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New Orleans, La. -
17 months have passed since the State Mineral Board called for an investigation of lucrative and questionable oil & gas leases handed out in the 1930's. The attorney general's office has spent over a year, figuring out whether the state has a way out of the leases.
"A blind man can see that this is totally wrong," says Keith Cressionnie, an independent researcher who has examined the history of the leases in detail. "Any governor and/or attorney general could have ended this at any point in time ."
We interviewed Cressionnie and co-researcher Norman Billiot for our series of stories that detailed those leases.
Our stories showed the oil leases were handed out in the 1930's by Governors James Noe and O.K. Allen. Then a portion of those leases were redirected back to the governors' company, the Win or Lose Corporation - a corporation formed by another former governor, Huey P. Long.
Descendants of Long, Noe and Allen still benefit from those leases today. Factoring in inflation, they've earned more than $1 billion.
"I just hope they do the right thing," says Cressionnie. "The citizens have waited long enough. I think 77 years is long enough for people to reap the reward for something that never should have happened."
Wednesday morning, the attorney general will tell the mineral board whether the state can get out of the leases. Cressionnie says that report will say a lot about AG Buddy Caldwell, who has taken campaign contributions from some of the descendants profiting off the leases, according to state records.
"The marriage of the political and the influential togetherness has to stop some kind of way, where Joe Citizen has a chance," Cressionnie contends. "If they could take this case and show the people that there is hope for justice, and I think it will prevail."
"Yes, I'd love to see the State of Louisiana take the high road, for once, and not bury it under mounds and mounds of cash or of political influence," says Billiot.
Billiot says that influence came into play in May 2012 in Baton Rouge. After the mineral board asked the attorney general to investigate, a state lawmaker tried to get a ceremonial resolution passed that would urge the AG to look into the leases. But that resolution failed after a lobbyist urged lawmakers to vote no.
The longest-serving mineral board member told us that was a sign to him that there is a way out of the leases.
"Somebody thinks it's a concern," says Tom Arnold of the mineral board. "They wouldn't be making those phone calls."
The attorney general has refused our request for any interview. Wednesday, the office is expected to publicly say if the state has a way out of those 1930's oil leases. The leases have no end date and still send millions of dollars every year to descendants scattered in 21 different states.
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