This afternoon, our grass-roots movement to stop the politicos from making the breathtakingly stupid decision to hand the presidency of the Louisiana Senate to John Alario has moved into the realm of social media.
We introduce Say No 2 Alario.
Please feel free to go there, check out the wealth of information on his background we’re piling on daily, and most of all “like” it and share it.
On that page you’ll also find news on state senators who have agreed to make public pledges not to support this man for the presidency of the Senate.
But while we’ve got you, let’s make a few things clear.
First, I’ve been accused, largely by people with a personal investment/financial relationship in Alario, of rumor-mongering where he’s concerned. The attitude of those accusers is that Alario has never been convicted of anything so therefore there are “no facts” suggesting a less-than-stellar ethical record.
Let’s just say that not getting convicted is a standard which keeps you out of jail. It’s not a standard applying to how much political power you deserve. And the top job in the state legislature probably requires a better standard than freedom from incarceration.
There is decades of dirt on Alario. He didn’t get a reputation for being, as Roger Villere called him in 2007, “one of the most corrupt politicians our state has ever seen” by accident. This was the hand-picked Speaker of the House for Edwin Edwards from 1984-88 and from 1992-96, let’s remember. And if you date from those years, you might recall that Edwards’ exploits as governor during those two terms produced – BOTH TIMES – a federal investigation and indictment.
Now – was Alario implicated in those cases? Well, in the one Edwards was convicted Alario was named an unindicted co-conspirator. That ain’t good.
Why was he implicated in that case? Well, from an Advocate article dated Feb. 10, 2000 written by Adrian Angelette…
The votes of some former Riverboat Gaming Commission members were controlled by powerful legislators, an FBI agent and a developer of a snubbed Gretna project said Wednesday during the federal corruption trial of former Gov. Edwin Edwards and others.
FBI agent David Hudson testified that, during a 1997 interview, Edwards told him state Sen. Greg Tarver of Shreveport, then-state Sen. Sammy Nunez and state Rep. John Alario of Westwego had arranged for “friends” on the commission to have the legislators’ favored riverboats get certificates of preliminary approval.
Hudson said he interviewed Edwards while investigating allegations that Tarver had corrupt influence over the riverboat licensing of the Horseshoe best casino sites project in Bossier City.
Hudson said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Louisiana closed that probe without any charges being filed.
And there’s more…
Also Wednesday, developer Bernie Klein testified that his Astoria Gretna Belle riverboat had the support of many commissioners prior to a June 18, 1993, commission vote to grant certificates of preliminary approval to riverboats.
But Klein said that support evaporated under political pressure from competitors.
Klein testified that one commissioner, Sam Gilliam of Shreveport, told him after the June 18 vote that “They threatened my life” and “He had no choice” but to end his support of the Gretna Belle and to vote against the project.
Edwards defense attorney Daniel Small objected to the statement. Small claimed Gilliam has said under oath that he never made those statements to Klein. Defense attorneys have pointed out that Klein has filed a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars over the failure of his project to win a license.
Klein also testified that he met before the June 18, 1993, commission vote with then-Commissioner Floyd Landry to “clear up confusion” about the Gretna Belle project. Landry told him that he got his “marching orders” from [then-Senate President Sammy] Nunez, who in turn was taking orders from Edwards, Klein said.
After the meeting, the two men walked to Landry’s car, Klein said. Landry opened the trunk to reveal a pile of riverboat proposals, Klein testified.
Klein said the proposals were strewn about the trunk, some with pages missing and others near a “greasy red towel.
(Landry) said, ‘Look at all this stuff. I can’t ever read all this stuff,’ ” Klein testified.
Despite complaining that politicking eroded the Gretna Belle’s chances before the commission’s vote, Klein testified that he, too, met with Nunez, Alario and other lawmakers to get them to support his project.
He also testified that although he did not want to speak with Edwards directly about his project, he did meet with Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee. He said he hoped Lee, a mutual friend, would talk up the boat with Edwards.
“I wanted (Edwards) to know Harry Lee was supporting the project for all the right reasons,” Klein testified.
Klein said he was “flabbergasted” and “perplexed” after learning from Gretna Mayor Ronnie Harris that Edwards called two days prior to the commission meeting to say the Gretna Belle wouldn’t get commission approval.
Prosecutors called Harris to testify on Wednesday. The Gretna mayor testified he tried on three occasions to get Edwards to support the Gretna Belle project, but the former governor was not interested in hearing what he had to say.
Harris said that each time, Edwards told him to meet with Alario, the speaker of the House who represents communities on the west bank of the Mississippi River near New Orleans. Gretna is one of those communities.
Under questioning by the defense, Harris said that when he tried to speak with Edwards face-to-face, the governor was
busy attending to other business.
Harris said he was “shocked” when Edwards called to say the Gretna Belle would not win commission support.
Harris said that when he tried to tell the governor about how good a project the Gretna Belle was, the governor cut him short.
“He said, ‘I don’t care about any of that. Your man is out,’ ” Harris testified.
Once again, Edwards suggested that Harris speak with Alario about the prospect of moving another riverboat from the Harvey Canal to Gretna.
The implication being that Edwards was pawning Harris off to Alario so that the developer might make “arrangements” with him to get his project done.
Alario’s reaction to all this?
When contacted at home Wednesday night, Alario said he did nothing illegal when it came to the riverboat selection process. He admitted strongly supporting the Boomtown project – one of three West Bank casino venture seeking certificates in 1993.
“Everybody was trying to get economic development in their area,” Alario said.
The House speaker said many elected officials were using their influence in an attempt to get riverboats in their areas.
In fact, Alario said, Harris met him several times.
“If it was corrupt, then he was corrupt, too,” Alario said.
How does that feel? “Exonerated” doesn’t exactly describe it. “Skated” sounds more like it.
We’ll never know what Alario may have done on those casino projects and what his role in the Boomtown casino getting a license rather than the others may have been.
But it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to look back at all this and say it’s just not the kind of background Louisiana is looking for in its next Senate president. Our problem in this state is an inability to hold our leaders at the highest levels of power to standards befitting those positions.
You can’t fix that by putting Alario at the top of the state senate. You just can’t.
Does this mean he shouldn’t be in the senate at all? Well, I have an opinion on that. But since nobody is running against Alario this year it doesn’t matter; he’s in.
That he’s a member of the Senate ought to be enough. He’s not entitled to be its president.
But he wants it, he’s politicking for it, he’s got some friends who are helping him, some of whom are usually on the right side of things, and his camp is putting out the word that the deal is all but done, Alario is going in, nothing left to see here, folks.
Well, that’s a nice narrative for them to put out. It’s also the exact narrative the in-crowd tried to lay on the public three years ago.
Can anybody guess to what I’m referring? If you came up with that legislative pay raise, you get your prize.
Let’s remember, that thing actually passed before the public got wind of it. And before that disaster was over there were state legislators who had voted for it camping out on the front lawn of the Governor’s Mansion practically begging him to veto it.
And this vote isn’t official until January.
So no, that deal isn’t done. Not by a damn sight. These people might want you to think that it is, but nothing’s done until the official vote is taken.
That’s why we’ve decided we’re going to get pledges from 20 state senators (or people running for state senate seats who have a legitimate chance to win) NOT to vote for Alario as Senate President.
There’s a model in place for this pledge. That model was put in place a year and a half ago by the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee, which passed a resolution saying the following…
Whereas, State Senator John Alario’s voting record during his many years of tenure in the State House of Representatives was not consistent with conservative values of smaller government and lower taxes, and;
Whereas, his voting record in his short time in the State Senate has demonstrated his continued lack of conservative principles, and;
Whereas, State Senator John Alario aspires to become president of the State Senate, and:
Whereas, the promotion to this level of power in the Senate is seen as a regression to the old ways of state government to tax and spend, and;
Whereas, the State of Louisiana under Governor Bobby Jindal has made great progress in changing the image of the State to one of higher efficiency and ethics in government;
Therefore be it resolved that the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee does hereby oppose the election of John Alario as president of the Louisiana Senate and further pleads with Governor Jindal to do the same lest his image as a reformer be diminished.
Passed this 10th day of February 2010 by the Caddo Parish Republican Executive Committee.
J. C. Allen, Chairman
From talking with Jimmy Allen this afternoon, their position hasn’t changed. If anything, it has intensified. And so we’re following their lead here. Alario’s switch to the Republican Party doesn’t change a decades-long legacy of infamously-poor governance; giving him the keys to the kingdom says a lot more about the key-givers than it does about the recipients. He can stay on a back bench in the Senate and call himself a Republican.
Which brings me to another point which needs to be reiterated. And that is, this is NOT a front for some other guy running for the senate presidency. There are lots of choices out there. I’ve heard Danny Martiny and Jack Donahue’s names, I’ve heard Mike Walsworth, Blade Morrish and Neil Riser thrown out there and Dan Claitor told me yesterday he’s going to run.
I don’t have a dog in that hunt. Any of those guys are acceptable. I’m not going to front for them or even support them with this effort. I’m interested in making sure it’s not Alario, and you should as well if you care about the future of the state.
If the voters who chose to demolish the Louisiana Democrat Party at the ballot box largely based on a snootful of how Alario and his pals did things aren’t shown that their decision actually meant something, if the switch to GOP rule in Louisiana doesn’t produce a significant change in how things are done but in fact results in the exact same people running the state legislature, that doesn’t bode well for the longevity of this current great run the Louisiana GOP is having.
Because there’s a word for a state in which a thoroughly corrupt Democrat Party gets to run the place completely into the ground because voters see that Republicans aren’t simply just as bad but are also complicit in that corruption.
That word is Illinois. Go look up how they’re doing right now.
Let’s not be Illinois. Let’s do better than we’ve done. Hit that link, “like” it, share it with friends and do what you can to make sure the in crowd’s grand plans of perpetuating the same old way of doing things regardless of what the voters tell them don’t come to pass.