Incumbent A.G. Crowe won't seek third term; New Orleans U.S. Attorney's Office wins commendation and other political news _lowres

Senator A.G. Crowe

The race for the state Senate District 1 seat just got more interesting.

Two-term incumbent A.G. Crowe announced to his colleagues on the Senate floor last week that he won’t seek a third term, leaving the seat open.

Crowe already had a challenger, Sharon Hewitt, a former engineer, and another candidate, former legislator Pete Schneider, announced last week he will run as well.

At least one potential candidate, Kevin Pearson, a Republican who represents Slidell in the state House, issued a statement saying he will not seek Crowe’s seat in the Senate.

Before winning election to the Senate, Crowe, a Republican, served two terms in the House.

The staunch conservative has been a favorite of the Louisiana Family Forum, but his tenure hasn’t been without battles.

He helped push through legislation that gave the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office more financial autonomy, but later he was partly blamed for the failings of Coroner Peter Galvan, who is now serving a two-year federal sentence for stealing public funds.

Crowe also pushed a bill that would have prohibited the state from requiring anti-discriminatory language in contracts. That bill passed in committee but failed in the full Senate.

U.S. Attorney’s Office wins commendation

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans has had some bad times in recent years because of the online-commenting scandal that led to the resignations of two top prosecutors and then-U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, but the office was commended this month for one of its successes.

Fifteen members of the investigative team that helped convict former Mayor Ray Nagin were honored by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for their work on the case.

The group was given a Director’s Award for “superior performance by a litigative team.” Last year, a jury convicted Nagin on 20 of 21 corruption-related counts; he is serving a 10-year sentence at a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas.

Those honored included prosecutors Matthew Coman, Richard Pickens, Matthew Chester and Andre Lagarde; financial analyst Josephine Beninati; paralegal specialist Tess Coulon; legal assistant Alana Coulon; information technology specialist Michael Caracciola; legal administrative specialist Andre Laborde; victim witness specialists Donna Duplantier and Brandi Hill; IRS special agent Tim Moore; FBI special agents George Bokelberg and Peter Prozik; and Eduardo Hernandez, of the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office. All but Hernandez work for the federal government.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite issued a statement congratulating the group on a “well-deserved award,” adding: “Our office’s work on this and in other public corruption matters is vital to restoring and building public trust in our government.”

The 15 honorees from the New Orleans area were among 160 people honored at a recent Department of Justice ceremony.

Coman and Chester no longer work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Criticism of BP spills over into opera house

BP has had plenty of critics hereabouts ever since the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but not many of them have made their displeasure as graphic as the protesters who disrupted a performance of the opera “La Boheme” at London’s Royal Opera House on Wednesday night.

Two activists unfurled a banner that read “BP: Fueling Tragedy,” referring to the oil company’s sponsorship of the opera house, and burst into a song about the oil spill before being removed.

Another pair of protesters made a similar statement at a screening of the performance in Trafalgar Square. A video produced by the protest organizers shows a banner being hoisted behind a live shot of the program’s host. BP sponsors the Royal Opera’s public screenings and has been affiliated with the opera company since 1988.

According to the Financial Times, BP has donated about $15.5 million since 2012 to British arts institutions including the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and Covent Garden, home of the Royal Opera.

However, energy companies’ sponsorship of the arts is coming under closer scrutiny as various institutions and big investors have moved to shed their “investments in coal and tar sands, the dirtiest fossil fuels,” the Financial Times said.

Alistair Brown, a policy officer at the Museums Association, told the newspaper that cultural institutions are in a “tight spot” — “under greater pressure to take sponsorship money and philanthropic funding but also under increasing pressure from activists to divest from fossil fuel companies.”