Louisiana Governor Job For Sale
Jindal priorities problematic
by Joshua Stockley
It’s a good thing that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal enjoys a 58 percent approval rating and a $9 million war chest because this will be a month he will soon want to forget. In a normal election year a challenger would pounce on the governor for his boneheaded maneuvers, but, for now, Jindal doesn’t have any challengers — for now.
Jindal announced this past week that Louisiana will spend an estimated $12 million restoring oyster beds damaged during the BP oil spill. The beds were not damaged by oil from the spill; rather they were damaged when freshwater was diverted from the Mississippi River to the Gulf in an effort to keep leaking oil from reaching Louisiana’s coast. In other words, the governor’s water stunt will cost some oyster farmers their livelihood and Louisiana $12 million at a time the state is nearly broke.
Jindal hopes BP will reimburse the state, but that is not guaranteed (BP is protesting the claim). If history is any indication, then BP will spend years fighting the state in court, costing the state additional millions.
If that wasn’t enough, the The New York Times reported this week that the Jindal Foundation, a foundation run by the governor’s wife Supriya Jindal, has collected nearly $1 million in previously unreported pledges from major oil companies, insurers and other corporations that are highly sensitive to legislative actions and regulatory boards in Louisiana. State law does not restrict the amount of money that corporations may give to charities and foundations tightly connected to Jindal. It’s a disturbing and growing trend in politics — corporations seeking to influence politicians or curry favors are donating unrestricted amounts of money to charities associated with the politicians.
In Jindal’s case, Marathon Oil’s donated $250,000 to the Jindal Foundation after the administration signed off on a request to allow their oil refinery to increase output. AT&T committed $250,000 to the Jindal Foundation after Jindal signed a bill giving the company more freedom to sell cable TV services. Northrop Grumman pledged $10,000 to the Jindal Foundation after receiving a deal to build a maintenance facility at a former Air Force base. Dow Chemical was under investigation for a chemical spill, but pledged $100,000 to the Jindal Foundation. No further action has been taken against Dow.
Don’t get me wrong, the Jindal Foundation does great work. They purchase equipment for schools located in low-income areas. To date, over 170 interactive whiteboards, 30 handheld devices and several laptops have been donated to more than 50 schools in Louisiana. This type of philanthropy is desperately needed; however, if these companies cared so much about Louisiana’s schools, then why aren’t they buying the technology and giving them to the schools? Why do they feel the need to go through the Jindal Foundation?
Donations occur; fines disappear, regulations adjusted, beneficial legislation passed. The donations may be for a good cause, but it looks improper. It looks like bribery. In fact, Jindal’s fundraiser doubles as the treasurer for the Jindal Foundation. That doesn’t look good either.
Citizens for Ethic and Responsibility in Washington declared Jindal the fourth worst governor in the nation in 2010. This ranking was derived from the fact that Jindal prevented the public release of government records, fought legislation to make government more transparent, weakened the authority of the state ethics board, refused to accept federal stimulus funds to expand unemployment insurance, rewarded campaign donors with government jobs and contracts, and was fined for ethics violations.
Jindal can add dead oysters, odd charitable maneuvers and a looming fiscal crisis to his resume.
Joshua Stockley is a professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.