BOUSTANY STANDS BEHIND LEBLANC AMID TEXAS PRISON SCANDAL U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany is standing behind embattled fellow Republican Pat LeBlanc, a candidate for the Louisiana House of Representatives. The congressman introduced LeBlanc at a fundraiser last week at the City Club at River Ranch.

LeBlanc, who is running for the District 43 seat being vacated next year by state Rep. Ernie Alexander, is involved in a Texas prison system scandal in Bexar County. LeBlanc and his brother Michael and their business, Premier Management, have been implicated in questionable dealings with Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez and one of his close associates. In recent weeks, Lopez pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges, including accepting an illegal gift, as part of a plea deal with the district attorney. The charges stem from a trip he took to Costa Rica with the LeBlanc brothers at a time when Premier was being considered for a lucrative commissary contract for a Bexar County jail annex. The LeBlancs, who also contributed to a shell charity organization controlled by one of the sheriff's close associates, have maintained their innocence, but Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed told the San Antonio Express-News that she has not yet determined the extent of Premier's involvement in the corruption case. That publication is also looking into the LeBlancs dealings with other Texas prisons.

Boustany joined a long-list of prominent names hosting the fund-raiser, including Alexander. Also listed as hosts were Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Randy Menard, Tax Assessor Conrad Comeaux, Ron Gomez and Carol Ross, attorney Bob Wright, oilman Paul Hilliard, Glenn and Dana Armentor, Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins and Mike and Marcia Francis. About 70 $500 contributors appeared on the host list. Others attending paid $250 per couple. ... LFT ENDORSES CAMPBELL AND NOTES JINDAL SNUB The Louisiana Federation of Teachers endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Foster Campbell last week, calling him "a leader who is willing to take on the well-heeled powers that be." Campbell has based his candidacy largely on a plan to swap the state's income and severance taxes with a new "processing fee" on oil and gas. Campbell, a former teacher and longtime state senator, has also advocated year-round schooling for struggling students and further raising teacher pay to the national average. In its press release, the LFT, one of the largest teacher unions in the state, also noted how it was snubbed by Republican front runner Bobby Jindal:

"Each of the major candidates, with the notable exception of Republican Bobby Jindal, met at least twice with Federation leaders and submitted written answers to questions posed by the LFT. Congressman Jindal did not respond to invitations to meet with LFT leadership and he failed to respond to the Federation's candidate's questionnaire, and therefore removed himself from consideration for the Federation's endorsement."

The state's other major teacher's union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, has endorsed both Campbell and Democratic rival Walter Boasso. Jindal also declined to participate in the LAE's interview process. ... CHARLIE BUCKELS RUNNING FOR BESE Charlie Buckels' name will be on the Oct. 20 ballot, but not as a candidate for District 31 state representative. Buckels, who up until qualifying indicated he would be making another bid for the District 31 seat, instead signed up to run for the District 7 Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Buckels, a Republican, will face off against incumbent BESE member Dale Bayard, a Democrat, who also serves as the board's secretary/treasurer. "We're in a situation of reform right now," Buckels says. "About three weeks ago, I started realizing that if we don't reform our education system, we haven't done much for reforming the state. It seemed to me that the BESE board is where I could actually contribute the most."

Buckels, a longtime official with both the parish and state Republican parties, insisted that politics played no part in the decision. In District 31, Buckels would have been challenging incumbent Don Trahan, a fellow Republican. (Independent candidate Nancy Landry is also running for District 31.) Trahan won the seat by edging out Buckels by 13 votes in a runoff election four years ago. "The politics of it was no issue at all," Buckels says, while acknowledging that he did have his sights set on District 31 for quite some time. "It kind of breaks my heart that I didn't qualify for 31," he says. "The day I went to qualify, it was still in my mind: where can I do the best job? I really think BESE is where I can offer the greatest help with the reform in the state. After I started looking at it, I had a peace about it." ... THE ADVERTISER ON VITTER: SILENCE You'd have to be living under a rock last week not to know that former New Orleans prostitute Wendy Yow Ellis passed a lie detector test and told the details of her alleged affairs with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, challenging Vitter's carefully parsed denial of "those New Orleans stories."

But you wouldn't know about the latest turns in the Vitter saga if you only read The Daily Advertiser. Serious new allegations that a Louisiana senator solicited prostitutes while in office apparently isn't news to The Advertiser, as the paper didn't write one word about the Vitter affair in its print edition last week. Not a single word: no news brief, wire story, or editorial ' zip, nada, nothing. ... NRSC STEPS UP ATTACKS ON LANDRIEU The ops over at the National Republican Senatorial Committee are sitting back and watching the Louisiana fall elections unfold, in anticipation of the 2008 U.S. Senate races. To say the NRSC has its crosshairs trained on Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Crescent City Democrat, would be an understatement. The group has issued multiple press releases targeting Landrieu, and recently posted a hard-hitting attack ad on YouTube and other Web sites on Landrieu's Social Security/immigration votes. Not surprisingly, increased mudslinging could ramp up sooner rather than later. "We're just watching how all the state elections unfold and then we'll be moving on this," says NRSC communications director Rebecca Fisher. "It'll be before the end of the year for sure." Direct mail pieces have already been drafted, she adds, and television spots are planned. Fisher had no new information on the million-dollar question: Who will Landrieu's challenger(s) be?

Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Scott Jordan, Nathan Stubbs, Leslie Turk

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