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Archive for the ‘Senate’ Category

An updated variation of the infamous Mike Edmonson Amendment has made its way into the 2017 legislative session in an effort to help yet another public official scratch out a little more money from the public fisc.*

*fisc (fisk) noun: The public treasury of Rome.

It’s really amazing how these legislators can work so diligently on behalf of certain connected individuals while ignoring much larger problems facing the state.

As much as LouisianaVoice criticized Bobby Jindal during his eight years of misrule, it was the legislature that allowed him to do what he did. It was the legislature that brought about the state’s fiscal problems by refusing to stand up to his ill-advised “reforms,” and it’s the legislature that has steadfastly refused to address those problems with anything approaching realistic solutions.

But when there’s a chance to help one of their own: stand back, there’s work to be done.

Rep. Gary Carter (D-New Orleans) has introduced House Bill 207 aimed specifically at benefiting U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.

Louisiana, it seems, has this pesky little dual office holding/dual employment law that might otherwise prove a hindrance to Cassidy’s ability to moonlight by teaching at the LSU Health Science Center while serving in the U.S. Senate.

Carter wants to remedy and if you don’t think this bill was written specifically for Cassidy, here’s the particulars of the bill:

“To enact R.S. 42:66(E), relative to dual officeholding and dual employment; to allow a healthcare provider who is a member of the faculty or staff of a public higher education institution to also hold elective office in the government of the United States…”

The bill would provide an exception to the current law which prohibits “certain specific combinations of public office and employment, including a prohibition against a person holding at the same time an elective or appointive office or employment in state government and an elective office, appointive office, or employment in the U.S. government.”

We could be wrong, but it just seems to us that serving in the U.S. Senate is a full-time job that demands the full attention of whomever happens to be representing Louisiana in that august body.

It was just such an amendment in 2014 that helped prove the eventual undoing of Edmonson’s career and his political aspirations. The word was that Edmonson planned to seek the state’s second-highest office in 2015—and was considered a fairly viable candidate.

LouisianaVoice broke the story of State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) and his tacking an amendment onto an otherwise benign bill that would have given Edmonson between $50,000 and $100,000 per year in additional retirement income. Because of the resulting furor over that amendment, State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) successfully sued to block the increase in Baton Rouge district court.

A veteran political observer recently told us, “If you hadn’t broken that story, Mike Edmonson would be lieutenant governor today.” (We don’t know about that but at least he’d be better than what we now have in that office.)

Remember in the 2014 senatorial race between then-incumbent Mary Landrieu and challenger U.S. Rep. Cassidy when Landrieu claimed Cassidy was paid for time lecturing classes not supported by his time sheets?

Jason Berry, publisher of The American Zombie Web blog said that on no fewer than 21 occasions over a 30-month span, U.S. Rep. Cassidy billed LSU Health Science Center for work supposedly performed on the same days that Congress was in session and voting on major legislation and holding crucial committee hearings on energy and the Affordable Care Act.

“On at least 17 different occasions,” Berry wrote, “he (Cassidy) spent multiple hours in LSU-HSC’s clinics on the same days in which he also participated in committee hearings and roll call votes.”

Landrieu said at the time of the revelations that Cassidy, while claiming to serve the poor, was in fact, “serving himself an extra paycheck. That’s not right. It could be illegal and it looks very much like payroll fraud.”

The arrangement apparently also troubled then-Earl K. Long Hospital Business Manager William Livings who said in an email to Internal Medicine Department Head George Karam, “We are going to really have to spell out exactly what it is he does for us for his remuneration from us. Believe me, this scenario will be a very auditable item and I feel they will really hone in on this situation to make sure we are meeting all federal and state regulations.”

In addition to Cassidy’s salary, Berry said, LSU also paid for his medical malpractice insurance, his continuing education and his licensing fees, “expenses that can easily total in the thousands.”

And now Carter wants to make it all nice and legal—but only for Cassidy. All other state employees who would like to do a little double-dipping to supplement their income can just fuggedaboutit.

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In the nearly six-year history of LouisianaVoice, I have written more than 1,600 posts averaging about 1,500 words each (about two million words total).

This will likely be the shortest post ever.

U.S. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy VOTED in favor of confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, a post for which she is totally and completely unqualified. This is the woman who favors guns in schools to protect against grizzly bears.

We expected no less of Cassidy after his fawning all over her during the confirmation hearings. I mean, the man embarrassed himself with his unbridled admiration of incompetence.

With Kennedy, we held onto the slim chance that he would show a spark of independence and/or intelligence (though in his TV ads during the campaign, he professed to having backed Donald Trump “from the beginning”).

But in the end, it appears that he’d “rather drink weed killer” than show that he had a spine or a shred of integrity. (On the other hand, in another of his tasteless ads he did say, “You oughta have a gun,” so maybe it was the grizzly bear comment that compelled him to vote in favor of confirmation.)

Whatever.

Just remember that one vote if you don’t remember anything else about John Kennedy.

 

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There are times when, after you break a major story about official wrongdoing and after the requisite denials by those involved, everything gets quiet and the story seems to have hit a dead end. Or at least been placed in a state of suspended animation.

But generally, if you are willing to be patient and wait long enough, the story gets new life with the surfacing of new information.

So it was a year ago when LouisianaVoice and New Orleans Fox8 News investigative reporter Lee Zurik simultaneously broke a STORY that Troy Hebert, former director of the Office of Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control (and furtive candidate for the U.S. Senate last fall—he got one-half of one percent of the vote), was under investigation by the FBI for:

  • Extorting sex from a New Orleans woman, Sarah Palmer, in exchange for approval of a liquor license for the French Quarter restaurant she managed, and
  • Illegally steered applicants for liquor licenses to attorney Chris Young for representation through Young’s sister, Judy Pontin, executive management officer for the New Orleans ATC office.

Now, thanks to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Hebert by a former ATC agent, those same issues have surfaced again.

Documents concerning still another issue, the suppressing of an investigation into a Baton Rouge bar following a 2012 accident involving a patron of the bar who had a blood alcohol content of .307 when he struck and killed two cyclists, killing one and injuring the other.

LouisianaVoice wrote in a February 2016 POST that Hebert wrongfully took control of the investigation and personally exonerated the Bulldog Bar from any wrongdoing. Chris Young was legal counsel for the Bulldog.

The only problem for fired ATC agent Brett Tingle, who filed the lawsuit against Hebert, it’s possible that none of Hebert’s repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment in a deposition will be allowed into testimony.

Federal Judge John DeGravelles of Louisiana’s Middle District in Baton Rouge, currently has under advisement Hebert’s motion for protective order filed by attorney Renee Culotta which would, if granted, prohibit Tingle’s attorney, J. Arthur Smith, III, from posing any questions at trial about Hebert’s relationship with Palmer and/or Young.

In Hebert’s deposition taken in December in preparation for trial in the Tingle matter, Hebert repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment when Palmer’s name was brought up by Smith, as illustrated by the following exchanges:

  • Smith: “Do you recognize this (redacted) document?”
  • Hebert: “I’m going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “Do you know a lady by the name of Sara (sic) Palmer?”
  • Hebert: “I’m going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “Have you engaged in any infidelity during your marriage to Dawn Vick?”
  • Hebert: “I’m going to exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “That’s not a Fifth Amendment matter.”
  • Smith” I’m going to show you Exhibit No. 9 (redacted). What is this document, sir?
  • Hebert: I will exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”
  • Smith: “So with respect to Exhibit No. 9, you’re exercising your Fifth Amendment right”
  • Hebert: “I answered the question.”
  • Smith: “I’ll show you (exhibit) No. 10 (redacted). Do you recognize the Exhibit No. 10?”
  • Hebert: “I will exercise my Fifth Amendment right.”

While the exhibits were redacted in Hebert’s Memorandum of Support for obvious reasons, the motion did note that exhibits eight and nine were “documents concerning” Louisiana Oyster House, dba Star Steak and Lobster (the restaurant managed by Palmer), notably a notice of violation and renewal applications. Exhibit 10, Culotta said, “concerned Chris Young documents previously attached to Hebert’s deposition as Exhibit 10-12.”

Interestingly, in his Memorandum in Support of his Motion for Protective Order, Hebert said that while he has not been indicted and there is “no active criminal case” against him… “It is clear Hebert has been under investigation by the FBI, and should he provide answers to these questions, he could face indictment and criminal prosecution.” (Emphasis added.)

And this memorandum, we should point out, was written by Hebert’s attorney, Renee Culotta, who is being paid thousands of dollars while under contract to the Attorney General’s office as a contract attorney—just as she was in a previous lawsuit against ATC, that of Lisa Pike, a former ATC employee who also sued Hebert. The terms of that settlement have been held confidential by the court.

LouisianaVoice has made a public records request for Culotta’s billing for legal representation in the Pike matter. Her billing in the defense of the Tingle lawsuit would not be made available because the case is ongoing.

Culotta said in the memorandum that allegations by Palmer against Hebert “occurred in January 2016, well after Tingle’s work for and termination from the ATC. Tingle did not participate in any issue concerning Sarah Palmer and/or Steak and Lobster, and no facts about Palmer or Steak and Lobster are contained in (Tingle’s) complaint.

“Likewise, the issues concerning Chris Young (i.e., whether Hebert gave preferential treatment to Young and/or referred clients to Young as part of an illegal scheme) are also not a part of this lawsuit and are not relevant to and have no bearing on whether Hebert allegedly retaliated against Tingle because of Tingle’s participation in the race discrimination charges and lawsuits filed by three African-American employees.

Tingle’s counsel’s questions and discovery concerning Chris Young and/or Sarah Parker were only meant to embarrass and harass Hebert,” Culotta said in her memorandum.

“Hebert cannot fully defend himself in the civil case (i.e., by explaining his position concerning Young, Palmer and (t)he Star Steak and Lobster license renewal) while the threat of criminal prosecution is looming.

“Plaintiff cannot have it both ways: if he intends to pursue this evidence, he then must agree to a stay in order that Hebert can defend himself without threat of criminal prosecution.

“Defendant Troy Hebert respectfully requests (that) this court issue a protective order forbidding plaintiff’s counsel from discovering, asking any questions about or referencing Chris Young, Sarah Palmer and/or the Star Steak and Lobster restaurant going forward in this litigation. To the extent plaintiff claims these issues are relevant, then Hebert respectfully asks the court to stay the proceedings until the statute of limitations has run on any criminal charges that could be brought in connection with these matters.” (Emphasis added.)

Now I don’t pretend to be a legal scholar. Journalism schools (or at least the one I attended) sadly do not require any courses in law even though any career journalist is going to be covering courtroom procedure at some point during his career.

That said, it appears to me that someone is one helluva lot more concerned with potential criminal exposure than any civil liability.

But then, that’s understandable. If a public official is convicted of criminal wrongdoing, he is the one who is penalized. If, on the other hand, a civil verdict is returned against that same individual, it is the taxpayer who ultimately pays whatever judgment is assessed.

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No sooner had The Donald pulled off the biggest political upset since dewey-defeats-trumanthan the speculation on who would hold which cabinet position had begun. And it got downright scary.

There was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani being touted as Attorney General.

Yep. That’s all we need: A doddering old has-been who has all he can handle to remember his own name standing in as the premier legal authority in the land. He’s probably the only one who could make John Mitchell look good.

And Newt-for-God’s-sake-Gingrich as Secretary of State?

And the Republicans thought Hillary was bad in that role?

Next thing you know, Trump will be tossing out Charles Koch’s name as Secretary of the Interior.

And how about Chris Christie as Secretary of Defense?

Or Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback as Secretary of the Treasury? I mean, look what he’s done for that state’s finances.

But according to The Wall Street Journal, in a story quickly picked up by state media, a familiar name (to Louisianans, that is) is being pitched as a potential choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Bobby Jindal.

Are you kidding me?

Apparently not. http://www.wdsu.com/article/report-former-gov-bobby-jindal-being-considered-for-cabinet-role-in-trump-administration/8263712

For some reason the locals believe that because he worked for former Gov. Mike Foster as Secretary of Health and Hospitals and for former President George W. Bush as a special adviser to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, he somehow has a shot at a similar role in the Trump administration.

I would refer those reporters to chapters 30 through 37 of my book Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession. Those chapters include the sordid details of how Jindal single-handedly dismantled the state’s model public teaching hospital system to benefit a few greedy political hangers-on—even to the point of signing off on a contract containing 50 blank pages. A rhetorical question: would anyone reading this ever sign his or her name to any document containing even one blank page?

As an added bonus, I would refer you to Chapter 17 of the book which details how Jindal’s Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols landed a cushy lobbying position with Ochsner Health System after helping negotiate a deal whereby Ochsner would partner with Terrebonne General Medical Center to take over operation of the state’s Leonard Chabert Medical Center in Houma.

At least the WSJ thought to mention failed GOP presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson as also being under consideration for the Health and Human Services post.

That would, after all, make a little more sense. After all, Carson did pipe up from time to time on behalf of Trump’s candidacy. We heard nary a peep from the Louisiana wannabe wunderkind Piyush Jindal after he removed himself from the Republican presidential sweepstakes last November…and no one noticed (of course they didn’t notice while he was running, either). All he did was join the board of some Texas corporation and quickly fade from memory—helping the Republican Party but crushing my book sales in the process.

Hey, Donald, here’s a heads-up. After Tuesday’s race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter, there are two former U.S. Representatives who ran unsuccessfully for the upper chamber who are now unemployed.

And they both just happen to be doctors.

But how can you trump (pun intended) a Rhodes Scholar?

If James Comey wasn’t doing such a splendid job, you might even consider Louisiana State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to head up the FBI. Think how regal he’d look sitting behind old J. Edgar’s desk.

But while you’re at it, you may be needing a new Secretary of Immigration and Border Protection. We understand David Duke just pulled an astonishing 3 percent of the vote in that same U.S. Senate race and may be looking for something to do. And we already know the rapport he has with minorities. Why, he’d fit right in.

And while you’re at it, you may be on the lookout for someone to replace Jeh Johnson as Secretary of Homeland Security.

There’s this fellow who previously did such a stellar job running the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control—into the ground. Troy Hebert did even worse than Duke, racking up a whopping .5 percent of the vote in the 24-person Senate race. That’s one-half of one damn percentage point. Imagine what he could do for Homeland Security.

He may even still have his badge from his ATC days.

Yep, Donald, if you’re looking for washed up political has-beens to lead your administration—and it appears that you are—we have a boatload of ‘em down here in Louisiana.

Take your pick.

Please.

(Apologies to Henny Youngman.)

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Colorful. Vindictive. Unorthodox. Illegal. Underhanded. Flamboyant. Egotistical. Unethical. Dishonest. Freewheeling. No holds barred. Down and dirty. Deceitful. Unprincipled. Crooked. Bombastic. Pompous. Arrogant. Self-serving. Zealous.

These are just a few adjectives (believe me, there are many, many more) used by various news reporters down through the ages to describe Louisiana politics and its practitioners.

It may not compare to the quote about U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper by George Smathers, his opponent for the U.S. Senate in Florida way back in 1951:

“Are you aware,” Smathers told a rural, largely unsophisticated gathering, “that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy and that he and his wife matriculated together before they were married.”

But there are other ways to undercut a political opponent without ever resorting to smear tactics, half-truths, or innuendo and U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican, may have just found a way to damage the aspirations of two of his Democratic opponents for the U.S Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter.

Besides the descriptions applied to Louisiana politics in the opening paragraph, astute politicians—particularly conservative Republicans—have allowed two other words to creep into the political lexicon: Evangelicalism and Privatization—as homage to two blocs that have gained considerable stroke in recent years: the religious right and disciples of Milton Friedman’s free market economy.

Boustany, however, also is effectively employing Subterfuge and Misdirection in the tried and true fashion of a slight of hand stage magician and no one has noticed.

Until now.

So, in light of his somewhat low-key TV ads, how is he attempting to obtain an edge through furtive means?

Two words: Joshua Pellerin.

Since 2012, Pellerin, manager of Pellerin Real Estate Holdings and of Pellerin Energy Corp., has contributed at least $8,800 to Boustany’s campaigns for the U.S. House and, since 2015, another $6,800 to his campaign for the Senate.

PELLERIN’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO BOUSTANY’S HOUSE CAMPAIGNS:

boustany-1 boustany-2 boustany-3 boustany-4 boustany-5 boustany-6

PELLERIN’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO BOUSTANY’S SENATE CAMPAIGN:

PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC SEE MEMO ITEM/ VERIFIED NON-CORPORATE/CONTRIBUTION FROM PARTNERSHIP. PARTNERS EXCEEDING REPORTING THRESHOLD ITEMIZED AS MEMOS. LAFAYETTE LA 70503 08/06/2015 $1,000
PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC SEE MEMO ITEM/ VERIFIED NON-CORPORATE LAFAYETTE LA 70503 10/20/2015 $500 X
PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC SEE MEMO ITEM/ VERIFIED NON-CORPORATE LAFAYETTE LA 70503 08/06/2015 $1,000 X
PELLERIN, JOSHUA PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC OWNER SEE MEMO ITEM/ VERIFIED NON-CORPORATE/PARTNERSHIP ITEMIZATION MEMO BROUSSARD LA 70518 08/06/2015 $900 X
PELLERIN, JOSHUA PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC OWNER SEE MEMO ITEM/ VERIFIED NON-CORPORATE/PARTNERSHIP ITEMIZATION MEMO BROUSSARD LA 70518 08/06/2015 $100 X
PELLERIN, JOSHUA PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC OWNER [MEMO ITEM] PARTNERSHIP: PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC BROUSSARD LA 70518 10/20/2015 $500 X
PELLERIN, JOSHUA PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC OWNER [MEMO ITEM] PARTNERSHIP: PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC BROUSSARD LA 70518 08/06/2015 $900 X
PELLERIN, JOSHUA PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC OWNER [MEMO ITEM] PARTNERSHIP: PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC BROUSSARD LA 70518 08/06/2015 $100 X
PELLERIN, JOSHUA PELLERIN ENERGY GROUP, LLC OWNER BROUSSARD LA 70518 02/09/2015 $2,600

Pellerin also is the former manager of Preventive Vascular Screenings, LLC, and Pellerin Imaging Group, LLC.

Boustany is a cardiovascular surgeon, which makes the connection between the two men logical and explains why Pellerin would give financial support to Boustany’s campaigns for the U.S. House and now the U.S. Senate.

Wait. The U.S. Senate?

If you scroll down the list of the 24 candidates vying for the U.S. Senate, you will see that number 21 on that list (they’re in alphabetical order) is none other than Democrat Joshua Pellerin.

So we have a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate contributing $5,600 to the campaign of one of his leading opponents for the position—a Republican, no less.

That doesn’t make any since.

Unless….

Unless Pellerin is a “dummy” candidate inserted into the race in an effort to draw votes away from fellow Democrats—Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard.

So who is the “dummy” candidate on the Republican side to draw votes from Boustany’s biggest challenger, fellow physician and Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming? Why, that would be none other than the ultimate dummy, David Duke. Fleming and Duke are battling for much of the same constituency—the Trumpers—and while Duke is destined to finish near the bottom, Fleming’s biggest hope is to pull enough votes from the former high potentate, imperial wizard, exalted grand sovereign (or whatever they call themselves these days) to sneak into the runoff.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time such a dummy candidate has been propped up to split an opponent’s vote. There were rumors, denied by Edwin Edwards, that he had his supporters contribute to the campaign of Tea Party Republican Lenar Whitney two years ago in an attempt to boost her into the runoff which would have greased the skids for him to waltz into Congress. If true, it didn’t work as Garrett Graves ran a strong second to Edwards in the crowded primary and then easily defeated the former governor in the runoff.

The biggest problem facing Boustany is getting Pellerin’s name out there before a sufficient number of Democrat voters. For his part, Pellerin, who has amassed a war chest of only about $300,000 (as opposed to more than $4.3 million in contributions to Boustany), has been making the rounds of Democratic forums in South Louisiana.

With only three weeks before the Nov. 8 election and with such a meager bank account (much of which was contributed by several physicians in the Lafayette area), Pellerin’s best hope to gain name recognition will be those public forums. And with so few Louisiana voters inclined to vote for Democrats these days, it won’t take much chipping at the Campbell-Fayard base to deal crippling blows to their campaigns.

And typical for Louisiana, all it may take is a dummy.

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