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Interview With CREW’s Sloan On Bobby, Supriya Jindal’s Foundation Story
  // Friday, 04 March 2011 08:38 //

A Washington DC based organization CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics) has written a report that questioned the interrelationship between Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, his re-election campaign, a foundation headed by his wife Supriya and various corporate donors to the Foundation who have contributed to his campaign and who have received a Jindal Administration benefit.

Following an article by Eric Lipton of the New York Times who expounded on the CREW report, Bayoubuzz’s Publisher Stephen Sabludowsky interviewed Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of CREW regarding the organization’s claims in the report. 

In the report, CREW claimed that nine companies that contributed to Gov. Jindal’s campaigns have also collectively pledged $790,000 to a charitable foundation headed by First Lady Supriya Jindal.

CREW said, “That’s a lot more cash than the $5,000 that Louisiana campaign finance laws allow donors to contribute directly to the governor’s campaign committee. Also, Gov. Jindal’s chief fundraiser coincidentally serves as treasurer for the foundation, which distributes interactive whiteboard technology to schools across Louisiana.

Based upon the CREW claims, Lipton reported that some major corporations such as Dow Chemical, AT&T and Marathon Oil made significant donations to the Jindal Foundation run by Supriya Jindal.

Lipton, also wrote, “A review of the donors shows the broad range of regulatory power that the governor and his administration holds over these companies, which otherwise are limited in making a maximum contribution of $5,000 per election to Mr. Jindal, or $10,000 for certain political action committees. 

“It is among the newest of charities set up by elected officials, including members of Congress, or their families that are mutually beneficial: companies seeking to influence politicians or curry favor can donate unrestricted amounts of money, while the officials benefit from the good will associated with charitable work financed by businesses.”

“Alexandra Bautsch, the governor’s top political fund-raiser,is listed as the charity’s treasurer. Ms. Bautsch has continued to be paid by Mr. Jindal’s campaign — $112,500 last year. But none of the officers, including Mrs. Jindal, were paid for their work.

The Jindal Administration has responded with a vehement denial of anything improper.  Kyle Plotkin, a spokesman for Jindal , said Jindal has never solicited donations for his wife's foundation.

Below is the Bayoubuzz interview of Melanie Sloan of CREW:

A Washington DC based organization CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics) has written a report that questioned the interrelationship between Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, his re-election campaign, a foundation headed by his wife Supriya and various corporate donors to the Foundation and who have contributed to the campaign and who have received a Jindal Administration benefit.

Following an article by Eric Lipton of the New York Times who expounded on the CREW report, Bayoubuzz interviewed Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of CREW regarding the organization’s claims in the report. 

In the report, CREW claimed that nine companies that contributed to Gov. Jindal’s campaigns have also collectively pledged $790,000 to a charitable foundation headed by First Lady Supriya Jindal.

CREW said, “That’s a lot more cash than the $5,000 that Louisiana campaign finance laws allow donors to contribute directly to the governor’s campaign committee. Also, Gov. Jindal’s chief fundraiser coincidentally serves as treasurer for the foundation, which distributes interactive whiteboard technology to schools across Louisiana.

Based upon the CREW claims, Lipton reported that some major corporations such as Dow Chemical, AT&T and Marathon Oil made significant donations to the Jindal Foundation run by Supriya Jindal.

Lipton, also wrote, “A review of the donors shows the broad range of regulatory power that the governor and his administration holds over these companies, which otherwise are limited in making a maximum contribution of $5,000 per election to Mr. Jindal, or $10,000 for certain political action committees. 

The Jindal Foundation has approximately $1 million to install 170 whiteboard technology units in schools, mostly in low-income areas.

It is among the newest of charities set up by elected officials, including members of Congress, or their families that are mutually beneficial: companies seeking to influence politicians or curry favor can donate unrestricted amounts of money, while the officials benefit from the good will associated with charitable work financed by businesses.

 

The Times also reported that, “Alexandra Bautsch, the governor’s top political fund-raiser,is listed as the charity’s treasurer. Ms. Bautsch has continued to be paid by Mr. Jindal’s campaign — $112,500 last year. But none of the officers, including Mrs. Jindal, were paid for their work.

 

The Jindal Administration has responded with a vehement denial of anything improper.  Kyle Plotkin, a spokesman for Jindal , said Jindal has never solicited donations for his wife's foundation.

 

Below is the Bayoubuzz interview of Melanie Sloan of CREW:

 

Stephen Sabludowsky - Number one CREW has just come out with I guess with an investigation regarding the Jindal foundation. Could you tell us something about the investigation?

Melanie Sloan of CREW - Yes, CREW did some extensive research and discovered that Mr.  Jindal is closely associated with a charity that gets a lot of money from corporations doing business with the state of Louisiana, and it seems that there may be a relationship between those corporations’ donations and the political assistance they’re getting from the governor.

Stephen Sabludowsky – ok could you give more details?

Melanie Sloan of CREW –Well, for example Marathon Oil has given a lot of money to this charity and it does a lot of business, it has contracts with the state, there are others including AT&T, which needed Mr. Jindal to sign off on legislation allowing the company to sell cable television services,  and it pledged 250,000 dollars to the foundation. So this seems to be Northrop Grumman is another one, so there seem to be several.

Stephen Sabludowsky – Some would say that that’s just I guess business as usual in terms that’s just the way government works that is that a person in a position such as a governor certainly is going to have say a spouse who is doing things for charity and are going to be looking for say funds for a charitable organization such as the foundation, so some people might say well what’s the big deal?

Melanie Sloan of CREW – well I think a couple of things, it seems that corporations give money to these kinds of charities not because of the worthiness of the cause, but simply to curry favor with the politician and the question is does it really curry favor, do politicians like Mr. Jindal, do they give extra favors or extra consideration to companies that are donating to their favorite charities.

Stephen Sabludowsky - Ok, now is Mr. Jindal doing anything different than what say many other elected officials do?

Melanie Sloan of CREW – I don’t think it’s different I think this has been a growing trend of politicians that have a favored cause a favored charity and they then go ahead and solicit contributions from those with business before them., but I think it is certainly a questionable practice,  particularly in this case when I think the charity itself is of questionable merit. I’d be interested to know how educators in Louisiana which obviously has one of the worst track records on education feel about the amount of money being spent on basically huge computer screens and if that’s really the best use of money if this is the most useful tool to teach children and if all these companies would in fact be funding this particular charity that does nothing but give out these screens if it weren’t for the fact that it was closely associated with Mrs. Jindal.

Stephen Sabludowsky – I believe that you also mentioned at least on your website I believe that your saying that the person in charge of the fundraising for Governor Jindal’s campaign is also in charge of the receiving of the money for the charitable organization, foundation, is that correct?

Melanie Sloan of CREW - Yes that is, there is a staffer on Mr. Jindal’s on the governor’s staff who works on this and also brings in money for the foundation. Again suggesting an awfully close tie and perhaps an improper one is this person who is being paid by the state of Louisiana should they really be being paid taxpayer money to be collecting money for the charity.

Stephen Sabludowsky – is this person being paid by the state of Louisiana? She is being paid by the general campaign and presumably by the foundation.  So, would that make any difference if she’s’ not being paid by the state of Louisiana?

Melanie Sloan of CREW – I’m sorry, I misspoke.   it doesn’t actually matter the fact of the matter, the fact that it shows that when a governor, let me say something else here. When politicians are closely associated with charities and they use the same fundraising staff for both, it just shows that when corporations or individuals max out to the campaign, when they can’t make any more donations this is another way they are currying favor and when you have one staff member who is raising money for both it shows that there is a close relationship between the campaign, and the charity, and the legislative acts that usually those corporations and individuals are seeking.

Stephen Sabludowsky - ok in terms of the future, this is now an investigation? Is that correct?

Melanie Sloan of CREW – No, I don’t think there is an investigation. Crew did a report on it and the New York Times followed up and asked some additional questions about it, but there’s no one to investigate, I mean there’s no allegation that Mr. Jindal has broken any law.

Stephen Sabludowsky – ok so then at this point its end of story?

Melanie Sloan of CREW – well uh, it’s up to the people of Louisiana if they feel troubled by it. I know Mr. Jindal answered some questions about it today and he’s suggested we’re just going after him for some partisan purpose, but crew has been concerned about the issue of politicians misusing charities, on both sides of the aisle, and both with uh governors like Mr. Jindal and members of congress, so this is an issue that we think is becoming a bigger and bigger one., and perhaps there ought to be some legislation to change the way politicians are allowed to use charities. Most specifically I would say there ought to be more disclosure.  I think the biggest problem is charities typically don’t disclose their donors, but if a charity is closely associated with any political figure, than those donations ought to be disclosed the same way that campaign donations are disclosed, so that Americans and voters can make judgments for themselves, whether those donations seem to be tied to any kind of legislative assistance.

Stephen Sabludowsky – Now I think about a year ago you had or at least your organization, had labeled Governor Jindal as one of the 5 worst governors, and some people are now suggesting that this action by your organization is to say bolster that claim. Could you respond to that please?

Melanie Sloan of CREW – I don’t think we said he was one of the five worst, we did say he was one of the worst, because he had some pretty serious ethics issues in our book, and I would say this just goes along with what we said before, that Mr. Jindal’s ethics are not as advertised. He likes to bill himself as one of the nation’s most ethical governors and I think things like this undermine that claim.

Stephen Sabludowsky- ok and one last question.  There has also been discussion certainly columns written that the organization crew is quote a left wing organization, some call it a right wing organization. Could you just explain to us one are you a left or right wing organization? One person wrote today that you are funded by George Soros? So those are two different questions.

Melanie Sloan of CREW – sure crew has in fact received money from the Open Society Institute which is associated with George Soros.  Neither Mr. Soros nor any other donor has ever told crew what to do or has any impact at all on our day to day activities. CREW is a non-partisan organization, we have gone after democrats and republicans, and we call it as we see it, and in this case today it’s about Mr. Jindal and he just happens to be a republican.

Stephen Sabludowsky – ok, well thank you so much I really do appreciate it. Keep us posted please.  Thank you so much.

Melanie Sloan of CREW – okay thank you.

Stephen Sabludowsky – bye-bye

Melanie Sloan of CREW bye-bye

Listen to the Interview

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