I recognize that a disproportionate share of the entries I offer in this space contain references to events that readers outside of my home state of Louisiana may not be familiar with, and I apologize if that somewhat parochial focus detracts from this column’s attractiveness. I promise in the future to be more accommodating to those who cannot tell Cajun from Creole, or who are bumfuzzled in attempting to pronounce Atchafalaya or Tchoupitoulas.
In the future, I said, because in this entry I have a local tale to tell. I trust those of you not living in or near the imperiled city of Baton Rouge will see in it a rather universal pattern.
We bring you Tasha Clark Amar, a political brat from Baton Rouge’s mostly African-American north side — her mother Janice Clark is a judge at the local state court — who a few years ago got herself named as the head of the quasi-public Baton Rouge Council on Aging. Councils on Aging are sometimes well-run assets to a community, providing services like Meals On Wheels and other essentials to senior citizens with neither means nor a ready supply of helpful family members. The one in Baton Rouge is less that than a corrupt money pit for taxpayers… and a budding political machine.
Amar has made herself an avatar for urban Democrat corruption of late thanks to a string of poorly-disguised hustles which will surely be familiar to those of our readers who follow local politics where you live. First, there was the gross incompetence — following an outlay of more than $200,000 establishing a Taj Mahal of bingo parlors, Amar was forced to close her hall and vacate that business (the COA now subleases the facility for things like rap concerts). Yes, she actually lost money on bingo; partly because when white ladies ventured to her game in a declining part of town they tended to catch treatment reminiscent of the Do You Mind If We Dance With Your Dates? scene from Animal House.
Which is another pattern many of our readers will notice is common to many urban Democrat regimes, who wonder where everybody is going.
Oh, and Amar fired or otherwise ran off all the white employees at the Council On Aging. She has a tightly-knit crew there now, so the cleansing of any potential whistleblowers is complete. That’s a recognizable pattern as well, is it not?
And next, the fiscal mismanagement.
Following the bingo boondoggle, it was revealed the Council On Aging’s finances were a shambles — more than $200,000 in red ink on a $3.67 million budget. Some of that had to do with salaries, with Amar’s rake coming in at a handsome $104,000 and total salaries topping out at $1.8 million. That’s a lot of overhead for an organization that is expected to function as a charity. For some reason, rather than firing Amar the majority-Republican Baton Rouge Metro Council passed a resolution putting an $8 million property tax increase on the ballot for last fall to solve the problem — and, thanks to an orgy of old-time politicking, it barely passed, which might triple Amar’s budget.
Along the way it was revealed Amar used Council on Aging money to print endorsement ballots, which our readers are surely familiar with, to push to its Meals On Wheels clients. In case you don’t know how these work among Democrat constituencies, a local political boss will set up an organization — in this case, a PAC — and then go around to political candidates picking up campaign checks buying the boss’s endorsement and influence in turning out votes. Those checks pay to print sample ballots or endorsement sheets, and some “street money” for Election Day, plus a little extra for the boss to wet his or her beak with.
In Amar’s case, the operation had an even better business model. That it was illegal was only a minor inconvenience, particularly when her operation played a role in electing Sharon Weston Broome, a fellow Democrat from North Baton Rouge, as the mayor-president in Baton Rouge along with the $8 million tax.
But it turns out Amar had something else going on last year. Helen Plummer, a 95-year old Council on Aging client who, unlike most other seniors taking advantage of its services, actually had a relatively sizable amount of money, was convinced by Amar to make the latter the executrix of her estate worth some $300,000 in cash, a job that pays a monthly “salary” of $500 until all the beneficiaries turned 30, which won’t happen until 2038. Five hundred dollars a month for 21 years comes to $126,000, of a $300,000 estate. Dorothy Jackson, an attorney on the COA’s board, notarized the will. No one from the Plummer family knew a thing about these actions.
And when Plummer died a few months later in her granddaughter’s house (lest anyone think Amar’s antics were necessitated by some sort of neglect of the old lady), Amar called the grieving family (the next day, no less!) and informed them of the arrangements. They were, unsurprisingly, displeased — and promptly emptied the bank accounts involved to keep Amar away from the money.
Now Amar is suing the family, and the local TV stations are having a field day illuminating the pattern of self-dealing and personal greed of which this fiasco is but an example. Any Democrat-controlled city our readers live in or near has an analog to such a story.
Which brings us to another pattern you’ll recognize — which is that rather than condemn the clear conflicts of interest, avarice, and corruption at hand, the North Baton Rouge political elite has lined up behind Amar. The Plummers have been attacked as liars and bad children who abandoned an elderly relative, and Amar has been held up as a good-hearted public servant. The defenders of the family have been the white politicians in Baton Rouge, and therefore a racial element has coated the controversy.
Did I mention the Plummers are black? Sorry. They are. And they’re confused and disappointed over being vilified for not allowing Amar to plunder Helen’s estate. Not to mention dismayed at the difficulty of finding a lawyer who would take their case given Amar’s mother’s judgeship.
Now the state association of COA directors is having conniptions over what this episode is doing to the reputations of the other 63 organizations around the state, but the Democrat governor John Bel Edwards is allowing the Baton Rouge Council on Aging’s board to handle any investigation of Amar it may deem proper. Remember, the attorney who notarized the will Amar wrote herself into is on that board, and so is state representative C. Denise Marcelle, a political protégé of Amar’s mother who earlier this week held a mind-blowing press conference at City Hall backed by other members of the North Baton Rouge machine.
And Edwards expects to be on that endorsement ballot in 2019. There is your protection and cover from above to keep the racket running — a pattern without which none of this would be possible.
But there’s one overarching pattern that makes all of this so especially awful, and it’s not the use of charges of racism to escape accountability. It’s not the blatant disrespect for the public trust or the taxpayers’ money. It’s not the grubby entitlement leading to sloppily-disguised graft, or the slavish worship of political gain to the exclusion of any moral code. What’s worst about all this is the victimization of good people these villains advertise themselves as helping.
The Plummers are middle-class black people who, we’ll assume, dutifully voted Democrat because that’s what they’ve been told they should do. They’ve interacted with the politicians they believed had their back and had friendly relations with them. They’ve done everything they’ve been asked, and then some — voted the “right” way, said the right things, believed the right things, paid taxes, worked hard at square jobs, and so on — and none of it mattered when a Tasha Clark Amar came along and saw Helen Plummer as an easy mark.
At the end of the day, this is about one thing: what kind of scams can the urban Democrat political elite get away with?
If the marks are white, great. If they’re Asian, no problem. Middle eastern? What are they going to do about it? Hispanic? Who cares?
Black? That’s fine, too. They won’t complain. If they do, call them Uncle Toms and laugh when their only political defenders are white Republicans from the nice neighborhoods.
Have you noticed the black middle class is decamping for the suburbs even faster than the white middle class? Wonder why.