Will Louisiana Throw The Bums Out?

Thanks to John for trusting me to behave while guest posting here at Right Wing News. I am not a quota kinda gal, but I couldn’t help but notice that five of the seven guest bloggers he chose are female. John has written several posts on female bloggers, and I have written a bit on the subject, too. We are in agreement that there is no bias against women in the blogosphere, and his choice of guests today helps to make the point. Now to some more recent news…

During President Bush’s recent speech from New Orleans I bristled when I heard him say that decisions about how to spend the Katrina rebuilding money would be decided largely by state and local officials. My reaction was not only due to the horrible bungling of the recent evacuation by state and local officials, but due to the decades old reputation of corruption in the area. Today, Betsy Newmark pointed me to an excellent John Fund piece about the history of corruption in Louisiana and some of the problems likely to be faced as more and more money flows into the state.

Put bluntly, the local political cultures don’t engender confidence that aid won’t be diverted from the people who truly need and deserve it. While the feds can try to ride herd on the money, here’s hoping folks in the region take the opportunity to finally demand their own political housecleaning. Change is past due. Last year, Lou Riegel, the agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans office, described Louisiana’s public corruption as “epidemic, endemic, and entrenched. No branch of government is exempt.”

Louisiana ranks third in the nation in the number of elected officials per capita convicted of crimes (Mississippi takes top prize). In just the past generation, the Pelican State has had a governor, an attorney general, three successive insurance commissioners, a congressman, a federal judge, a state Senate president and a swarm of local officials convicted. Last year, three top officials at Louisiana’s Office of Emergency Preparedness were indicted on charges they obstructed a probe into how federal money bought out flood-prone homes. Last March the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered Louisiana to repay $30 million in flood-control grants it had awarded to 23 parishes.

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I am not very optimistic that Louisiana voters will be able to clean house in time to ensure that the Katrina funds flowing into the state get properly allocated. Fund, however, finds some “room for optimism” from Ron Faucheux noting that “2007 will inject new blood into Louisiana’s Legislature when term limits kick in for the first time and force almost half its old-boy members to step down.” Well, that will take care of some of them, and if state and local officials continue to behave in this manner, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a voter uprising to throw the rest of the bums out, too.

If you enjoyed this post by Lorie Byrd, you can read more of her work at Polipundit & Byrd Droppings.

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