For over a year, Shreveport Times reporter Alison Bath has worked to explain the violations of law in Cedric Glover’s 2010 campaign fundraising. Her work has been perhaps most impressive as she returned time after time to report Glover’s continued unwillingness to file amended reports, or go on the record to explain why such corrections were not, in fact, the very least he could do. Yesterday’s report from Ms. Bath about action taken in the matter by the Louisiana Ethics Board – see here – stems from a complaint filed against Glover by unidentified parties.
As I have previously reported in detail, the Jindal “ethics reform” political op in 2008 has gutted the Ethics Board’s ability to enforce these laws. To boot, if an ethics complaint leads to a full investigation, and if the result of that investigation warrants an enforcement decision, that last and most important step falls to the Jindal-begotten Ethics Adjudicatory Board. The problem is, Jindal’s very own enforcement branch is controlled by an unclassified state employee who answers to, and is hired and/or fired by, Jindal and successor governors. (A review of this quagmire in this article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune is helpful, especially by reading the related article linked and highlighted in blue within it.)
As to Glover’s violations of law in his 2010 campaign, to say they were and are numerous is to put it far too mildly. As LSU’s Kirby Goidel notes in comments to Alison Bath in her original reporting (articles linked in the side-bars in online versions of Alison’s reports), Glover’s violations are a target-rich environment for ethicists, as they should and could be for criminal investigators. Yes, there are many “accounting” errors and omissions in the reports, but they are little more than distractions compared to the likely meaning of many other activities by the Glover campaign which are suggested, at a minimum, in the reports. Those activities are beyond the Ethics Board’s civil law limitation.
We should remember that only the candidate is responsible for any law-breaking the citizenry must care about, and for a simple reason: regardless of who records an illegal act in a campaign finance report, it is the candidate who stands in front of, and behind, that act. Glover’s report, as an example, shows individual out-of-state contributors who “bundled” tens-of-thousands-of-dollars in contributions, even though $2,500 per contributor is the legal limit. Some intimate of Glover filled-in the legally required reports with the basics of such transactions, and Ms. Bath’s arduous research finally identified the bundles and who put them together, but only Glover, the donor, and possible one or two others know WHY an out-of-state businessman or businesswoman would give Shreveport’s mayor that kind of money. Thus, it is always the candidate who is in place at the other end of the transaction to do whatever it is that person is likely “paying” for.
As another example, when a campaign finance report deliberately misidentifies the name and address of a person who supposedly made a contribution – and various such misidentifications appear in Glover’s reports – there are two most likely reasons: either (1) the true identity of the actual contributor poses real risk to the candidate, either during the campaign or later on, or (2) there is illegal cash (all cash is illegal) sloshing around in the campaign which must be cleaned by attaching a bogus name to some amount of it. Typically, the likelihood of anyone, after the fact, tracing such red flags is very low because either the offender won and is then an elected official who will likely punish such effort, or the offender lost, and, thus, no one any longer cares.
It will be interesting to see if Glover is thankful enough for only having his wrist (very lightly) slapped by the Ethics Board to actually pay his fine. As detailed at the time in this 2007 article from Alison Bath in the Shreveport Times, many violators don’t bother, yet another sign of how ridiculous the “ethics regime” in Louisiana actually is.
In case the reader wonders why our mess of an ethics administration even matters, let me explain as I did in comments to the “old” Ethics Board in public session in 2007.
In the real and very busy world of public corruption, office holders who ultimately prove to be the most corrupt are many times identifiable as they raise money to be elected – how they raise their campaign money is the distant early warning of how corrupt they may well become. Corrupt donors find ways to pump hugely necessary – and typically illegal – amounts of money into the campaigns of equally corrupt candidates. Their success is ultimately measured by the degree of closeness to control of a public budget that office-holder attains. There is no greater prize for corrupt donors – and there are far more of them than corrupt office holders – than a leased or purchased corrupt chief executive. If a mayor or county/parish administrator or governor can be bought, as far too many are, the corrupt donor raids those public budgets for years. To do so is far, far more lucrative than making a real living by real and honest work, and few corrupt controllers and/or their hirelings ever go to prison. Real ethics laws in this context could make a difference, but they won’t here, because Louisiana doesn’t have a viable enforcement mechanism.
Unless Cedric Glover’s campaign finance violations are investigated by authorities other than the Ethics Board, we will soon again observe his infamous disinterest in any such actions against him. Having served in the state legislature earlier in his career, Glover well understands how diligently and successfully legislators and governors have worked to eradicate any real downside risk in breaking these laws.
For those (few?) of us who wish to see political corruption formally opposed – and dare we say it? – punished, this tale will likely be one with a very disappointing ending.
For the record, and as is always the case, this work has been done strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.
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