Hours before heading to New Hampshire, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Thursday that he is launching a federal political action committee.
Jindal’s press office ignored requests to speak to the governor about the creation of Stand Up to Washington. However, in an 18-minute interview with the national website Politico, Jindal said the PAC will focus on helping conservative candidates run for Congress.
The PAC also will give Jindal the opportunity to mingle with well-moneyed people and make powerful friends, all while raising his national profile. Ronald Reagan — whose portrait graces Jindal’s office — swept aside his sorrows over losing the 1976 Republican presidential nomination and launched a PAC called Citizens for the Republic. Ostensibly formed to aid other candidates, Citizens for the Republic actually promoted Reagan as a political figure and helped him become president.
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney raised millions of dollars through his PAC, Free and Strong America. He also formed state-level spinoffs in key areas like Iowa and New Hampshire. George P. Bush — an up-and-coming member of the Bush political dynasty — is involved with at least two PACs.
“Forming a PAC is just one of the legal hoops you jump through if you’re even contemplating running for president. In fact, it’s so routine that lots and lots of members of Congress with no intention of ever running for president or anything still form PACs. It’s just a vehicle,” said Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report in Washington, D.C.
Jindal’s PAC is not the same as a super PAC, which can raise unlimited dollars in support of a specific candidate. Individual contributions to PACs are capped at $5,000.
Timmy Teepell, one of the governor’s political consultants, said Stand Up to Washington can only be used to support candidates in congressional races.
“This federal PAC could not be used to help with a potential presidential run,” Teepell said. He added that Jindal has no interest himself in running for the U.S. Senate, dousing speculation that the governor is looking in that direction after struggling to resonate on the national political stage.
In the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual straw poll for the Republican presidential nomination last week, Jindal only garnered 2 percent of the vote. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, was the runaway winner.
Jindal told Politico that he is undecided on whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but acknowledged that everyone knows he’s thinking about it.
The creation of the PAC and Jindal’s trip to New Hampshire are widely being viewed as methodical moves in a political chess game. The governor’s agenda in New Hampshire includes the PLUS Company’s annual Wild Irish Breakfast and the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Jindal also is expected to squeeze in time for the state’s influential political figures. New Hampshire hosts the first of the national primaries, making it an important stop for White House hopefuls.
Pearson Cross, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette political scientist, said the PAC seems to indicate that Jindal will spend an increased amount of time out of state. He said that seems counterproductive given Jindal’s sinking popularity rankings in Louisiana.
“I really thought he would spend more time in the state repairing the damage to his reputation,” Cross said, referring to Jindal’s frequent trips away from home. Jindal spent almost one day of every four outside Louisiana in 2012. His frequent flyer miles have made him a target for criticism.
Jindal told Politico: “Obviously, my main focus is still going to be continuing to help governors win their races and candidates to win gubernatorial races. But I also get a ton of requests to go and speak and help federal candidates in the Senate and the House. So we just thought this was a logical thing to do.”
The governor’s political consultant, Curt Anderson, dismissed suggestions that Jindal will rack up more absentee days. “I would argue that his sked (schedule) will be pretty similar to what it has been and is now. Most of his out of state efforts will be focused on helping to elect Republican Governors,” Anderson said by email.
Jindal already has a nonprofit organization, America Next. The group is based in Washington, D.C., and is supposed to generate solutions to national problems.
The only thing that surprises Cook is that Jindal didn’t already have a PAC.
“It’s a vehicle you do to make it easier to pay for plane tickets, run around the country. Sure, you make a few contributions here or there. But generally speaking these kinds of PACs are not done to affect elections as much as to provide a vehicle for someone who’s looking to move up, to move around the country,” Cook said.