Thursday, March 6, 2008

Jindal, Tucker, Michot: Ethics Schmethics! And, Pay to Play is Thriving in the Jindal Era

All the huffing and puffing of the great ethics special session charade is over and now it's back to business as usual in Louisiana politics as run by Republicans.

Lafayette's The Independent weekly's blog, The Ind, has a story today about how the Ethics Governor, the Ethics Speaker and the Ethics Republican State Senator from Lafayette are joining forces to raise money for Republican campaign finance lawbreaker Don Trahan.

Trahan, The Independent reported in December, accepted more than $23,000 in political action committee (PAC) contributions in excess of the limit allowed by state campaign finance laws. Trahan won re-election with that illegal money by only 33 votes.

Michot, who took exception to Trahan campaign literature that claimed the senator had endorsed him over his opponent Nancy Landry, defended his embrace of Trahan now:
Michot characterizes the event as a way to help re-build Trahan's re-election war chest and a way to show unity in the Acadiana delegation. "A lot of legislators are having fund raisers right now; there were four last night in Baton Rouge," Michot says. "Most of them spent all of their money on their campaigns."

First elected in 2003, Trahan narrowly defeated independent Nancy Landry in the October primary to become the most senior member of the House from the Acadiana area. Tucker subsequently named him Education Committee chairman. "He's in a key leadership position in the House," Michot says.

Michot says he is expecting Democratic and independent legislators to show up at tonight's event. "I'm working hard to see that we work together as a group and bring some funding to Acadiana," says the senator, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
For Jindal, who appeared in a pre-ethics session press conference in Lafayette with Trahan by his side, the appearance at the Trahan event is further evidence that his talk of wanting to end corruption in Louisiana was, at best, hollow.

Trahan won his election with money he could not have otherwise legally obtained. Yet, the worst thing that will happen to him is that he might be fined. He will keep the fruit of his corrupt campaign practices — his seat in the Louisiana Legislature.

For all the talk about ethics, nothing in Jindal's ethics call addressed campaign finance reform. Nothing will increase the penalties on campaign finance law-breakers like Trahan. And, nothing that came up in the session gave any indication that the Governor or his leadership team is remotely interested in campaign finance reform. The current system is working quite well for them, thank you!

And, as if to prove just how the "pay to play" system Jindal bewailed during the campaign is thriving, New Orleans CityBusiness had a story today about how Jindal's call for the second Special Session includes $1o million that will benefit Edison Chouest, the company headed by Republican heavy hitter Gary Chouest.

Sure, there may well be an economic development angle to this, but, judge by the standard that Jindal himself set on the campaign trail, it is suspect. It was candidate Jindal who said that Louisiana could not tolerate "even the hint of corruption."

Providing state funding for a project of a major contributor to your party certainly raises the prospect of a hint of corruption.

Republicans were quick to call it back in 2004 when Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard, a big supporter of then newly-elected Governor Kathleen Blanco, won a contract to build the Union Tank Car facility that Blanco recruited to Alexandria. There were state dollars involved there. Bernhard was a contributor to Blanco's campaign. The hue and cry went up.

In the Port of Terrebonne deal announced today, state dollars are involved. Chouest is a big contributor to Republican causes and campaigns in Louisiana.

Where's the hue and cry on this?

Does a double standard on ethics exist in Louisiana? Are certain act corrupt only when they involved Democrats?

What is certain that Governor Jindal and his Republican friends have done nothing to end "pay to play" in Louisiana politics. In fact, they've just made sure that their particular form of it is protected for at least another four years.

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