Democratic Louisiana flag
Volume 1, Number 24
By Democrats For Democrats
July 24, 2010
Corruption In Another Form

We are, as you know, home to the "Ethics Governor"™ Yet, the Ethics Governor is not above using a state agency to advance his political agenda, as happened this past week in Lafayette when the Louisiana Workforce Commission put a particularly hefty (and misleading) spin on the size of the energy industry in this state and the potential impact of the deep water drilling moratorium.

We're getting used to that in Lafayette, as our Mayor President Joey Durel helped turn a community Fourth of July Concert into a public endorsement of David Vitter (John LA/DC). The event was paid for, in part, with public dollars. The facts are detailed in this report to the LCG Council that about half of the Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee wants to put in the hands of the Lafayette Consolidated Government Council.

Governor Jindal's eagerness to inject politics into every policy decision is, apparently, trickling down to the parish level in Republican areas. Or is it just in Lafayette?

Check out the healthcare story below to see how the Governor's posturing hurts working Louisiana citizens.

How much of his berms do you think will survive Bonnie? My guess is 'none.'

Here's the link to the archive page.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Stagg, Editor

How 'bout them oysters, Bobby?

Governor P.M. (Perpetual Motion) Bobby Jindal has been a blur along the coast since early May when he abandoned governing and transitioned into the role of BP Gulf Gusher commentator.

Face it, he hasn't done much since he's gone coastal and, judging from the impact of the few things he has done, we are all better off for his ineffectiveness.

Case in point — one of his early 'brilliant' ideas to use fresh water current from the Mississippi River to keep BP's oil out of some of the coastal waters off St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and St. Charles parishes. The order, issued on May 7 by the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, directed that all six freshwater diversion structures on the lower river be opened.

The results are in and it's not pretty, according to the Associated Press:

Surveys of coastal oyster grounds have discovered extensive deaths of the shellfish, further threatening an industry already in free-fall because of BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deaths are blamed on the opening of release valves on the Mississippi River in an attempt to use fresh water to flush oil out to sea. Giant diversion structures at Caernarvon and Davis Pond have been running since April 25 on the orders of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and local officials with the consent of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Times-Picayune, on a day in which they were deep in the Governor's thrall, says Jindal thrives in crisis. Good thing, because he's just created another one.

Louisiana Republicans have a stark choice to make in next month's party primary election for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats. They can vote to elect the candidate who has a long string of allegations of his involvement with prostitutes; or, they can vote to elect the candidate who has been a one-man wrecking crew of marriages in one prominent northeast Louisiana political family.

And that's just what the mainstream press is reporting about the two GOP front runners — Senator David Vitter and former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor!

Welcome to the Louisiana Republican Party's Summer of Slime, Family Values in the Senate primary edition!

As we all know, Vitter has been accused of using prostitutes throughout his service in public office — from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to DC, from his days in the Louisiana Legislature, to his stint representing Louisiana's First District in Congress. His phone number showed up in the phone records of the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the "DC Madam" in a scandal that erupted in the summer of 2007. The operator of a Canal Street Brothel in New Orleans said Vitter was a customer. Then, a woman who worked as a prostitute under the alias of "Wendy Cortez" said Vitter was a client of her's as well.

Just when it appeared that Vitter might have at least cleared the political damage resulting from those revelations and allegations, along came the Brent Furer matter. In that case, Vitter (six months after his prostitution eruptions peaked) decided to keep on his staff a man who had held a woman in an apartment against her will and stabbed her. Vitter then made that man Furer his staff member responsible for women's issues. That percolated in the background for a couple of years until word broke that Furer had other issues with women that involved alcohol, drugs and violence, or various combinations thereof.

Vitter has a long history of opportunism that has created an equally long list of enemies in both parties. The list of people who might have an interest in damaging his prospects in this election is long. There is no telling where the leak about Furer came from or if there are others out there with damaging information about the senator.

The Concordia Sentinel, in its endorsement of Chet Traylor in the GOP primary, suggested this week that more scandals involving Vitter could be coming to public view in the near future: "We will not engage in a rumor mongering campaign either by repeating allegations that another 'scandal' involving Vitter's personal life will surface soon."

No, they won't engage in rumor mongering. They will just mention that someone might be doing that now and, gawd forbid, it might make its way into the public discourse. But, it will appear first in their pages. Vitter must be thankful.

Vitter's well-oiled slime machine (his political role model appears to be ex-Texas Congressman and roach killer Tom DeLay), has had a busy two weeks. They have filled the mainstream media with stories about how Traylor alledgedly wrecked the marriage of perennial Democratic officeholder Noble Ellington and the marriage of one of Ellington's sons.

Traylor tracks through the Ellingtons goes something like this: he married Noble Ellington's wife Peggy after (Ellington says) the affair the two were having broke up the Ellingtons' marriage; Peggy Traylor died some years later. According to the Monroe News Star, "Traylor is also currently involved in a romantic relationship with Denise Lively, the estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington, the son of Noble Ellington."

Topping it off is a lawsuit, uh, well, better let the News Star explain it:

Ryan and Noble Ellington III, both of Winnsboro, filed a lawsuit against Traylor last month in Fifth Judicial District Court stating that in the months since the death of their mother, Peggy McDowell Traylor, in August 2009, Traylor has resisted efforts by the sons to collect information on their mother’s estate and to take possession of some of her property.

Noble Ellington III and Ryan Ellington’s lawsuit asks the court to compel Traylor to turn over bank records, their mother’s property and other relevant financial records.

Peggy McDowell Traylor died without a will.

The wife of a Supreme Court justice died without a will. The man in charge of women's issues for a United States Senator with women's issues of his own had serious women's issues of his own.

There's much more. To read it, click here.

1,702 Louisiana Residents Hostage to Jindal's Politics

When the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (part of the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in April) started in July, 1,702 Louisiana residents who might have qualified for the plan were stranded by the Jindal administration's refusal to participate in the plan.

The plan kicked off nationally earlier this month. States had to declare earlier whether they were going to participate in the plan or not. Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon originally had his department preparing to ramp up for the plan, but was yanked back from that work by Governor Jindal and his point man on opposing all things related to healthcare reform, Alan Levine.

When the state refused to participate in April because Jindal said he didn't think the state could afford to take part in the plan (which will only last until 2014 when all pre-existing condition exclusions are eliminated), that meant that the federal government would run the plan that started here.

Under the plan, people who were denied health insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions will be able to buy health coverage at the same rates as healthy people. It won't be cheap, but it will be significantly cheaper than the state's Louisiana Health Plan, which offers coverage to Louisiana residents who cannot get coverage due to pre-existing conditions. The Louisiana Plan premiums run between 125% and 175% higher than market rates.

Because of Jindal's politically-motivated refusal to allow the state to participate in the federal plan, the 1,702 Louisiana residents on the state plan are trapped there until 2014.

In The Advocate story linked to above, Leah Barron, chief executive officer of the Louisiana Health Plan, explains why:

The Louisiana Health Plan will continue to operate despite the new federal plan, Barron said. Barron said she doesn’t expect the federal plan to affect the Louisiana Health Plan’s current coverage numbers.

“We’re certainly going to continue to have the people that we have now mainly because they’re so sick they can’t afford to drop their coverage for six months and then have access to the new pool,” she said.

Yet another example of how the interests of Louisiana residents never enters into Jindal's policy decisions. It's all politics all the time for the Governor. Louisiana residents are just fodder for his ambition.

Alan Levine Heading Back to Florida

Alan Levine has jumped the Jindal administration's ship and landed back in Florida with a healthcare management company.

Having presided over three budget cycles of Medicaid cuts that have reduced access to care and reduced employment in both the public and private sectors, Levine apparently feels he's done as much damage as he can stomach.

The 2011-12 budget figures to be brutal. Jindal and the Legislature are committed to reducing the size of government. The state faces a projected shortfall of more than $1 billion as Jindal's Republican colleagues in Congress are committed to cutting off stimulus spending that has helped hide the depth of Louisiana's budget crisis.

The budget approved in the recently completed session of the Legislature effectively removed all potential revenue sources that might have cushioned next year's blows by filling this year's holes.

Medicare remains the largest item in the budget and one of only two constitutionally unprotected areas in the budget. There has been talk of closing large chunks of the LSU Hospital System, which would either dump thousands of Medicaid and uninsured patients on community hospitals already in financial duress, or would just close avenues to care for the poor and uninsured completely.

Levine might not have been able to bring himself to do that. Jindal is committed to that path as his way to re-election.

Levine maneuvered LSU into agreeing to close the Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge in exchange for state support for a new teaching hospital in New Orleans. He launched an effort to privatize the state's three mental health hospitals. And, last week, he formally launched the effort to impose managed care into the state's Medicaid program, ostensibly to save the state money.

The way this is supposed to work is that the state expects to save money by bringing in a private sector company to manage decisions of who gets what care when and where, while not increasing the money spent on the program. Think of it this way: another hand is being stuck into the till, while the need for care continues to grow, but the state is going to spend less money on the Medicaid program.

The outcome will be a reduction in the amount and quality of care available to Medicaid patients. But, Jindal will spin it as a budget success. It will be a disaster for people dependent on Medicaid. Doctors and hospitals will likely reduce the number of Medicaid patients they are willing to treat. But, some contractors running the program will rake in millions of dollars annually.

For Jindal, it's just about the budget numbers. He will continue to make his big contributors comfortable, while hurling more affliction in the direction of the needy.

That's the essence of his Louisiana Way.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010, will go down as the high-water mark of in-state efforts to end the Gulf of Mexico deep water drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent blowout.

About 11,000 people turned out at the Lafayette Cajundome for the "Rally for Economic Survival." Getting that many people to turnout for anything other than a sporting event in Louisiana takes some doing. But, the 'doing' that got them there reveals that opponents of the moratorium are engaged in blatant and obvious fear mongering, and have frittered away what little credibility they had on the issue with the lies and distortions included in statements made leading up to and during the event.

Make no mistake about it, what happened in Lafayette on Wednesday was an anti-Obama political rally organized by the oil and gas industry and fronted by Governor Bobby Jindal and his hand-picked interim Lieutenant Governor, Scott Angelle. Angelle was among friends, having run the Department of Natural Resources until Jindal elevated him this spring. Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Sammy Kershaw provided entertainment (not sure if he just sang or if he read from his federal tax liens, too).

There was steady buildup leading up to the event. In Lafayette, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce led the drive to build attendance. Ultimately, all of Lafayette's mainstream media fell in line, becoming virtual (if not outright) partners in the promotion of the event. The Daily Advertiser ran a front page editorial calling for an end of the moratorium on the day of the event. ABC affiliate KATC's station manager delivered an on-air editorial calling for an end to the moratorium. Radio stations did live remotes from the event.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

This buildup was based, in fact, on a carefully orchestrated distortion of what the moratorium is, then building a statistical house of cards atop those distortions. The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), and its president Don Briggs, were prime movers in the effort to ramp up the climate of economic crisis that helped produce the turnout in Lafayette. Briggs is a long-time player in the Lafayette business community, serving on the board of the Lafayette Chamber. LOGA and Briggs have long-standing ties with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) and the LSU Center for Energy Studies, both of which produced economic reports painting horrific stories of the potential impact of a six-month moratorium.

The advisory council for the LSU Center for Energy Studies gives the distinct impression that this is an advocacy group hiding inside academia. This must be where the industry gathers when Lafayette's Petroleum Club is booked. It is not surprising that the rally included a presentation from the Center and the picture painted was bleak.

Do you think they would have been allowed to make a presentation that said anything different? No. Only the finest store-bought statistics were allowed at this privately-funded propaganda event.

The premise of all the pre-event propaganda and the presentations made during the rally is that the Obama administration has shutdown all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico — not just deep water drilling — and that the moratorium will become permanent. This might be good short-term politics, but it is not supported by the facts.

And while companies like Diamond Drilling have made a big show about moving two rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico to other drilling locales, the fact is that decisions on when and where to drill in permitted waters are made by the big oil companies — not by the drilling companies, not by the service companies, and not by lobbying groups.

What are the big oil companies thinking? They plan to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico once the moratorium is over and new rules are promulgated. That announcement was made on the same day as the rally, but strangely did not get much press coverage in south Louisiana.

Governor Bobby Jindal has been milking the BP Gulf Gusher for all the political gain he can get from it, having spent almost three months on the coast chasing down cameras and microphones for opportunities to criticize the federal response to the industry-caused disaster. With a presentation made at the rally, Jindal has apparently put the Louisiana Workforce Commission to work in advancing his political agenda.

The thrust of all of this is that economic ruin will result from the moratorium. To paint this picture, the impact of the oil and gas industry must be inflated and the discrete segments within the industry must be ignored.

Enter the Louisiana Workforce Commission. In a presentation on the rally website (see graphic), the commission includes people who work at "Gasoline Stations" to ramp up the employment numbers of the industry in the state. According to the June employment report issued by the LWC, this adds 18,600 workers to the "industry" payrolls. That means convenience store cashiers and clerks are considered part of the energy industry.

It is also worth noting that, according to the LCW's official job statistics for June (page 8 in the PDF), those 18,600 gasoline station workers out number all of the people engaged in oil and gas drilling and extraction in Louisiana. That is no quirk due to the moratorium. This has been the case in every report this year.

Are gasoline station workers affected by the moratorium? No. But, it heightens the purported importance of the industry of the state's economy and, thus, fits nicely within propaganda objectives of the conference organizers.

Off The Deep End

People say things in unscripted moments that they later sometimes regret. So, in an attempt to provide opponents of the moratorium the kind of fairness they will not provide supporters of the moratorium, this segment will focus on the prepared written statements by Rally organizers which The Daily Advertiser published on the morning of the event.

Reading these, it becomes clear that truth was among the first casualties in the ramp up for the rally. These otherwise staid community and business leaders have been scared witless by what they have been told about the economic impact of the deep water drilling moratorium. They are spouting gibberish based on lies they've been sold.

The statement by Don Briggs is a clear example of how the facts are conflated and mixed to create a potential outcome that has no basis in reality.

The statement and analysis continue after the jump.

Click here to read the rest of "Fear-Fanned Loathing in Lafayette"

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