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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

So, you think your voice matters?

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

The answer to both questions is an unqualified NO!

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

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

How’s that for representative government?

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

SUBJECT:  2nd Amendment

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

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

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

Stephen Winham

St. Francisville

 

Here is KENNEDY’S RESPONSE:

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

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

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

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

So, let’s follow some money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st Congressional District: Tammy Savoie

2nd Congressional District: Cedric Richmond

3rd Congressional District: Mildred “Mimi” Methvin

4th Congressional District: Ryan Trundle

5th Congressional District: Jessee Sleenor

6th Congressional District: Garret Graves

 

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Something happening here,

What it is ain’t exactly clear

 

The 1967 Buffalo Springfield Vietnam War protest song, For What It’s Worth could be applicable to just about any scenario in Louisiana politics but probably never more so than with HOUSE BILL 727 by State Rep. Major Thibaut (D-New Roads).

Thibaut, posing as a Democrat but appearing to be anything but, apparently wants to repeal the FIRST AMENDMENT which guarantees American citizens the right of peaceful assembly.

HB 727, which has 50 additional co-authors in the House and 14 in the Senate, would amend an existing statute in accordance with the dictates of the AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC), which long ago wormed its way into the Republican mindset as a means of advancing its agenda.

That agenda, of course, works hand-in-hand with that of corporate America—big oil, big banks, big pharma, charter schools, and private prisons, among others—to the overall detriment of those who ultimately foot the bill—the working stiffs of middle America who continue to convince themselves that their interests are compatible.

The bottom line is this: if the corporate giants are shelling out millions upon millions of dollars to lobby lawmakers and to finance their campaigns, you can bet they’re in bed together. And when they whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ear, they ain’t discussing how to make your life easier.

And that’s HB 727 and ALEC are all about. While the seemingly innocuous bill appears only to lay out penalties for trespassing onto “critical infrastructure,” and to include “pipelines” or “any site where the construction or improvement of any facility or structure…is occurring” to the definition of critical infrastructure, the wording of the bill includes subtle landmines designed to discourage otherwise legal protests.

For instance, while criminal trespass and criminal damage has long been considered a violation of the law, the bill adds this provision:

“Any person who commits the crime of criminal damage to a critical infrastructure wherein it is foreseeable that human life will be threatened or operations of a critical infrastructure will be disrupted as a result of such conduct shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than six years nor more than 20 years, fined not more than $25,000, or both.”

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

The key phrase here is “wherein it is foreseeable…”

This is a pretty subjective call on someone’s part. Just who decides what is “foreseeable”?

And then there is the conspiracy clause that’s added to the bill.

HB 727, which passed the HOUSE by an overwhelming 97-3 vote with five members absent, provides if “two or more” person conspire to violate the statute, each “shall be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than five years, fined not more than $10,000, or both.”

Just what would constitute a “conspiracy” in this case? Well, it could mean the simple discussion of possible trespass. Whatever it is, the word “foreseeable” is thrown into the mix again. So, a protest in the proximity of pipeline construction could conceivably be construed by an ambitious prosecutor as “conspiracy” and any discussion during such a protest could become a conspiracy.

Besides being yet another windfall for the private prisons, this bill is nothing more than a means to discourage protests over pipeline construction through sensitive areas such as the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a joint venture of Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 (keep those names in mind; they’ll come up again later).

It’s also an obvious effort to placate ALEC and the oil and gas industry that has held this state, its governors and legislators captive for a century. The political leaders of this state, from the governor on down, won’t go to the bathroom without permission from Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, which boasts on its WEB PAGE that it is “Louisiana’s longest-standing trade association” (read: lobbying arm of the petroleum industry).

There’s battle lines being drawn;

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

What’s not difficult to believe is the motivation behind nearly half of the bill’s sponsors.

Of the 51 representatives and 14 senators who signed on as co-authors of the bill, 31 (23 representatives and eight senators) combined to rake in $62,500 in contributions from Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 since January 2011.

ENERGY TRANSFER PARTNERS CONTRIBUTIONS

PHILLIPS 66 CONTRIBUTIONS

Phillips also gave $3,500 to Senate President John Alario and Energy Transfer Partners chipped in another $4,000. Additionally, Energy Transfer Partners gave $4,000 to then-Sen. Robert Adley of Bossier Parish who was appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards as Executive Director of the Louisiana Offshore Terminal Authority, $2,000 to then-Rep. Jim Fannin of Jonesboro who served as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee at the time.

Energy Transfer Partners also contributed $5,000 to Edwards, who is on record as SUPPORTING the Bayou Bridge project, and Phillips 66 added another $5,500.

Thibaut was not one of those. But he did specialize in accepting campaign contributions from more than 40 political action committees—including several aligned with energy interests. In all, he pulled in $105,000 from PACs since 2008, campaign records show.

Those PACs included such diverse interests as dentists, bankers, payday loan companies, optometrists, insurance, student loans, pharmaceutical companies, sugar, realtors, and nursing homes, to name only a few.

EASTPAC, WESTPAC, NORTHPAC, and SOUTHPAC, four PACs run by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) combined to $13,750 to Thibaut, records show, while the Louisiana Manufacturers PAC gave $11,000.

With that money stacked against them, the Bayou Bridge pipeline opponents are fighting an uphill battle, especially with leaders like Edwards already having publicly endorsed the project.

The end game, of course, is to head off a repeat of STANDING ROCK, the largest Native American protest movement in modern history over the construction of a 1,170-mile Dakota Access pipeline, of which the BAYOU BRIDGE project through the Atchafalaya Basin is a part. Opponents of the 162-mile Bayou Bridge project—from St. James Parish to Calcasieu Parish—say would harm the area’s delicate ecosystem.

Standing Rock was an ugly scene, further illustrative of how this country has time after time ripped land, basic human rights and dignity from the country’s original inhabitants, inhabitants who weren’t even recognized as American citizens until 1924 even though more than 12,000 fought for this country in World War I.

Standing Rock apparently was such a national emergency that St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne, at the time President of the National Sheriffs’ Association, found it necessary to visit Standing Rock in 2016 and to write a lengthy self-serving account in the association’s online PRESIDENT’S PODIUM of the carnage he witnessed at the hands of the protestors whom he described in less than glowing terms.

His article prompted a lengthy REBUTTAL by Cherri Foytlin, state Director of BOLD LOUISIANA in Rayne and Monique Verdin, a citizen of the UNITED HOUMA NATION, who also were at Standing Rock. It’s difficult to believe, after reading the two missives, that they were at the same place, witnessing the same events play out.

What a field day for the heat;

A thousand people in the street

Singing songs and carrying signs

Mostly saying, “hooray for our side.”

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In case you’ve ever taken the time to wonder why our legislature has been unable—or unwilling—to effective address the looming fiscal crisis for the state, here’s a quick lesson in civics that may help you understand the real priorities of our elected officials and the forces that motivate them.

Members of Congress are advised to spend four hours per day FUNDRAISING, or on “call time.” That’s time to be spent on the telephone raising campaign contributions—if they want to be re-elected.

They are also told they should spend one to two hours on “constituent visits,” which often translates to meeting with lobbyists and campaign contributors. That leaves two hours for committee meetings and floor attendance, one hour for something called “strategic outreach,” or breakfasts, meet and greets, press interviews (read: Sen. John Kennedy), and one hour “recharge time.”

It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that we’re paying big salaries for these guys to actually work only about two hours per day for only part of the year.

Another way of putting it is we’re paying big bucks for them to spend twice as much time raising campaign contributions as actually doing the work of the people who, in theory at least, elected them.

That’s in theory only, of course. The truth is special interests such as banks, hedge funds, big oil, big pharma, the military-industrial complex, the NRA, and other major corporate interests—especially since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision—turn the gears of democracy while letting the American middle class delude itself into thinking we actually affect the outcome of elections.

Now, take that image and move it down to the state level and you have a microcosm of Congress.

The numbers are smaller, of course, given the smaller House and Senate districts from which candidates run but the model is the same.

And that is precisely the reason nothing gets done in regard to resolving the financial plight of the state.

Corporate tax breaks, tax exemptions, and tax credits have eroded the state budget until the onus now falls on the individual taxpayers while companies like Walmart enjoy Enterprise Zone tax credits for locating stores in upscale communities across the state.

Petro-chemical plans along the Mississippi River and in the southwestern part of the state enjoy millions of dollars in tax breaks for construction projects that produce few, if any, new permanent jobs.

And who is front and center in protecting the interests of these corporations?

That would be the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), first created with the intent of breaking the stranglehold of organized labor back in the 1970s and now focused on maintaining lucrative tax incentives for its membership.

LABI has four primary political action committees: East PAC, West PAC, North PAC, and South PAC.

LouisianaVoice has pulled the contributions of LABI, its four PACs.

For lagniappe, we’ve also thrown in contributions from pharmaceutical and oil and gas interests. The latter list offers a clear-cut explanation of why efforts to hold oil and gas companies accountable for damage to Louisiana’s coastal marshland have died early deaths.

You will notice in reviewing the reports that LABI, while making individual contributions, pours most of its money into its four PACs, which then make the direct contributions to the candidates.

Enjoy.

LABI CONTRIBUTIONS

EAST PAC CONTRIBUTIONS

WEST PAC CONTRIBUTIONS

NORTH PAC CONTRIBUTIONS

SOUTH PAC CONTRIBUTIONS

PHARMA CONTRIBUTIONS

OIL AND GAS CONTRIBUTIONS

 

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When Ronald Reagan wanted to push a bill through a recalcitrant House ruled by Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill (as bad as he was, O’Neill was still head and shoulders above current Speaker Paul Ryan in terms of leadership and ability), he would go on national television and appeal directly to the American voters.

Gov. John Bel Edwards should have taken his cue from the Gipper. Instead of taking to the TV airwaves to make his case directly to Louisiana citizens, he has chosen to go it alone against an obstinate, arrogate, no-solutions-to-offer Republican legislature who, to quote my grandfather (and I’m cleaning it up a bit) wouldn’t urinate on him if he were on fire.

But while Edwards has not displayed the leadership one would expect of a West Point graduate, neither has this Jell-O-backboned legislature done anything to warrant any bouquets. The word obstructionism comes to mind immediately as a one-word description of this bunch.

There is not a shred of doubt that Republican legislators are still taking their cue from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Grover Norquist. Remember in 2015, when 11 legislators WROTE to Norquist to obtain his permission to vote for Jindal’s tax swap?

Since when does Grover Norquist speak for the voters of Louisiana?

But, believe it or not, this rant isn’t about the legislator’s ability to waste some $900,000 on a special session that failed to produce a solution to the looming state financial disaster. Retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham covered that in yesterday’s post.

Instead, in a classic illustration of how to violate journalistic practices by burying the lede this deep in the story, this is about legislators’ real priorities while in Baton Rouge at the governor’s call to do something—anything—to avert the fiscal cliff that awaits next June.

Citizens routinely flock to Baton Rouge during legislative sessions to testify before committees on their positions on various issues. If you’ve ever sat in on any of these committee meetings, it’s apparent that legislators are just going through the motions of pretending to listen to the voice of the people. In reality, they converse among themselves during citizens’ testimonies, walk out of the committee room to take a phone call, or generally get that patently political glazed look as they wait for the testimony to end so that the committee can proceed with its predetermined vote.

The real reason many legislators were in Baton Rouge for this session was not to tend to the people’s business but to line their own pockets, or more precisely, their campaign treasuries.

Beginning on Jan. 31, and continuing through the special session which began on Feb. 19 and until March 12 (one week from today), 41 campaign fundraisers for 46 legislators were scheduled by lobbyists, including the Beer Industry League, the Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA), the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA), and Southern Strategy Group in such partying-hardy locations (where the real legislative work gets done) as:

  • The Longview House, the former home of Mrs. Earl K. Long, now housing the offices of Haynie & Associates;
  • The Jimmie Davis House, which houses the offices of CeCe Richter and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association;
  • The Louisiana Restaurant Association House (LRA: recently purchased near the State Capitol);
  • Beer Industry League offices.

One of those, on March 8 (Thursday), for State Sen. Eric LaFleur, will feature an appearance by Gov. Edwards. Of course, the Beer Industry League keeps legislators plied with alcohol at each of these locations, thus insuring their undying loyalty when key votes come up.

It’s uncertain if the suggested contribution amounts reflect the legislator’s relative worth to the organization, but following is the schedule of fundraisers hosted by the various lobbyists:

  • 30: Longview (1465 Ted Dunham Ave.) Fundraiser for Senator John Milkovich ($500 suggested contribution);
  • 31: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Rep. Robby Carter ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 31: Jimmie Davis House (1331 Lakeridge Dr.) Fundraiser for Rep. Clay Schexnayder ($500 Contribution);
  • 31: Longview Fundraiser for Rep. Joseph Stagni ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 31: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Rep. Tanner Magee ($250 contribution);
  • 5: 18 Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Rep Frankie Howard ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 5: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Senator Rick Ward ($500 contribution);
  • 6: Longview Fundraiser for Rep Scott Simon ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 7: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Rep Blake Miguez ($250-500 contribution);
  • 7: LRA House (Louisiana Restaurant Association – which recently got a nice place right by the capitol at 1312 Ted Dunham Ave. to host fundraisers) Fundraiser for Rep Stephen Carter ($500 contribution);
  • 7: LRA House Fundraiser for Rep Thomas Carmody ($500 contribution);
  • 7: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Senate President John Alario, Jr. and Speaker of the House Taylor Barras ($500 contribution—Can’t wait to see how much this one brought in);
  • 15: Longview Fundraiser for Senators Page Cortez & Jonathan Perry ($500 contribution);
  • 19 (Opening day of special session): Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Senator Greg Tarver (suggested contribution up to $2,500—nothing cheap about Tarver, including his price);
  • 19: Longview Fundraiser for Reps Patrick Connick, Kevin Pearson, & Polly Thomas ($250 suggested contribution)
  • 19: Longview Fundraiser for Rep Sam Jenkins ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 20: The Lobdell House (711 N. 6th St) Fundraiser for Rep Frank Hoffman ($500 suggested contribution);
  • 20: LRA House Fundraiser for Senators Ronnie Johns and Dan Morrish ($500 contribution);
  • 21: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Rep Kenny Havard ($500 contribution);
  • 21: Longview Fundraiser for Rep John Stefanski ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 22: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Senator Jay Luneau ($500 suggested contribution);
  • 22: LRA House Fundraiser for Rep Chris Leopold ($250 contribution);
  • 22: LRA House Fundraiser for Senator Sharon Hewitt ($500 contribution);
  • 22: Longview Fundraiser for Senator Karen Carter Peterson ($500 contribution—She’s the largely ineffective chairperson of the State Democratic Party);
  • 22: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Rep Gary Carter ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 23: Longview Fundraiser for Rep Ryan Gatti ($500 suggested contribution);
  • 27: LRA House Fundraiser for Senator Dale Erdey ($500 contribution);
  • 28: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Senator Dan Claitor and Rep Franklin Foil ($500 suggested contribution);
  • 28: LRA House Fundraiser for Rep Rick Edmonds ($500 contribution);
  • 28: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Rep Nancy Landry ($500 contribution)
  • 28: Southern Strategy Group of LA Fundraiser for Senator Ed Price ($500 contribution);
  • 1: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Rep Rodney Lyons ($250 to $2,500 suggested contribution);
  • 1: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Rep Alan Seabaugh (attendee $250, Host Committee $1000, Supporter of Seabaugh $2500);
  • 6: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Senator Troy Carter ($500 to $2,500 contribution—another big-ticket legislator);
  • 6: Southern Strategy Group Fundraiser for Rep Denise Marcell ($250 suggested contribution);
  • 7: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Senator Troy Carter ($500 suggested contribution) (Two days in a row for this Senator! A double-dipper! His relationship with the ATC Commissioner must be very important to this group);
  • 8: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Senator Eric LaFleur with Special Guest LA Governor John Bel Edwards ($500 contribution)
  • 8: Longview Fundraiser for Senator Regina Barrow ($500 suggested contribution)
  • 9: Beer Industry League Fundraiser for Senator Norby Chabert and Rep Stuart Bishop ($500 suggested contribution);
  • 9: Longview Fundraiser for Rep Ray Garofalo ($250 contribution);
  • 12: Jimmie Davis House Fundraiser for Rep Patrick Jefferson ($250 – 2,500 suggested contribution).

Twenty-eight state place RESTRICTIONS on campaign CONTRIBUTIONS and Louisiana is one of those—theoretically.

Louisiana Revised Statute 24:56 addresses PROHIBITED ACTIVITY.

Louisiana RS 18:1505.2 Q(b) also says: “No legislator or any principal or subsidiary committee of a legislator shall accept or deposit a contribution, loan, or transfer of funds or accept and use any in-kind contribution, as defined in this Chapter, for his own campaign during a regular legislative session.”

So, yes, there are restrictions against legislators soliciting or accepting campaign contributions during legislative sessions, but a close look at the wording gives lawmakers—the ones who write the laws—a loophole you could drive a truck through.

And that loophole is the words “regular legislative session.” The fiasco that ended on Monday was not a regular session but a special session. In fact, it was the fifth special session called to deal with the state’s fiscal condition, all of which failed to do so.

But campaign contributions are another matter. Where legislators are unable/unwilling to fix the state’s fiscal problems, they certainly see to their own financial well-being. And if they can do so while on the taxpayer clock for $156 per diem (Latin: per day) and mileage payments to and from Baton Rouge, so much the better. Church Lady from Saturday Night Live had a term for that: “Isn’t that special.” (Pun intended).

One observer said, “It’s almost insulting that they (legislators) even waste our time and money on these hours-long committee meetings where they are supposed to be considering the voice of the people who take time away from their jobs and families with the naïve perception that their voices actually matter when it is abundantly clear that decisions are controlled and bought by a small group of power associations. Just watch the process unfold. These groups will prevail I their positions no matter how many logical facts and explanations are presented by the other side (and often when the prevailing associations have absolutely no logical facts or explanations).”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

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The State of Louisiana shelled out almost a half-million dollars over a three-year period to a single law firm to defend two lawsuits against the former director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC)—both of which went against the state.

Records obtained from the Division of Administration reveal that both lawsuits, defended by Renee Culotta of the New Orleans law firm of Frilot, LLC, were settled in favor of the plaintiffs. The most recent of the two, filed by one current ATC and two former agents, all African-Americans, was settled for $250,000.

Prior to that, the case of another former agent, Lisa Pike, was also settled but the terms of that settlement were held confidential by the court.

ATC, under the leadership of former director Troy Hebert, was riddled with controversy and in the end, possible criminal wrongdoing, according to no less authority than Hebert himself. Hebert, at one point in the proceedings of yet a third pending CIVIL ACTION against him, filed a MEMORANDUM in Support of his Motion for Protective Order.

In the LAWSUIT filed by Charles Gilmore of Baton Rouge, Daimin McDowell of Bossier Parish, and Larry Hingle of Jefferson Parish, the case that was settled recently for $250,000, Frilot was paid $309,00 in attorney fees–$150,000 more than the final settlement.

Another $186,400 was spent by the State in defense of the Lisa Pike matter.

PAYMENTS TO FRILOT

And while the terms of that settlement are not known, it might seem prudent for the State to consider cutting its losses in all litigation pertaining to Hebert’s stormy tenure as Bobby Jindal’s boy at ATC.

For that matter, how far must a given case proceed for the defendant—in this case, the State—to realize it is defending the indefensible? At what point should the decision to walk away be made before wasting more taxpayer dollars?

Hebert’s deposition, taken in December 2016 in which he refused to answer questions on the grounds that it might leave him exposed to criminal prosecution should have been the signal to the State to throw in the towel and settle. What better justification could there be to settle? Why keep the meter running? That, nonetheless, is precisely what the State elected to do.

Throwing good money after bad has just always seemed like a bad proposition in any endeavor and these cases are no exception.

 

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