Monday, 03 October 2011 18:50

Jindal Campaign Commercials Doing A Job On Louisiana Voters

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JindalGov. Bobby Jindal seems to be a virtual lock for re-election. (Still, the Boston Red Sox went into September with a nine-game lead for the wild card spot in the playoffs and promptly went 7-20 and lost the wild card to Tampa on the final day of the season, so in the words of the old Fats Waller song, One Never Know, Do One?)

A similar scenario is not likely in the October 22 election for several reasons. First, and let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: Jindal is smart, as in politically savvy. Never forget that. He’s also brilliant at remembering numbers and statistics and can recite them with little prompting. That also makes him intelligent. No argument there.

Second, he has a commanding advantage in campaign funds—something like $9 million to about $5,000 for Haynesville schoolteacher Tara Hollis, his nearest competitor.

But intelligence, political smarts and money do not a good governor make.

His biggest asset appears to be the manner in which he twists and distorts numbers and cons Protestant church members in north Louisiana when he sets down in his helicopter on Sunday mornings to dispense federal stimulus checks that he was against before he was apparently for them.

And don’t overlook that clever ploy he pulled off awhile back when he duped the legislature into approving the awarding of special pins to Louisiana military veterans. Legislators thought they were going to get in on the act of handing out the medals in their districts but it wasn’t to be. Jindal very politely hijacked that idea, pre-empted the lawmakers and went around the state handing them out to grateful veterans himself.

As if that weren’t enough, now he is exploiting that seemingly magnanimous gesture by incorporating it into his campaign ads. That’s a new low in campaign tactics, if you ask us. If you’re going to recognize our military veterans, governor, then it should be done in a more dignified manner and certainly should not be used for political gain. But then Jindal has shown he is not above any action so long as it reaps political benefits.

He even has one ad that shamelessly sucks up to the NRA, the robust outdoorsman that he is. But we won’t wade off into those murky waters.

Our personal favorite among his TV campaign ads (we can only surmise he has to spend some of that campaign money for appearance sake) is the one in which he touts all the job gains for the state under his administration. Where he plucked his numbers from is literally beyond the scope of our admittedly limited imagination.

In rapid-fire order, the ad flashes names of companies and the number of jobs “created” by his administration. To get all the numbers, one must constantly stop and restart the Youtube video. So we did. In all, the ad names 17 companies across the state, giving the impression that each one is a new company to Louisiana when in fact many are simply companies already domiciled in the state which announced expansions that they quite likely already had on the planning board. Nothing the governor did had any bearing on those expansions. Not that Jindal had any compunction about claiming full credit, mind you.

But it’s the numbers flashed on the screen that bear closer scrutiny. To verify Jindal’s numbers, we simply went online to the companies’ own web pages, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development web page, or online news accounts.

Let’s start with the chicken plant in Farmerville, way up in Union Parish. Farmerville is only a few miles from the Arkansas border as the pullet flies. Jindal’s ad says the $50 million plant (run by one of his campaign contributors, by the way) is responsible for 3,970 jobs. Does Farmerville even have 3,970 people? Probably more but it’s unlikely they all pluck chickens. In fact, Foster Farms’ own web page puts the employment number at only 1,060. That’s about 2,910 short of Jindal’s inflated number. But perhaps he is counting the owners of the broiler houses where the chickens are raised to maturity. Maybe he’s even including the truck drivers who take the birds to the plucking plant. Of course, there’s the U-Fill-Um convenience store where the truckers purchase their diesel fuel. There must be at least three or four employees in that store. And those truck drivers have to eat on the road sometimes, so add the burger flippers at the hamburger joints to the number. Or would that be the servers at the local Foster Farms Crispy Fried Chicken Shack, Used Lumber Emporium, House of Prayer and Snake Farm?
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But here’s the real kicker about that chicken plant: no matter what the actual number is, we’re told on pretty good authority that about 60 percent of the plant’s employees reside in Arkansas and drive in the 10 or 15 miles each day.

Here are some others:

• Nucor Steel in St. James Parish—Jindal’s TV ad says 6,050 jobs. The Nucor website says 650. Whoa. A spread of 5,400 is pretty big, even in gut bucket politics;

• Blade Dynamics in New Orleans—Jindal claims 1,570 jobs. Blade Dynamics says 600 on its website;

• Globalstar moving to Covington—Jindal’s ad says 1,300 jobs. Globalstar says the number is closer to 500;

• LaShip in Terrebonne Parish—Jindal says there will be 2,282 new jobs but news accounts put the number at only 1,000. Moreover, LaShip is owned by the Chouest family and the company was the direct beneficiary of Jindal’s $10 million investment of state funds for the Port of Terrebonne in 2008. Jindal received 18 campaign contributions totaling $85,000 from Chouest family members and Chouest businesses;

• DG Foods in Bastrop—was supposed to produce 1,253 jobs instead of 317 actually realized;

• National Electric Warranty—298 jobs touted were unverified;

• CenturyLink—Monroe company simply expanded, producing 1,150 new jobs, not the 1,970 claimed;

• ConAgra—Sweet potato processing plant in Delhi created 500 jobs which was not nearly as sweet as the 1,920 claimed by Jindal;

• Schlumberger—Shreveport oilfield equipment company expanded operations, which only “secured” 120 existing jobs, far short of the 650 new jobs claimed;

• Ronpak—Shreveport fast food packaging company produced 175 jobs, 500 short of Jindal’s boast of 675;

• Northwest Pipe—446 new jobs claimed by Jindal far exceeded 120 actually realized;

• ADA-ES—Red River Parish activated carbon processing facility announcement made no mention of Jindal’s claim of 280 new jobs;

• Zagis USA—Jefferson Davis Parish cotton yarn company claims it will have one of the lowest production costs (read salaries) in America and its 161 jobs is far short of the 805 claimed by Jindal;

• Aeroframe—Expansion of this Chennault Airport facility in Lake Charles will add 300 new jobs, not the 880 hyped in the TV spot;

• Cheniere Energy—Sabine Pass terminal in Cameron Parish produced 148 new jobs and retained 77 as opposed to new 737 jobs claimed by Jindal.

• Northrop Grumman—This donor to Jindal’s wife’s foundation was supposed to produce 339 new jobs with its Lake Charles expansion but in fact created only 80 while retaining the existing 217 positions. Moreover, those numbers were offset with the June announcement that the company had to refund $35 million in economic incentive money to the state when it failed to meet minimum employment totals at its Avondale facility near New Orleans. Somehow, that little factoid didn’t make it into the TV ad.

Bottom line: the ad claims the Jindal administration created 25,425 new jobs through his Department of Economic Development when in fact only 6,729 new jobs were actually created by the 17 new or expanding industries. That number is a whopping 18,696 shortfall from the number claimed in Jindal’s ad–delivered in typical staccato fashion–and only 26.5 percent of the total claimed.

A quarterback who completes only 26.5 percent of his passes quickly finds himself on the bench.

by Tom Aswell, Publisher of the Louisiana Voice

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