Federal income tax returns show that the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children had receipts of more than $278,000 in 2009 but spent less than $67,000 on 60 interactive whiteboards donated to public school classrooms across Louisiana.
Returns for two other years, 2008 and 2010 were not immediately available but apparently reflect much larger donations to the foundation, according to other sources.
The foundation, headed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s wife generated considerable controversy last month when it was learned that several corporate contributors had profited either through lucrative state contracts, favorable legislation, or lax enforcement of penalties against polluters.
The foundation was founded in mid-2008, six months after Jindal took office. Capitol News Service requested complete tax returns from the foundation but received only the return for 2009. No returns for 2008 or 2010 were provided.
Charter members pledged $250,000, according to the foundation’s web page which contains a photo of Gov. Jindal and his wife. Platinum members pledge $100,000, Gold members $50,000, Silver members $25,000, and bronze members $10,000. Circle of Friends members give a one-time gift of up to $10,000, the web page says.
Individuals and corporate donors are limited to maximum political contributions of $5,000 during each election cycle, but there is no limit on the amount that can be given a foundation run by either a candidate or a spouse.
Depending on the news source quoted, Mrs. Jindal’s foundation has received $1 million overall and has spent that same amount on the installation of about 170 interactive whiteboards that enable teachers to download multimedia lesson plans to aid them in teaching math or science.
A report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said nine companies that collectively contributed $100,000 to Jindal’s campaign over several election cycles donated at least $790,000 to the foundation.
The foundation received $250,000 from Marathon Oil. Marathon subsidiaries have received $5.2 million in state funds, according to a report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
BlueCross/BlueShield contributed $100,000 and won a questionable $400 million contract to provide health insurance for state employees and retirees and their dependants. A state court judge later ordered the state to re-bid the contract after Humana challenged the contract in a lawsuit that said the plan bid on by BlueCross/BlueShield was not what the state request for proposals (RFP) specified.
Northrop Grumman contributed $10,000 and was awarded a consulting contract of $11.4 million.
Dow Chemical pledged $100,000 and efforts by the administration to fine Dow’s Union Carbide subsidiary for allowing the release of a toxic pollutant and failing to notify state authorities of the leak in a timely manner were apparently dropped.
AT&T may have been the big winner, though.
The corporation contributed $10,000 to Jindal’s campaign since 2007 but gave $250,000 to the Jindal Foundation after Gov. Jindal signed SB- 807 into law (Act 433) in 2008 over the objections of the Louisiana Municipal and the State Police Jury associations. The bill, the Consumer Choice for Television Act removed from local and parish governments their authority and responsibility to negotiate cable franchise agreements with companies that relied largely on locally-owned public infrastructure such as utility poles. The bill also allows AT&T to sell cable television service without the necessity of obtaining local franchises.
In addition to benefitting from the newly enacted cable television law, Capitol News Service found that AT&T also had a minimum of 17 separate contracts with the state totaling $32.2 million.
In addition to contracts, lax enforcement, and favorable legislation, the foundation’s tax return shows that the foundation’s treasurer is Alexandra Bautsch who also is Gov. Jindal’s chief fundraiser, an association that is a little too close for CREW Director Melanie Sloan, who called it “an awfully close relationship between the charity and the governor.”
Sloan, a former prosecutor, said, “Donations that come in to charities like this are almost always from folks who want something from a politician. The donations are made not because of the great work of the charity, but because of connections.
“Foundations tied to politicians see their donations dry up when the politician is no longer in power,” she said. “That demonstrates the real reason the charities get the donations is their political position, not because of the good works they do.”
“If it is not an actual conflict, it is an appearance of conflict,” she said.
Claude “Buddy” Leach, Jr., chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, said it was “the perception that you can have influence with the governor’s office through this foundation.”
Jindal press secretary Kyle Plotkin said Jindal has never solicited donations for his wife’s foundation. But Jindal does appear with his wife in a photograph pasted on the foundation’s web page which could be interpreted by some as a subtle come-on by the governor aimed at potential donors.
Another spokesperson for Gov. Jindal said anything other than the reality that the charity is a “completely nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization created by the first lady….has plainly been dreamed up by partisan hacks living in a fantasy land.”
Gov. Jindal simply said allegations of influence peddling through his wife’s foundation were “silly.”