|Francis Thompson, Delhi|
Here's the heart of the story:
Initially, the Board of Regents oversaw the project. The state Division of Administration, which handles the daily operations of state government, later took control and modified the project.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said earlier this week that the state requested alterations without demonstrating that the project could be finished on time and achieve the goals of the original application.
She accused state government of fumbling the ball.
Rainwater told members of the Louisiana Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on Friday that the Board of Regents' initial approach to the project would have pitted the public sector against the private sector by focusing too much on government involvement.
That's what you need to know: Jindal's Division of Administration under Rainwater took control of the grant process, submitted new plans which violated the terms of the grant, and when challenged, responded by point blank telling first the feds and then the state's legislators that nothing that didn't protect certain business interests was acceptable to the Jindal administration.
The unanswered question here is: Just whose business interests were at stake and why did their influence warrant sabotaging a plan that had previously passed state muster and had then won a highly competitive grant process at the national level?
|Ed Antie's |
Board of Regent's Portrait
Records submitted to the committee reveal that Antie took an active interest in telecommunications issues during his short time on the board, frequently emailing fellow board members and Higher Education Commissioner Jim Purcell about LONI and urging more involvement by the private sector.Now this degree of open self-dealing is unacceptable by even Louisiana's famously lax standards. But there's more: even if some members of the Board of Regents were uncomfortable with Antie's antics the board as a whole had come under critical scrutiny. WAFB reported that eight of the nine members Jindal appointed to the Board of Regents donated to his campaign, many within weeks of being appointed. As it turns out Antie had donated $3,000 dollars to Jindal's reelection coffers. But, even sweeter, executives in various businesses associated with his fiber leases to the Board's LONI network had contributed another $16,000 dollars.
It all stinks.
And that's before we even bring up partisan politics and Mary Landrieu's role in securing the grant, the Jindal administration's ragged record on privatization ranging from the prisons to the Office of Group Benefits, or the naked ideology visible in the recent failure to complete application for a $60 million dollars in "race to the top" money for Louisiana's award-winning early childhood programs.
It all stinks.
—Stay tuned; more details and a fuller exploration to come.