The Joke of Louisiana Political Profiteering


By Christopher Tidmore

As she opened the regular legislative session, Governor Blanco went off the official text--released to the press and originally published here on Bayoubuzz.com.
When discussing the state purchase of land in North Louisiana, Blanco added, "Before you jump to a conclusion, let me assure you Francis Thompson does not own the land."

That line, as columnist Charlie Davis has observed, "brought down the house". It did so with good reason. Rep. Francis Thompson has created a multimillion dollar business regarding state purchases of rural land--and converting that land into artificial lakes. From profiting on property sales on land that the State Representative owns and converting into new lakes to collecting large consulting fees for the construction of the artificial reservoirs, his family has financially benefited off this state program.

For example as the Monroe News Star pointed out, Rep. Thompson's brother Michael receives a consulting fee of $100,000 per year per lake for the construction of the artificial reservoirs in rural areas--paid for by the state.

According to news sources, Mike Thompson is the Reservoir governmental consultant for Allen, Washington, Morehouse, Caldwell, and LaSalle parishes, and proposed Reservoir projects in western Ouachita, Jackson, and Lincoln parishes. Thanks mainly to the intervention of his legislator brother, the state approved $41,975,000 approved for 12 new reservoirs in 2004.

Moreover, Francis Thompson seems to be helping his brother and close political ally Terry Denmon of Denmon Engineering by creating Reservoirs in Richland, Ouachita, Allen, Caldwell, Morehouse, promoting them in Washington, and other Parishes.

Currently, there are thirty lakes, fourteen of them artificial, supported in the legislature by Thompson, as economic development projects. They certainly have helped the Thompson family.

As the News Star and talkshow host Moon Griffon have pointed out, the most famous Poverty Point Reservoir, created in 1992 by Rep. Francis Thompson, was built by political ally Terry Denmon with Michael Thompson as project Director, and now as the well paid director of the Golf Course. The keyed gate entry began by Legislator Developers as private enterprise has cost taxpayers $40 Million approved for 2005.

An Audit in 2002, reported by the newspaper, shows Taxpayers paid $1.2 million to develop the island lots at Poverty Point Reservoir sold for $621,200 dollars to Thompson´s neighbor. Audit also shows Taxpayers paid $2.2 Million for keyed gate entry private road to the lots, and $.3 million for an office protection system or burglar alarm. Legislator Developer Thompson's CYPRESS COVE AT POVERTY POINT-LLC, and his next-door neighbor are realizing personal gain selling Lakefront lots.

(Interestingly, Rep. Thompson passed House Bill 1136 in 2001 allowing sale of land taken by Eminent Domain to Third Party without first offering to sell back to original owner, a matter in part under debate in this current session.)

Desire to protect his profitable side venture may have led Thompson to a quid pro quo with Francis Heitmeier over the maneuvers to kill the unified Levee Board, in fact.

In the closing days of the Special Session, Senator Francis Heitmeier attempted countless parliamentary procedures to amend, undermine, and even kill Senator Walter Boasso's unified regional levee board. While a two board solution did emerge, thanks in large part to the West Bank Democrat, attempts to undermine the required appointment of qualified engineers and hydrologists to the panels was not as successful.

Heitmeier's hostility to the single levee board surprised few in the media. Members of the Senator's own family received multi-million dollar contracts from the Orleans Levee District, not to mention the largess enjoyed Heitmeier's friends and political allies.

Less well observed was the alliance of Heitmeier's friend in the House, Rep. Francis Thompson, in every corresponding parliamentary maneuver to kill the single board. The North Louisiana legislator had seemingly little to gain from the change in Levee construction oversight.

However, Thompson was almost as vigilant as Heitmeier at times. Insiders, who asked not to be named, tell Bayoubuzz.com that the reason was simple. They say the North Louisianan owed the West Bank Orleanian for the latter's aid in building artificial lakes across rural Louisiana

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