Tag Archives: Advocate

BR Tea Party = Outside Agitators?

Tea Party

The word you're looking for is: "Homogeneous"

Advocate investigative reporter Greg Garland apparently got tired of following the Mayor around and did a little digging into the Baton Rouge Tea Party. Actually, I guess it should be referred to as The Baton Rouge Tea Party of Iberville Parish. Yup, turns out the group was actually incorporated in the city of Plaquemine in Iberville Parish  (Search Baton Rouge Tea Party here). According to Plaquemine resident and Baton Rouge Tea Party President Jennifer Madsen, it was incorporated in Iberville Parish as “a matter of convenience”. Matter of convenience it may well be, but it lends the appearance of outside agitation in a local election and is a bit of a political blunder. After all, if these people expect you to believe they know what is best for this parish,  shouldn’t they be spending enough time in EBR that incorporating the organization in the parish in which the election is actually being held wouldn’t be such a problem?

Of greater interest to me are the reports found over on the Louisiana Ethics Administration’s website. The Baton Rouge Tea Party entry lists three reports, two financial disclosure reports and one statement of organization (P.S. If anyone from the Tea Party reads this, y’all really should electronically file your reports. The way you’re doing it now makes you look like a bunch of Neo-Luddites). Garland covers the most recent financial disclosure report in some detail, basically revealing that a mere two donors were responsible for 97.4%  of recent Tea Party fund-raising activities. Apparently, most Tea Party members are unwilling to financially contribute to the cause. I guess that isn’t really a surprise as the group’s anti-tax focus is intended to keep as much money in the pockets of its members as possible. It’s kind of a double-edged sword there, really.

Tea Party Claim

The word you're looking for is: "Disingenuous". Check out their Facebook Friends if you don't believe me. To their credit, the Tea Party has removed any references to political, social, and racial inclusiveness from their website.

But I digress…

What’s really interesting to me is the other two reports. The Statement of Organization is innocuous enough… except that it was filed September 14th, 2009. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, except that their initial financial disclosure report covers a lot of calendar… all the way back to March 2009. Why is this a big deal? See for yourself. I’m not a campaign finance expert, but Section II, Sub-Section C of this document states (emphasis added):

“A PAC which organizes after January 31 or discovers after January 31 that its financial activity for the year will exceed $500 must file a statement of organization within 10 days of that date.

Based on the initial financial disclosure report, the BR Tea Party broke the $500 financial activity threshold back in March. According to the Statement of Organization, they didn’t organize until September. That seems like a little longer than 10 days to me.

Ultimately, incorporating in Iberville Parish and possibly failing to comply with campaign finance regulations, while amusing to Tea party opponents, are unlikely to have much of an impact on the election.Voters really don’t care about an organization’s possible mishandling of bureaucratic hurdles. Instead, voters care about issues.

The Mayor and his administration have presented the bond proposal more times than I think anyone would care to count. The opportunity to get educated on this issue has been there.  If you still don’t feel like you know enough about the proposal to make an educated vote, check out the resources available at the Progress Is website and the official City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge website. These resources include a presentation of the bond proposal itself as well as the economic impact assessment prepared by former state economist Dr. Jim Richardson. I would include links to resources opposing the bond but, as of this date, there have been none that meet the same level of academic rigor achieved by Dr. Richardson. You can take that however you will, but I find it amusing that many of the questions that are asked about the proposal are answered in detail in the economic assessment. I guess some folks have better things to do than read…

The election will be this Saturday, November 14th. I will be voting for the bond proposal that morning before heading to work. I hope that each of you will read the proposal, read the economic assessment, and then make a fully informed decision behind the curtain. Emotion has its place when voting social issues, but factual information and informed conjecture are required when considering infrastructure improvements and economic development.



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Michelle Millhollon! Why you gotta do ANI that way?

MisdirectionOne of my favorite hobbies is reading the local paper. Occasionally, I have to chuckle at the amateur way some of the articles are framed. Editorial or reporter bias? Probably so, but you really can’t do much about it other than roll your eyes.

Take for instance this article in the Advocate, Baton Rouge’s daily newspaper: Audubon Lost Money in ’08 by Michelle Millhollon. The blaring headline clearly intends to lead the reader to the opinion that the Audubon Nature Institute (ANI) is a money losing enterprise or at the least has a questionable ability to generate a profit. But do the facts really support this? The article correctly reports and strongly focuses on the fact ANI operated at a $187,886 loss in 2008; a loss generated across its entire holdings of the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, IMAX theater, Insectarium, and other smaller (non-revenue generating) research and conservation holdings.

I know what you’re thinking, but I promise you I’m not missing any zeros. So, the “big news” is that ANI posted a $187,886 loss on reported revenue of $43,557,620 per their financial statements. That loss, as a function of revenue, was 0.43% (yes, that’s a percent). A 0.43% loss for a non-profit organization? Stop the presses, we’ve got a hot one! I’ve worked with a local charitable organization in the past to determine funding levels for supported entities and all I can say is that a 0.43% loss is pretty much a non-issue for a non-profit. The whole point of non-profit agencies is to reinvest any generated profit into a cause of some sort. In the case of ANI, it is research and conservation holdings. Some years you come out a little ahead, some years you come out a little behind.

While I think the reported loss is much ado about nothing, I think the real disservice is found later in the article. After spending several column inches reporting on the loss in 2008, the following sentence is buried deep in the article:

“Financial statements provided by Audubon show the institute had excess revenue in recent years — with 2008 being the exception.”

Wait… what? You mean to say that other than 2008, ANI has been generally operating at a profit? But sure, why should a newspaper include relevant historical information?

Even more amusing is the sentence that follows that one:

“But Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park consistently showed more expenses than revenues at the end of the year.”

That may be the case… except for, ya know, 2008, the year on which the article is focusing. According to the financial statements, Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park generated an $895,831 profit from operations. It’s a cute apples to oranges comparison, but if you’re going to report on a single year measure, don’t start throwing in multi-year measurements at other points in the article without clarifying the information.

Why is any of this even important to Baton Rouge? As most know, ANI is the entity that will presumably be running the Alive! project if the bond proposal is approved this year. If the facility experiences a loss, East Baton Rouge Parish will have to absorb it. Regardless of the amusing bit of reporting above, past financial statements generally point to the fact ANI understands how to run public venues intended to attract admission-paying patrons. The organization managed to survive a situation where nearly all of its holdings were subjected to the worst natural disaster in American history. Could a less capable organization manage that?


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