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Ragin' Cajun Shilling for Mary
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of New Orleans is supposedly the top-targeted Democrat up for re-election next year, which explains why she's pulling out the big guns. This week, uber-consultant James Carville signed a letter on behalf of Landrieu asking supporters to stay strong and pony up. "Mary Landrieu will be one of the most important names on the 2008 ballot, and she needs our help," Carville writes. "She deserves our help. She's at the top of my priority list of Democratic incumbents to support in the 2008 elections, and I'm hoping that she'll be on the top of yours. ... If there's a single race on the 2008 ballot where your contribution can make a difference, this is it." Donations are asked in the form of $25, $50 and $100 political gifts, although there is a post-script pointing out that a simple "$35 contribution will go a long way toward returning Mary Landrieu to the U.S. Senate in November 2008." -- Alford

 

Coroner: Search Not Over
Two years after Hurricane Katrina, Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard says the search for the storm's dead remains incomplete. Minyard told the City Council during budget hearings last November that the large, swampy Michoud area in eastern New Orleans had not been searched. In a recent interview, he said a lack of funding among government agencies has prevented the hunt from resuming. "I truly believe there are skeletal remains in that area," Minyard told Gambit Weekly. "That area has a lot of sportsmen, hunters and Vietnamese. I'm sorry to say [the search] has not gone forward. The Michoud area is fairly large. Nobody wants to do anything unless they get paid by FEMA." Minyard, whose staff has been cut from 25 to 10 employees, says the New Orleans Forensic Center has its hands full with the city's soaring murder rate. "We got other work to do," he said. "These homicides are really, really stretching us." One retired city official who was involved with police and fire search operations disagrees with Minyard. "The Michoud area was pretty well gone over," the former official says. The stop-and-start search was hampered by bureaucratic bickering. State officials and the coroner's office never agreed on a death toll because of differences over stress-related deaths later blamed on Katrina. Roughly 100 people are still reported missing since the storm. -- Johnson

 

Oliver for Congress? It's a long road from model citizen to model prisoner. But once former New Orleans City Council member Oliver Thomas is convicted, sentenced and released from federal prison, he can run for Congress, according to a federal prosecutor. So, too, can white supremacist David Duke, who served federal time for defrauding his followers. It's a rare, counterintuitive case of Louisiana criminal law being tougher on politicians than federal law, says Carter Guice, the local federal prosecutor who made the feds' case against Duke. Duke can seek federal office because qualifications are defined by the U.S. Constitution, which does not bar convicted felons from federal elections, Guice notes. However, neither Duke nor Thomas could run for a state or local post because the Louisiana Constitution prohibits a convicted felon from running for office. -- Johnson

 

Boasso Still Spending
State Sen. Walter Boasso, a newly converted Democrat from Chalmette who is running for governor, has surely spent more than $2 million on statewide media buys -- most of it his own money -- and his numbers are showing slow improvement. The latest television spot ties in all of the five previous commercials, which largely lampoon the GOP frontrunner, Congressman Bobby Jindal of Kenner, as a cardboard cutout. As for future spots, just stay tuned. "I don't imagine us coming down anytime soon," says one source close to the campaign. -- Alford

 

FBI Levee Probe Continues
Two years after Hurricane Katrina, the FBI's criminal investigation of the levee failures is still underway, local FBI spokesperson Sheila Thorne confirmed last week. In a June 15 interview, Jim Bernazzani, specialagent-in-charge of the New Orleans FBI office, said, "The whole levee investigation is huge." In a Nov. 15, 2005, interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Bernazzani said the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were working "very closely" on complaints of "missed steps" in the construction and maintenance of the protective levee system. "The scope is very broad and it's just not the levees that failed," Bernazzani said then. "It's the entire levee system." The FBI's lakefront headquarters were heavily damaged by Katrina and did not reopen until June 1, 2006. The local FBI operated out of temporary space at LSU in Baton Rouge after the storm, which took the homes of dozens of FBI agents and civilian support staff. -- Johnson

 

Dismal Dates
For friends and family of Kerry DeCay, there's a more important date on the calendar this week than Aug. 29, the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. DeCay, who led the city's Department of Property Management under former Mayor Marc Morial, is scheduled to surrender to U.S. marshals on Thursday (Aug. 30) to begin his nine-year sentence on federal corruption charges. DeCay, 47, will be known in the federal Bureau of Prisons system as prisoner No. 29505-034. DeCay has said he is in poor health. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will determine where he will be incarcerated. -- Johnson

 

Marshall Plans
Demonstrators led by Essence magazine editor Susan Taylor this week are calling for a federal "Marshall Plan" to help the New Orleans area and the Gulf Coast. The calls come during an observance of the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The Marshall Plan, led by Army Gen. George C. Marshall, was a massive relief effort to help keep German people from starving after World War II. On March 1, 1949, Gen. Marshall visited New Orleans -- for Mardi Gras. The general and then-Mayor Chep Morrison toasted Rex and his queen at the Boston Club, according to a front-page story that appeared the next day in the Item newspaper. Like heroes and celebrities today, the general's visit was overshadowed by Carnival royalty -- especially jazz great Louis Armstrong's reign that same day as King Zulu. -- Johnson

 

Flack Has New Stripes
Michael DiResto
, the sharp-witted press secretary for Congressman Richard Baker of Baton Rouge, is taking a break from his House gig and is now a senior advisor to the Louisiana Republican Party. DiResto will help with communications strategy for the governor's race, work the press corps and run the GOP's new blog, www.lagopblog.com, which focuses on the ongoing gubernatorial contest. "I am on an administrative leave of absence without pay from the congressman's office through Nov. 19," DiResto wrote in an email. DiResto's opening salvo came this week when he uncovered three campaign contacts on the Web site of Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell that were actually PSC offices. Louisiana campaign law prohibits public resources from being used in any campaign. Campbell, a Democrat from Elm Grove, has since removed the references from the site. -- Alford

 

Wildlife Commission Gets New 'Recreation' Member
Steve Oats is the newest member of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, which is responsible for crafting policy, setting hunting and fishing dates and other regulatory responsibilities. If you're familiar with the powerful board, then you know there has long been a divide between recreational and commercial interests. For what it's worth, Oats will likely cast his votes on the side of recreation as he's a longtime member of the Coastal Conservation Association. Gov. Kathleen Blanco appointed Oats to an at-large commission seat recently, replacing Terry Denmon, whose term had expired. Oats was born in Lafayette and is a lifelong resident of Louisiana. He is the managing partner in the law firm of Oats and Hudson, which has offices in Lafayette, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The term of the at-large commission position that Oats fills will run through April 30, 2013. -- Alford

 

Looking back...
After former New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges two weeks ago and Mark S. Smith, former director of the Louisiana Film Commission, was charged in a federal bribery investigation days later, friends and acquaintances of two high-profile former officials tried to recall "signs" of where their once-bright futures began to dim. We found a different kind of warning that the pair either missed or ignored -- two years before they got caught by the feds. In "Corruption Costs Jobs" (Commentary, Aug. 16, 2005), Gambit Weekly published a catalog of high-profile federal corruption cases. We concluded: "Cleaning up our image starts with cleaning up our act. It's encouraging that the feds are leading the charge on that front. But the truth is Louisiana must pull itself up by our own bootstraps -- AND BE SQUEAKY CLEAN FOR AT LEAST 10 YEARS (emphasis added) -- to change its image. We can start by recognizing that our image of corruption costs us jobs. If we don't change things, we will continue to get what we deserve -- corruption, cronyism and a lousy economy." -- Johnson

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