Tuesday, 03 April 2012 20:10

Louisiana corruption, nepotism and government raises

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We’re No. 1 (In corruption)
Louisiana has received a No. 1 national ranking – unfortunately, it was for being the most corrupt state in the country.
Governing Magazine compiled U.S. Department of Justice data from 2001 to 2010 about the number of government louisiana capitol 2officials found guilty of corruption while in office.
Louisiana had 384 convictions of public officials during that time span. That works out to 8.5 convictions per 100,000 people and 10.5 convictions per 10,000 government employees at the local, state, and federal levels.
Using the per capita yardstick, Louisiana came in first, edging out North Dakota, which had a rate of 8.2. They were followed by South Dakota (7.2), Alaska (6.8), and Kentucky (6.5).
In public corruption convictions per 10,000 government employees, Louisiana also came in first with its rating of 10.5 convictions. In second place was Kentucky (8.5), followed by South Dakota (7.5), Delaware (7.2), and Mississippi (7.1).


Villere touts GOP vote
Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Roger Villere Jr. is touting the turnout of GOP voters for the party’s presidential preference primary on March 24.
He notes that 186,377 or 24% of the state’s registered Republicans went to the polls, a record for voter turnout in a Louisiana GOP primary. In 2008, 151,169 voted in the presidential preference primary.
Villere also clarified the allocation of delegates for the election. While 20 were up for grabs, only 15 were awarded – 10 to Rick Santorum, who received 49% of the vote, and 5 to Mitt Romney, who received 27%.
A candidate must have received a minimum of 25% of the primary vote in order the be allocated delegates. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul reached that threshold.
The remaining five delegates will go to the Republican National Convention uncommitted.
The Louisiana GOP will send a total of 46 delegates and 43 alternates to the convention in Tampa, Florida, August 27-30.
Delegates will be elected at the 2012 Louisiana Republican Convention in Shreveport in June. State convention delegates will be elected at district caucuses, which will be held on April 28 in 30 locations across Louisiana.

Need a raise?
Teachers, state government employees, parish assessors, judges, and sheriffs are poised to receive raises by a vote of the Legislature in the coming weeks.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is on board with raises for teachers and state employees. The fate of the others lies with legislators. Jindal is allowing state agencies to give raises if they can find the money in their budgets.
For sheriffs, a plan links greater accountability with more money. A House bill creates the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Executive Management Institute within the Office of the Governor. The legislation stipulates that sheriffs who complete required ethics and management training would be eligible for a salary increase.
And, the sheriffs’ pay hikes would be contingent on district court judges also getting a raise this session. A pending House bill would give judges a 1 percent to 4 percent pay increase, depending upon increases in the Consumer Price Index.
Currently, District Court judges earn $136,544 a year; Appeals Court judges are paid $142,447 annually; and state Supreme Court judges get an annual salary of $149,572.
Government watchers believe legislators will eventually consider a raise for themselves, but not this year. Because of a constitutional amendment adopted in 2010, raises for legislators and statewide officials cannot take place until the following term of office.


A family affair: nepotism anyone?
Four of Louisiana’s seven U.S. House members are cited in a report that alleges Members of Congress used campaign funds to employ family members and pay businesses that they or family members control.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found that 82 members – 40 Democrats and 42 Republicans – paid family members through their congressional offices, campaign committees, and political action committees.
It said that 44 members – 20 Democrats and 24 Republicans – have family members who lobby or are employed in government affairs and 90 members – 42 Democrats and 48 Republicans – paid a family business, employer, or associated nonprofits.
CREW points out that under current U.S. House rules, the actions are legal, but added that its report shows that lawmakers still haven’t learned it is wrong to trade on their positions as elected leaders to benefit themselves and their families.
Here are the Louisiana congressmen mentioned in the CREW report:
*U.S. Rep. John Fleming (R-4th District) – The report said that Fleming, president of Fleming Subway Restaurants, paid the firm $7,708 from his campaign account for advertising, catering, telephones, and meals.
*U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-5th District) – Alexander, according to the report, employed his daughter, Lisa Lowe, to manage his campaign committee. In 2010, she was paid $82,702 from his campaign fund.
*U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-2nd District) – According to CREW, he paid his sister, Germaine Gains, $382 for catering for his unsuccessful 2008 campaign and $569 for his successful 2010 race.
*U.S. Rep Bill Cassidy (R-6th District) – The report said that Cassidy used campaign funds to pay his brother’s law firm $500 for legal consulting and for babysitting services.
In reality, these actions are just the tip of the iceberg. Members of Congress have traditionally used campaign funds to lease cars, travel, buy Christmas gifts, and purchase clothes, to name a few expenditures made from their campaign coffers.
Rules governing campaign funds are very lax, basically stating that an expenditure should be campaign-related. To most Members of Congress, everything they do is campaign related.
Another member of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, got a slap on the wrist from the Senate Ethics Committee.
The committee said that Vitter undermined public trust when he blocked a raise for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unless he issued more permits for deep-water exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Ethics Committee did not charge Vitter with any rules violation because no guidance had been issued on such a tactic. Vitter was undeterred, stating that he will continue to place a hold on future raises for Salazar.


by Lou Gehrig Burnett, Publisher of Fax-Net

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