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“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

  • Mahatma Ghandi

“If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don’t.”

  • Comedian John Fugelsang (sometimes mistakenly attributed to President Jimmy Carter)

Guest column by earthmother

AKA Jerel M. Giarrusso

As you deliberate – again – about the state budget and taxes and cutting services and all those issues that will have a serious impact on the quality of life for a majority of Louisiana citizens (the folks who voted you into office, not the oligarchs you are beholden to), many of us have some things to say to you.  First of all, STOP WASTING OUR TAX DOLLARS ON SESSIONS, SPECIAL SESSIONS, EXTRA SPECIAL SESSIONS.  You are stealing your salary, your per diem, and even the light bill at the Capitol, etc., when you blather forever without passing a realistic, workable  budget bill.

Citizens have been begging you to do the right thing.  Nothing any of us says has an impact on you.  All we have are votes, not bribes or threats.  We have condemned the corporatocracy, where corporate welfare costs Louisiana more than public welfare.  Three years ago, LouisianaVoice published my first letter to you, with the link below, if you want to refresh your memory.

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/06/04/louisianavoice-reader-pens-open-letter-to-all-144-members-of-louisiana-legislature-asks-each-what-are-you-going-to-do/

Many of you claim to be devout Christians.  Since a majority of you don’t heed the cries of the mortal voting public, thanks to a little nudge from the Holy Spirit, I’ll try letting God do the talking to you.

I checked to see what the Bible says about taking from the poor and giving to the rich.  Here it is:

One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich–both come to poverty. Proverbs 22:16

 Next, His ideas about taking from the poor, those who work, caring for the poor, the oppressed – “the least of My brothers and sisters.”   God’s thoughts about that topic fill up most of the Old and New Testaments with hundreds of verses exhorting us to love another and care for the less fortunate.  It’s not practical to reprint the entire Bible, so a few key verses are printed below. You can read in God’s own words what He expects of us all. That happens to include you.

Before you tell me that God did not say that government has to provide for the less fortunate, but that charities, churches and individuals are commanded to do so:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God… whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God…For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them – taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Romans 13:1-7

The New International Version (NIV) is quoted.  That’s a version of the Bible, the tome you tried to make the state book a while back.  You might want to actually read it.

Be forewarned, some of this is pretty radical stuff.  Following some of these divine directives will cost you some old friends, who will accuse you of being a liberal, a libtard, or a prog, like that’s a bad thing.  Better to lose those who would lead you down the road to perdition, and save your immortal soul.

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26

Another reminder, while you’re listening to folks like the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity, LABI and Stephen Waguespack, Grover Norquist, Father God has more juice than any of them.  You’re better off in the long run being in the good graces of The Lord than with humans serving the wrong overlord.  Satan always comes in last and the Lord God prevails.

I’ll shut up now and let the Lord speak to you in His own words.  Please be sure to read to the end.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13

Give to the one who begs from you. Proverbs 29:7

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17

No one can serve two masters…You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

Do not rob the poor…or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. Proverbs 22:22-23

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God;…woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation; …sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; …it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Luke 6:20, 24

Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.  Psalm 12:5

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31 

They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. 1 Timothy 6:18

Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. Proverbs 22:9

When you give a feast, invite the poor…and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection. Luke 14:14

 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Psalm 140:12

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner. Leviticus 19:9-10 

A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge. Proverbs 11:4

Those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. There was not a needy person among them, for the owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Acts 4:32-35

Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise. Luke 3:11

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? James 2:15-16

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. Proverbs 28:6

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom; she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16:49

I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what your possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Matthew 19:21

As for the rich…do not set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see him naked, to cover him? Isaiah 58:6-7

If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

Open your mouth for the rights of all who are destitute.  Defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

May he defend the cause of the poor, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! Psalm 72:4

You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. Deuteronomy 24:14

If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Leviticus 25:35

It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:19

Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? Job 30:25

The Final Judgment:

34  Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

41  ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:34-46

Editor’s note: If you’re a member of the legislature and this made you a little uncomfortable, that was the intent. If it didn’t, then you’re just another political hack, a hypocritical opportunist.

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State Rep. Dustin Miller (D-Opelousas) has filed HOUSE BILL 724 that would provide an exception to certain provisions of the state ethics code that would allow a Louisiana Department of Health physician to skirt a conflict of interests—in other words, to circumvent the very situation ethics rules were put into place to prevent.

Miller’s bill would allow the physician, Dr. Harold Brandt, to perform in a dual capacity that has already been rejected by the ethics board in a 2016 RULING.

The ruling of July 18, 2016 informed Dr. Sreyram Kuy that he could not accept employment with a healthcare provider that accepted Medicaid payments for medical services because of her position as Medicaid Medical Director, Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Health Services Financing (BHSF) within the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), now LDH.

The decision, written by Jennifer T. Land, read, “The Board concluded…that the Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits you from being employed as a surgeon for OLOL (Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center), other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services while you serve as Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF.”

Land cited the specific section which said the code “prohibits a public servant from receiving compensation for services rendered to the following persons: (1) those who have or are seeking to obtain a business, contractual or financial relationship with the public servant’s agency, (2) those who conduct operations or activities that are regulated by the public servant’s agency, and (3) those who have a substantial economic interest that could be affected by the performance or non-performance of the public servant’s official duty. OLOL, other Louisiana licensed hospitals and other healthcare providers that accept Medicaid payments for medical services are regulated by your agency, BHSF. Therefore, as the Medicaid Medical Director/Chief Medical Officer of BHSF, you are prohibited from being employed by or from providing compensated services to these entities.”

What makes Miller’s bill particularly interesting, however, is that both Dr. Kuy’s predecessor, LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee, and his successor, Dr. Harold Brandt, each worked in that same position without bothering to request an ethics ruling, apparently falling back on the Nike slogan “Just do it.”

In fact, in the case of Dr. Brandt, LouisianaVoice has been informed that he was reappointed to the position with the proviso that Miller’s bill would be introduced in order to change the existing law to accommodate him. This despite the fact that an ethics review was requested of LDH legal to determine if such an arrangement was acceptable, and the answer was no, according to sources.

On Jan. 25, LouisianaVoice published a story in which it was revealed that Dr. Brandt previously served as Medical Vendor Administrator (Medicaid Medical Director) for LDH from April 7, 2016 to Sept. 2, 2017 at a rate of $156.25 per hour while he simultaneously served on the staff of BATON ROUGE CLINIC, which received $83,000 in PAYMENTS from LDH during Dr. Brandt’s tenure at LDH.

the Medical Director serves as chairman of the Medical Quality Review Committee, so LDH legal was asked for a second opinion whether any ethics concerns existed in regards to that capacity.

The response was the following potential issues identified under the Code of Governmental Ethics. The Medicaid Quality Committee (Committee) of the Louisiana Department of Health, Bureau of Health Services Financing, fulfills the role of the Medical Care Advisory Committee required by 42 CFR 431.12.  According to its Bylaws, the Committee provides focus and direction for Medicaid program quality activities that assure access and utilization of quality, evidence-based healthcare that is designed to meet the health needs of all Louisiana Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients through:

  • Establishing and maintaining sound business and clinical practices/benchmarks that ensure a system of internal controls and support optimal performance within established thresholds;
  • Driving meaningful and measurable collaboration between the LDH agencies BHSF, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), Office of Public Health (OPH), Office of Aging and Adult Services (OAAS), and Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities (OCDD), with a focus on demonstrating improved care and service for Medicaid recipients by using evidence-based guidelines;
  • Creating and sustaining a vibrant evaluation process for Louisiana Medicaid benefits and services and health care delivery systems that is based on integrity, accountability, and transparency;
  • Offering expertise and experience of Committee members to recommend improvements to BHSF that will serve to better meet the healthcare needs of recipients in a cost efficient manner;
  • Sharing Committee recommendations with recipients, providers and policy leaders; and
  • Forming subcommittees to address specific areas of care, as needed.

The Committee’s functions are advisory and shall include:

  • Monitoring ongoing metrics and ensuring findings are reported on a regularly scheduled basis (quarterly or annually);
  • Ensuring key quality initiatives are identified to align with regulatory and business requirements;
  • Overseeing quality improvement projects and ensuring coordination and integration of the quality improvement activities;
  • Reviewing performance results and providing feedback and recommendations to the MCO action plans; and
  • Participating in the evaluation of the Medicaid Quality Program by evaluating the quality, continuity, accessibility, and availability of the medical care rendered within Louisiana.

The Secretary of LDH appoints all non-permanent Committee members, which must include board-certified physicians and other health professionals familiar with the medical needs of low-income population groups and with the resources available and required for their care, in accordance with 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 431.12(d).  Additionally, the members of the standing subcommittees are appointed by the Louisiana Medicaid Medical Director, who serves as the permanent Chair of the Committee.

La. R.S. 42:1113B prohibits an appointed member of any board or commission, member of his immediate family, or legal entity in which he has a substantial economic interest from bidding on or entering into or being in any way interested in any contract, subcontract, or other transaction which is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such appointed member.

As such, La. R.S. 42:1113B would prohibit Medicaid providers from serving, despite 42 CFR 431.12(d) effectively requiring they be appointed to the Committee or subcommittees. LDH should consider proposing an amendment to the Code of Governmental Ethics to provide an exception for Medicaid providers appointed to serve on the Medicaid Quality Committee or any of its subcommittees.

Unconfirmed reports said that Brandt prevailed upon Gov. John Bel Edwards to write Dr. Gee to request that he be allowed to continue serving as Medical Director for LDH.

An attempt was made to reach Dr. Brandt at LDH but his phone line was forwarded to a non-working number. The Department of Civil Service has no record of his employment after last Sept. 2.

LouisianaVoice has made a public records request of LDH for all correspondence between Dr. Brandt and Edwards, between Dr. Brandt and Dr. Gee and between Edwards and Dr. Gee relative to Brandt’s employment.

LDH received an email today (April 3) from LDH to the effect that it would take 30 days to provide such records. It takes only a simple keystroke to retrieve such messages from email files, however. They can be produced in a matter of seconds.

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A professor of Criminal Justice and retired Louisiana State Police Officer compares drug offenses with sex crimes in Louisiana in response to David Vitter’s vitriolic political ads suggesting that releasing non-violent drug offenders will harm public safety.

By Wayne “Steve” Thompson, PhD (Special to LouisianaVoice)

According to Louisiana Revised Statute 40:967, the state of Louisiana has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for possession of 28 grams of cocaine or crack cocaine. According to Louisiana Revised Statute 14:34, the state of Louisiana does not have a mandatory minimum for aggravated battery which includes shooting or stabbing someone. Second degree rape has a mandatory minimum of two years (LRS 14:42.1). To sum it up, a man who threatens to kill a woman so she will not resist while he rapes her is required to do less time in jail than a person with a handful of cocaine or crack cocaine.

I have personally worked cases involving drug use and drug dealing resulting in decades if not centuries of incarceration. I have served numerous warrants on drug dealers while serving on the LSP SWAT team. I have assisted in the investigation of sex crimes cases. I found it frustrating the level of leniency towards sex offenders who received less punishment than drug offenders. Leniency for sex offenders is required to make sure there is room for the statutorily mandated sentences of non-violent drug offenders. My frustrations are shared by many in the criminal justice community.

Incarceration does not work

 Thirty-two percent of state felony convictions were for drug offenses in 2002 and more than 60 percent of those were sentenced to incarceration (Vanderwaal et al., 2006). There were 253,300 drug offenders in state prisons in 2005 (United States Department of Justice, 2008). The estimated cost of incarcerating these offenders is from $5 billion to $8 billion dollars per year. The average incarceration cost per offender is around $30,000 per year.

The drug war is an exercise of futility. Drug prices have gone down and the availability of drugs has increased (Caulkins & MacCoun, 2003). Long incarcerations result in higher recidivism or have zero effectiveness in reducing recidivism (Marinelli-Casey, et al., 2008; Caulkins & Reuter, 2006; Harvard Law Review, 1998; Vanderwaal et al., 2006). The user is still able to obtain drugs because there are plenty of people willing to stand in for a drug dealer when he or she is incarcerated. It is not the same for a violent offender. There is no line of violent offenders who want to step into the shoes of a sex offender, robber, or murderer. There are only victims. The incarceration of violent criminals can actually reduce the number of victimizations.

What does work?

According to Vanderwaal et al. (2006), drug treatment is more effective than incarceration in reducing drug use and reducing recidivism. Many states have realized this evidenced by numerous legislative acts which reduce mandatory minimum sentences and the establishment of over 1,600 drug courts by the end of 2004. The Back on Track (BOT) program in California is focused on first time low level drug dealers. They participate in extensive community service and meet positive goals such as school and employment requirements. If the participants successfully complete the program, they have their records sealed. Rivers (2009) reported the program has a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent and the cost is only $5,000 per participant. When this amount is compared to the reported prosecution expense of $10,000 and an annual incarceration rate of up to $50,000, it is a great success, a bargain for taxpayers.

Why does Louisiana lead the world in incarceration rates?

Research based treatment programs are a common sense alternative to incarceration that improves the ability to incarcerate violent offenders. An ad recently released in the Louisiana gubernatorial campaign condemned efforts to release up to 5,500 nonviolent drug offenders. That is 5,500 prison beds that can be used for violent offenders. The fiscal impact alone based on current incarceration costs is a savings of approximately $165 million every year. I am sure our schools could use that money.

The excessive punishments have been inspired by political popularity which also inhibits our ability to use common sense penalties and treatment. The public and law enforcement have shifted to the ideals that the drug problem is social, psychological, biological, and medical. The criminal justice system is ill equipped to deal with such problems.

Politicians are hesitant to change how we treat drug offenders for fear of appearing soft on crime resulting in damage to a political career. The fear is not created by the person who chooses innovation over ineffectiveness. The fear is created by opponents of the candidate by taking the methods out of context. I will attempt to place them in context.

Any effort to reduce the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders through research proven treatment is a stance against violent criminals. Those who oppose such efforts are actually supporting keeping violent offenders in our midst. An attempt to create fear for political gain is described by Sheriff Tony Mancuso of Calcasieu Parish as “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”

Why do politicians think these ads work?

There is only one explanation, the perception of ignorance. The candidate must believe the voters at large have never dealt with a friend or family member who suffers from drug abuse and believe they should be treated versus incarcerated. We need representatives who will reduce our prison population with research proven best practices to make room for violent offenders. The people behind such political ads do not want violent offenders on the street and I would never make that claim. But, by putting such blatantly ignorant ads out, that is what they are facilitating.

References

Caulkins, J. P. & MacCoun, R. (2003). Limited rationality and the limits of supply reduction.       Journal of Drug Issues, 33(2), 433-464.

Caulkins, J. P. & Reuter, P. (2006). Reorienting U.S. drug policy. Issues in Science &        Technology, 23(1), 79-85.

Harvard Law Review. (1998). Alternatives to incarceration. Harvard Law Review, 111(7), 1863-  1991.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:34. (1980). Aggravated Battery.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:42.1. (2001). Forcible Rape.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:967. (2007). Prohibited Acts-Schedule II, Penalties.

Marinelli-Casey, P., Gonzales, R., Hillhouse, M., Ang, A., Zweben, J., Cohen, J. Hora, P. F., &    Rawson, R. A., (2008). Drug court treatment for methamphetamine dependence:           Treatment response and posttreatment outcomes. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.      34(2), 242-248.

Rivers, J. L. (2009). Back on track: A problem-solving reentry court. Bureau of Justice Statistics    Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved on November 22, 2009 at             http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/BackonTrackFS.pdf.

United States Department of Justice. (2008). Number of persons under jurisdiction of state           correctional authorities by most serious offense, 1980-2005. Retrieved November 24,    2009 at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/tables/corrtyptab.htm.

Vanderwaal, C. J., Chriqui, J. F., Bishop, R. M., McBride, D. C., & Longshore, D. Y. (2006).       State drug policy reform movement: The use of ballot initiatives and legislation to       promote diversion to drug treatment. Journal of Drug Issues, 36(3), 619-648.

Editor’s note: In one of the two debates attended by Vitter prior to the Oct. 24 primary election, both he and State Rep. John Bel Edwards agreed that alternative programs needed to be implemented in order to alleviate prison overcrowding. That, of course, was before Vitter decided to ignore his own position to the issue and to paint Edwards as “soft on crime.”

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In the wake of his disappointing finish in the October 24 primary election, largely attributable to some of the most vicious attack ads by second place finisher David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne announced that he would not endorse either of the candidates in the Nov. 21 general election.

That appears to have changed now.

Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards, who led the field in the primary election with 40 percent of the votes cast, has scheduled a special press conference for 9 a.m. Thursday (Nov. 5) at Free Speech Alley in front of the student union on the LSU campus.

Both the Baton Rouge Advocate and nola.com have posted online stories saying that Dardenne will be announcing his endorsement of Edwards at the press conference.

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/11/jay_dardenne_edwards_endorseme.html

http://theadvocate.com/home/13888680-125/sources-jay-dardenne-ready-to

That would be a major coup for Edwards. In addition to the 444,517 votes cast for Edwards, Dardenne, who finished fourth in the primary election, received 166,656 votes. Between the two, that accounts for 611,173, or 54.8 percent of the 1,114,336 votes cast.

Vitter has captured the consolation prize of former Gov. Mike Foster’s endorsement.

But perhaps voters should remember that Foster is the one guilty of foisting Bobby Jindal upon the unwitting Louisiana populace. Based on that unenviable legacy, his endorsement could prove counterproductive to Vitter.

Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle placed third with 214,982 votes. So far, he has not endorsed either candidate for the runoff election but he was also the subject of the same attack ads as Dardenne.

Vitter is not making any new friends with his new wave of misleading attack ads, this time aimed at Edwards. Filled with distortions and outright lies about Edwards’s voting record as a legislator, the early ads have already backfired.

After a spate of ads claiming that Edwards planned to release 5,500 hardened criminals from prison, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association promptly endorsed Edwards. (Edwards actually called for prison reform that would offer rehabilitation to non-violent offenders, thus reducing the prison population for a state that has the highest incarceration rate in the world—higher even than Russia, Iraq, Iran, and every other country on earth.)

Dardenne, for his part, said his position on offering his endorsement “evolved over time,” according to nola.com. He and Edwards have kept the lines of communication open since the primary election and Edwards has repeatedly, even during the campaign leading up to the Oct. 24 primary, referred to Dardenne and Angelle as honorable men and “dedicated public servants.”

As for Vitter, when the state’s senior U.S. Senator said during one of his rare debate appearances that Edwards had voted for President Obama, Edwards replied, “Yes, I did vote for Obama but I never voted for David Vitter.”

Dardenne’s endorsement is significant in two ways:

It is extremely rare for a Republican to endorse a Democrat, or vice-versa, and

It sends an unmistakable message to his supporters that his brand of dirty politics is beyond the pale, even for Louisiana.

And while the Republicans in the Louisiana House have voted to endorse Vitter—no surprise there considering the gutless servitude to Jindal during his eight pitiful years in office—the Senate Republicans in so many words told its House counterparts to take a walk.

Vitter must be feeling the early symptoms of panic.

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LouisianaVoice is launching its third fundraiser during the month of May and while past support has been appreciated more than you could ever know, this one has a greater sense of urgency to it than before.

Where the previous fundraisers helped defray the costs of travel and paying for public records, etc., this one will be used for an even more expensive—and more important—endeavor: covering mounting legal costs.

We are currently engaged in a court battle with the Division of Administration (DOA) over DOA’s pattern of delay in complying with the state’s public records laws (R.S. 44:1 et seq.).

To illustrate DOA’s tactics, here is one glaring example:

Last October 14, we made an official FOIA request for information pertaining to the $350 million contract between the Office of Group Benefits and a California company called MedImpact.

Believing DOA was deliberately stalling in complying with our requests, we had a friendly (but unidentified) legislator make the identical request through the House Legislative Services Office. That request was submitted the same day (Oct. 14, 2014) as our request.

On Oct. 21, 2014, we received the following response to our request:

  • Pursuant to your public records request, we are still searching for records and/or reviewing them for exemptions and privileges. Once finished with the review process, all non-exempt records will be made available to you. It is estimated the records will be available on or before October 31, 2014.

The House Legislative Services Office spokesperson received the following response to its request from DOA two days later, on Oct. 23, 2014:

  • You requested the MedImpact contract, Notice of Intent to Contract, ratings, and recommendations for awarding the contract. Please note the contract contains some proprietary and/or confidential information that has been redacted under La. R.S. 44:3.1. We have scanned these records. They are too large to email, so I can bring a CD over. I heard you’re out of the office. Do you want me to drop it off for you or wait until you get back?

So we were promised the records eight days later than the House Legislative Services Office and while that illustrates a deliberate delay on DOA’s part, it was not completely unreasonable and was hardly a basis for litigation. It didn’t even upset us that DOA would hand deliver the records to the legislature but require that I drive in from Denham Springs to review them.

But the fact is we never received the records—until, that is, after we filed our lawsuit in January of 2015. Once the lawsuit was filed, of course, they were immediately delivered to our attorney’s office—nearly three months after they had been delivered across the street to the legislature.

That was just the most egregious case, but we actually filed our lawsuit on the basis of  shorter but nevertheless unnecessary—and purposeful—delays in compliance with other several other requests.

The records we have requested are for actions by agencies of the state which affect you, the taxpayer. Because most media outlets are concerned with only the surface treatment of news stories, we attempt to pry deeper into the cause and effect aspect of state government—relationships between vendor and vendee, between elected officials and campaign donors, between contributions and contracts and board appointments. In short, we follow the money.

Government in general is uncomfortable with this and this administration in particular abhors scrutiny. That’s why DOA had instituted a deliberate strategy of delay when it comes to complying with our records requests. One former employee of DOA told us that it was common practice for DOA to get the records we request and then simply let them sit in a corner for weeks at a time before finally allowing us to inspect them. This is not the way to build trust between the government and the governed.

And it is not acceptable to us.

That is the reason we filed suit.

Our lawsuit is scheduled for trial this month and no matter which way the judge rules, the decision is quite likely to move to the First Circuit Court of Appeal. It’s that important to us if we lose and apparently, it’s equally important that the administration hide its actions from public examination.

Either way, it has already cost us a lot of money in terms of legal fees. And an appeal is going to cost a lot more. If we win, DOA will appeal in an attempt to make it cost-prohibitive to fight them by forcing us to continue paying legal costs until our resources are exhausted and we allow the case to abandon. That’s what happened with the case of a dentist who was pursuing legal action against the State Dentistry Board. DOA has attorneys on staff being paid with your tax dollars; it’s not costing Kristy Nichols a dime to stay in the game.

That is why we need your help now more than ever.

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Whichever way you choose to contribute, your help in our fight to make state government more transparent and accountable is both needed and appreciated.

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