Did Louisiana's Republican Elite Support the Landrieu Phone Squad?
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The four conservative activists arrested for tampering with the phones of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu earlier this week have been linked to the Pelican Institute, a conservative New Orleans think tank. Pelican is a relatively new organization, but it appears to have strong ties to members of the state's Republican elite, most notably Representative Charles Boustany.
Though only one of the tamperers is from Louisiana, Pelican appears to have been the group's home base there. The apparent ringleader, James O'Keefe -- also the activist behind last September's ACORN videotape -- spoke at a Pelican Institute luncheon last week. Another one of the four, Robert Flanagan, is a paid blogger for Pelican (Flanagan is the son of the acting US attorney in Shreveport, Bill Flanagan). Pelican's founder, Kevin Kane, blogs at BigGovernment, the site where O'Keefe first posted the ACORN video.
TPMMuckraker has found that Pelican "enjoys a prominent voice in Louisiana political circles." A close look at its board of directors helps explain why this is the case.
Pelican listed three board members on its 2008 990 (available from Guidestar): founder Kevin Kane, lawyer Stephen Gele, and one "J LeBlanc." A LinkedIn page reveals that the listing refers to Jennifer LeBlanc, a Republican fundraiser who chaired the Lousiana finance committee of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani in 2008.
LeBlanc is extremely tightly linked to Representative Charles Boustany, who was a close friend of her late husband, Patrick LeBlanc, before he died in a 2008 plane crash. LeBlanc was a top Boustany donor, as well, and he and Jennifer hosted a high-profile fundraiser for his Congressional campaign in 2005. Vice president Dick Cheney was the featured guest. The LeBlancs, Boustany, and Senator David Vitter all endorsed Rudy Giuliani's campaign for president in 2007.
Boustany also endorsed LeBlanc during his unsuccessful run for state representative that year. That bid was undone by ongoing scandals related to LeBlanc's prison operation and construction business, LCS Corrections. The company operates private prisons throughout the southeast and Texas, and has been investigated by the FBI for "contracting irregularities" related to possible bribery schemes.
Boustany's brother-in-law, Christopher Edwards, was LeBlanc's attorney during his campaign, and threatened to sue LeBlanc's opponent over a negative ad. Edwards is the nephew of disgraced Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards.
When Patrick LeBlanc died, Boustany released the following statement:
"Pat was my dear friend, a loving family man and a leader in the Lafayette community. It is a terrible loss, and my thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer and his children. Bridget and I will miss him greatly."
Boustany and Pelican were both out in front of the ACORN scandal in August and September.
Boustany was one of the first members of Congress to react to news of the ACORN videotape last September. The day after the news broke, on September 11, 2009, he called for a House Oversight investigation of the group's tax prep activities.
TPM has reported that Pelican published an investigative report on ACORN in August 2009, one month before the O'Keefe videotape was released. The report alleged that ACORN had evaded federal taxes on a number of occasions.
Was there coordination between Boustany, BigGovernment, Pelican, and O'Keefe? What role does Jennifer LeBlanc play at the Pelican Institute? Who funds the organization?
There's still a lot more to learn here, but this is shaping up to be a very interesting scandal. Leia and WileECoyote have done awesome work updating information on the various networks behind O'Keefe and Pelican. Pelican appears to have strong ties to the Reason Foundation, and Pelican founder Kevin Kane and Breitbart's relationship deserves closer examination, among other things.