BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is calling on Gov. John Bel Edwards to ban public officials and their family members from receiving flood recovery rebuilding contracts financed with federal disaster aid.
Kennedy, a Republican who took office this month, released his letter sent to the Democratic governor Wednesday, urging Edwards to issue an executive order with the ban.
Edwards is proposing that $1.3 billion of the $1.6 billion in disaster recovery block grant aid allocated to Louisiana by Congress for the March and August flooding be spent on homeowner rehabilitation and rebuilding.
Kennedy says politicians and their families shouldn't "profit from Louisianians' tragedy." He says the ban he proposes would prove that Louisiana is being a good steward of the federal dollars as the state seeks additional disaster aid from Congress.
Here is the full letter Kennedy sent Wednesday:
The Honorable John Bel Edwards
State of Louisiana
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804
By email, fax, and U.S. mail
Dear Governor Edwards:
You have indicated that you plan to initiate a state-sponsored construction program, using American taxpayer money appropriated to Louisiana by Congress, to help Louisiana homeowners rebuild after the catastrophic flooding in March and August of last year.
I write to ask you to issue an executive order prohibiting all public officials, their immediate family members and companies in which these officials or their immediate family members have a five percent or more financial interest from receiving any contracts or subcontracts funded by public money for rebuilding flood-damaged structures. I do not believe that it is enough to simply prohibit entities in which public officials or their families have a controlling interest. True ethics standards mean tougher standards for our politicians and their families. They shouldn't profit from Louisianians' tragedy.
We owe it to the American people, Congress and ourselves to be good stewards of the taxpayer money received for rebuilding, particularly in light of our request for more funding. For moral as well as practical reasons, Louisiana must have zero tolerance for the waste or theft of this money or the appearance of waste or theft.
Some may argue that disclosure of the contracts that would be prohibited by your executive order would be sufficient. Disclosure, however, is not enough. There still could be an appearance of impropriety to reasonable people. Only prohibiting these contracts altogether will send the message that Louisiana will not tolerate corruption or cronyism, or any hint of them.
Appearances count. For example, Louisiana law prohibits the state treasurer from playing the state lottery. That law exists for one reason: to protect the state’s integrity, which would be undermined by the appearance of impropriety, if the state treasurer won a jackpot.
Plato wrote that “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” Maybe so. But barring public officials, their relatives and their companies from receiving rebuilding contracts is not just an effective way to prevent corruption. It’s also a good way to show taxpayers that Louisiana is serious about its reputation.
Thank you for your time, Governor.
United States Senator