Two West Bank residents pleaded their case Thursday to the House Judiciary Committee.
"The simple wrong, the simple fraud, the simple conspiracy, the simple collusion and the extreme political subterfuge continues to this day," said Norman Billiot, one of the independent researchers who has been examining Louisiana's state oil leases to the Win or Lose Corporation – questionable arrangements that date back to the 1930's.
But some of the committee members appeared to have little interest in what Billiot and co-researcher Keith Cressionnie had to say.
"We got a little over two weeks left in our session," said Baton Rouge Rep. Hunter Greene. "We got a lot of folks… you know, their minds are getting taxed, and we're getting kind of aggravated at each other."
Opelousas Representative Ledricka Thierry came out firing questions first.
"How many times has this issue been investigated?" Thierry asked.
"Representative Thierry, I think the allegations have never been fully investigated. It's unfortunate that the attorney generals [sic]… we're all political here. We all have relationships with individuals who we work with here. I think the allegation is the contracts… we need to look at how the contracts were initiated, how the contracts were formed, and what assets did the corporation gather."
Some lawmakers appeared to be uncertain of the issue.
"It's all about the issue of, did they get a good deal or not, right?" asked Rep. Greene.
Critics say the issue is not whether the deal was good, but whether it was fair, ethical, against the law, and whether descendants of three former governors should continue to profit off a questionable deal from the 1930's. Representative Pat Connick of Marrero wants the Attorney General to investigate.
"I understand it'd be a fresh set of eyes," said Rep. Greene, "but I'm looking at Governor Edwards, Governor Treen, Attorney General Ieyoub, Attorney General Guste… all these lawsuits where things have been settled. And it looks like it's all been resolved. "
Sources tell FOX 8 News that heirs to the Win or Lose interest in oil leases have been lobbying some lawmakers all week, giving them a handout that shows the timeline of State Lease 340 -- the most lucrative lease.
"Based on the handout, it's showing that it was investigated five times, and there were four lawsuits," said Rep. Thierry.
What Reps. Greene and Thierry did not acknowledge is that lawsuits by William Guste and Richard Ieyoub never addressed the legality of State Lease 340. We reported earlier this week about businessman Louie Roussel's failed suit against James Noe, who awarded SL 340 to W.T. Burton during his short term as governor in 1936. Roussel recalled in his biography a conversation with Guste, writing, "he didn't want to tangle with Russell Long because he was too powerful." Remember, Russell Long made money off these leases, and was a U.S. Senator for four decades.
And these two state representatives at Thursday's meeting failed to point out that, while AG Richard Ieyoub didn't address the issue, someone in his office told a newspaper writer at the time that they could in fact could have sued Win or Lose, but chose not to because it would be tied up in the courts.
Ieyoub also took campaign contributions from Win or Lose descendants making money off the leases at the same time he decided not to pursue legal action against them.
Also, Rep. Greene pointed out that former Gov. Edwin Edwards looked at it. At one time, Edwards served as an attorney for Texaco, the company doing the drilling on State Lease 340 -- they were assigned royalties on part of the lease in 1936.
The Attorney General said it would cost $500,000 to investigate. Some lawmakers balked at the dollar figure.
"Does the governor have $500,000 he's willing to put toward this?" asked Rep. Greene.
"I'm sure we do have… We got all kinds of money that's been wasted in this state," responded Rep. Connick. "So, we can find some money somewhere."
In the end, the resolution failed. Two committee members voted for it – Connick and Bryan Adams from the West Bank. 12 members voted against it.
"The past history of this state is an unfortunate thing that everyone has to live with," Rep. Connick told the panel.
And Norman Billiot and Keith Cressionnie say, after Thursday's vote, nothing has changed.
"I'm suggesting that it was politics back then, it's politics now," Cressionnie said.
Five lawmakers from the New Orleans area voted against the resolution in committee: John Bel Edwards, Amite; Randal Gaines, LaPlace; Ray Garofalo, Chalmette; Chris Leopold, Belle Chasse; Gregory Miller, Norco.
A spokesperson for the Governor's Office sent us this statement Thursday: "The mineral board has already asked the AG to look into the issue and we think that's the appropriate action to take."