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Contract: LSU will get about $18,500 for having Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally at the PMAC

The American Family Association will pay LSU an estimated $18,500 to hold a prayer rally, featuring Gov. Bobby Jindal, in the campus arena that’s home to the Tiger basketball teams.

The Advocate obtained a copy of the contract between AFA and LSU through a public records request.

According to the contract (PDF), AFA will pay LSU $3,500 for the facility rental, plus $15,000 for facility setup, plus custodial, security, medical and event staffing. The contract notes those prices are estimates and final costs will be reflected in the final invoice.

The 11-page contract includes mostly standard event rental provisions. The prayer rally, dubbed “The Response” is free, so there won’t be normal ticket sales, but typically, the PMAC gets $1 per ticket sold to help with facility renovation and restoration. The university will retain 100 seats at the event to hand out as it pleases. The university gets the full payout if the event is cancelled fewer than 30 days from the Jan. 24 event date. Organizers, who have said the event budget is $500,000, had to secure liability insurance for the facility before the contract could be executed.

News that “The Response” will be held at LSU’s PMAC next month has sparked a backlash from some on campus, particularly due to the AFA’s involvement. The Tupelo, Mississippi-based organization opposes gay marriage and other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights efforts and has been classified as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

As The Advocate first reported, Rolfe McCollister,  a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors who also serves as treasurer of Jindal’s campaign committee, played a role in securing the PMAC for the event. E-mails, also obtained through a public records request initially filed last week, show McCollister expressed interest in use of the PMAC for a “Christian group meeting” in August.

McCollister’s involvement in the early planning had not previously been disclosed. Jindal appointed McCollister, publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report, to the LSU board in 2012.

Documents provide additional details on Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally

Plans to have a mass prayer rally on LSU’s campus featuring Gov. Bobby Jindal initially started with talks of having the event in the fall.

Documents obtained by The Advocate through a public records request show that Rolfe McCollister, a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors who also serves as treasurer of Jindal’s campaign committee, began inquiring about use of LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center  for a “Christian group meeting” in August.

“Working with the governor on this idea,” McCollister wrote to LSU event management director David A. Taylor on Aug. 18.

Jindal, who can’t seek re-election because of term-limits, is weighing a run for president. Texas Gov. Rick Perry held his own version of “The Response” prayer rally in Houston before announcing his run for president in 2011.

Taylor initially appeared skeptical of the plan, due to team practices and the work that goes into putting on a production at the PMAC.

“I will discuss with our staff and see if we can make it work… but pending the size of the event, we may have alternate locations,” he wrote.

McCollister responded that the event could draw 10,000 people.

“Wow…” Taylor responded.

The Advocate requested the documents last week. LSU handed them over Wednesday after conducting a complete review of records.

The emails offer additional insight into the behind-the-scenes negotiating and maneuvering that led up to the announcement that “The Response” — an American Family Association-sponsored prayer rally featuring Jindal — will be held on campus Jan. 24.

In responding to The Advocate’s request for records, LSU initially said the university “does not yet have a fully executed agreement for this event.” The emails show that organizers have been going back and forth with LSU to meet the facility’s requirements regarding insurance, crew and other specifications needed to pull off the event. (UPDATE: Here is the approved contract)

According to The Response organizers, the event budget is about $500,000.

McCollister’s involvement in the early planning had not previously been disclosed. Jindal appointed McCollister, publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report, to the LSU board in 2012.

News that “The Response” will be held at LSU’s PMAC next month has sparked a backlash from some on campus, particularly due to the AFA’s involvement. The Tupelo, Mississippi-based organization opposes gay marriage and other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights efforts and has been classified as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The initial plan for The Response, as outlined in the emails, was to have the event in October.

“Please express to Rolfe that we are making every effort to assist and we are willing to work with you as much as possible … but it just isn’t as easy as just picking out a date and moving forward,” Taylor wrote to McCollister’s assistant Tara Jeanise at her Business Report email address. “We rarely have concerts these days because of the difficulty with the competition schedule.”

Included in the email chain are Jindal political adviser Timmy Teepell, national Christian political consultant David Lane and LSU athletics facilities employees, among others.

Later in the emails, the group settles with the Jan. 24 date, though Taylor again notes that a gymnastics meet the night before means that all setup will have to take place the morning of “The Response.”

In October — after the date was settled, Stephen Brown of the Florida-based Resource Group notified LSU that he was “now officially the event planner” for The Response. He handled additional contract negotiations that stretched even up through last week. The group got the go-ahead to begin advertising that The Response would be held at the PMAC while final details are worked out.


PSC balks at Jindal administration order

The Louisiana Public Service refused Wednesday to sell half its vehicles, as ordered by the Jindal administration, to help fill a hole in the state budget.
The Jindal administration on Dec. 9 had ordered the PSC to “turn in” seven vehicles. The Division of Administration intends to sell the vehicles and put the money in the state general fund.
State revenues are coming in less than expected and the administration is trying to raise money to fill the budget hole.
The five elected regulators, however, said no during their monthly meeting Wednesday morning.
The regulators ordered their staff to oppose the administration’s efforts to confiscate seven of the regulatory agency’s vehicles.
The motion was made by PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta, a Republican from Metairie, and seconded by Commissioner Scott Angelle, a Breaux Bridge Republican who once was in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s cabinet. The resolution was approved without objection.
The commissioners said their cars already are paid for, adding that they would have to rent cars, which is not in the budget.
Additionally, the underlying issue is the subject of a lawsuit.
The PSC argues that the recent practice of the Jindal administration and Louisiana Legislature taking the funds that are paid to the PSC as fees by the regulated companies, amounts to an unconstitutional levy of taxes. The administration and the Legislature counter they have the right to use the fees as part of the state budget.
The cases challenging the practice are pending in court.

Bobby Jindal returning to Iowa in January for closed-door meetings with pastors

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will head back to Iowa early next month for private policy meetings with pastors.

According to an invitation obtained by The Advocate, Jindal will have a lunch meeting with pastors at the Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids on Jan. 6 and a private dinner that evening in Des Moines at a Holiday Inn Conference Center.

The invitation, sent out Tuesday, notes that “space is limited” at the American Renewal Project-sponsored, media-free events.

“These press-free events offer public servants the opportunity to hear the views of pastors by making public servants available at no cost to the pastors,” the invitation explains.

An event organizer estimates that the lunch will have about 50 guests and the dinner will have about 100.

Pastor Brad Sherman, Iowa Renewal Project chairman, is the official event host.

Jindal, who is considering a run for president in 2016, has participated in similar meetings this year with preachers also have been organized by the American Renewal Project.

He was in Iowa this week for the Polk County GOP holiday party.

This week, Jindal also is facing criticism for partnering with the American Family Association to host a prayer rally in LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Rob Maness launches political action committee

Tea party darling Rob Maness came into Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race this year as a political novice, but it doesn’t look like the retired Air Force colonel will be leaving the political arena anytime soon.

GatorPAC logo via

GatorPAC logo via

This week, Maness announced the launch of GatorPAC, a political action committee that will “inspire and recruit” conservative political candidates.

“Running for office was never about me, and it never will be – it’s about us, our country and becoming an active voice for conservative solutions,” Maness said in a news release announcing the group.  “The reality is Washington D.C. is a swamp, career politicians are the Gators and I believe it’s time to drain the swamp!”

Maness’s announcement featured quotes from Republican U.S. Sen.-elect Bill Cassidy, a one-time Maness opponent who went on to beat Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu after Maness took enough votes in the primary to force a Dec. 6 runoff, and U.S. Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Ted Cruz of Texas.

According to the release, Vitter, who is running for Louisiana governor next year, will headline GatorPAC’s first event early next year. Additional details weren’t provided about the event.

“Colonel Maness’s new group will play an important role in keeping citizens engaged, and I look forward to working with them,” Vitter said.

Bobby Jindal tells reporters in Iowa he welcomes Jeb Bush’s move toward presidential run

Gov. Bobby Jindal isn’t bothered by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s announcement Tuesday that he will form an exploratory committee for a possible 2016 presidential run.

Jindal, who has often said that he thinks gubernatorial experience is better for candidates who hope to run for president, told reporters covering an event in West Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday night that he thinks a deep GOP bench is good for voters.

And as he has in other recent interviews, Jindal added that he doesn’t think that “insiders” or “the establishment” should pick the Republican nominee in 2016.

“I’m absolutely opposed to this idea of party insiders, the party establishment, donors or anybody other than voters picking our candidates, picking our nominees for us, picking our leaders for us,” Jindal said, according to the Des Moines Register and echoing remarks he made during an interview with an Iowa-based Christian Conservative radio show over the weekend.

Jindal made his fourth trip this year to Iowa Tuesday to keynote the Polk Co. Republican Party’s holiday party. According to The Register, he’ll return to have closed-door meetings with religious leaders Jan. 6. (UPDATE: The Advocate obtained a copy of the event’s invitation. Check out the details here.)

Based on reports of Tuesday’s speech to about 150 Iowa Republicans, Jindal hit all of his typical high points: He criticized Common Core education standards. He slammed the federal Affordable Care Act. He accused Democrats of underestimating the intelligence of Republicans. He rounded out his 37-minute speech with “a story about baking a cake with his daughter to celebrate Jesus’ birthday,” according to the Des Moines Register reporter in attendance.

For those who have paid much attention to speeches Jindal has given in recent months as he has considered a run for president, the personal anecdotes also likely would be familiar: His wife, Supriya, gave birth to their third child at home because they couldn’t get to the hospital in time. His parents came to Baton Rouge from India in search of opportunity and the American Dream. His son’s math homework doesn’t make sense because of Common Core.


UPDATE: Watch the video of Jindal’s nine-minute press availability before his Tuesday night speech in Iowa here.

Bill Cassidy was backed by several possible GOP presidential hopefuls

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush set off a frenzy Tuesday, inching closer to becoming the first serious Republican contender for the GOP presidential nomination with an announcement that he’s formally exploring the option.

Noted in some reports on Bush’s decision was the fact that Bush, the son and brother of past Republican presidents named George Bush, helped raise cash for several GOP candidates who won this election cycle, including U.S. Sen.-elect Bill Cassidy who beat three-term Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu.

That doesn’t mean Cassidy can be counted as a slam-dunk Bush-backer, though. Cassidy can count nearly a dozen potential presidential candidates among his campaign supporters and refrained during the campaign from identifying a go-to pick for president.

Several potential GOP hopefuls made appearances with or for Cassidy, or — at the very least — sent emails to supporters encouraging donations to Cassidy’s campaign before the Dec. 6 runoff election in which he defeated Landrieu.

Bush headlined a fundraiser benefiting Cassidy and GOP groups at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. the week before the election

In addition to Bush, potential 2016 hopefuls who hit the Cassidy campaign trail included U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, Dr. Ben Carson, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and, of course, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Others who solicited help for Cassidy in other ways — either through endorsements or outright pleas to donors for Cassidy contributions — included U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.: Not quite conservative enough for right-wing political group, which attacks him as a sell-out to President Barack Obama in radio spots

Poor Steve Scalise.

He’s been as conservative as it gets in the U.S. House of Representatives, earning a perfect 100 rating from the American Conservative Union for his voting record in 2013, the most recent year for which that organization issued its long-running grades. That won Scalise, a Republican from Jefferson, recognition from the ACU as a “defender of liberty,” one of just 15 in the House. And 2013 was the year he rose to the chairmanship of the Republican Study Committee, a right-wing caucus that comprises most of the members of the House Republican majority.

In June, he ascended even higher, elected by his fellow Republicans as majority whip, the No. 3 position in the House hierarchy. But that puts him in a different role, as a key player in leadership, and the instrument of House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California. Scalise is responsible for rounding up votes on the floor for the leadership agenda.

Last week, Scalise rounded up just barely enough votes to pass a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending package to fund most of the federal government through Sept. 30 and avert a shutdown. It was a victory for the Republican leadership — but, in the eyes of the hardest-right conservatives, a sell-out to Democratic President Barack Obama: After all, the package did nothing to de-fund Obamacare, nor to clamp down immediately on Obama’s executive order waiving enforcement action against certain undocumented immigrants.

And so Scalise has wound up in the extreme right’s cross hairs: a political group called Senate Conservatives Action is running radio commercials this week in the New Orleans area attacking Scalise (and in Ohio and California attacking Boehner and McCarthy).

“When he had the chance to block the president’s amnesty, he caved,” an announcer says. Listeners are urged to call Scalise’s local office number to register their protests.

Through its affiliate, the Senate Conservatives Fund, the group is no stranger to Louisiana politics: The fund spent $456,000 in an unsuccessful effort to elect tea party Republican Rob Maness to the U.S. Senate, and another $35,000 to back the failed candidacy of fundamentalist Zach Dasher, a Republican running for Congress in Northeast Louisiana who was also backed by his relatives in the Duck Dynasty reality-TV clan.





State Rep. Helena Moreno among Esprit de Femme award winners

State Rep. Helena Moreno is one of eight recipients of the LSU Women’s Center‘s Esprit de Femme award this year.

Established in 2009, the Esprit de Femme award recognizes people who have made “exceptional efforts toward the advancement of women.”

Moreno, D-New Orleans, is being recognized for sponsoring legislation that draws attention to sexual assault and domestic violence issues, according to a news release from LSU.

Other recipients of this year’s award include LSU computer science professor Doris Carver; Neighbors Federal Credit Union President and CEO Kathi M. Gill; Racheal Hebert, executive director of the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center; Alejandra Juan, the first female to be named executive director of the USS KIDD Veterans Museum; retired East Baton Rouge Parish School System superintendent Charlotte D. Placide; SSA Consultants co-owner Christel C. Slaughter; and Carroll W. Suggs, retired CEO and chairman of the board of Petroleum Helicopters, Inc.

“These women have made lasting impacts on the lives of countless women in our state and blazed trails for other women. Our 2015 honorees represent diverse backgrounds and accomplishment—we have women who are leaders in our military, the business sector, nonprofits, academics and politics,” LSU Women’s Center director Summer Steib said in the news release.

The third annual Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration will be held March 19 in Baton Rouge.

Mary Landrieu makes list of 2014’s ‘weirdest political fundraisers’

Outgoing U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu didn’t win her re-election bid against Republican Bill Cassidy this month, but her campaign efforts earned her a spot on the Sunlight Foundation’s “weirdest political fundraisers” of 2014.

Coming in at No. 8 on the Political Party Time list, Landrieu is noted for “an impressive last dash for dough” that included a fundraiser featuring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a Manhattan penthouse that’s home to prominent Democratic backers, as well as a concert by music icon Stevie Wonder in New Orleans.

Read the full list here.