Just as there are many deserving nominees for Boob of the Year, so are there those who deserve to be recognized for their work to bring the actions of those boobs to public light. Their efforts have helped to expose corruption in lieu of an ineffective State Ethics Board that Jindal gutted as his first action upon becoming governor.
And for those who think we’re too negative, here is our chance to put some positive spin on state politics. Unlike our Boob of the Year nominees, few of our nominees for the John Copes Beacon of Light award are public officials, though it would be unfair to say that no elected official is worthy.
Copes, a Louisiana Tech graduate, was one of the very first political bloggers in Louisiana, launching his website The Deduct Box in 1999. A resident of Mandeville, he died in October of 2006 at a time when his blog was getting about 10,000 hits per day.
Because any such list is subjective, some deserving candidates will be left out by oversight as occurred with our Boob of the Year nominees. Accordingly, you are free to make your own nominations.
So, with that in mind, here we go:
Former State Sen. Butch Gautreaux: All he did was to bust a gut in trying to save the Office of Group Benefits from certain corruption and mismanagement. He failed, of course, because Bobby Jindal wanted to privatize the agency and indirectly raid OGB’s reserve fund. Now the fund has been depleted, premiums have risen and benefits have been cut and Sen. Gautreaux has been proven correct.
State Sen. Dan Claitor: Claitor filed a lawsuit to nullify the illegal retirement increase of some $50,000 for State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. He won that suit and then filed a bill to make certain there were no more backdoor deals for Edmonson. He also objected to the administration’s less than ethical ruse to delay payment of Medicaid claims by two months, thus kicking the final two months’ problems into the next fiscal year—long after Jindal and his fraudulent cohorts will be gone. Sadly, Claitor’s objections to the move were ignored by the administration—and his fellow legislators who once again, allowed Jindal to have his way with them.
Lame duck BESE members Carolyn Hill and Lottie Beebe: Both stood up to State Superintendent of Education John White and both paid the price. Out of state money poured in for their opponents and both Hill and Beebe were defeated for re-election.
John Bel Edwards: It may be too early to call him a Beacon of Light. That will depend on what he does as governor. But he did fight Bobby Jindal for eight years and overcame mind boggling odds against a Democrat with little name recognition outside Tangipahoa Parish upsetting powerful (as in $10 million worth of power) U.S. Sen. David Vitter. While Jindal held onto his congressional salary right up to the time he took the oath as governor, Edwards has resigned from the Louisiana Legislature.
Tommy and Melody Teague: She was fired from her job (but won it back on appeal) for daring to testify before Jindal’s governmental streamlining committee; he for the audacity of taking over an agency (OGB) with a deficit of some $200 million and take it to a surplus of $500 million and then not falling all over himself to support Jindal’s proposed privatization of OGB. Jindal prevailed of course, and the surplus (reserve fund) was depleted, premiums increased, benefits reduced and many retirees now living out of state have lost their medical benefits altogether. At least Tommy Teague saw the danger way before the smartest man in the room.
Murphy Painter: As director of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), he refused to allow FOB (friends of Bobby) short circuit the regulations for an alcohol permit for Champion’s Square across from the Superdome. For insisting that the applicant comply with ATC regulations, he was fired and indicted on made up criminal charges. Rather than bend over and grease up, he fought back, was acquitted at trial and stuck the state with his legal bills of nearly $300,000.
Whistleblower Jeff Mercer: The Mangham, La., contractor was harassed, coerced and intimidated when he refused to comply with a DOTD inspector’s demand that he give the inspector money and/or equipment (a generator). When he complained about the extortion attempt, more pressure was applied in the form of harsh inspections, delayed and denied payments for work performed. He went bankrupt as a result of the DOTD actions but determined to fight back, he sued and won a $20 million judgment from the state. A pity since the governor’s office was made aware of the inspector’s actions but chose to do nothing to avert the eventual courtroom battle.
Whistleblower Dan Collins: The Baton Rouge professional landman complained about things he observed in the Atchafalaya Basin Program and promptly got frozen out of future state contracts. Undaunted, he and his one attorney went up against the Department of Natural Resources and its four corporate attorneys and on Dec. 11 won treble damages totaling $750,000 — all after complaints to the governor’s office had been ignored, leaving us with the unavoidable conclusion that the Jindalites would rather pay hefty lawsuit judgments than correct obvious problems early on. To paraphrase the title of Hilary Clinton’s book, sometimes It Takes a Pissed off Citizen….
Lamar White Jr.: This Alexandria native, along with Bob Mann, has been a persistent thorn in the side of our absentee governor, a couple of congressmen, and anyone else he sees tampering with governmental ethics. But more than merely badgering, Lamar thoroughly documents everything he writes. If any official has anything to hide, he will be outed by Lamar. He is the one who dug up the story about U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise’s close connections to David Duke. That story, said Baton Rouge Advocate reporter Billy Gunn, “exemplifies the power of the pen and its ability to challenge the mighty.” High praise for someone another blogger once ridiculed for his cerebral palsy affliction which makes it difficult for him to walk. “But there’s nothing wrong with his mind,” Gunn said. “He writes on subjects ranging from the rights of the disabled to racial inequity.” Walter Pierce, editor of the Lafayette news site The Ind.com, said, “He has a sort of selfless bravery.”
Bob Mann: Journalist/author/political historian Bob Mann holds the Manship Chair in journalism at LSU and has unflinchingly taken on the powers that be, including his bosses on the LSU Board of Supervisors. Mann, who writes a column for Nola.com and Salon.com, has become such an irritant that one LSU Board member, Rolfe McCollister, has even advocated Mann’s firing for his saying that the LSU Board was more loyal to Jindal than to the students at LSU. This is the same Rolfe McCollister, by the way, who publishes the Baton Rouge Business Report. So much for his defense of the First Amendment. McCollister quoted a “former seasoned journalist” as saying “Every good journalist knows that you cannot ethically cover the institution that pays your salary and the people who supervise the work you do for that salary.” So much for his defense of the First Amendment. But Rolfe, how about “ethically” serving higher education that your boss has tried to starve to death with repeated budgetary cuts that resulted in higher and higher tuition for students? How is that you’re able to “ethically” look out for the interests of students and faculty of LSU while giving $17,000 to Jindal’s campaign, serving as treasurer of his campaign, and treasurer of Believe Again, the Super PAC created to promote Jindal’s presidential campaign. I guess the question really comes down to who has the higher ethical standard, you or Bob Mann. We go with the Mann. Every time.
C.B. Forgotston: What can we say about this former legal counsel for the Louisiana House? C.B. has a political blog but he doesn’t post often. And when he does post, the dispatches are usually short. But what he lacks in verbiage, he more than makes up with impact. He is terse, to the point, and quite often vicious in his critique of anyone he sees in office who he believes is wasting time or state dollars. Most people who know him would rather be on the receiving end of volumes of criticism from Jindal and his minions than a single sentence of disapproval from C.B.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne: for having the courage to cross party lines and endorse Democrat John Bel Edwards over Diaper Boy Dave Vitter. Dardenne took a lot of heat for that but who could blame him after Vitter’s carpet bombing of him and fellow Republican Scott Angelle in the first primary? Some will say his appointment as incoming Commissioner of Administration was the payoff. Perhaps so, but if anyone can come up with a better person for the job, we’re listening.
State Treasurer John Kennedy: His ill-advised endorsement of Vitter aside, Kennedy has been tenacious in his guarding of the state treasury, taking on Jindal and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Kreme Nichols time after time when they tried to play funny with the money. He would have easily walked in as Attorney General after the first primary had he chosen to run for that seat, which we encouraged him to do. Instead, he has chosen to remain as Treasurer — at least for the time being. Remember there is Vitter’s U.S. Senate seat that opens up next year and Kennedy would like that job. Whatever his motives for endorsing Vitter (many speculate had Vitter won, he would have appointed Kennedy to fill the remaining year, thus giving him the advantage of incumbency), no one can deny that he has been a splendid foil for the Jindalites for eight years.
Louisiana Trooper Underground: This unknown author or authors undoubtedly has/have reliable links deep within the upper echelons of the Louisiana State Police command in Baton Rouge. A relatively new entry into social media, this a Facebook page that posts the latest developments in the unfolding saga involving various troop commands and LSP headquarters itself.
Finally, all the others who have been Teagued: Tommy and Melody were the inspiration for the term but they are in good company with a long list of those who attempted to do the right thing and were either fired or demoted by a vengeful Jindal. Despite the obvious reprisals that lay ahead, each of them stood up for what was right and paid the price. They’re the silent heroes.
There are our nominees. It is our sincere hope that the response to this will be as gratifying as that of the Boob of the Year.
Tom Aswell publishes the political website louisianavoice.com. His readers can register their own favorite’s name in the comment section of his site, though the Beacon of Light awards aren’t really a contest. “I was just doing this as a reminder of all the officials who have hurt this state (in the boob of the year post) and to recognize those who have tried to expose the damage,” Aswell tells The IND.
[Editor's Note: Both Lamar White Jr. and Bob Mann are IND contributors. Additionally, Dan Collins says it was this Independent story from 2007 that led to his successful whistleblower lawsuit against DNR.]