The Jindal administration was supposed to be about Ethics, Ethics, Ethics.
Now, it appears it’s about metrics—the more you give, the more you get.
The investigation by CREW and the story by The New York Times paints a picture that things have not changed at all. Jindal was supposed to be a new face who would bring Louisiana out of the depths of embarrassment after decades of scandals and corruption.
Now, stories all across the nation are depicting Jindal as just another Louisiana politician taking advantage of the system for his own benefit.
The recent controversy questions 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.
The main point in their CREW report and the Times article was that major companies contributed money to his campaign, contributed to the Jindal Foundation and appears to have received major assistance from the Governor.
The Jindals deny any correlation between the campaign contributions, the corporate donations to the Foundation and any governmental assistance.
Neither the Times nor CREW connected any dots to show any specific relationship.
Yet there are indeed questions; serious ones that go to the heart of the perception issue Jindal promised us that he would remove.
In the middle of this drama is one Alexandra Bautsch who just happens to be the election campaign fundraiser and the treasurer of the foundation.
Even assuming that the Jindal argument that CREW and the NY Times are political hacks, that their allegations are incoherent and baseless, there is still the issue of Bautsch.
As treasurer, she has a fiduciary duty to the Foundation which means she is required to make certain that it is successful.
She also is paid by the election campaign to generate money and she must be doing a darn good job as the Jindal campaign is flush with cash.
So, when she goes out to raise money for the campaign, does she also raise money for the foundation?
Where did the foundation get the list of contributors and was there any sharing of that list with the campaign and foundation?
Where the Jindals really went wrong is allowing Bautsch to serve both of those entities. Not that anyone did anything wrong, but, it is not a political hack job to ask legitimate questions.
In the interview with Bayoubuzz, CREW’s Executive Director Melanie Sloan said, “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.”
What Jindal has done is not different from what many politicians are doing. Which is the point. He promised us he would be different.
There are a zillion charities out there that are doing wonderful things for people and for the community. Those entities would give away their first-borns to have that type of list of corporate donors for a foundation that has only been around for only a few years.
Why these corporations who also received a decision by the administration in their favor would somehow give handsomely to this particular foundation certainly raises questions.
Nobody is accusing the Jindals of wrongdoing. But, what Jindal has done with this sorry episode is once again put Louisiana into the aura of embarrassment—something candidate Jindal promised he would not do.
Then there is another issue.
According to Thursday’s story by WAFB, “The 16-member Board of Regents oversees higher education in Louisiana. Nine of the current members of the board were appointed by Jindal. Records of Jindal's campaign contributions indicate eight of the nine members Jindal appointed to the Board of Regents gave sizeable donations to his campaign. Some made those donations within just a few weeks of being appointed and that has raised questions.”
Later in the story, WAFB reports:
Below is a breakdown of the contributions and appointments. In some cases the appointment came before the donation was made, but in others, the person made a contribution before being selected. The maximum personal contribution allowed by law is $5,000.
Charlotte Bollinger - appointed Dec. 2008, donated $5,000 in Jan. 2009
Ed Antie - appointed Dec. 2010, donated $3,000 in Aug. 2010
Joseph Farr - appointed Dec. 2010, donated $5,000 in Nov. 2009
Roland Toups - appointed Jan. 2009, donated $5,000 in Oct. 2008
Chris Gorman - appointed Dec. 2010, donated $4,500 in Nov. 2010
Bubba Raspberry - appointed Jan. 2009, donated $5,000 in Sept. 2008
Again, there is no evidence that there was any quid pro quo.
But there are legitimate questions to wonder why the governor who claimed he would essentially be our ethical Moses would not have prevented these close contributions and appointments.
Again, the issue is not that the Jindals or members of the Board of Regents or the giving corporations or Bautsch did anything improper.
And unquestionably, what Mrs. Jindal has done is wonderful as she has enabled our young and needy to have more access to knowledge.
Yet, the entire Jindal Foundation-Board of Regents stories now shows a pattern.
It shows that governor Jindal has not lived up to his promise to remove even a scent of scandal.
As the Governor makes steps with his 9 million dollars in the campaign bank to take another oath of office, I am reminded of some special words.
On that cold January morning on the Capitol steps, our Governor, in his inauguration speech said in front of the world:
In our past, too many politicians looked out for themselves. Too many arms of state and local government did not get results. And the world took note.
Those stereotypes cost us credibility. They cost us investment. They cost us jobs.
Let us all resolve…Democrats and Republicans…North Louisiana and South…leaders of all races and religions…elected and unelected…let us all resolve that era ends today.
Let’s admit it. What the Jindal Administration stands for today is not the beacon of ethical light eliminating the shadows of our sorry past and illuminating our future.
What the administration stands for today is that legitimate people can ask legitimate questions about a governor who promised us legitimacy.