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Scuttlebutt

From their lips to your ears

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Quotes of the Week

  "Vitter is the kind of candidate finance directors dream of when they take their required two-hour daily sleep — he measures his manhood by the size of his campaign war chest." Bill Pascoe, who worked for Sen. David Vitter in his 2004 Senate campaign (Source: CQ Politics)

  "Cash for Clunkers is like a mini-Katrina here. I mean it's not good to start a program and not be able to execute it." — National Public Radio's Mara Liasson, attempting to draw some sort of a parallel between the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the popular automobile stimulus. One day later, Liasson apologized, and NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard called the statement "inconceivable." (Source: Fox News)



Research Program Gets Short Second Life

  Venture capitalists quietly cheered when President Barack Obama signed into law last month a temporary extension for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which disburses $2 billion annually to bolster venture capital-backed companies. Before the August recess, the House and Senate couldn't come to terms on what type of businesses should have access to the program, which was to be shuttered at the end of July. Lawmakers managed to pass an extension until Sept. 30. Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chair Sen. Mary Landrieu says the policy lifeline will temporarily safeguard cutting-edge technologies and high-paying jobs. "While this two-month extension was essential and is good news, it is critical that the SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs be more permanently reauthorized," she says. "We have been working hard with the House of Representatives to reach a fair compromise that will reauthorize and strengthen the SBIR and STTR programs and that will guarantee that these programs remain for truly small businesses." — Jeremy Alford



Lender Settles With LA. Borrowers

  Countrywide Financial Corporation, which is owned by Bank of America, has entered into a settlement that will direct more than $1.1 million to borrowers in Louisiana who argue they were put in unfair and unaffordable home loans. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell says Louisiana partnered with 39 other states to push a case alleging that Countrywide used deceptive tactics in its loan-origination and servicing operations. In all, Bank of America has set aside $150 million to assist homeowners nationwide who ended up in foreclosure. In Louisiana, the money could hit the streets as soon as the first quarter of 2010. While the process is still playing out, many states have announced an average award in the neighborhood of $2,000 or more. Eligible borrowers in Louisiana should have received a letter about two weeks ago detailing the settlement, Caldwell says. He adds that Bank of American will offer additional relief to other eligible borrowers, such as loan modifications and relocation assistance. — Alford



Stimulating Numbers

  Most of us have seen the big numbers when it comes to the federal government's stimulus package: a total of approximately $792 billion; $121 billion to the states, with Louisiana's share coming in at slightly more than $1.56 billion. Because these are your tax dollars, you have a right to know how that money is being spent, who's spending it and how fast. In Louisiana, you can even find out how much your parish will receive. Pro Publica, a nonprofit organization that produces investigative journalism, has an online post titled, "Stimulus: How Fast Our We're Spending $792 Billion" (http://projects.propublica.org/tables/stimulus-spending-progress). Visitors to the site can see, among other things, how much of the stimulus has been spent so far — just 12 percent —and what each federal agency has received and spent. The Corps of Engineers, for example, was given $4.6 billion but has $3.89 billion left. For local numbers, go to "How Much Stimulus Funding is Going to Your County?" (http://projects.propublica.org/recovery/), and click on "Louisiana" to get a parish-by-parish breakdown. New Orleans' share of the stimulus package is $311 million. — David Winkler-Schmit

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