For Treasurer John Kennedy, no point in holding back

By JOHN MAGINNIS

and JEREMY ALFORD

LaPolitics.com / Twitter: @LaPoliticsNow

Treasurer John Kennedy has been on a tear lately, charging that three dozen non-governmental organizations that have received legislative grants are breaking the law by not filing reports on how they spent the money.

According to the law, he claims the groups, most of whom have ties to legislators, have to repay the grants, some exceeding $500,000. The next step, he said, would be to turn over the repayment claims to the new state Office of Debt Collection, which was created by the Legislature in the past session and is housed in the state Department of Revenue.

On the same week that Kennedy revealed the non-compliance of the organizations, he also told the Baton Rouge Press Club that he is “very, very seriously” considering running for governor in 2015. He has expressed some interest before, but not as strongly.

Political observers call it a smart move to put his name in the “interested” column, along with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Simsboro Mayor Willie Hendricks and state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite, the lone Democrat so far. Rumors are also swirling that outgoing Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, might make a run, and he’s not swatting those suggestions down — yet.

For what could be his last shot at the brass ring, Kennedy, 62, can always drop his gubernatorial bid, as he did in 2003, and safely seek a fifth term. But at this point, there is no reason to hold back.

A disciplined fundraiser, with a captive audience of financial industry givers, Kennedy has banked $2.33 million, the most of any candidate mentioned.

Resignation-Appointment Triggers Fall Election

Last week’s announced retirement of Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, presumably slated for 2014, was, within 24 hours, transformed into a planned resignation for Sept. 26, with a special election to replace him on the Hill set for Oct. 19.

Alexander’s subsequent appointment by Gov. Bobby Jindal to head the Department of Veterans Affairs favors not only the outgoing congressman, but also announced candidate state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, who has long been preparing to succeed Alexander.

Riser starts as the early frontrunner in a short race, for which qualifying is set to run Aug. 19 to 21. He already has Jindal’s top fundraiser, Allee Bautsch, on staff and is looking for a campaign manager — despite media reports, it won’t be Jindal consultant Timmy Teepell, sources tell LaPolitics. With limited time, Riser wants to raise $1.2 million in 57 days and has fundraisers scheduled already in Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette, Monroe, New Orleans, Shreveport and Washington, D.C.

State Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, is expected to qualify as well after publicly accusing Jindal and Alexander of conspiring to position Riser for the win. Unlike Riser’s aggressive fundraising effort, Morris is said to be dipping into his own pockets to jumpstart his bid.

The 5th District has the highest black registration, 34 percent, of any of the 234 U.S. House districts held by Republicans. GOP registration is only 26 percent. While Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo and state Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, are considering the race, state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, is eager to run.

“I’m really pondering coming into this race,” Hunter said. “If qualifying is tomorrow, I’m in.”

A leading central Louisiana Democrat, Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy, is said to be interested in running, but the shortened timeframe may be a hurdle.

Meanwhile, GOP Congressmen Charles Boustany, John Fleming and Steve Scalise have all endorsed Riser and are planning to help him raise money in the coming weeks.

Al Jazeera Opening Bureau in New Orleans

Al Jazeera, the leading news broadcaster in the Arab world which has expanded its operations globally, is opening a news bureau in New Orleans.

Field producer Paula Pendarvis, former news director at WGNO-TV, said the news channel will go on the air Aug. 22. The Crescent City bureau will cover news in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle, with Robert Ray of Associated Press and Fox News fame serving as chief correspondent.

The bureau’s work, however, won’t be viewed locally, at least for now.

Sharon Bethea, public affairs manager for Cox Communications, said, “At this time, there are no plans to carry the new network.”

Al Jazeera America, a subsidiary of the corporation based in Qatar, has been setting up bureaus and hiring staff since January when it acquired cable channel Current TV from former Vice President Al Gore.

According to its website, “Al Jazeera America is being built from the ground up: we’re hiring American journalists to report on American stories from coast-to-coast.” Currently, Al Jazeera English is available online in the U.S.

Al Jazeera was owned by the government of Qatar until 2011 before its ownership was transferred to a private corporation. Today it broadcasts in 100 countries.

They Said It

“With Mary’s opponents stepping up their fundraising goals, we’re going to have to work harder than a dog trying to bury a bone on a marble floor to stay ahead.”

—James Carville, in fundraising letter to Democratic boosters

“But if you really want to fully understand what’s happened, look at God.”

—Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover’s statement denying rumors that his recent noticeable weight loss was due to bariatric surgery

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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