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 and Cheney.

Boustany and Cheney.

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. Let me know if you want to get deep into the Louisiana muck.
Ben Bernanke's supporters are warning that a Senate vote against the Fed chair will send financial markets tumbling. Tim Geithner recently chimed in by telling Politico that markets would find a no vote "very troubling," before saying that he was confident Bernanke would be reconfirmed. Geithner's chief mentor, Robert Rubin, deployed the very same argument about Enron. Rubin, then a top executive at Citigroup, made an 11th hour call to the Treasury Department as part of a campaign by Enron and its creditors to stave off a looming ratings downgrade. The call was later criticized as an improper use of the former Treasury Secretary's influence, but Rubin defended his actions, saying that he thought an Enron collapse would imperil world energy markets. The financial apocalypse trick has been turned many times by Wall Street's policy elites, but the Rubin example is especially apt today: the high-level campaign to avert Enron's ratings downgrade in 2001 appears to have been coordinated by the same Federal Reserve official lobbying for Ben Bernanke's reappointment. As I wrote yesterday, chief Bernanke tout Linda Robertson lobbied for Enron from 2000 to 2001, where she was involved in some of the messiest aspects of the Enron debacle. She successfully pushed Enron-approved candidates for Bush appointments, authored a company memo that inspired substantial portions of the Cheney energy task force plan, and lobbied for further deregulation of California's electricity markets in the midst of the state's historic electricity crisis (caused, at least in part, by Enron's fraudulent manipulations of the market). Robertson is now spearheading the Bernanke reconfirmation effort in the Senate, according to Politico. Robertson arrived at Enron fresh off a long stint at the Clinton Treasury, where she had worked for Secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. She was close to both. Summers recommended her for her Enron job, telling executives that "Nobody I know has the determination she has to get objectives met" and "Far more capacity to grasp the details than anyone I've seen." Shortly after Robertson joined Enron, Summers awarded her Treasury's highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton award. Robertson sat one row behind Rubin at his confirmation as Treasury Secretary (photo from Rubin's memoir, In an Uncertain World):
Rubin and Robertson.

Rubin at his confirmation hearings, with Linda Robertson over his left shoulder.

These connections helped Robertson secure her post at Enron, and she leveraged them throughout her time there. On November 7, 2001 -- the day before Rubin placed his famous call to the Treasury Department with Enron on the verge of bankruptcy -- Robertson emailed an "outreach plan" to Enron lobbyist Rick Shapiro. She recommended that top Enron executives contact many of Washington's top power brokers. The exact reasons for the outreach efforts aren't described in the email, though its timing makes its purpose clear. Here is the full email:
From: [email protected] To: [email protected] Subject: Some Outreach Thoughts Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2001 14:16:04 -0800 (PST) I would suggest that the following calls as part of a minimum outreach plan starting tomorrow at 10:30am CST: Ken Lay (or someone in Office of Chair): Greenspan, O'Neill, Lindsey, DeLay, Armey, Bingaman, Schumer, Bill McDonough Steve Kean: Peter Fisher, Pat Wood, Newsome, Barton, Steve Largent, Don Nickles, Rick Shapiro: Brownell, Massey, Breathitt, Larcamp, Bob McNalley, Boucher, Sarah Novosel: Scott Miller, Chris John, Kevin Cadden, other FERC staff Linda Robertson: K. Bentsen, Sheila Jackson Lee, Gene Green, DeLay Staff, Joe Kelliher, Oxley, Sarbanes, Dingell staff, Tauzin staff, Leon Lowrey, Daschle staff, Stenholm, Steve Harris, Wayne Abernathy, Dodd staff, J. Glotfelty, Hagel, All other Houston MOCs, LaFalce, Allison Silverstein, Lott staff
The list of names reads like a who's who of Washington power brokers at the time, particularly in the energy and economic policy realms. One year before, Enron had spent weeks scheduling a simple call from Ken Lay to Phil Gramm; here, Robertson was recommending that Lay call the chair of the Fed, the Treasury Secretary, the chair of the New York Fed, the House majority leader, and the director of the National Economic Council as part of a "minimum outreach plan" on one single day -- November 8th. These were desperate times. It is unclear if Enron executives made all of the calls prescribed by Robertson, though Ken Lay did place a call to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on November 8th, according to the New York Times. O'Neill said that Lay had not asked for government assistance. Peter Fisher, the Treasury Department official that Rubin called that day, appears on Robertson's list, assigned to Steve Kean, Ken Lay's chief of staff. According to the Senate investigation of the call (worth a read), Robertson did not ask Rubin to make the call. Rubin told Senate staffers that he and Robertson "maintained a friendship" during the period in question, but did not speak about Enron business. In any case, Rubin had his own reasons to stand up for Enron: Citigroup, where he was a top executive, was a major Enron creditor and partner.

Rubin and Robertson.

In any case, the power broker outreach strategy actually worked: Moody's downgraded Enron on November 9th, but it remained one notch above "junk," and the company avoided bankruptcy. Less than a month later, Enron collapsed. And despite Rubin's dire predictions, world financial markets survived. This is the kind of firepower that Robertson brings to the Bernanke reconfirmation effort. Strategic use of the rolodex coupled with frequent deployment of the self-serving financial apocalypse threat have helped her and the rest of the Rubin crew prolong plenty of frauds in the past. Bernanke is just the latest chapter in this sorry tale of crony capitalism.