21,850 (17 percent) raise, from $128,900 to $150,750.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning received a raise of $33,500 (32.2 percent), from $104,000 to $137,500.

The Baton Rouge Advocate, which broke its story an hour before ours went up and which cited the same sources (State Civil Service), listed two other LSP Deputy Superintendents who received raises: Glenn Staton and Murphy Paul, who got raises from $140,890 to $150,752 (7 percent). http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/crime_police/article_4b9471c4-76e0-11e6-ab44-ffb987ff581f.html?sr_source=lift_amplify

It’s also worth noting here, since we’re talking about getting the records from Civil Service, that The Advocate also made a request to LSP for the records on Sept. 1 and The Advocate is still waiting. It’s not certain when The Advocate made its request to Civil Service but LouisianaVoice made its request to Civil Service about 3:30 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 9) and the records were produced within an hour. LSP, meanwhile, was busy doing the Kristy Nichols Shuffle, i.e. delaying providing the most basic of information. The Advocate story said the official LSP position was that it was still checking for redactions. Paraphrasing former New Orleans and Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Jim Mora, we can only respond with incredulity, “Redactions?! REDACTIONS?! Are you kidding me? REDACTIONS? Don’t talk to me about redactions! We’re not thinking about redactions; we just want basic information.”

Starnes, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the LSP ranks, apparently is the one who usurped legislative intent by signing off on the raises of Edmonson, Dupuy and Browning, each retroactive to Aug. 1.

http://www.forward-now.com/2014/08/09/louisianavoice-tracks-careers-of-key-edmonson-associates/

You’ll remember that in 2014, in the closing minutes of the regular legislative session, State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) tacked an amendment onto a bill that would have given Edmonson an additional $50,000 or so in retirement benefits. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/11/generous-retirement-benefit-boost-slipped-into-bill-for-state-police-col-mike-edmonson-on-last-day-of-legislative-session/

Here is a copy of Amendment 4, which was passed but subsequently struck down in Baton Rouge state district court pursuant to a lawsuit filed by State Sen. Dan Claitor. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=911551&n=Conference

Earlier this year, the Legislature, through passage of House Bill 1, set the salaries of statewide elected officials and the governor’s cabinet members. Edmonson’s salary, like that of the governor, was set at $134,400.

But thanks to even more creative maneuvering by Edmonson (he continues to insist he had nothing to do with that retirement gambit but it’s our contention the amendment didn’t write itself and since it applied only to Edmonson and one other trooper….well, you do the math), certain select LSP personnel are getting generous pay bumps over and above last year’s two separate raises that amounted to 30 percent or more across the board.

Edmonson said last year that pay raises would not be going to troopers of ranks higher than major but with this latest round, which went into effect on Aug. 1, that promise appears to have been conveniently forgotten—as was Edmonson’s salary, supposedly set by HB 1.

The whole affair appears to have stemmed from Edmonson’s determination to promote Starnes. He first attempted to move him into the position of Interim Undersecretary to succeed Jill Boudreaux who retired (for a second time) earlier this year. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/02/29/dps-undersecretary-jill-boudreaux-retiring-for-real-this-time-6-years-after-taking-incentive-buyout-at-governors-directive/

But retired State Trooper Bucky Millet filed a formal complaint, claiming the appointment was illegal. The move, Millet’s complaint said, was in violation of Rule 14.3(G), which says:

  • No classified member of the State Police shall be appointed, promoted, transferred or any way employed in or to any position that is not within the State Police Service.

Edmonson subsequently pulled the appointment. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

But last month Edmonson came before the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), the equivalent to the State Civil Service Board, with a proposal to create a new classified position, Chief Administrative Officer, apparently with the same duties and powers as the unclassified—and still vacant—Undersecretary position.

On Thursday (Sept. 8) of this week, the formal approval of the new position came before the LSPC, which immediately went into an illegal executive session.

Upon emerging from that closed-door session, Townsend recommended no action on Millet’s complaint and explained away Millet’s complaint by claiming Edmonson never actually appointed Starnes because that can only be done by the governor. Townsend failed to explain how the “non-appointed” Starnes’ appointment was posted briefly on the LSP Web page before quietly being taken down after Millet filed his complaint.

First of all, LSPC legal counsel Taylor Townsend (who has become a major disappointment as a $75,000 contract investigator who twice in as many “investigations,” has recommended no action by the commission  while conducting no interviews and without introducing any pertinent recordings in his possession and writing no reports of his “findings”) said the executive session was to discuss “personnel matters” when in fact, the smart money says it was to discuss the legality of Edmonson’s move. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/09/08/calling-out-the-hayride-pseudo-investigations-backdoor-contracts-and-executive-sessions-cloistered-in-subterfuge/

Here are the guidelines for an executive session to discuss “personnel” matters:

La. R.S. 42:17 Exceptions to open meetings

  1. A public body may hold an executive session pursuant to R.S. 42:16 for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person, provided that such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, before the scheduled time contained in the notice of the meeting at which such executive session is to take place and that such person may require that such discussion be held at an open meeting. However, nothing in this Paragraph shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract. In cases of extraordinary emergency, written notice to such person shall not be required; however, the public body shall give such notice as it deems appropriate and circumstances permit.

The closed-door meeting was illegal on at least three levels:

  • To our knowledge, there was no discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health” of Starnes.
  • If that was what was discussed, the commission again violated the law by not complying with the requirement that “such person is notified in writing at least twenty-four hours, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays.” By failing to notify Starnes, he was denied the opportunity to say whether or not he desired a closed meeting.
  • Moreover, the public meetings law says, “Nothing…shall permit an executive session for discussion of the appointment of a person to a public body or, except as provided in R.S. 39:1593(C)(2)(c), for discussing the award of a public contract.”

Besides Townsend, the commission has one other full-time attorney who sits at the table during LSPC meetings. Between the two, someone should advise the commission of it legal obligations when trying to conduct its business away from the eyes and ears of the public.

Here’s the short version: Guys, there’s no app for that.

But then it was Townsend who in August attempted to tell LouisianaVoice (incorrectly, it was pointed out to him at the time by LouisianaVoice) that the commission was not required to give a reason for an executive session. And this from a man who once served in the Louisiana Legislature where our laws are written.

For Mr. Townsend’s enlightenment, here is that law:

La. R.S. 42:16 Executive Sessions

A public body may hold executive sessions upon an affirmative vote, taken at an open meeting for which notice has been given pursuant to R.S. 42:19, of two-thirds of its constituent members present. An executive session shall be limited to matters allowed to be exempted from discussion at open meetings by R.S. 42:17 (see above-quoted statute); however, no final or binding action shall be taken during an executive session. The vote of each member on the question of holding such an executive session and the reason for holding such an executive session shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting. Nothing in this Section or R.S. 42:17 shall be construed to require that any meeting be closed to the public, nor shall any executive session be used as a subterfuge to defeat the purposes of R.S. 42:12 through R.S. 42:2 (Emphasis added).

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funny how Landry would choose to use the word scheme.

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

Copy of Campaign Contributions

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

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

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

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/06/10/americas-20-worst-corporate-air-polluters/#10b98e794c70

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/koch-industries/koch-industries-pollution/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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