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Louisiana: still paying to play

The New Orleans Times-Picayne reports: It's no secret that many of the same contractors who appear on agenda after agenda before the Jefferson Parish Council also appear in campaign finance reports filed by the politicians who routinely give public business to the firms.

Familiar names also cropped up when Parish President Aaron Broussard had emergency powers to issue contracts without following public bidding laws immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

Now a campaign finance reform that was designed to stamp out the appearance of partiality to contractors who give generously to campaigns is expected to have limited reach among Jefferson's eight top politicians, all of whom face election this fall.

State lawmakers passed Act 849 last year to send a message to Washington, D.C., that the "Louisiana way" of contractor favoritism had gone out of favor, leaving no tolerance for even the appearance of rewarding firms whose dollars helped win elections.

It prohibits politicians from accepting donations for three years from anyone who received no-bid emergency work after the hurricane, including contractors and their first-tier subcontractors. Violations cost both the banned firms and the elected officials a penalty twice the amount of the donation. -- Despite new law, campaign cash flows

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