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30.3.08

Jindal agenda success brings slanted media pieces

The Gov. Bobby Jindal express tries to crank itself up again for the regular session after he pretty much got what he wanted in two prior special sessions. On its eve, we also got a reminder that there are still a number of people opposed to his conservative, reformist agenda who are desperate enough to try to create a non-story to slow it down.

A journalist who has shown past animosity towards Jindal (as well as to those who dare criticize the media) reported that a freshly-approved expenditure would benefit the business of a contributor who not only gave Jindal the maximum $5,000 contribution in his campaign, but whose companies in which he had an interest did so, as well as apparently several of his relatives who gave smaller amounts, or who gave to an organization associated with the state Republican Party which expended some funds on behalf of Jindal. The state Legislature appropriated $14 million to go to port expansion in Terrebone Parish. The donations were both legal and perfectly transparent, and the appropriation was deliberated and passed in full public view as well.

Yet the article insinuates differently, using itself as a vehicle to trot out some tiresome Jindal opponents. One discussing the contributions and appropriations, state Sen. Joe McPherson like a trained seal barks, “You’re talking about legal corruption.” As if McPherson is in any position to talk – scan through his campaign finance records all the way back to his initial 1999 run for office and one will find the nursing home operator has substantial contributions from that industry, people in that industry, and from people in and the medical industry as whole (before Jindal became governor McPherson had been chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee), with labor unions finishing a strong second in contributions to him. (Of course, the article mentions none of this, nor of the $9,000 state Democrats gave him in 2007.) If McPherson finds this evidence enough to argue Jindal in involved in a form of corruption, then McPherson himself is awash in corruption.

Then there are those who opposition to Jindal has them cast aside objectivity. This incident is “a smoking gun” sniffs one, and another calls it “legalized bribery,” ignoring the facts behind the series of events: the idea of the expansion started two years ago under former Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco and was spearheaded by someone who hardly was a supporter of the Republican Jindal, Democrat state Sen. Reggie Dupre. It was virtually complete by the time Jindal was in any position to exert any influence on it at all. Not only that, but if the deal seemed shady in any way, the entire Legislature could have killed it; instead, it approved it overwhelmingly.

Finally, a related point of contention is that current laws – because of First Amendment rights as the article does point out – allow the kinds of donations made to Jindal, McPherson, and others, it’s implied that they are intentionally made too obscure and mentions legislation defeated during the first special session would have made it easier to identify sources of contributions (even as the article negates its own premise in that it is publicizing these supposedly obscure donations). What it doesn’t say is that Jindal backed that legislation but too many legislators (stating mainly by reason of complexity in administering) were against it.

It bears repeating – nothing that has happened here is illegal, immoral, or unethical. Contributions were received legally with full disclosure and an open public policy process (which largely did not involve Jindal) full of checks and balances did its job. So why is this a story?

Because it’s an opportunity for Jindal’s opponents to try to erode his political capital by making appear something that he is not, presumably as the public would be less likely to support him and, thus, other elements of his agenda. Jindal has said (at least in the long run) he will remake Louisiana, reducing the size and spending of government, empowering people rather than special interests, and shifting spending priorities. Some want him to fail because this runs counter to their political liberalism and/or his success in this agenda will make him a future national leader and he can bring that agenda with him. In order to stop him, even the most capricious charges will be directly or indirectly brought against him.

(Contrast this with the Louisiana media’s treatment of far more compelling stories of potential corruption, liberal Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s tainted campaign donation incident or her apparent campaign-cash-for-earmark episode. Despite very suspicious timing and evidence on both accounts, it took the national media to break the story and only belatedly did the Louisiana media hop on board.)

This is an article that better deserved placement on the opinion pages than in the newshole. But don’t expect it to be the last of its kind, either, as long as Jindal is governor and continues to enjoy success.

2 comments:

Daniel Z. said...

"Finally, a related point of contention is that current laws – because of First Amendment rights as the article does point out – allow the kinds of donations made to Jindal, McPherson, and others"

Actually, banning corporate donations (which would help to stop bundling) is something that has been found to be constitutional(since federal laws prohibit corporate contributions).

"It bears repeating – nothing that has happened here is illegal, immoral, or unethical"

It is legal. However, it is hardly ethical. It is a circumvention of campaign finance laws. If you want to contribute 10,000 to someone's campaign, all you need is a corporation. If you want to contribute 100,000 to a campaign, create 9 corporations.

"So why is this a story?"
Because Jindal and other politicians (Republican and Democrat) abuse the system and utilize bundling to gain power. They then pay back those people who helped them get the power with payments of OUR tax dollars that are 100 fold. (130,000 in campaign donations got Chouest $14 million in tax dollars). Those can then be turned back into campaign donations. Lather, rinse, repeat.



This also does nothing to solve the "perecption" of ethical problems that Jindal wished to solve.

Jeff Sadow said...

>It is legal. However, it is hardly ethical. It is a circumvention of campaign finance laws.

Note what would be "unethical" in this situation -- if the laws were deliberately circumvented in order to "buy" a contract. But there's zero proof this is what happened. All involved say that wasn't the case, and convincingly so in Jindal's case. Until this assertion can be proved otherwise, there's nothing unethical here, and thus there is no story.