John Neely Kennedy
|Treasurer of Louisiana|
January 10, 2000
|Preceded by||Kenneth Duncan|
November 21, 1951 |
Centreville, Mississippi, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (Before 2007)
|Alma mater||Vanderbilt University
University of Virginia
University of Oxford
Early life and career
Kennedy was born in Centreville near McComb in southwestern Mississippi. He was reared in Zachary in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. In the summer of 1969, Kennedy represented Louisiana at Boys Nation in Washington, D.C.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1973, a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law at Charlottesville, Virginia in 1977, and an advanced law degree (B.C.L.) in 1979 from the University of Oxford in England. While a student at Vanderbilt, he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and senior class president. Prior to entering state politics, he was a partner in the law firm of Chaffe, McCall, Phillips, Toler, and Sarpy, working in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans offices of the firm.
In 1988, Kennedy became special counsel to Governor Buddy Roemer. In 1991, he was appointed cabinet secretary and served in that post until 1992. In 1991, he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for state attorney general to succeed the retiring William J. Guste. Democrat Richard Ieyoub of Lake Charles won the position. Following his first stint in state government, Kennedy returned to the private practice of law until 1996. That same year, he was appointed Secretary of the state Department of Revenue in the cabinet of Republican Governor Mike Foster.
Kennedy left the Foster administration when he was elected State Treasurer in 1999, having unseated the incumbent Democrat Kenneth "Ken" Duncan, 621,796 (55.6 percent) to 497,319 (44.4 percent). Kennedy was reelected as treasurer without opposition in 2003.
In 2004 he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. He ran a distant third in Louisiana's unique nonpartisan blanket primary, losing to the outright winner, Republican U.S. Representative David Vitter who polled more votes than Kennedy (15 percent), State Senator Arthur Morrell (3 percent), and Democratic U.S. Representative Christopher John (29 percent) combined to win in the primary for the seat without a formal general election, popularly called the runoff in Louisiana.
After being courted by the Republican party for months, Kennedy announced in a letter to his constituents that he was leaving the Democratic Party and joining the Republicans, effective August 27, 2007. In his letter, he announced that he would run again for state treasurer.
During the term to which he was elected in 2007, Kennedy devised twenty-four points by which the State of Louisiana could save money.
Kennedy was elected as a Republican to the state treasurer's office at the same time that Bobby Jindal won the governor's race against two Democrats, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and then State Senator Walter Boasso. In the following years, Kennedy spoke out against Jindal's practice of using one-time funds as part of the annual operating budget. In June 2012, Jindal used the line item veto to reduce the state treasurer's office budget by $511,279. Jindal said that Kennedy can "streamline" his own department. Many ideas that Kennedy had suggested were originally proposals that came from the Louisiana Commission for Streamlining Government, on which the treasurer was a member.
State police retirement controversy
In July 2014, Kennedy and government watchdog C. B. Forgotston, a lawyer from Hammond questioned an amendment approved on July 2, the last day of the state legislative session, by State Senator Neil Riser of Columbia in Caldwell Parish in northeastern Louisiana. Riser pushed to passage a bill which could increase by $55,000 annually the retirement pay of Colonel Mike Edmonson, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police and a Republican appointee of Governor Jindal, and, inadvertently, at least one other unnamed state trooper. Legislative rules prohibit a conference committee report from being considered on the last day of a session. However, both chambers voted by the two-thirds majority to suspend the rules and pass Riser's amendment. Treasurer Kennedy has urged the state police retirement board, of which he is an ex officio member, to litigate the constitutionality of Senate Bill 294, which Jindal promptly signed into law.
Though he had first denied authorship of the amendment, Riser said that he was asked to submit the measure to the full legislature by Charles Dupuy, the deputy police superintendent. Riser said it was his understanding that the bill in question addresses the rights of law enforcement officers and "broad retirement issues", not specific individuals who could benefit from its provisions.
Meanwhile, Forgotston took a particular interest in the retirement controversy; the story was broken by the Ruston journalist Tom Aswell. Forgotston claims that Riser's amendment, labeled in the media as the "Edmonson Act", would have applied to "hundreds of thousands" of current and future retirees in all departments of state government and would have increased taxpayer liability by "millions of dollars" in accrued expenses. Forgotston said that Riser flatly lied to him in first denying the authorship of the amendment: "Riser has now said, ‘Yeah, it was me [sic] ...' He should have apologized to the public. He should have apologized to the other five members of the conference committee. He threw them under the bus. He definitely owes an apology to his staff member - he threw her under the bus."
On September 16, 2014, Forgotston, Aswell, and Kennedy were vindicated when a state court judge in Baton Rouge declared the "Edmonson Act" unconstitutional. The suit challenging the law was brought forward by State Senator Dan Claitor, a Republican candidate for Louisiana's 6th congressional district seat in the November 4 primary election.
In addition to his duties as state treasurer, Kennedy is an adjunct law professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and a volunteer substitute teacher in the East Baton Rouge Parish public schools. He is married to the former Rebecca Ann Stulb, an attorney who also worked in the Chaffe McCall law firm. The couple lives with their son, Preston Kennedy, in Madisonville, a town in St. Tammany Parish.
- "Roemer is no-show for opening session", Minden Press-Herald, April 7, 1991, p. 1
- Ron Gomez, My Name Is Ron And I'm a Recovering Legislator: Memoirs of a Louisiana State Representative, Lafayette, Louisiana: Zemog Publishing, 2000, p. 247, ISBN 0-9700156-0-7
- "Louisiana election returns for state treasurer, October 23, 1999". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
- Treasurer Bolts to GOP
- "Louisiana election results, Date: 11/4/2008". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
- Kennedy elaborated the plan in many venues across the state. See § III of the following: Ramsey, David (2011-02-09). "Guest Presentation by State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy". Southeastern Louisiana University Faculty Senate Minutes. Retrieved 2011-10-08. A particular focus of Kennedy's cost-saving ideas was reduction in the hiring of consultants.
- "Michelle Milhollin, "Jindal slashes funding for state treasurer: Jindal’s 'streamlining' efforts trim critics' funding"". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. Retrieved June 16, 2012.[dead link]
- Barbara Leader (July 30, 2014). "John Kennedy, board to discuss retirement benefits law". Retrieved August 1, 2014.
- Lee Zurik (July 28, 2014). "Lee Zurik Investigation: Riser's amendment could cost state millions". Fox 8 Live. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
- The Moon Griffon Show, August 1, 2014
- Cole Avery (September 16, 2014). "'Edmonson Act' declared unconstitutional in state court". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- Louisiana Department of the Treasury - John Neely Kennedy, State Treasurer official state site
- John Kennedy for State Treasurer official campaign site
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Campaign contributions at OpenSecrets.org
- Follow the Money - John Kennedy
|Treasurer of Louisiana
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Louisiana