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Peter Athas, Rising Tide
Jason Berry, American Zombie
Clancy DuBos, Gambit
Jacques Morial, N.O. political expert
Stephanie Grace, Times-Picayune
Jeff Crouere, Ringside Politics
BERRY: American Zombie
DUBOS: Urban slush funds from 90s: Hotel-motel tax in 70s to pay bonds on Dome, based on what was then in existence. We built more hotels, got more tourists, thus more money than what was needed to pay off bonds. Legislature found other ways to spend it–set aside for separate Orleans-area slush funds. Senators got more than reps (higher-ranking). Jason asked, Why didn’t LSED (Superdome Commission) call bullshit on some of this? Well, that was the law. The Lege set up system to be abused. The LSED was in effect an ATM to give $ to various charities. Mitch Landrieu used his $ to put laptops in police cars, so some good effects. But basically, no rules. Each one got to sign off on a form explaining why this was a good thing, and the $ went out.
GRACE: There’s a reason the slush finds called that. Were timed to run out. When Blanco renegotiated w/Tom Benson…// what do you get when you get rural plus urban? A majority in the LA legislature. The Q to ask, was this business as ususal, with usual bad rules, or was this something that broke even those rules? Ex. Renee Gill Pratt and Jefferson: what we wrote wound up in the federal indictment. We think it’ our job (MSM) to do it with care and not rush into print w/o substantiating facts.
MORIAL: seen recent disclosures related to Public Belt Railroad–generally illegal for state agency to make donation to private org unless a particular statute. Not only a discussion for MSM, but for bloggers to advance. 2nd Congressional District elex we’ll hear more of that, especially if he advances to runoff.
DUBOS: Ed Murray and Peppy Bruneau were the masterminds, which shows $$ talks. Rolex = smoking gun. Bought in ’01, ’02. Cedric bought it in ’06, so I said “produce the receipt”–waiting for that. Allegation he got th Rolex on credit card for a charity doing biz with the state.
BERRY: Rolex not the issue, but the diamond bezel on it. Second smoking gun $60(?)K renovations to bldg that were never done. Was actually working with another MSM org on it–that reporter confirmed w/bldg owner that the work had never been done. Rules prohibit duplicate work in same area–a 2000-foot bldg would qualify as being the same area…on top of that, Cedric’s office was in the very same bldg, and grant states you can’t get any political gain from it. Now I’m going after the Desire Housing Project.
ATHAS: Due to complaints the panels left of center, brought in noted conservative commentator Jeff Crouere.
CROUERE: Want to congratulate Jason for breaking all kinds of stories others in local media not even touching. Slush fund problem black/white, Dem/Rep, for a long time, questionable nonprofits tied to legislators. As for Cedric Richmond, hope this generates more than MSM has done….Joseph Cao–how many other members of Congress reads these bills? Gets invited to football at WH? A former Jesuit seminarian. He’s a Republican but not a conservative. Independent voice, done enough to open eyes of some Dems and get some Democratic voters in general elex. Think he could do some damage to Cedric Johnson and should get the chance…has held more town hall meetings than Bill Jefferson has in 18 yrs. Has good chance to win re-election.
MORIAL: You say he has a good chance? You said at first he was going to win.
DUBOS: I think he has a shot–I don’t make predictions. Let me revise some of the facts, or delve deeper into the facts… When he did vote for some Obama things, your friends in the GOP cut off his funds, which is a form of punishment. He is unique, very very interesting political figure. Think he is one of the more sincere political figures on the scene today nationally, but tough row to hoe. This district created for an African-American to win. Last year, Cao got about 2-3% of black vote. Dec. 2008 turnout extremely depressed; this one larger–will predict a more proportionate black turnout, not proprtionate to white turnout, but closer. Given increased black turnout, how much can Cao pick up level of black support? Has worked very, very hard to serve that district balancing Rep affil with representing Dem district.
BERRY: I am a Dem, I may be helping the Rep candidate with what I wrote, but it transcends partisanship. Hope we get runoff and Cao pulls it out.
MORIAL: Think Cao will pay the price for voting vs. healthcare reform. Voted against extending healthcare to 88K people in his district. Either because GOP bosses told him to, or because the Archbishop told him to. Bigger question is do you want your elected officials taking orders from you or from GOP/Archbishop?
GRACE: Hearkens back to 60s, would Kennedy listen to church or Americans. He was actually in favor of many of the more controversial parts of bill that Dems favored, e.g. mandates. During town halls and “death panels” furor, he stood up and said “There are no death panels, and end-of-life care is important, and here’s why.” Every mailer he sends out tells why he did it, but think people don’t care. This is a district that wants this bill and wants Obama to succeed, so a lot of people in district take this personally. Pork barrel in good way–brings a lot of $$ back to district, but such a partisan season with House in play, early on Dems may give a lot more attention to this district because they can win it back more easily.
MORIAL: Cao entitled to own convictions, but the idea the health bill going to mean abortions is bullshit. Every Catholic group supported because they know this stuff about abortion was bullshit–the Catholic nuns in healthcare, everyone.
CROUERE: Cao got a lot of attention re: hara-kiri for BP execs. Think GOP going to give him a lot of attention and save up resources for runoff.
ATHAS: People calling Vitter “the Teflon douche.” (Laughter.) Does Melancon have a shot at all?
GRACE: Yes, but serious uphill battle. Whatever you say re: Vitter, brilliant strategic politician, knows how to run campaign/pick his enemies. He was the guy who was calling out Edwards at every turn. He has decided not to run against Melancon, but against Obama. Makes it about partisanship: really goes for the Fox News constituency, which is a very powerful one in this state..All the stuff re: prostitutes, the aide that attacked the woman, it’s all true, it’s all bad, I wouldn’t want him near my daughter (laughter), but we’ll have to see.
MORIAL: If Zombie was on that story, wouldn’t be having this problem… aide for omen’s issues assaulted girlfriend and held her captive w/knife. Vitter is a whoremonger and a criminal. He is. (wiretap)
DUBOS: Vitter could have been charged under RICO. Always wondererd why not indicted as part of co-conspiracy. Also interesting how prostitute killed herself : hanging. It is extremely rare for a woman to shoot herself in the head, whereas men will. Women do not hang themselves, yet Deborah Jean Palfrey was found hanged. I’m not saying they never do, but a lot of stats for Zombie to investigate.
BERRY: Something that needs to be looked into. History w/Vitter of carbombings and some really nasty stuff that went on. The reason I think he’s going to win is because Melancon is running one of the shittiest campaigns ever. If they wd just leverage the Huffington Post, they cd raise money.
DUBOS: Not sure that’s accurate–think well over half ppl in LA know he was involved w/prostitutes, they just don’t care. They know he’s a whoremonger, hypocrite, coward, but they vote for him because he’s got an (R) behind his name. Vitter wouldn’t have a shot in hell in any other state, but voters in Louisiana hate Obama more than they hate hypocrisy. All abut timing–Dems may hope for 1-2 more shoes to drop re: Vitter.
CROUERE: Melancon doesn’t have a chance in hell. Vitter running ahead in strong double-digits; this is the state McCain did 4th best in nation around 2008, just gonna tie Obama around Melancon’s neck every commercial; also Nancy Pelosi–even in the 2nd district, with different dynamic, this plays well statewide. Despite reumors more to come out, there was question in 2007 whether controversy would force him out, when wife did press conference “stand by him”, war chest pretty impressive even with that. Melancon’s campaign “pathetic.” If he could have faced competent opponents in ’04 and ’08, might be different story.
DUBOS: Chris John ran the dumbest campaign in all of LA Dem politics. Grossly miscalculated by saving it for runoff–never got to use it.
GRACE: This broke in ’07 under Dem. Blanco. Had that seat gone vacant, wd have been Dem appointee, so Reps rallied around him. Absolutely agreed Wendy Vitter’s statement important, but wrote in editorial that VItter shd send flowers to 2 women: Wendy Vitter and Kathleen Blanco.
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BERRY: We’re breeding Republicans because no progressive voice in the media in New Orleans (in the most progressive city in the region).
DUBOS: See “The New Rules” tomorrow’s column. Basically, the new rules are the old rules. If we went back to old rules, open primary, only 2 people on ballot and Casieu (sp?) wd have won. You change the rules, you change the outcome.
QUESTION: Observation, really, that Vitter’s constituents like him because he’s racist.
CROUERE: He replaced David Duke in that district–has walked that district 7 times. You know how much time that takes?
DUBOS: It also takes a trust fund to walk the district 6 times. (laughter)
CROUERE: I agree with everyone here re: his character, and think more questions will be brought out, but he is an extremely hard worker. Re: Jindal, think he’s got his eye on some national position, but very disappointed in him, accomplished little, won’t serve 2nd term as governor.
DUBOS: He got lucky. If not gov, VP appointment or run vs. Mary Landrieu. After cliff year, bottom drops out. Will cut the budget. How do you cut adolescent healthcare in post-K New Orleans? Says send them across the lake? That’s the modern-day equivalent of “let them eat cake.”
MORIAL: Jindal is a hypocrite, too. Re: medical center, led around like a lapdog on a leash on transparency issue. Next year looking at removing 30% of constitutional mandates. Jindal says he won’t sign anything w/o revenue measure, will see university system closing, what’s left of Charity system, etc.
LOKI: What about expat New Orleanians refusing to move home until Jindal out?
CROUERE: Also talked to many people excited about moving back now that Nagin no longer mayor. Having a mayor (Landrieu) who comes on national TV and talks about the city in a compelling, articulate way.
GRAC: Thing to watch w/Jindal is where the universities go in our state. That sends a very strong signal.,