The New York Times published an investigation by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that highlighted questionable donations made to the Mrs. Supriya Jindal’s Foundation for Children. Over $1 million in pledges were made by large companies who had major business dealings in the state. These companies are regulated by the Jindal administration and several of them benefited from legislation that was passed. For example, AT&T made a $250,000 pledge to the foundation, so was it just a coincidence that they were able to secure the right to market their TV services across the state without having to negotiate with individual parishes? While there might not be a connection between the two, it is questionable to say the least.
Of course, both the New York Times and CREW are liberal, but these are valid concerns that need to be addressed. Voters deserve an answer to the following questions:
- Was there a connection between corporate donations to the Jindal foundation and favorable bills passed in the Louisiana Legislature?
- Did the Governor push certain bills to help these corporate donors?
It is clear a thorough, unbiased investigation is needed regarding this issue.
On another ethics matter, the I-Team report on WAFB-TV raises troubling questions about whether there is a connection between membership on the Louisiana Board of Regents and major campaign donations to Governor Jindal. Only one of the Jindal appointees to this board is not a major contributor to his campaign. Ideally, membership on such an important board should be based on qualifications and not campaign contributions, but, of course this is Louisiana!
Both of these stories show how lax the campaign finance laws are in Louisiana. We need true ethics reform in our state, which encompasses all branches of government, even the Governor’s office. According to Jindal Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell, "Every contribution is made in accordance with campaign finance laws and fully disclosed in the campaign report." Teepell is right, no laws were broken, but that just highlights how lax the laws are in Louisiana.
At the present time, companies and individuals can give unlimited donations to Mrs. Jindal’s foundation, even if they have significant business before the state. That is wrong; it is the typical way of doing business in Louisiana.
Back in 1971, an obscure South Korean rice broker named Tongsun Park was investigated for bribery. It was alleged that Park was trying to influence the actions of congressmen and others. One of his “gifts” was a $10,000 cash payment to Elaine Edwards, the wife of then Congressman Edwin Edwards. Of course, Edwin Edwards ignored complaints about this “gift,” just like Governor Jindal is dismissing questions about donations to his wife’s foundation.
It was wrong for Tongsun Park to give cash to Elaine Edwards, just as it is wrong for these companies with major business in the state of Louisiana to make major pledges to Mrs. Jindal’s foundation. While the incidents are 40 years apart, it seems not much has changed in Louisiana politics because in our state, everything old is new again.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].