Wednesday, 07 March 2018 11:42

Louisiana legislators line campaign pockets as budget collapses, session burns

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capital blazeby Tom Aswell, Publisher of the Louisiana Voice

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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