While Bobby Jindal is touting all the wonderful innovations, budget cuts, employee reductions, etc., that he has initiated in Louisiana, The Center for Public Integrity has a few items he may wish to soft peddle as he goes about trying to convince Iowans that he’s really serious about running for President and not the joke we in Louisiana know him to be.
The center has just released its 2015 integrity grades for each state and it isn’t very pretty for Louisiana.
In fact, the state received a flat-out grade of F and ranked 41st out of the 50 states overall with a composite score of 59 out of a possible 100. Only seven states had lower composite scores—Pennsylvania and Oregon (58), Nevada (57), Delaware and South Dakota (56), and Michigan and Wyoming (51).
Mississippi (61) and Alabama (67), normally found competing for Louisiana on lists of all things bad, were well ahead of Louisiana with rankings of 33rd and 7th, respectively. Alaska had the highest score at 71, good enough for a C. Michigan was the worst with its 51.
Louisiana wasn’t alone in getting a failing grade of course; there were 10 others but in the other states we can only assume the governors are at least attempting to address their problems. Jindal isn’t. He capitulated long ago as he set out on his quest for the brass ring that continues—and will continue—to elude him. Though he has only two months to go in office, he in reality abandoned us three years and 10 months ago—right after he was inaugurated for his second term. Truth be told, he has been at best a distracted administrator (I still can’t bring myself to call him a governor) for his full eight years and at worst, guilty of malfeasance in his dereliction of duty.
Harsh words, to be sure, but then his record screams out his shortcomings (loud enough to be heard in Iowa, one would think) and his lack of a basic understanding of running a lemonade stand, much less a state.
States were graded on 13 criteria by the Center for Public Integrity:
- Public Access to Information—F
- Political Financing—D
- Electoral Oversight—D+
- Executive Accountability—F
- Legislative Accountability—F
- Judicial Accountability—F
- State Budget Processes—D+
- State Civil Service Management—F
- Internal Auditing—C+
- Lobbying Disclosure—D
- Ethics Enforcement Agencies—F
- State Pension Fund Management—F
The scores given each of these, and their national ranking were even more revealing.
Public Access to Information, for example scored a dismal 30, ranking 46th in the country.
In the scoring for Internal Auditing, on the other hand, the state’s numerical score was 79, but was good enough for only a ranking of 32nd.
Likewise, the grading for Procurement (purchase of goods and contracts) had a numeric score of 69, good enough to rank the state 25th. But numeric score of 64 for Lobbying Disclosure while rating only a D, was still good enough to nudge the state into the upper half of the rankings at 24th.
One of the biggest areas of concern would have to be the state’s numeric grade of only 40 for Judicial Accountability, plunging the state to next to last at 49th. (This is an area that has flown under the radar but one the legislature and next governor should address.)
The lowest numeric score was 30 for Public Access to Information, fifth from the bottom at 46th. LouisianaVoice can certainly attest to the difficulty in obtaining public records, having found it necessary to file lawsuit against the state on three occasions in order to obtain what were clearly public records. Even after winning two of the three lawsuits, we still experience intolerable foot-dragging as agencies attempt to stall in the hopes we will give up.
We will not. If anything, the stalling only strengthens our resolve to fight for the public’s right to know.
To compare Louisiana to other states in each of the 13 criteria, go here: http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18822/how-does-your-state-rank-integrity
In the final days of the 2015 legislative session the state Senate approved a bill that removed the exemptions pushed through by Jindal in his first month in office in 2008 which kept most government records from disclosure. State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) was quoted in the report as saying, “It turns out we were boondoggled on that.”
Jindal called his changes his “gold standard,” but the report said it is “riddled with loopholes and cynical interpretations by the governor and other state officials.”
That looked like a promising reversal to the secrecy of the Jindal administration but then the legislature agreed to postpone implementation of the new law that abolished the abused “deliberative process” exception until after Jindal leaves office next January.
Jindal also managed to gut the state’s ethics laws early in his first year. Enforcement of ethics violations was removed from the State Ethics Board and transferred to judges selected by a Jindal appointee. That prompted long-time political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport to say that while the state’s ethics laws looked good on the surface, there was “no effective enforcement and that breeds more than just a system of corruption, but an acceptance of those practices,” the center’s report said.
The center reported that it is not Louisiana’s ethics laws that produced such a poor grade, but the day-to-day interpretations of the laws by various departmental legal advisors.
Since the center’s first survey of public integrity on a state-by-state basis, no fewer than 12 states have had legislators or cabinet-level officials charged, convicted or resign over ethics-related issues, the report said.