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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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Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany apparently moved back to Louisiana for crawfish and now does his best to ignore a new book with a spectacular claim that he was somehow tied to prostitutes murdered in Jefferson Davis Parish (he is suing the author and publisher over that story).

Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming is running TV ads proudly tying his agenda to that of Donald Trump (though Fleming may now wish to put distance between him and the GOP presidential nominee in light of the release of a recording of Trump’s recent conversation about women).

Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell is opting for his “straight talk” TV ads, lashing out at fellow Democrat Caroline Fayard as never having held office and that she “wants to start at the top.”

Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy would “rather drink weed killer.”

Independent former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Director Troy Hebert just wants to sue somebody.

Absent in all the white noise are any real solutions to problems the nation faces—such as rotting infrastructure, jobs, education, climate change, and closing the racial and economic gaps that continue to divide the country.

And then there is that mysterious ESAFund.com TV ad that attacks both Boustany and Fleming.

The ad blasts Fleming for living in a “million-dollar mansion” in the Washington area and Boustany for getting rich while in Congress and for voting for a pay raise for himself.

Well, as it happens, both Boustany and Fleming are physicians so they probably are rich and likely can afford to live where they choose.

As for Boustany’s “vote” to raise his pay, that claim is downright misleading—and inaccurate.

The fact is, in 1989 Congress passed an obscure bill designed to allow them to avoid the stigma of voting for pay raises. The way it works is if there is no vote specifically not to raise congressional salaries, the pay raise kicks in automatically. Cute.

Accordingly, members of Congress do not vote for pay raises—because they don’t have to—and any claim to the contrary is simply untrue. http://www.politifact.com/florida/article/2011/nov/23/truth-about-congressional-pay-raises/

So, just who is this ESAFund that is behind this attack ad?

Well, it is, of course, a super Pac and it has already spent $5.5 million on the 2016 federal elections, including the ad currently being run in Louisiana. https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/detail.php?cmte=C00489856

Officially known as Ending Spending Action Fund, it claims to be “an independent organization that proudly supports candidates regardless of party affiliation who favor enhancing free enterprise, reducing the size of government, and balancing our nation’s budget.” http://esafund.com/

All of which sounds awfully close to the Tea Party’s platform except ESAFund and the Tea Party often find themselves supporting opposing candidates as in Kansas’ First Congressional District. http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/house-races/289027-conservative-allies-on-opposite-sides-in-gop-primary-fight

Perhaps the biggest irony of ESAFund is that it is a super PAC that is campaigning to end Citizens United, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for super PAC spending in political campaigns. http://endcitizensunited.org/ending-spending-action-fund/

And while the current ad blitz goes out of its way to slam Boustany and Fleming, who, coincidentally, are near the top in most polls, it is careful not to attach its own candidate’s name to the ad. That’s because super PACs are limited as to their direct involvement in the campaigns of individual candidates.

A quick glance at recent history, however, reveals an undeniable link to Kennedy’s campaign. In fact, when former Kennedy top aide Jason Redmond shut down his own Super Pac, Make Louisiana Proud, in July of this year, about $120,000 of its cash and in-kind funds were transferred to ESAFund and ESAFund reciprocated by officially endorsing Kennedy.

https://lapolitics.com/2016/07/super-pac-bows-out-of-senate-race/

All of which makes sense. Kennedy, who once seemed to have an insurmountable lead, has seen his support slipping. That should come as no surprise, given the political heavyweights who are also seeking the Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter.

With other candidates hitting the airwaves with their ads, it was inevitable that Kennedy would see some of his support being drained away, especially given his original decision not to advertise until after the general election. That obviously has changed and Kennedy has begun his own TV ad campaign.

A super PAC is freed from restrictions imposed upon traditional campaign committees so long as it:

Neither gives money directly to a candidate or other political committees that give directly to candidates, and

It does not coordinate how it spends its money with a federal candidate.

https://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2012/01/31/nine-things-you-need-know-about-super-pacs/

Here is a list of  http://esafund.com/candidates/ endorsed by ESA.

So, while the ESAFund ad attempts to sound principled, and with no attempt here to defend Boustany or Fleming, it still is an attack ad and nothing more.

Before accepting any ad, especially those employing actors posing as concerned Louisiana citizens who almost certainly are not residents of this state (who knows where they actually reside and vote?), remember the number one rule:

Follow the money.

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