Democratic Louisiana flag
Volume 1, Number 26
By Democrats For Democrats
August 7, 2010
The Plunderer

The stark power grab that Bobby Jindal executed this week involving both the LSU Board of Supervisors and the new teaching hospital in New Orleans are harbingers of bad things to come.

The Governor is drooling over the opportunity to control the awarding of lucrative contracts associated with the hospital, ranging from construction to management. He and his staff are trying to wall this entire process off from any public scrutiny or oversight.

Without transparency, there can be no ethics. That applies to Jindal as well as any other elected leader. Transparency is essential in a democratic republic.

Jindal undermines his credibility by continuing to hide behind a wall of secrecy with everything ranging from economic development to responding to the BP Gulf Gusher.

Now, he is insisting on taking the looting of the public hospital in New Orleans (what else can you call a facility built with $1.2 billion in public money but "public") behind closed doors so that he can operate there with the same impunity that he's exhibited during his term.

He's inflicting a great deal of harm to the state, and ultimately himself. I don't care about him, but I do care about the state. He must be stopped.

Here's the link to the archive page.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Stagg, Editor

Another week into the moratorium on deep water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and another week of mounting evidence that the opponents of the moratorium who predicted it would crush Louisiana's economy are guilty of crying wolf.

The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) website on Saturday that the rig count in Louisiana was 183 rigs. That's down three from the previous week, and one less rig that was operating in Louisiana two weeks ago.

The Times-Picayune, on a day in which they were deep in the Governor's thrall, says Jindal thrives in crisisThe Louisiana Workforce Commission announced on Friday that new unemployment claims in Louisiana had fallen yet again.

In fact, the LWC said in its statement that unemployment claims in Louisiana have been trending downward all summer:

In July all regular unemployment insurance claimants who have received at least one check during the reference month in Louisiana decreased by 993 from 49,421 in June 2010 to 48,428 in July 2010.

The Times-Picayune reported on Friday that there has not, in fact, been an exodus of deep water drilling companies from the Gulf of Mexico, despite the moratorium.

Despite uncertainty about when the federal moratorium on deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico may be lifted, drilling companies say they are readying to return to work, maintaining their full complement of rig workers at full pay and making improvements in their rigs to meet new federal safety standards required by the Interior Department.

Rig counts steady. Unemployment falling. Drilling companies say they are keeping people on staff and working to meet the new safety regulations.

All more evidence that "The End is Near" rally was propaganda event perpetrated by the Governor and his allies in the oil and gas industry on the people of this state. Or, in other words, just another day at the office for Bobby Jindal.

This post can be viewed here — includes a link.

In 1985, then Governor Edwin Edwards was indicted and tried on federal charges that he was selling hospital certificates of need to his allies in exchange for money. A hung jury led to a new trial in 1986 in which Edwards and four co-defendants were acquitted.

Suffice it to say that if the thought would have even entered Edwin Edwards' mind to do what Bobby Jindal is doing in New Orleans now with the still-to-be-built Teaching Hospital in New Orleans, grand juries would have already been impaneled and Judge Frank Polozola would be clawing his way back to the bench in anticipation of the indictments and trial.

Looting The Healthcare Infrastructure

What is Jindal doing? He's taking more than $1.2 billion in public money and giving it to a private corporation that will be beyond the control or supervision of the Legislature and the public. The first $800 million or so of the funds were either appropriated by the Legislature or awarded to the state by the federal government through FEMA to replace the former Big Charity Hospital in New Orleans that was flooded in the wake of the federal levee collapse after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The remaining $400 million or so will come through financing arranged through LSU which, when we last checked, was the state's land grant university and a public entity.

Killing the state's public hospital system has been a goal of Jindal's since the days when he ran the Department of Health & Hospitals for Governor Mike Foster. He's made considerable progress. Shortly after taking office, he killed plans laid by Governor Kathleen Blanco to build a new state hospital to replace Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville.

Last year, Jindal made clear to LSU that if it wanted a replacement hospital for Big Charity in New Orleans, it would have to scuttle Earl K. Long Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. Governor Blanco had also started a funding process to rebuild this hospital, but Jindal made clear to LSU's Health Care Vice President Fred Cerise that killing EKL was the price the university would pay to get a hospital in New Orleans. So, Cerise struck a deal with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge to take over the handling of some Medicaid patients and to serve as the home institution for LSU's medical education program in Baton Rouge.

Jindal insisted that the Legislature have no say in the appointments to the New Orleans hospital board, fighting hard in the recent Regular Session Senator Ed Murray's attempt to give the Senate the right to confirm appointments to the governing board.

This past week, Jindal grabbed full control of the project when his majority on the LSU Board of Supervisors overruled LSU System President John Lombardi's choice to chair the governing board and replace her with one of Jindal's biggest contributors, Baton Rouge meat magnate Bobby Yarborough. Jindal had appointed Yarborough to the LSU Board of Supervisors in June, apparently with some role like this already in mind.

Jindal's true intentions became abundantly clear when members of Jindal's staff convened a closed door meeting on Wednesday in New Orleans involving nine of the 11 members of the hospital governing board. Jindal legal counsel Stephen Waguespack described it as a "social meeting" that did not violate the state open meetings law. Waguespack told the Time-Picayune that he was not sure if the open meetings law applies to the new corporation.

Pure and simple, this is a power grab to enable a money grab.

The Jindal MO: Public Dollars to Private Donors

The so-called Ethics Governor™ has a record replete with lavishing public dollars in service of the projects of his biggest contributors. Gary Chouest's project got nearly $30 million. Lev Dawson's sweet potato farm just happens to be next door to a ConAgra plant that Jindal put $30 million of state dollars into. The Shaw Group, which gave the Louisiana Republican Party and the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority, a matching set of $50,000 contributions in recent years, got the contract to dredge for Bobby's berms without having to go through a bid process.

Nice rewards that a governor with a compliant Legislature can give. But, as has been clear for quite sometime, Jindal has much higher aspirations than Baton Rouge and to do that, it's going to take a lot more money than he's raised to run for re-election. To do that, he needs another mechanism to draw deeper from the deep pockets of the people who can fund his campaigns.

No, to do that, Jindal needs to do more than a couple of one-off investments in private projects. He needs to create lasting money streams for his supporters — or potential supporters. That business model was perfected under the Bush/Cheney administration. It is crony capitalism.

Jindal's fight to privatize the state's mental health hospitals, in retrospect, was where he showed his hand for what he has in mind for the New Orleans teaching hospital. He wants to be able to distribute lucrative contracts for management and services in a way that is beyond the reach of the Legislature and beyond the review of the public. Jindal said he vetoed HB 1443 by Rep. John Bel Edwards because the "additional steps" of legislative oversight of the privatization process "would hinder" the state's ability to accomplish his goals, which are to distribute the contracts as he sees fit.

Apply that logic to the teaching hospital in New Orleans and what you come up with is Jindal having (and exercising) the power to award contracts for managing and providing services to the hospital built with public dollars without anyone having any ability to review those contracts. Who would do that? The hand-picked board members from LSU? The other board members that Jindal influences or controls?

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

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