They say drunks speak the truth. However, it does not appear Buddy Caldwell was speaking the truth when he was whining about people who attacked his integrity in his drunken rant/concession speech. Caldwell even had the audacity to demand an apology from Jeff Landry and others “over a cup of coffee.”
David Hammer out of WWL-TV has done some more digging into some contracts Caldwell’s office had. Hammer’s investigation found that Caldwell kept “The Buddy System” of pay for play contracts for his donors even after the Legislature tried to crack down on it.
Some of the biggest beneficiaries of these outside contracts were Caldwell’s campaign manager, T. Allen Usry, and his campaign treasurer, E. Wade Shows. Their law firms and relatives also gave thousands of dollars to Caldwell’s campaigns.
Then there’s Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick. He endorsed Caldwell after his private law firm, which he shares with his brother Peter Connick, got 59 contracts from Caldwell’s office since 2011 worth nearly $1.8 million, according to Paul Connick’s public financial disclosures. Peter Connick said the firm was hired on two of the pharmaceutical cases.
Another local elected official also benefited from the contracts, and unlike Connick, she didn’t have a law partner or staff attorneys to handle the case for her. Orleans Parish Civil District Court Clerk Dale Atkins was paid $150,000 in 2013 after the maker of the diabetes medicine Avandia, GlaxoSmithKline, settled two claims with the state for a total of $45 million.
Atkins made $166,300 that year as the elected clerk of court, then collected the $150,000 fee for serving on the attorney general’s trial team in the Avandia case.
Having a side contract is not against any rules or regulations governing elected officials. What may be a violation of lawyers’ conduct rules, Ciolino said, is if she got paid without doing “meaningful” work on the case.
What exactly were these contracts for? Caldwell’s office was operating a Mafia style shakedown of drug companies accusing them of fraud and unfair trade practices. Caldwell collected $236 million for state while his poltically connected lawyers collected $54 million. Caldwell used these lawyers to avoid trial and the drug companies paid his outside counsel directly.
There is a problem with this according to a Loyola Law Professor.
But ethics expert Dane Ciolino, a Loyola Law School professor, says it’s a blatant violation of state ethics laws for the state’s hired lawyers, who Ciolino says are deputized “public servants,” to accept payment from private companies.
“Government lawyers have to be paid by the government, not by private third parties,” Ciolino said.
But Caldwell all throughout his career thought himself to be above the law. His office has yet to provide the information requested by The Hayride in our public records request. Caldwell has had long-standing lapses in ethics and has been under constant corruption allegations at every stage of his political career.
It was this stench of corruption that led Louisianians to overwhelmingly support Jeff Landry on Saturday. It seems that there was actually something to the bad smell after all. Caldwell can drink all the coffee he wants but that won’t make it go away.