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Recall credibility gap invites accountability requests

Echoing a theme inherent to the Angry Left, backers of recalls of Gov. Bobby Jindal and three other legislators claim these elected officials as part of a grand conspiracy of corporate and ideological interests yet themselves attempt to keep secret their own operation to the point that it strains any credibility.

The “Recall Bobby Jindal” organization actually encompasses efforts against all four, but the stringent recall requirements of the state – needing a third of all registered voters in a political subdivision, district, or state to petition just to have an election except in the smallest – have forced the group to concentrate its fire on just one of the targets, state Rep. Chuck Kleckley, conveniently not only in the area of the main organizers of the group, but also House Speaker. Keep in mind that not only no legislator or statewide official ever has been recalled, there’s never even been an election triggered to do so.

But with only 28,693 registered voters as of Apr., 2012 in Kleckley’s District 36, the threshold of 9,565 reached to produce an election is the real intent of the group. It knows Kleckley has not even had opposition the last two times he has run and that nothing about can change the outcome giving them cause to be after Kleckley’s hide, passing reforms that will improve education but threaten the group’s special interest allies. The point is a historic first time to inconvenience Kleckley, relying on a strategy used time immemorial by bullies, thereby using intimidation, courtesy of the bother of a recall election would cause even with him certain to win, to scare off in the future those that attack the power and privilege of its allied interests.

The group’s top two officers claim they are around halfway to getting enough signatures against Kleckley, with an apparent filing date of Mar. 22 given the Sep. 19 due date as the law says 180 days are granted in most instances to turn in signatures. But the claim that in the neighborhood of 4,800 valid registered voters’ names have been gathered is dubious to say the least, given Kleckley’s popularity and the wide support that the recently-passed education reforms enjoyed. One might imagine perhaps a few hundred signatures of underperforming teachers like the two organizers, whose jobs are threatened by the reforms, could have been scraped up as the halfway point is reached, but this put forth is way much to claim given the dynamics present.

Perhaps showing the dubiousness of this assertion is why the group fears following the law in releasing copies of or opening for viewing of the petitions to the public. State law mandates that, as soon as the first signature is obtained, following public records law upon request by any member of the public this access must be granted within three days by the chairwoman of the effort, unless they have been turned in already when the Secretary of State is to give access. The state Republican Party has expressed interest in viewing them, which brought the complaint from the organizers, ironically given their own motives, that this was “intimidation.” It speaks of their hypocrisy voluminously that when the law suits them, such as with the ability to recall, they take advantage of it, but when it comes time for them to follow it they attempt to hide and cast aspersions on citizens exercising their legal rights.

Of more concern to those who value the rule of law, it’s very likely that the group has disregarded the law relative to campaign finance reporting. Legally, as long as it has spent $200, as noted previously the group should have filed, it would appear, by May 6 its initial campaign finance report; as of this writing no such report has been filed. Its leaders claim they haven’t hit the $200 limit of revenues and/or expenditures.

Yet a cursory review of their activities strains credulity on this testimony. For example, the “Recall Bobby Jindal” website that serves as a hub for all of these has its domain name registered with Network Solutions, with an extra fee paid to keep the details of the owners secret, cost almost $50 alone. The group also appears to have a hosting package of unknown amount with the company, and an agreement with an online retailer to sell (get this) cheesy “Recall Bobby Jindal” paraphernalia, which promises that “a portion of the purchase price of these items is returned to the campaign to assist in funding needs.” Sell a field bag, iPad sleeve, a 50-pack of bumper stickers, a yard sign, a maternity T-shirt, and a dog T-shirt and you’re already over $200. Sell a few times more and the merchant fees alone go over the reportable amount. There’s a list of events; these have to be paid for.

Empirical evidence aside, it’s hard to believe that if the group really has gotten closing in on 5,000 signatures that it hasn’t raised and/or spent at least $200 to do so. And note that this includes in-kind expenditures: for example, if a home telephone is being used to field inquiries, or paper from a printer for campaign business, or pens to sign forms, apportioned amounts of these costs must be reported as in-kind contributions or expenditures. Even if it’s only gotten a few hundred signatures, it’s unlikely that the threshold hasn’t been met, given the evidence from the sparse public record of its activities.

The organizers may be trying to get around the law by trying to run everything through an alleged political action committee called (originally enough) Louisiana Political Action Committee. But the problem there is that it has failed to register as a PAC under the laws. Again, the group may claim it is exempt because it must anticipate it will have $500 in financial activity during the calendar year. Again, given the visible activity of the group in all four recall drives, this claim is suspicious. (For those interested in adhering to the rule of law, any citizen who does not believe the group’s assertions may write the Louisiana Board of Ethics and file a complaint in order to request an investigation into the group’s activities and/or the PAC’s.)

In effect, fundamental dishonesty appears rife throughout this undertaking. Go figure, as the proponents appear to have opposed the basic premise behind education reform’s increased accountability measures from the start, meaning the basic honesty that these demand: that taxpayers get what they pay for. Perhaps the state GOP’s request (again, any citizen may avail themselves of this opportunity) and any potential Board of Ethics action will settle the signature and finance claims. However, for now viewed from the outside, the tinfoil-hat-wearing, black-helicopter-searching principals of the effort are the ones creating the real, secretive conspiracy, contradicting their presumed calls for accountability.


Anonymous said...

Seems as though you are willing to give people information on how to file complaints to end this recall, which may or may not happen given the number of signatures needed. Would you give the same advice to those if they wish to check whether Chas Roemer should vote on charter school issues on BESE? After all, his sister has a high position with a major organization for charter schools. Should this not be a conflict of interest. Or how about one of the newest members of BESE? She holds a position with Teach for America, a public entity who contracts with BESE. These are conflicts of interest that should be investigated by the Ethics Administration. Don't you agree?

Anonymous said...

I agree with prior post, but consistency and honestly are not two of the professor's long suits.

He obviously did not care about the rule of law in the retirement reform battle since the Governor's proposals were smashing and bending it. Whatever the Governor's people said was the law.

Hypocrisy and duplicity.