In the latest black eye for Louisiana’s troubled film subsidy program, the state’s inspector general released a report Wednesday that says a production company that made two programs about the New Orleans Saints bilked taxpayers out of at least $420,000 and possibly more than $1 million.Read the rest of the article because it's even more convoluted than that. The scandal was broken by WVUE-TV which happens to own the TV studio Horizon was renting(?) borrowing(?) to produce the shows. WVUE also happens to be owned by Tom Benson. So the conflicted interests are more confused than the Saints' secondary last year.
The inspector general’s report says Horizon Entertainment, which produced “The Sean Payton Show” and “Saintsational,” inflated its expenses associated with those programs by as much as $3.4 million. The Saints’ coach made regular appearances on the former, while the latter featured the team’s cheerleaders.
All told, the two programs received $2.6 million in tax credits, according to the report, nearly 40 percent of which might have been issued in excess.
Here's what's interesting.
One of the more troubling findings of the report was that Horizon “repeatedly engaged in circular transactions,” cutting checks from subsidiary companies and then returning the money to create the appearance that more money was being spent on the film projects.One could also classify the TV station's relationship with Horizon as another such circular transaction. Horizon's lawyer says Benson expected a share in the company in lieu of rent on the stuido. The company lists rent as an expense billed back to the state in tax credits. So really Benson was in on the scheme to rip off the state too.
Or maybe he was dragged into it unwittingly. His mental competence has been a point of controversy, after all. In any case something went wrong somewhere because eventually Benson's TV station went after Horizon. And now the Inspector General is after them too. No one will go after Benson, though. No one ever does.