Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Welcome to Louisiana

This is my fifth year of living on-and-off here in New Orleans, Louisiana. I have tried so hard to understand how this state functions politically, but it is so difficult to read between the lines to figure out how business actually gets done.

Sometimes, though, you can just look at the lines themselves and get a pretty good taste.

There just doesn't seem to be enough space in the New Orleans Times-Picayune this week.

Let's start with the race for Louisiana Attorney General.

First, the incumbent, Democrat Charles Foti Jr. faces a nasty reelection fight in part because of his failed and questionable indictment of Dr. Anna Pou on second-degree murder charges stemming from the deaths of several patients during Hurricane Katrina.

His chief rival in this October's runoff reelection (Louisiana is weird), is a Republican named Royal Alexander. Yesterday's Times-Picayune obtained emails that flat-out prove that Alexander has coerced campaign donations in exchange for favors from his current position as chief of staff to Congressman Rodney Alexander of Quitman (no relation).

This is directly from the an email between Alexander and members of the Louisiana Association of Ambulatory Healthcare, which sought to fight cuts to providers that serve Medicare and Medicaid patients:

"...So, in return for the precious time I am going to take awqay from my campaign for Attorney General to assist you, I am going to ask you to make a substantial financial contribution to my campaign."

And as if this wasn't a direct enough solicitation of quid pro quo, here is some text from a follow-up email sent by Alexander:

"Lansing, you have hemmed and hawed for several months about helping me. No more excuses. Paul, you are also aware of the help I personally, after hours and on my own time, provided your industry... Please consider making a $5,000 contribution... If you don't help me as I help you (now for the second time) it is going to make me think that you are not very serious about reducing or eliminating these drastic rate cuts... I don't have time to waste on projects for people who don't care about helping me..." [emphasis mine]

To me, this is a slam-dunk scandal that ought to make a candidate unelectable, if not prison-bound. Public officials are supposed to represent all members of the public, not just those that are able and willing to make campaign donations of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the fact that Alexander's actions are in direct violation of Louisiana campaign finance law.

That law states that:

"No person shall knowingly coerce or attempt to coerce another person to give or withhold a contribution."

However, according to the Times-Picayune article, the penalty for a violation of this law only demands that he candidate turn over to the state any funds obtained via coercive tactics. Thus, again according to the Times-Picayune, the state ethics administrator, Kathleen Allen, "said she can find no criminal penalty for coercion by a candidate."

So what really prevents candidates from forcing wealthy individuals and industries to make campaign donations by threatening inattentiveness or retaliatory policies for noncompliance?

Nothing.

Nothing at all.

Because in a worst-case scenario, where you are caught red-handed by one of the larger media outlets in the state, you can just do as Alexander did in the article:

"There's not a lot of nuance in the e-mails, but I certainly didn't mean anything by it... All of this is part of the persuasion to build votes and build support, because unfortunately campaigns are so expensive... You have to exhort people and persuade them."

Oops, I didn't mean to sound coercive, I was being an aggressive fund-raiser. I did nothing criminal, campaign finance laws are confusing and I'll turn the money over to the state if that is recommended by the ethics board. And if you don't mind, I'll just continue on with my business of selling political favors in exchange for campaign donations and try not to get caught so red-handed next time.

Royal Alexander will probably be the state's next Attorney General.

Do those of you in other states have campaign finance laws that ban this type of behavior? What are the penalties from violating these laws? I suspect that if something like this were to occur in another state, a criminal indictment would be possible.

And without going into too much more detail, here are some more examples of the Louisiana mess that have been in the papers over the last two days alone:

1. A New Orleans prostitute accuses Senator David Vitter of being a loyal customer, contradicting his assertion that while he did patronize a Washington D.C. escort service, any allegations out of New Orleans are untrue.

2. The case against Congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans, a Democrat, is progressing nicely, with the Justice Department naming 11 co-conspirators including the Congressman's wife, brother, and the former VP of Nigeria. FBI agents, of course, found $90,000 in bribery sting money in the Congressman's freezer.

3. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and City Councilwoman Stacy Head are heading toward a major political showdown over Head's subpoena of a Nagin staffer to testify on a matter related to an air-conditioner repair at a police station in Head's district.


9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Buddy Caldwell is getting more and more support among Democrats.

Royal will not be Louisiana's next Attorney General. Go to www.dailykingfish.com to read all about Royal's skeletons. And then tell me that Royal will be the next AG of Louisiana.

Anonymous said...

Ah. the Daily Lying Dish at it again. They prop up the most corrupt politicians in the history of Louisiana, including corrupt Buddy Caldwell (See the YouTube testimomy of Dr. Dan Kyle) and then have the audacity to criticize Royal Alexander. Thank God they have about 12 loyal followers for the Daily Lying Dish.

Anonymous said...

The dailykingfish, otherwise and more accurately known as the Daily Lying Dish, will not allow opposing viewpoints on its site. I and others have repeatedly bested the DLD with sound argument. And the DLD will have none of it. Instead of admitting that it has crossed swords with fighters too strong for it, the DLD simply bans the winners from the post so the DLD can keep its bankrupt arguments from being exposed. Sounds like some of the old time corrupt politicans. The DLD's arguments about Royal Alexander are specious lies.
But you would never know it by reading the site because the opposing viewpoints are not allowed. Oh, and the DLD are proponents of intellectual diversity and the 1st amendment. We will discuss that further when I sell you my ocean front property in Shreveport.

Anonymous said...

Alexander is the classic Louisiana con artist-politician trying to wearing the mask of the reformer. The email shakedown is just the icing on the cake for this career political hack.


"That prompted another message from Mr. Alexander July 21, in which he cited the powers of the office he seeks. "I have no doubt that if I become our state's next Attorney General I will certainly be in a position to help your industry. Please let me know when we can schedule a fundraiser . . .," he wrote."

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Daily Lying Dish is at it again. Buddy "Cowboy" Caldwell publicly humiliates a sitting judge and 4 co-defendants, without evidence, and then is forced to dismiss the charges after admitting he "operated from a presumption of guilt". State v. Patricia Hedges. That is an actual quote. He publicly threatened Dr. Dan Kyle when Kyle was about to expose Caldwell's graft and corruption. Dan Kyle feels physically threatened by Caldwell to this day (See "Caldwell Revealed" on youtube, a must view). This winner Caldwell is on his third marriage and has a girlfriend in the wings. According to Dr. Kyle Caldwell is a racist as well and used threatening language to him that got the US Attorneys office concerned. AH, nothing like the truth from the Daily Lying Dish, which suppresses free speech on its site yet proclaims to be intellectually honest. And they have the audacity to call a decent man like Royal Alexander a hack. It is enough to make me want to hack.

Anonymous said...

CALDWELL BUSTED!! THE GUY IS SO STUPID HE CRITICIZED FOTI FOR LOW MORALE IN HIS OFFICE APPARENTLY FORGETTING THAT HIS OWN SON WORKS FOR FOTI MAKING 68K PER YEAR AND GOT THE JOB ONLY AFTER CALDWELL PERSONALLY APPROACHED FOTI AND ASKED FOR IT. HOW DUMB DO YOU GET?

E said...

So basically, there is no qualified candidate here. They all sound just awful.

Anonymous said...

There is a qualified candidate, and his name is Buddy Caldwell. Alexander is qualified in things like sending shakedown fundraising emails, failing to recognize the seriousness of perverted emails sent to underage pages, and being hit with allegations of sexual harassment. Alexander is clearly not qualified in actually practicing law.

Dan Kyle is another political hack who tried to run for Governor and is now on the Republican State Central Committee.

At least Buddy Caldwell has a married life. Alexander has never been married. Maybe he and bachelor for life Charles Foti can compare notes on how to attract women. But first Alexander needs to get an adult haircut.

Anonymous said...

Alexander will take Caldwell. Caldwell has the louisiana trial lawyers lining up behind him. I can smell them lining up at the trough. Can you say old time Louisiana Politics.