Behind the Jindal façade

March 16, 2009

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s doublespeak and broken promises aren’t going unnoticed by the media or Louisiana citizens. All that campaign talk about transparency, open government and reform isn’t panning out, and Jindal’s reputation is sinking along with it. It’s getting to the point where nearly every day brings a fresh revelation or analysis of Jindal’s hypocrisy. Veteran Times-Picayune political columnist James Gill, in a column titled “Jindal’s bad year about to get worse,” observes:

For his latest renege there can be no excuse. He is supposed to represent the repudiation of old-time Louisiana politics, but governors never came more mealy-mouthed than this.

When Jindal took office last year, he promised never, ever to endorse candidates in legislative races, such was the purity of his devotion to the sound governance. But that was before Lee Domingue, who had donated $116,000 to Jindal’s campaign and associated causes, decided he wanted to be a state senator from Baton Rouge. It is, to say the least, unusual for a governor to intervene in a local primary, but Jindal up and endorsed Domingue over two other Republicans.

Jindal says the money had nothing to do with it, and his word is enough to leave me in no doubt. It was the money.

Jindal emerged as grubby as your average governor, if not quite so straight talking. That would have been bad enough, but he also came out looking politically clueless.

On the transparency front, Sunshine Week sparked a number of stories and editorials on Jindal’s refusal to open up the governor’s office to public records requests. Gannett’s Mike Hasten notes:

Getting what one would think should be public records from the governor’s office is virtually impossible under state law — a law that earns Louisiana a national survey’s ranking of worst in the nation for access to the governor’s records. …

Pamela Mitchell-Wagner, executive director of the Louisiana Press Association, said newspapers regularly try to get information from the governor’s office but are turned down because “he has that exemption based on it being the governor’s records.”

The Advocate weighs in too:

State Rep. Neal Abramson, D-New Orleans, who filed the donor disclosure bill last year, said Jindal “is sending the wrong message” when he supports legislative transparency but blocks the same standard in his own shop.

[Republican State Rep. Wayne] Waddell and [Republican State Rep. Hunter] Greene also note that transparency has been lacking in the Jindal camp in other areas — including public access to the spending of the $1.4 million raised to help the governor transition into office. In the interest of disclosure, Jindal should also be revealing more timely information on financing of out-of-state political fundraising travel, Waddell said.

“There’s a lot of interest out there” in the governor and the operations of his office, said Waddell.

Today, Jindal only mentions transparency as he talks about goals accomplished and achieving the gold standard. But as Waddell observes, it’s more gold-plated than pure gold — and Jindal’s to blame.

Jindal’s reaction? Ignore it all, and keep scheduling and attending out-of-state campaign fundraisers.

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David Vitter’s embarrassing behavior continues

March 11, 2009

Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter threw a temper tantrum in a Washington, D.C. airport, going as far as opening an armed security door and berating a United Airlines employee – because Vitter was late for his flight.

According to Roll Call, Vitter set off a security alarm and “proceeded to dress down an airline employee who told him entering the restricted area was forbidden.” Vitter delivered a “do-you-know-who-I-am tirade” that prompted the airline worker to summon security. Vitter remained defiant and continued yelling, then left the scene when the airline attendant went to get a security guard.

“David Vitter’s behavior continues to embarrass Louisiana,” says Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. “It’s offensive that David Vitter thinks he deserves special treatment, and thinks it’s perfectly OK to berate an employee that was only doing their job.”

Whittington says Vitter continues to be a black eye for Louisiana. “Vitter’s prostitution scandal, his partisan obstruction to President Obama’s economic recovery plan, and his lack of respect for airport security shows Vitter’s same lack of respect for the people of Louisiana.”

Roll Call‘s headline: Vitter goes from Hookergate to Gate-Crashing.


Gov. Bobby Jindal’s stock dropping fast

March 10, 2009

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s stock as a rising national figure in the Republican Party plummeted after his empty speech opposing President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan – and Jindal keeps sinking at home, too. With the April legislative session looming, Jindal’s continued political posturing isn’t making Louisiana lawmakers or constituents very happy. The Associated Press reports:

Democratic lawmakers bristled at Jindal’s criticisms of the $787 billion stimulus plans crafted by President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress, and they’ve accused the governor of playing national politics to the detriment of Louisiana.

The burgeoning partisan split in a Capitol that often tries to steer clear of such spats threatens to blow up on Jindal in a regular legislative session that already was going to be contentious because of hefty budget cuts and lingering irritation from previous Jindal vetoes. …

But Jindal’s tough talk against the stimulus nationally isn’t really panning out locally.

In his nationally-televised response to Obama’s address to Congress, Jindal called the stimulus irresponsible and said there should be less government intervention in the country’s economic woes.

However, with the national Republican speech over and Louisiana’s budget problems looming, Jindal is acknowledging he intends to tap into large amounts of stimulus money, most of it to help balance the state’s budget over the next two years.

And criticism of Jindal’s non-stop politicking and out-of-state fundraising is coming from all sides, as Gambit Weekly reports:

Jindal still has the support of national talk-radio poobah Rush Limbaugh, who has talked him up as future presidential material, but on statewide conservative radio, it’s a different story. Monroe-based conservative talk-radio host Moon Griffon (nicknamed the “Louisiana Limbaugh”), whose weekday program is immensely popular in north and west Louisiana, has been slamming Jindal for months, dubbing him “Campaign Bobby.” …But criticism is also coming from state GOP sources like radio host Jeff Crouere, former executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party, who said, “I think Gov. Jindal should refund to the state pro-rata money for all those days he is out of state on personal business.”

Most tellingly, Republicans in Baton Rouge’s Senate District 16 sent a strong message against Jindal in last Saturday’s election. Some background first, from The Advocate:

Usually Republican officials stay out of races that involve more than one GOP candidate.

But Jindal chose to endorse one of three Republicans in the state Senate District 16 race. He picked Lee Domingue, who had contributed $118,500 to the governor’s interests since 2006. Domingue’s Republican opponents Laurinda Calongne and Dan Claitor did not give money to Jindal. …

Jindal said Domingue’s donation had nothing to do with his selection. Just as, he said, the $232,350 donated by the Chouest family and their businesses to the governor’s campaigns since 2006 had no influence on his government’s decision to give economic development grants and tax credits to a project owned by the family.

Compounding matters is the involvement of perennial Jindal cheerleader Rolfe McCollister, Jindal’s campaign treasurer and publisher of Baton Rouge Business Report. McCollister’s the founder of Believe in Louisiana, the tax-exempt organization solely devoted to raising money for and promoting Jindal’s agenda. Lee Domingue gave a $100,000 donation to Believe in Louisiana, and – surprise! – McCollister endorsed Domingue.

It’s so transparent that voters knew the score, and Claitor edged Domingue with 42 percent of the vote, setting up a runoff on April 4.

So, will Gov. Jindal be stumping for Domingue for the next three weeks?


Vitter’s hypocrisy on the omnibus bill and Louisiana projects

March 9, 2009

Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter continues to show blind allegiance to the national Republican Party’s obstructionist agenda, as Vitter has told The Times-Picayune that he plans to vote against the omnibus bill. But Vitter, who tries to paint himself as a fiscal conservative, has more than 140 earmarks – totaling nearly $250 million — in the omnibus bill that he’s personally sponsored or co-sponsored with Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and other legislators.

 

These earmarks include funds for Pennington Biomedical Research Center ($623,000), a drug task force for the Louisiana Sheriffs Association ($700,000), a new terminal for Monroe Regional Airport ($1.4 million), multiple Louisiana road and infrastructure projects, and funding for universities across the state.

 

So why does Vitter plan to vote against the omnibus bill?

 

“This is another glaring example of David Vitter’s hypocrisy,” says Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. “The omnibus plan contains numerous projects that benefit Louisiana and will help move the state forward, but all David Vitter cares about is playing partisan politics.”

 

Whittington says Vitter’s real motives will be on display after Vitter’s vote.

 

“Watch him try and take credit for Louisiana projects and funding that he voted against,” says Whittington. “David Vitter has a difficult time giving straight answers to the people of Louisiana.”

 

You know Vitter’s grasping at straws when even conservative commentator Laura Ingraham calls him out.


Landrieu, Melancon announce vital Louisiana funding from President Obama’s economic recovery plan

March 9, 2009

Last week, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, joined U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon,  to announce the release of $8.6 million from President Barack Obama’s economic recovery act that will support seven health centers in Louisiana. The expansion and construction of these community clinics will help some 48,870 residents in obtaining health care services and will create 360 Louisiana jobs.

“[This] release of the $8.6 million for Louisiana’s health care centers proves that the economic recovery legislation Congress passed last month is paying immediate dividends for communities in our state,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Not only will this money create jobs, it will provide thousands of uninsured Louisianians with essential primary care and preventative care services. Our community health centers are truly a lifeline for many underserved Louisianians, and I will continue to work with the Obama Administration to ensure our state’s clinics are adequately funded.”

Also, Congressman Melancon announced that a number of 3rd Congressional District towns and parishes will receive $2,256,870 in federal grants to support law enforcement and improve the criminal justice system in their communities. These funds are part of President Obama’s economic recovery funds, and help safeguard the budgets of fire and police departments and first responders.

As more and more funding for vital projects and initiatives flows into Louisiana, there’s one crucial thing to remember: not one single Louisiana Republican legislator supported the president’s economic recovery plan. Not Senator David Vitter, and not Republican Congressmen Steve Scalise, Joseph Cao, Bill Cassidy, Rodney Alexander, Charles Boustany and John Fleming. Given a choice between moving Louisiana and the country forward or marching lockstep with failed Republican economic policies, Louisiana’s Republican legislators chose their party over their state and country.


Deconstructing the Jindal speech and subsequent media damage control attempts

March 6, 2009

The fallout from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s abysmal speech opposing President Obama’s economic stimulus plan is well documented. But Lanny Keller’s Inside Report column from today’s Advocate is required reading for its analysis of two related issues: Republicans’ continued state of denial over the lack of substance in Jindal’s speech – and how Jindal’s subsequent attempts at media damage control aren’t helping matters.

Highlights, beginning with Gene Mills’ defense of Jindal:

“Despite having no audience and no applause lines, this young, dynamic conservative who champions individual freedom and small businesses over big government gave Americans around the country a refreshingly different perspective on governance last night,” added Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum, a conservative Christian group.

Isn’t there something in the Bible about bearing false witness, even if in behalf of one’s own political party? …

After [60 Minutes’] Morley Safer, the Jindal team turned to another soft interview program, “Larry King Live.” And even there, the governor’s instinct for dodging a straight answer made King look like the Grand Inquisitor.

Jindal had no answer to the obvious question: Do you agree with Rush Limbaugh? The flamboyant talk-show host said, in a much-quoted speech, that he hoped for the failure of the Obama administration.

Jindal praised Limbaugh as a “great leader” for conservatives. The governor could not bring himself to disavow the unpatriotic statements by a reactionary blowhard.

Read the whole column here.


New radio voices for progressives in Louisiana

March 5, 2009

Congratulations to David Gereighty and Dan Zimmerman, whose new radio show Dan and Dave on the Air debuts tomorrow, March 6, on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans. Listen to Dan and Dave on the Air every Friday from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is a guest on tomorrow’s show.

Dan and Dave join other progressive voices contributing to meaningful political dialogue in Louisiana. Stephen Handwerk keeps Acadiana listeners and voters up to date with his 7 a.m.-8 a.m. Wednesday morning appearances on Lafayette’s KPEL 105.1 FM; former Democratic state Rep. William Sumlin brings Louisiana Logic to north Louisiana’s Fox 92.7 FM. on Tuesday mornings from 8 a.m.-9 a.m.

Know of other progressive Louisiana radio shows that are an antidote to syndicated feeds of you-know-who? Email communications@lademo.org.


Gov. Jindal leaves Louisiana again for more out-of-state fundraising

March 3, 2009

After delivering his widely panned speech opposing President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan last Tuesday night, Gov. Bobby Jindal went on vacation to Disney World. But his “vacation” didn’t stop him from attending a Florida fundraiser for his campaign coffers – and now Gov. Jindal is leaving Louisiana again for two days to attend four separate campaign fundraisers in California.

“Louisiana’s facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, but Gov. Jindal is more concerned with raising money for himself than trying to fix Louisiana’s economy,” says Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. “Gov. Jindal insults the people of Louisiana by neglecting his gubernatorial obligations and putting politics and campaign cash over the needs of our state.”

Gov. Jindal has recently jetted away for out-of-state fundraisers in Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi, Washington, D.C., Texas, Florida and Connecticut.

“Gov. Jindal needs to stop campaigning and start governing,” says Whittington. “The people of Louisiana deserve more than an absentee governor.”


Gov. Bobby Jindal defends Rush Limbaugh

March 3, 2009

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has generated widespread criticism for his unapologetic declarations that he wants President Obama to fail. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele rebutted Limbaugh’s comments in a CNN interview Saturday night, saying Limbaugh is an entertainer whose show is “incendiary” and “ugly.”

Yesterday Steele apologized for his remarks on Limbaugh, once again showing that Limbaugh is driving the Republican Party’s obstructionist agenda against President Obama’s vision and plans to move America forward.

And now Gov. Bobby Jindal is defending Limbaugh.

On Larry King Live last night, Jindal was asked what he thought of Steele’s apology to Limbaugh. “I’m glad [Steele] apologized,” said Jindal. “I think Rush [Limbaugh] is a leader for many conservatives and says things that people are concerned about.”

“For Gov. Jindal to defend a man who roots for President Obama to fail is inexcusable,” says Chris Whittington, chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. “This is the most disturbing example yet of Gov. Jindal showing that he has no interest in bipartisanship – Gov. Jindal is only concerned with his own political ambitions and catering to the failed policies and divisive rhetoric of the Republican Party.”

Here’s the video of Jindal defending Limbaugh:


Gov. Jindal’s hypocrisy train rolls on

March 2, 2009

The fallout over Gov. Bobby Jindal’s widely panned speech from last Tuesday night continues. In case you missed it, the latest glaring example of Jindal’s do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do governing is his intention to use federal stimulus money for a Louisiana railway project. Highlights,  from the Times-Picayune:

Louisiana’s transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president’s economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.

The high-speed rail line, a topic of discussion for years, would require $110 million to upgrade existing freight lines and terminals to handle a passenger train operation, said Mark Lambert, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. …

Jindal oversees the state transportation department and appointed its secretary. …

Asked for comment Friday about the Jindal stance on the federal rail money, the governor’s Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell said he does not think the Las Vegas to Anaheim line is a good use of taxpayer money. He did not address the Louisiana proposal.

And while Jindal was on vacation after his speech in Florida, he still managed time to squeeze in yet another out-of-state fundraiser. As The Advocate noted, he found time to speak to a room of out-of-state donors, but refused to answer interview queries from Louisiana media.