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Report questions Mary Landrieu’s energy priorities

As U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu works to drum up support for the looming Keystone XL pipeline vote, a new report from Bloomberg Politics is raising questions about her effectiveness as a leader on energy issues.

A Bloomberg analysis of congressional records, videos and transcripts from the past five and a half years found that Landrieu didn’t speak or submit written testimony or questions at almost 70 percent of the energy committee hearings.

Landrieu, a three-term Democrat, faces Republican Bill Cassidy in a Dec. 6 runoff. The Keystone push has been seen as a last-ditch effort to win support in the election, as most polls show Cassidy with a significant lead in the race.

Landrieu frequently has cited her “clout” on the Energy Committee as a reason she should be elected.

But Bloomberg reports: “From 2009 to 2010 she was silent at or skipped 65 of 87 hearings. From 2011 to 2012, she didn’t say anything at or didn’t attend 50 of 66 meetings. And from 2013 to 2014, her presence was undetectable at 22 of 47 sessions. Some of those hearings covered important issues for her coastal state, including the potential for oil spills, gas prices, the Department of Energy’s budget, nominations of key energy regulators, the implementation of the stimulus bill, and the current status of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.”

Read the full report from Bloomberg here.

 

Daily Show lampoons Bobby Jindal’s ‘Meet The Press’ appearance

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart is mocking Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s position on amnesty and the threat of a government shutdown.

On Monday night’s show, Stewart took aim at several Republicans who he says are being “disingenuous” in criticizing President Barack Obama’s potential use of executive action on immigration. He dismissed Jindal’s talking  points on Meet The Press this weekend as “weird magic.”

“It’s like watching a non-Jedi try a Jedi mind-trick,” Stewart said of Jindal’s insistence that a shutdown would be Obama’s fault.

On Meet The Press, Jindal said he opposes a shutdown, but also seemed to indicate that it could be the outcome of efforts to block Obama’s immigration action.

“No, we shouldn’t shut down the government, but absolutely Republicans should do everything they can to force the president to follow the law,” Jindal said. “No, the president shouldn’t shut down the government so that he can break the law.”

It’s not the first time Jindal has been in The Daily Show’s crosshairs. He’s also been the target of the show’s Comedy Central sibling, The Colbert Report.

Louisiana sets record unclaimed property returned

Louisiana returned a record-setting $35.5 million in unclaimed property to some 116,000 individuals during the last fiscal year, state Treasurer John Kennedy’s office announced.

The $35.5 million is the most money given back in a single year during the program’s 42-year history.

“I am so proud that we were able to return this much money.  We beat our previous year record by $4.2 million,” said Kennedy in a news release.  “This isn’t our money.  It is taxpayers’ money, and it belongs back in their hands.”

The treasurer’s office is still holding more than $635 million in the unclaimed property account.

The average unclaimed property claim is $660.

Unclaimed property includes old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, certificates of deposits, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and utility payments.

When a business cannot locate someone, usually because of a wrong address, the state receives the money for safekeeping.

Since 1972, the Unclaimed Property program has returned more than $338 million to almost 570,000 Louisiana citizens.

Kennedy and Unclaimed Property employees travel to shopping malls and other venues to locate  property owners. This month, the program is printing the names of people with at least $50 in unclaimed property in newspapers across the state.

The listing will be in Thursday’s Advocate and New Orleans Advocate, the treasurer’s office said.

People can search online at www.LATreasury.com or call 1-888-925-4127

 

David Vitter featured in latest CREW report

A nonprofit government watchdog group is singling out U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, among members of Congress that it says have used elected office to benefit family members.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington repeatedly has listed Vitter on its annual “most corrupt” list. Now, it’s raising more questions about Vitter in Family Affair — a report released today on perks that officials give members of their families.

According to the CREW report, Vitter’s leadership fund, Louisiana Reform PAC, paid $212 for Baltimore Orioles tickets last year. Less than a week later, Vitter posted on Facebook about his three children having fun at an Orioles game during a visit to Washington, DC.

The report also cites payments that Vitter made to his cousin Jim St. Raymond, a long-time political consultant and former state representative.

“Sen. Vitter has crossed so many legal and ethical lines without consequence, it’s no wonder he feels safe using PAC funds for his family’s benefit. We’ve known for a while that the senator holds some unconventional family values; apparently those include taking his kids to the ballgame on someone else’s dime,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a news release.

Vitter in recent years has used trips to Walt Disney World and even a Justin Bieber concert in New Orleans as “campaign fundraisers.”

Vitter’s office has, in the past, referred to CREW as a “hack left-wing organization” and dismissed its criticisms of Vitter. Today, Vitter noted that the group hasn’t event mentioned Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s illegal use of taxpayer funds for campaign charter flights. Landrieu eventually repaid more than $30,000 for flights that were billed to her office, rather than her campaign, but the improper payments were only brought to light by a USA Today report.

“Crew is a leftist political attack organization with no credibility,” Vitter said. “They attack me for using campaign funds in a completely legal, ethical way, but refuse to utter a word about Senator Landrieu breaking the law 33 times and spending $47,000 of taxpayer dollars in just 1 year on Air Mary campaign travel.”

Interestingly, CREW is cited in a new pro-Bill Cassidy campaign ad in Louisiana’s current U.S. Senate race. Cassidy, a Republican serving in the U.S. House, is hoping to unseat Landrieu in a Dec. 6 runoff.

Vitter, who is running for governor next year, has been a key ally of Cassidy’s campaign, appearing with him at several events and sharing team members.

Landrieu previously has been featured on CREW’s “most corrupt” list, which the new pro-Cassidy campaign ad highlights, without hinting to Vitter’s past appearances on the same list.

Landrieu’s campaign this week complained the ad, which is from the Ending Spending Action Fund, as “sexist” because it shows her aging over time.

“It is appalling that Congressman Cassidy and his allies would illustrate the Senator’s age progression with a leading phrase that Washington has ‘changed’ her,” Landreiu spokesman Fabien Levy said in a news release Monday.

Republican governors, including Bobby Jindal, will meet in Florida this week

Gov. Bobby Jindal will head to Florida this week for the annual Republican Governors Association meeting, at which the group of GOP state leaders will select its new leadership team.

Jindal currently serves as RGA vice chairman. He served as chairman last year.

Politico.com reports that several conservative governors, including Indiana’s Mike Pence and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, have at least considered moving up, though both have said they don’t plan to this year. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who served as vice chairman under Jindal, also has been floated as a potential RGA leader.

Typically, a vice chairman would be the next person to rise to the chairmanship, but Jindal was shuffled around in the rotation a bit in a behind-the-scenes battle last year with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie (You can read more about that here via CNN.com’s detailed account).  It’s also questionable whether someone weighing a run for president would take on the double duty of leading the RGA at the same time.

In fact, Jindal, who is slated to speak at the event, is among several GOP leaders heading to the RGA’s Boca Raton meeting who appear to be at least thinking about running for president.

The next RGA leadership team will have three key gubernatorial elections to focus on next year — including Louisiana’s race to replace Jindal, who can’t seek re-election because of term limits.

Elections also will be held in Kentucky, where Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is also term-limited, and Mississippi, where Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to seek a second term.

U.S. Senate race sparks GOP effort to stop voter fraud

The state Republican Party has activated a program aimed at preventing voter fraud  in the Dec. 6  U.S. Senate runoff election, officials said Monday.

Former U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry of New Iberia will chair the Voter Integrity Program in the race where  Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy is trying to oust veteran Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Landrieu led in the primary but has been lagging behind in runoff polling.

“This program has been put together in an effort to prevent voter fraud and guarantee a fair and impartial election…,” Landry said in a statement.

Louisiana Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis said the initiative is just another instance of Republicans “trying to gin up their base over a non-issue.”

“I certainly hope Jeff Landry is not counting on intimidating voters, but you never know,” she said.

Alvanitakis said if Landry is so concerned about voter fraud he should talk to Republican Secretary of State Tom Schedler who has said there’s been no recent complaints.

 

Landry said there are many types of voter fraud, including impersonation, duplicate voting and illegal “assistance” at the polls.

“With the chance to add to our Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, we must protect the integrity of the election by making sure every legally cast vote is counted and not diluted by fraud and negligence,”  said Landry who plan to run for attorney general in 2015.

“We need your help to bid adieu to Mary Landrieu,” Landry said in a missive to recruit volunteers to help with the program.

People can register to participate at http://www.lagop.com/voter-integrity. Registration for the Voter Integrity Program ends at noon Nov. 26.

Democrats will have a statewide team of attorney and poll watchers spread out across the state “making sure registered voters can exercise their constitutional right,” Alvanitakis said.

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Bobby Jindal talks 2016, Medicaid, a government shutdown and more on ‘Meet The Press’

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal again over the weekend wouldn’t get specific on his timeline for deciding whether to run for president, but he said to expect a decision sometime in the “first half of next year.”

“We are praying about this, but the bottom line is let’s restore the American dream for our children and grandchildren,” Jindal said on NBC’s Meet The Press with Chuck Todd, again repeating one of his favorite lines about the decision-making process.

On the Sunday morning talk show, Jindal defended his decision not to expand Medicaid in Louisiana under the federal Affordable Care Act, dismissed his dismal approval ratings in the state and, overall, continued to stress what he sees as successes during his two terms as governor. Jindal is term-limited and can’t seek re-election. He has said the only other elected office he would be interested in would be the presidency,  and he’s been making clear steps that would help him toward that goal (including traveling to states that he would need to win support in and building up his national profile with speeches and policy papers, as well as appearances like the one on Meet The Press), though he faces a crowded field of GOP hopefuls.

“Chuck, I don’t care at all about poll numbers,” Jindal said during Sunday’s TV appearance. “I never have. The reality is, I was elected in Louisiana to make generational changes.”

Jindal took a positive spin on the repeated cuts to the state budget, which have been used to balance it in recent years — and will be necessary again this year.

“We’ve actually made the tough choices. Unlike D.C., we cut our spending $9 billion. I’m not talking about cutting growth. We cut our budget by $9 billion. So we’ve actually balanced our budget and we’ve done it by growing the private sector,” he said.

Jindal said he stands by the decision on Medicaid expansion, which has left 265,000 Louisianans without insurance that they otherwise would get in states that have opted to expand under the ACA.

“The answer’s not for the government to be running healthcare. The answer is not to expand a failed program, a one-size-fits-all approach like Medicaid,” he said. “Simply giving people a card without giving them access to health care, to doctors, to hospitals doesn’t improve anything.”

And he said he opposes a government shutdown over immigration policy but believes it’s on Obama to make that decision.

“No, we shouldn’t shut down the government, but absolutely Republicans should do everything they can to force the president to follow the law,” he said. “No, the president shouldn’t shut down the government so that he can break the law.”

Watch the full video here, or read the transcript.

Rep. John Fleming’s duck-stamp bill flies through House in lame-duck session

It may be a lame-duck session of the U.S. Congress, but it’s a historic one for Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming, of Minden — and real ducks played a role Monday in Fleming’s landmark achievement.

By a voice vote, the full House approved a Fleming-sponsored bill to increase the price charged hunters for a federal duck stamp, from $15 to $25. It’s the first time the House has passed a stand-alone bill sponsored by Fleming, who took office in 2009.

Hunters are required to buy a stamp each year to shoot migratory waterfowl. The money raised goes to conserve wetlands.

“Wetlands are critical to the survival of not only migratory waterfowl, but to the millions of Americans who live along our coastlines,” Fleming said on the House floor in support of his bill. He cited the protection that wetlands provide from hurricane storm surges.

Other measures sponsored by Fleming have been incorporated in broader legislation passed by the House.

The bipartisan duck-stamp bill is supported by hunting organizations. The price increase would be the first since 1991.

The  bill is co-sponsored by the five other members of the Louisiana House delegation. The measure can now go the Senate, where David Vitter, R-La., has introduced a companion bill. The proposal must clear both houses by the end of the year or it will die with the conclusion of the current Congress.

Former Bobby Jindal aide accepts job as Florida governor’s chief of staff, newspaper reports

The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Melissa Sellers, former spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, is set to become the powerful chief of staff to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Dec. 1.

Sellers, who managed Scott’s successful re-election campaign this year, had been considered a frontrunner for the position, but reports had also speculated that she could instead opt to work for either Jindal’s or N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign, should either announce a run for the GOP’s 2016 nomination.

Sellers, who was perhaps most memorably noted for blocking media access to Jindal, left Jindal’s staff in 2011 to attend seminary but quickly returned to Republican politics. She started working for Jindal during his 2007 gubernatorial campaign.

Louisiana joins challenge of Maryland gun law

Louisiana has joined 20 other states going to court to try to get a Maryland gun control law  struck down, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced Friday.

The state signed on to an amicus brief opposing the Maryland law which is now under challenge in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The brief in the case of Kolbe v. O’Malley claims that Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 violates the Constitution’s Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms by imposing a ban on the possession of commonly used weapons.

Caldwell and other attorneys general contend that Maryland law must be subject to strict scrutiny because its restrictions extend to possession of a protected weapon by a law-abiding citizen for self-defense in the home.

The law requires gun owners to have a license for their firearm and submit their fingerprints as part of the application process. It also adds 45 guns to a list of banned firearms – some of them assault weapons.


 “You know something is definitely wrong when legislatures continually try to criminalize the full exercise by Americans of their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves while at the same time decriminalize the possession and use of drugs.,” Caldwell said in a statement issued by his office.

“These continuing and repeated assaults on our Second Amendment rights have got to stop,” he added.

West Virginia led attorneys general in filing the brief. Others joining besides Louisiana were  from  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.