For a man who has received more than $20 million in contributions to his various political campaigns, perhaps a half-million or so in questionable contributions shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. After all, that’s less than 2.5 percent of the total.
Still, for the man who set himself up as the beacon of all that’s pure and pristine, the one who established the “gold standard” of governmental ethics, the one who loves to boast (only in out-of-state speaking engagements, of course) of “the most transparent” administration in the state’s history, anything less than clean campaign money should be unacceptable.
Alas, such is simply not the case.
Even his mother, a state civil service employee, got into the act in open violation of civil service regulations, but more about that later.
We have written at various times of many of the contributions which appear to be directly related to appointments to state boards and commissions. Donald “Boysie” Bollinger was appointed last March to the State Police Commission and Aubrey Temple of Deridder was appointed in July of 2008 to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Financing Corp.
Together, the two men and their businesses and family members have combined to give Jindal’s campaigns at least $95,000 and three of their business associates, Red McCombs ($15,000), Corbin Robertson ($5,000) and James Weaver ($1,000) formed a partnership to purchase water from the Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana-Texas border for re-sale in Texas. That attempt, at first supported by Jindal, failed when the Sabine River Authority reversed itself and killed the deal at least for the time being.
Temple, meanwhile, was paid $400,000 by the Coushatta Tribe back in 2001 for undisclosed services but he was never able to give an accounting for how the money was used. Also involved with the Coushatta Tribe was Alexandria attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who chipped in another $23,000 to various Jindal campaigns and has since reaped more than $1 million in legal fees for defending the state in various legal proceedings, most of which saw the state end up on the losing end of key court decisions.
Faircloth, while serving as legal counsel for the Coushattas, advised the tribe to sink $30 million in a formerly bankrupt Israeli technology firm call MainNet for whom his brother Brandon was subsequently employed as vice president for sales. The investment, to no one’s surprise except perhaps Faircloth, proved to be a financial bust for the tribe.
This is the same tribe, with Faircloth as legal counsel, that Paid disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff $32 million to help promote and protect their gambling interests but who provided little in return for his fee.
Another Abramoff associate, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also contributed $5,000 to Jindal. DeLay was convicted of scheming to influence Texas state elections with corporate money but a federal appeals court overturned that conviction last month.
There was the $55,000 in laundered money the Jindal campaign received in 2007. Richard Blossman, Jr., president of Central Progressive Bank of Lacombe in St. Tammany Parish, issued $5,000 “bonuses” to each of 11 board members but instead of giving them the money, 11 contributions of $5,000 each were funneled into the Jindal campaign in the names of the board members—without their knowledge or permission. Regulators subsequently took over the bank and Blossman was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for bank fraud.
Jindal has refused to return the money.
The State Board of Ethics also said River Birch, Inc., of Jefferson Parish formed six “straw man entities” through which it laundered $40,000 in illegal donations to Jindal.
Again, Jindal kept the money.
The governor accepted $158,500 in contributions from Lee Mallett and a host of his companies in Iowa, LA., and Lacassine and in return, Jindal appointed Mallett to the LSU Board of Supervisors—even though Mallett attended McNeese State University only briefly and received no degree. Jindal also had the Department of Corrections issue a directive to state parole and probation officers to funnel offenders into Mallett’s halfway house in Lacassine.
Jindal appointed Carl Shetler of Lake Charles to the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors in July of 2008 after Shetler, his family and businesses contributed $42,000 to Jindal. Shetler’s biggest claim to fame came when he managed to get McNeese placed on athletic probation by the NCAA after it was learned that he paid money to McNeese basketball players. Now he helps preside over the very school that he placed in jeopardy. So much for that “gold standard” of governmental ethics.
Jindal also accepted $2,500 from Hospital Corp. of America (HCA) which paid a record settlement of $2 billion to settle the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history. The founder and CEO of HCA was Rick Scott, later elected governor of Florida, for whom Jindal campaign extensively.
Speaking of Florida and records, Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein was disbarred and sentenced to prison for running the largest ($1.4 billion) Ponzi scheme in the state’s history but not before he, his wife, his law firm and three of his corporations contributed $30,000 at a 2008 Jindal fundraiser hosted by Rothstein.
Most news media found the $10,000 contributed by Rothstein and his law firm but missed his wife’s and the corporation contributions that totaled an additional $20,000. Jindal announced that he would refund the money to a victims’ fund but instead, gave the $30,000 to the Baton Rouge Food Bank.
Jindal also took $10,000 from Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) and later gave ACS employee Jan Cassidy, sister-in-law of Congressman Bill Cassidy, a state job with the Division of Administration. ACS, meanwhile, has come under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for certain accounting practices.
Then there was the $11,000 Jindal accepted from the medical trust fund of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA), whose board president, Sean Alfortish, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiring to rig the elections of the association and then helping himself to money controlled by the association.
The association also was accused of paying $347,000 from its medical and pension trust funds to three law firms without a contract or evidence of work performed. A state audit said LHBPA improperly raided more than $1 million from its medical trust account while funneling money into political lobbying and travel to the Cayman Islands, Aruba, Costa Rica and Los Cabos, Mexico.
The association, created by the Louisiana Legislature in 1993, is considered a non-profit public body and as such, is prohibited from contributing to political campaigns.
Saving the best for last
All these were sufficiently questionable to tarnish the “Mr. Clean” image Jindal has attempted to burnish throughout his administration but the most blatant display of arrogance and complete disdain for campaign laws has to be three individual contributions in 2003 that totaled a mere $5,000—from Jindal’s mother.
So what’s wrong with a relative contributing to his campaign? Several family members, after all, gave to the campaign as do family members of many other candidates.
Well, nothing…except that his mother, Raj Jindal, is a classified state employee, according to Civil Service records, an IT Director 3 with the Louisiana Workforce Commission, formerly the State Department of Labor. She earns $118,000 per year and has been working for the state for 38 years, certainly long enough to know the prohibition against state classified employees being active in political campaigns. State employees, after all, are routinely sent periodic reminders of civil service regulations governing political activity.
Records provided by the State Ethics Commission campaign finance reports indicate that Raj Jindal contributed $3,000 on April 23, 2003, to son Bobby. Nine days later, on May 2, she contributed another $500 and on June 17, she chipped in an additional $1,500, bringing her total contributions to the $5,000 maximum allowable by law—for non-civil service employees.
Article X, Part I, Paragraph 9 of the Louisiana State Constitution says:
“Section 9.(A) Party Membership; Elections. No member of a civil service commission and no officer or employee in the classified service shall participate or engage in political activity; be a candidate for nomination or election to public office except to seek election as the classified state employee serving on the State Civil Service Commission; or be a member of any national, state, or local committee of a political party or faction; make or solicit contributions for any political party, faction, or candidate (emphasis ours); or take active part in the management of the affairs of a political party, faction, candidate, or any political campaign, except to exercise his right as a citizen to express his opinion privately, to serve as a commissioner or official watcher at the polls, and to cast his vote as he desires.
“(B) Contributions. No person shall solicit contributions for political purposes from any classified employee or official (emphasis ours) or use or attempt to use his position in the state or city service to punish or coerce the political action of a classified employee.”
One veteran political observer said that unless Jindal solicited the contribution, all liability lies with the governor’s mother for the rules violation.
But Jindal is a big boy, as evidenced by his advice earlier this year to his fellow Republicans to put on their “big boy pants.” He has to accept the responsibility for allowing his mother to flaunt state civil service rules not once, not twice, but three times. And yes, she also should be held accountable for her violation of rules that apply to every other state civil service employee.
Now the only question remaining is what will the Civil Service Commission do about the governor’s mother violating state campaign regulations governing political activity by Civil Service employees?
Our best advice is: don’t hold your breath waiting for disciplinary action.
The rules obviously do not apply to this governor.