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Nation Eyes La. Ethics
A debate over ethics in post-Katrina Louisiana is playing out in the national media. At issue: who should be eligible for billions of federal dollars in hurricane recovery contracts? For months, State Treasurer John Kennedy has been urging Gov. Kathleen Blanco "to remove any whiff of impropriety" by banning state politicians and their families from benefiting from billions of dollars in federal rebuilding contracts, according to a lengthy article on New Orleans appearing this week in The New Yorker. But, author Dan Baum reports: "Blanco told me she didn't like the idea. 'The Legislature is not a full-time job,' she said. 'These people have to make a living too.'" Kennedy, in an Aug. 12 op-ed piece for The New York Times, argues that because of Louisiana's historical reputation for "lax ethical standards in government," the state has an obligation to prove it can "be good stewards of this largess, particularly in case we ever need more." A state law passed in November requires officials and their relatives to report any disaster-related contracts to the Louisiana Ethics Commission, and more than 200 contracts have been reported. But, Kennedy argues: "Disclosure is not enough ... appearances count." -- Johnson

 

Dodging Federal Zingers
When Associate City Attorney Franz Zibilich appeared in federal court last week to defend Mayor Ray Nagin's latest decision to close the controversial Chef Menteur landfill, he faced some pointed questions from U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. "Mr. Zibilich, what is the mayor's position today?" Barbier asked with obvious sarcasm. When Zibilich answered that the mayor wanted the landfill closed, the judge didn't let up. "And what was his position yesterday?" Barbier asked, to which Zibilich replied, "To close it." Barbier gave Zibilich the treatment several more times before closing with this one: "And what if the winds change and he changes his mind -- again -- next week?" At that point, Zibilich and co-counsel Joe DiRosa Jr. replied in unison: "I guess he'll have different lawyers in here then." The unflappable Zibilich said afterward that the judge's grilling actually made him feel good about the city's chances of prevailing. "When a federal judge starts giving you that kind of grief, it usually means he or she is about to rule in your favor," he said. In this case, Zibilich's instincts were correct -- Barbier ruled in favor of the mayor's (latest) position and denied Waste Management Inc.'s request for an order keeping the dump open. -- DuBos

 

Bobby's Bucks
Alright, so now we all know that Bobby Jindal can deliver his own children, but can he deliver congressional seats for fellow Republicans around the state? Jindal, who represents the First Congressional District, will be hosting a fundraiser in Metairie in September for Republican state Sen. Craig Romero of New Iberia. Romero is the GOP's hope in the Third Congressional District, which runs nearly the entire Louisiana coastline. Even though he faces only token opposition, Jindal spent $1 million on political operations during the second quarter of 2006, sinking about half of that into an aggressive media buy. Is it possible that Jindal -- eager to flex his political muscle -- might use some of that media to help Romero claim the Cajun district seat from Congressman Charlie Melancon, an Assumption Parish Democrat? The Romero camp is staying mum on the possibilities. Meanwhile, Jan Witold Baran, a high-profile elections lawyer with Wiley, Rein and Fielding in Washington, D.C., says as long as Jindal doesn't attack or directly oppose Melancon in the ads, he can run spots supporting Romero with virtually no limit. "There are ways it can be done," he says, adding the Federal Elections Commission recently clarified the law on that subject.Ê Jindal also gave Romero's campaign $4,000 earlier this month. -- Alford

 

They're Ba-a-a-ck
Crossing paths with a Japanese-speaking producer, a reporter from Finland and an Australian photojournalist wasn't much of an oddity in New Orleans during the early months following Hurricane Katrina's landfall. While national attention hasn't died off completely, the international press has moved on in many cases to other worldwide woes. But with the anniversary of Katrina upon us, the international press is back on the beat. Natalie Wyeth, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, says she has been fielding requests for credentials from France, Germany, Poland and elsewhere. "So far, we are up to 150 requests for credentials, ranging from local to international," Wyeth says. "This is going to be a great opportunity to show people this is a functioning city. We're excited to show off our promise and progress." As for documentary filmmakers and celebrity newshounds, no one of that stature has requested creds, she says. To deal with all the press, the LRA has set up www.rememberrebirth.org as the online media center. -- Alford

 

CCA Banquet Thursday
The Delta Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association will hold its first post-Katrina banquet Thursday (Aug. 24) in the Audubon Tea Room, 6500 Magazine St., with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m., followed by fundraising auctions. The CCA works to protect coastal fisheries nationwide and enjoys wide support among sportsmen. Auction items range from fishing and wing-shooting trips to outdoor art and equipment. Tickets are $100 a person and include CCA membership for one year. For information and tickets call CCA at (225) 952-9200. -- DuBos

 

Keeping Her Guard Up
If there's one state in the nation that recognizes the countless uses for National Guard troops, it's Louisiana. In addition to working search-and-rescue missions, the Guard sent soldiers to New Orleans to police looters during the early days of Katrina and, more recently, to bring added security to sparsely resettled New Orleans neighborhoods. Meanwhile, President George W. Bush is considering an executive takeover of the National Guard -- it was sent to him in the House version of the defense authorization bill -- but governors around the nation, including Gov. Kathleen Blanco, are asking Bush to let it go. Blanco says the language would give Bush "unnecessary authorization" to take control of the Guard. Proponents say the legislation only allows that to happen when a "serious natural or manmade disaster, accident or catastrophe ... occurs in the United States." It was a core issue in the blame game the feds and Blanco played in the months following Katrina, and Blanco contends the proposed change would do nothing to improve that situation. "Federalization is not, never has been and never should be a condition for getting help or federal troops when requested by a governor," she says. "Federalization of the National Guard would in no way guarantee additional Department of Defense troops, and indeed could even preclude the deployment of those forces." -- Alford

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