Friday, November 07, 2014

Hey look over there, there's a car on fire*

You have to read all the way to the bottom of the firebombing story to get this little tidbit.
Firebombings, while exceedingly rare, are not unprecedented in New Orleans. Thursday’s incident recalled a series of intentional fires beginning in 1997 that targeted Stuart Smith, a vocal opponent of loud music in the French Quarter. Bar owner George Mellen Jr. pleaded guilty in 1999 to hiring an arsonist to toss Molotov cocktails at Smith’s home and vehicle on several occasions.
But also Oyster reminds us that more recently there was this.

In case you don't feel like watching the video, that's political consultant Brian Welsh on WGNO complaining about an apparent attack on his vehicle.  At the time, Welsh was working for porn star Stormy Daniels's prank campaign against Senator David Vitter. The idea was to make sure voters were in some way reminded of the Senator's own well-publicized prurient interests during the election.

Because Welsh was already involved in a goofy stunt like the Daniels campaign, I and a lot of other people were suspicious of the firebombing incident as well. Could it have been staged?  At the time, the fire department wasn't even convinced it was arson.
Brian Welsh's story isn't quite adding up. He keeps describing the incident as an "explosion" that lifted the car's roof five stories in the air -- which differs from what the New Orleans Fire Department has told us.

"It was a fire. The car didn't explode," said Public Information Officer Jonathan Pajeaud. An arson investigation is underway and foul play hasn't been ruled out. But, Pajeaud said, Welsh told firefighters he'd recently gotten electrical work done on his 1996 Audi, and investigators are also looking into that as a possible cause.

Welsh told a local TV news station that police told him they'd never seen anything like it.
But, Pajeaud said, "Car fires here are very common."

He added that investigators, on average, have a preliminary report in about two weeks. Pajeaud said that, for now, the investigation is being handled solely by the fire department and not by police. The police department has not responded to our questions.
Welsh then posted a series of surveillance videos that appeared to show someone tampering with his car just before it caught on fire. But I don't remember seeing anything else about this incident since.  It's possible that Welsh's car was targeted by.. someone.  It's also possible that he hired someone to burn the car.. although I do admit that is far fetched. Also Oyster vouches for the guy.

What we can say with some certainty now is that politically motivated firebombings are indeed things that happen in New Orleans from time to time.  Maybe someone should look into the background of this one a little bit seeing as how the relevant campaign began with a bribery solicitation.
The Advocate reported on Tuesday an email written by Andrew B. Ezell, a Baton Rouge lawyer representing the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association, frames the proposal as an offer from Skrmetta in exchange for campaign support from the solar industry.

Ezell sent the email to association members on Saturday (Aug. 2) after a Friday meeting with Skrmetta.
The report says Ezell's email describes Skrmetta's expectation that the solar industry "privately and publicly support his re-election" in exchange for the policy.

When contacted Tuesday by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, Ezell said he was not authorized to comment on confidential communication with clients.

Skrmetta denied any wrongdoing when contacted by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

In a Tuesday statement, Forest Wright, a utility policy director for the Alliance for Affordable Energy, an energy policy advocacy group in New Orleans, said the email spurred his decision to challenge Skrmetta's seat this fall.

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