Monthly Archives: May 2012

Competition in LA-2?

With only one legitimate Democratic seat available to Louisiana Dems, this year’s Congressional elections were looking like they’d be a snore for the Blue team.

Maybe not.

Sure, LA-3 looks like a barn-burner between two wingnuts, Boustany and Landry. A Democrat could make the run-off if the two of them eliminate decimate each other in the jungle primary. However, in that run-off, it’s just not reasonable to expect a Democrat to beat even the most conservative candidate of the two. Jeff Landry easily beat moderate Dem Ravi Sangisetty in a run-off with a major statewide R v. D race on the ballot in 2010.

However, multiple tipsters have sent in notes to regarding a potential challenge for Louisiana’s sole Democratic Congressman, Cedric Richmond.

According to all of these folks, former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial is contemplating a run against Richmond in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District.

Yes, a sitting Congressman, who was one of the few Congressman backed by President Obama in 2010, is facing a potential challenger. Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional is strongly Democratic with a Cook PVI of at least +25 (which hasn’t been recalculated for the new district, but will not doubt at least match the old). However, the reconfiguring has now included a lot more voters outside of New Orleans, Richmond’s home base. But isn’t that Morial’s base too?

After a little digging, it seems like Morial might be a strong candidate. He was mayor for 8 years, as leaving office in 2002, and his father was the first African-American Mayor of New Orleans, Dutch Morial. The Morial political organization, LIFE, is still active and currently boasts of at least 3 major elected officials including Citywide Assessor Erroll Williams, Sheriff Marlin Gusman and former State Senator Cynthia Willard-Lewis. LIFE is also said to be close to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and is rumored to have worked hard behind the scenes to secure Landrieu’s easy win in 2010.

Morial is currently the president of the National Urban League, and apparently a very popular Mayor. But could this be enough to unseat a sitting Congressman?

Certainly seems like a stretch. Democrats don’t need an internecine fight on their hands in Louisiana. All the same, the seat is safely in Democratic hands so perhaps it’s not important who the Congressman is afterall. Morial looks like a heavy-weight of the old school compared to the relatively green Richmond.

Taking a look at Richmond’s FEC filing for March, he certainly doesn’t look too worried about having a competitive race:

Candidate Details
From: 01/01/2011  To: 03/31/2012
Filing Frequency: QUARTERLY FILER
Treasurer: GAINES, MAPLE
From: 01/01/2011   To: 03/31/2012
Itemized Individual Contributions $234,150
Unitemized Individual Contributions $5,339
Party Committees Contributions $0
Other Committees Contributions $354,536
Candidate Contributions $0
Transfers from Authorized Committees $0
Candidate Loans $0
Other Loans $0
Operating Expenditures Offsets $4,835
Other Receipts $353
Operating Expenditures $304,584
Transfers To Authorized Committees $0
Candidate Loan Repayments $0
Other Loan Repayments $0
Individual Refunds $0
Political Party Refunds $0
Other Committee Refunds $0
Other Disbursements $46,388
Ending Cash On Hand $251,513
Net Contributions $594,025
Net Operating Expenditures $299,748
Debts Owed By $174,446
Debts Owed To $383

As you can see from this printout, Richmond has only $251,513 on hand, but carries debts of $174,446, making his net cash reserve only about $80,000. That ain’t much for a real Congressional race. But an incumbent like Richmond shouldn’t have trouble getting some cash to go to war. If he has to…

Jindal Reform Routes Tax Dollars to Religious Schools

Of the 125 schools approved to accept taxpayer funds under Louisiana’s new school voucher law, 115 (92%) are affiliated with a church or other religious organization.

From Americans United:

Louisiana has an incredibly bad record when it comes to taxpayer aid to religious schools.

Back in the 1920s, Gov. Huey Long pushed a bill through the legislature giving textbooks to Catholic schools at taxpayer expense. The state has been the site of repeated efforts to siphon tax dollars away from public schools into the coffers of religious schools ever since.

The Jindal administration released the list of schools which will participate in the voucher program starting this fall. Nine are private yet not directly connected with a religious purpose, and one is a public school. Almost all are religious and located in urban areas along the I-10 corridor. Here’s some additional data:

  • 380,000 = Total estimated eligible students statewide
  • 7,450 = Total number of slots
  • 125 = Total number of participating schools
  • 115 = Religious private schools
  • 9 = Non-religious private schools
  • 1 = public school 
  • ~12 = Participating schools in North & Central Louisiana
  • 33 = Parishes with approved schools
  • $8,500 = taxpayer money per voucher

“I can tell you that this is not a Louisiana agenda. This is a national agenda to do away with public education as we know it.” Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs

Apart from potential lawsuits which would challenge the vouchers on religious grounds, there may be more legal battles on the horizon for Jindal’s vouchers. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers opposed the voucher program citing the unconstitutional routing of public Minimum Funding Program (MFP) dollars into private hands. The union, led by President Steve Monaghan, has promised a lawsuit against the state on these grounds.

Another interesting development comes from one of the most conservative parts of the state. The St. Tammany Parish School Board approved a resolution to possibly challenge the education reform package on several constitutional grounds, in coordination with the Louisiana School Board Association and other school boards across the state. One of the principal grounds is also the routing of public school MFP funding into private schools – something that deprives school boards of much-needed funds. The folks in St. Tammany say that suing the state is the only way they can fight to save their public school system.

Lombardi’s Entirely Fictional Fable

Former LSU System President John V. Lombardi is now a fiction writer. At his blog at Inside Higher Ed, he describes the struggles of a corrupt authoritarian, though fictional, small nation in great detail: 

Imagine a small, developing country of perhaps 3 million people. Like many other small developing countries, our imaginary nation is rich in natural resources, its economy has prospered on the export of agricultural crops and benefited from the revenue generated by petroleum production, refining, and support services. Its history, like some of its counterparts in the developing world, reflects a constant structural economic weakness covered by a colorful culture, truly creative and charming people, and an often dramatic sequence of past events.

He goes on to describe the political leadership as a “populist authoritarian government led by individuals in search of advancement to more prosperous and internationally significant posts.” Again, entirely made up. (What is this guy smoking, right?) Some of his writing is clearly influenced, quite peripherally, by the whimsy of Louisiana. But certainly not his description of the regime’s response to opposition: 

When confronted with opposition, the regime mobilizes its sycophantic adherents and paid partisans to discredit, isolate, and eventually drive out any people with an ability or opportunity to address the real issues and consequences of the regime’s behavior. The technique, developed with great political skill, involves three fronts.

The first is the effort to co-opt anyone with an independent perspective. These individuals receive coveted appointments to government boards, association with the regime’s powerful people, and assurances that the regime will protect their business and personal interests. This works quite effectively with some people, although others choose not to participate, and normally responsible individuals become dependents of the regime, bound to provide whatever support the regime requires.

When this strategy fails, as it often does with independent agency officials of some visibility, the regime turns to a form of more direct engagement. In this second mode, representatives of the regime explain to the official that the better tactic for success during these years would involve a collaborative arrangement with the regime. That collaboration would provide support and regime protection for the official, permitting continued leadership of the agency. But to achieve this protection and collaboration, and to ensure that the agreement to work together is of substance, the regime requires a test of loyalty. This loyalty test requires the official to dispose of close associates whose work the regime dislikes. Absent those associates, the regime’s messengers promise but do not guarantee the official a secure role as a significant leader under the regime’s protection.

This message of threat disguised as offer is usually delivered by reputable business leaders associated with the regime who also maintain a relationship with the non-conforming official. Should the official appear at all reluctant, the regime then reinforces the message by mobilizing their most trusted direct political operatives to echo the message.

When this second more direct approach fails, the regime moves to the third stage and mobilizes its dependents, especially those connected in one way or another to the non-conforming official, and identifies a method to remove the dangerous behavior of regime independence. This involves a conspiracy to exile the offending official, preferably to another nation. Recognizing the transparency of this maneuver, the regime activates its media experts and develops a slanderous rationale for the forced exile. A few courageous people object, but others fall silent, for the price of failing to cooperate with the regime is now clearly revealed.

Wow – so imaginative! A little fiction writing is always a good way to distract from the trials and tribulations here in Louisiana.

Piyush In The Budget Choke Hold

Governor David Vitter.

Sound good to you?

We thought not. Last week, however, we personally tasted our first Vitter-tinged teabagging as citizens under the rule of what could very possibly be the State’s next Governor. The Vitter-Kennedy tea-tard alliance gummed up the State House so badly that Gov. Jindal’s kabuki thuggery couldn’t put humpty back together again.

Jindal, in the end, is simply a privatizer, not a small-government advocate. He doesn’t want to make “government” smaller, he just wants the money to go to private corporations owned by his friends. If you actually shrink government, those guys might get less money! Aghast. That’s what the one-time money fight is all about. Jindal wants to keep the revenue veins open for his corporate vulture buddies. Vitter just wants to kill the patient dead. Oh yeah, and the patient is regular Louisianians struggling with one of the nation’s poorest, least healthy, and worst-educated states. But we digress.

Back to our story: So, Vitter had been warning Jindal over the use of “one-time” (sweeping revenues from other purposes to pay for Government operations) money in the State budget for weeks. Even as Vitter endorsed Jindal last year, Vitter made it clear that he was coming for Jindal. It was one of those tongue-in-cheek endorsements, sort of like this:

Here, Godfather of right-wing tea-bagging David Vitter kisses his brother-in-arms, signaling his brother’s death.

Vitter’s allies in the legislature aren’t quite willing to cop to the game, lest they lose what independent balls they have left. Yet, it is undeniably the work of a dark-master of strategy:

Denials aside, Vitter has been peppering House members with emails and phone calls asking them to oppose Jindal on this issue.

For instance, last week Vitter emailed some representatives: “I think it’s crucial that we take the tough, but important, fiscal stand to end the use of ‘one-time’ money to balance the state budget … Please stand tall — and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded colleagues and the great majority of Louisianians.”

Vitter, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 after serving in the Louisiana House for 12 years, also emailed constituents suggesting they contact their legislators and voice their “rejection of the tired and wasteful ways of the good ’ol boys who used to run things in Louisiana.”Of course, legislators receive all manner of communications from constituents exhorting the representatives to stand this way or that on various issues. But few correspondences have much impact among the House majority, if the way they’re urging differ from what Jindal’s aides say.

Jindal’s own political apparatus apparently spends its quality time with reporters attacking David Vitter, off the record of course:

About 30 minutes after the request Thursday to interview Vitter, his press secretary released a prepared statement that acknowledged the U.S. senator was “reaching out to legislators” and quoted the senator congratulating House conservatives “for standing tall” when they refused to accept “one time” money in the budget.

Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s political adviser, said, “Sen. Vitter and the U.S. Senate have not passed a budget in almost three years. Until they do, he should probably spend his time focused on that.”

Both Ivy League-educated officials repeatedly profess love and admiration for the other. But both Jindal and Vitter practice scorched-earth politics, and their aides in casual conversation are quick to belittle the other big elephant in the house — all off the record, of course.

The strongest will survive, so let’s see them rumble! Of course, Timmy Teepell is home-schooled, so he doesn’t know anything about natural selection. But he does know the Governor’s politics fairly well. And we would venture to guess that’s not the toughest thing he says about the Sinator behind closed doors.

Vitter’s not-so-silent partner in all of this is Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy. As many would acknowledge, Kennedy is held in high esteem around Baton Rouge by the business crowd at the Camelot club, and his dark alliance with Vitter only works in Kennedy’s favor overall.

Good info on the new leadership of the Louisiana Democrats


Four years ago, I, along with two of my friends, traveled to Denver for the Democratic National Convention. The three of us were selected as the “official” bloggers for the Louisiana delegation. We were given full access to the Louisiana Democratic Party’s events, floor passes at the convention, and were treated more like delegates than members of the media. It was an incredible, eye-opening experience, and I will always be grateful to have had a front row seat.

My buddy Daniel was wise. He recorded a video with the express intention of proving our attendance (though we both eventually relocated to the floor):

But we weren’t in Denver to report on the Louisiana Democratic Party; that wasn’t our story. We were there to write about the nomination of Barack Obama. In hindsight, I wish I had written about the Louisiana Democratic Party, because that was the real story: Obama’s nomination was…

View original post 1,206 more words

For Bobby: When It Rains, It Pours On Your Vice-Presidential Dreams

From Esquire Magazine’s Pierce On Politics Blog

As the most recent bless’d Republican savior (David Frum fluffs the living shit out of the Jindal-for-VP-Will-Save-Mittens bandwagon here, calling ole Bobby “a brilliant policy mind with an inspirational life story who has run an effective government in corruption-tainted Louisiana.“), Bobby Jindal must be wetting his kids-size pants. National pundits all over the conservative spectrum (which spans a very acute wavelength) have been cheer-leading for Jindal as either a.) Mitt Romney’s very best awesome choice for Vice President – job that “isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit,” or b.) as a upstart, GOP convention coup d’tat replacement for the savagely emasculated Mittens Romney on the top of the ticket.

Sadly, for those of us who actually live in the state that Jindal “governs,” it seems like the gold standard has truly worn off:

The Jindal administration has certainly been very good for Bobby Jindal, but it hasn’t been so great for, you know, the rest of us Louisianians.

1. “Louisiana Last in ‘Camelot’ Index”

What does that mean exactly? No King Arthurs? No, something more damning:

Louisiana ranks dead last on a new composite index comparing how the fifty states fare on measures of economic vitality, education, health, crime and governance. The “Camelot Index” is issued annually by Federal Funds Information for States, a non-partisan subscription service created by the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks and reports on the fiscal impact of federal budget and policy decisions on state budgets and programs.

…The Camelot Index brings together measures of economic vitality, health, education, crime, society and government. In the current index, many states rank consistently across measures, while others do quite well on some measures but not on others. “Overall for 2012, Louisiana ranks as Camelot-Not, with the report noting that, “Nevada and South Carolina move out of the bottom ranking from 2011, replaced this year by Louisiana. Seven of the Index’s 10 bottom-ranking states are from the South.”

While Gov. Bobby Jindal has foresworn any interest in being Mitt Romney’s running-mate, the Camelot ranking comes at an inopportune moment if he harbors any such ambition. The governor’s stewardship of Louisiana has won rave reviews in the conservative press, but the FFIS ranking would seem to indicate that Louisiana has a long way to go.

Even the Jindal “economic miracle” is slammed in the report:

The Camelot Index’s “healthy economy” ranking is based on the percentage of people in poverty, employment growth, population growth, per capita income growth, per capita federal tax liabilities — a reflection of high incomes — per capita taxable resources and the annual mean wage for retail salespeople. Combining these criteria, New Jersey ranked number one, followed by North Dakota, Wyoming, Maryland and Virginia. Louisiana placed 41st. Mississippi and Alabama were at the bottom.

Oh, I guess “Believing” in Louisiana just isn’t enough. Government by a hope and a prayer certainly isn’t working out for old Bobby.

2. Louisiana Most Violent State in the U.S.

Another wonderful reflection of the state of our state under Bobby Jindal was released this past week, and it’s a doozy:

According to a recent report from the Institute for Economics and Peace, Louisiana was ranked America’s most violent state for the 20th year in a row, based on homicide, violent crime and incarceration rates, as well availability of firearms.

“…What the [report] shows is that over the past 20 years, America has become substantially more peaceful, witnessing a significant and sustained reduction in direct violence,” said IEP founder and executive chairman Steve Killelea in a release.”Homicide rates in the U.S. have halved since 1991 and the violent crime rate has also fallen by nearly half during the same period.”

America becomes more peaceful, while Louisiana brings up the rear. Can’t even say “why Louisiana ain’t Mississippi” on this one, huh Jay Dardenne?

He’s done such a great job here, why not just make give him a promotion!

Gene Mills’s and Bobby Jindal’s Gay Agenda

During the last couple of years, Louisiana progressives have been fighting for the passage of an anti-bullying bill, which would better protect our children against harassment, intimidation, and bigotry in the classroom. This should be an easy issue. After all, with the exception of a commenter on The Town Talk‘s website who thinks it’s “sissified” for the government to even consider adopting anti-bullying legislation, most of us would likely agree that it’s vitally important for us to ensure that our school system is as safe as possible, that our children can receive a decent education free from oppression, and that we are obligated to prevent, to the best of our collective abilities and to the fullest extent of the law, the possibility that any child would feel compelled to commit suicide or harm themselves in any way as a result of things said or done to them in school.

Indeed, so far, twenty-two states have already adopted similar legislation, including our neighbors in Arkansas. But, fortunately for Arkansans, they don’t have to contend with a man like Gene Mills, an organization like the Louisiana Family Forum, or a governor who is all-too-willing to kowtow to the intransigent demands of a small but powerful group of radical right wing fundamentalists.

(Governor Bobby Jindal being “prayed” on by Mr. Gene Mills in the privacy of their own made-for-TV special)

“Bullying” is a word we primarily apply when children are involved. When it involves adults, we call it assault, and if you’re found guilty of assault, it’s likely that you may spend time behind bars. And if you assault someone specifically because of their ethnicity, disability, religion, or sexual orientation, in most states, your punishment will be even more severe; it would qualify as a hate crime.

Understandably, we treat children differently; we transpose the word “bullying.” But if the rash of recent suicides by bullied children proves anything, it’s that bullying is not merely some rite of passage that we must all endure; it’s not simply a part of being a kid.

Throughout the last two years, Gene Mills, the chief lobbyist and President of the tax-exempt Louisiana Family Forum, has fought vociferously against the passage of anti-bullying bills, with the implicit support of Governor Bobby Jindal and his administration. Mr. Mills (he refers to himself as a Reverend, but until he fully discloses his organization’s finances, I see no reason to bestow him with any honorarium) has opposed the legislation because it, among other things, protects children from bullying on the basis of their sexual orientation. And this, according to Mr. Mills, who fashions himself as a Christian leader, is merely an attempt at advancing the “gay agenda.”

I don’t have much patience for charlatans or bigots or people who promote themselves as religious leaders in order to justify their discriminatory beliefs. Mr. Mills, with the assistance of State Senator Rick Ward, is now authoring his own anti-bullying bill, which appears to be nothing more than a toothless, meaningless recapitulation of existing law designed to help Mr. Mills and his organization reclaim a public relations war, and which, unsurprisingly, has the endorsement of Governor Bobby Jindal. Governor Jindal’s support is telling; it reveals, among other things, how much power Gene Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum have over him and his agenda. Just last month, Jindal’s aide, Russell Armstrong (who completely embarrassed himself), argued against the anti-bullying bill on behalf of his administration, suggesting that there was no reason to change existing law.

Mr. Armstrong, on behalf of Governor Jindal, said that the Jindal administration doesn’t “believe in passing legislation for the sake of passing legislation.” Now, we know that is simply not true. Russell Armstrong and Bobby Jindal were opposed to the anti-bullying bill for the same reason Gene Mills was opposed to it: The bill mentioned, among many other things, the need to prevent bullying (read: assault) against children on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The (Louisiana Senate) panel refused to back a second bill by Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, that would spell out that harassment and bullying would not be allowed because of a person’s characteristics, including race, ancestry, religion, physical or intellectual disability, mental illness, language ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and political ideas. Such a list has been repeatedly opposed by the conservative Louisiana Family Forum and religious groups as introducing sexual politics into the classroom and promoting a “gay agenda” in schools.

Gene Mills, head of the family forum, helped write Ward’s bill, without a list of characteristics.

“This is a careful attempt to balance the rights of children with the duties of adults,” Mills said.

Can we be honest with one another here? Governor Jindal, Gene Mills, and the Louisiana Family Forum do not object to a bill that would prohibit bullying against a child because of their race, ancestry, religion, physical or intellectual disability, mental illness, language ability, or political ideas. They have no problem with that; it’s fair. Their issue is a bill that would prohibit bullying on the basis of a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In their view, apparently, the prohibition against such bullying would result in the introduction of “sexual politics” (a term I have never heard until now) and the promotion of the “gay agenda.” In Governor Jindal’s and Gene Mills’s world, the government can prevent the introduction of “sexual politics” (again, wow, what a turn of phrase) and the advancement of the “gay agenda” by ensuring that kids aren’t singled out for bullying other kids because of their sexual orientation. To them, it’s more important to protect the right of an ignorant and hateful bully to chastise and ridicule someone for being gay (because, you know, Jesus gave them special permission to be sanctimonious jerks) than it is to protect the safety and dignity of the children most vulnerable to attack and most susceptible to depression and suicide.

Without question, the overwhelming majority of Louisianans would support legislation that protects our children against bullying. I don’t know what Governor Jindal and Mr. Mills are scared of. Here is Governor Jindal, just yesterday, saying that he doesn’t believe in discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation:

Still, while Governor Jindal auditions in front of the country for Vice President, back in Louisiana, he continues to embrace Gene Mills and the divisive, destructive, and hypocritical agenda of the Louisiana Family Forum. And to be clear, I hope Governor Romney selects Governor Jindal, as David Frum implored him to do earlier this week, because when all is said and done, Jeremiah Wright has nothing on Gene Mills.


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