Governor spent at least 86 days politicking out of state in 2012
BY MICHELLE MILLHOLLON
Capitol news bureau
April 10, 2013
During 2012, Gov. Bobby Jindal spent almost one day of every four — at least 86 of 365 days — out of the state, mostly campaigning for Republican candidates around the nation and speaking to conservative political groups.
Various GOP supporters and campaigns paid for Jindal’s hotel rooms and airfare for the campaign trips. Louisiana taxpayers, however, paid $65,000 to feed, house and, often, fly his security team. Those taxpayer dollars also often ensured that the governor’s luggage arrived ahead of him, allowing him to quickly move through airports.
Though Louisiana held no major statewide balloting in 2012, it was a major election year elsewhere in the nation, and Jindal stumped for Republican presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.
During the same time, Louisiana entered its fifth year of budget cuts because the state doesn’t have enough revenues to pay for services. Jindal shepherded a sweeping overhaul of the state’s public school system, pushed legislation that changed retirement for future state workers and began efforts to privatize the state’s public hospitals.
On many of his trips out of the state, Jindal campaigned for Republican candidates: North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, of Nevada; U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, of Colorado; and Bill Maloney, the GOP candidate for governor in West Virginia, among others.
He addressed state Republican party organizations in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama and helped raise money for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Opportunity Virginia PAC.
Jindal spoke to the American Federation for Children, a national group pushing legislation to allow public tax dollars to help pay tuition for private schools.
He also spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference and attended several Republican Governors Association events and the annual Red State Gathering, as well as other events.
He was out of Louisiana at least 86 days, making stops in more than half of the 50 states, according to State Police records and statements from the Governor’s Press Office.
Not all of the trips are represented in the available records.
For instance, Jindal flew to Grand Island, Neb., on July 14 to address the Nebraska Republican Party State Convention at a $500-per-person event. He called President Barack Obama “the most liberal president” and “the most incompetent president” since former President Jimmy Carter, according to reports published in The Grand Island Independent. He returned that night, according to a statement by his press office and newspaper reports.
Lt. Doug Cain, a spokesman for the Louisiana State Police, said when the governor flies to an event and returns the same day, overtime often is not used and other expenses aren’t incurred, making reports for those trips unnecessary.
State Police and Jindal’s press office statements show that in 2012, the governor took seven trips to Iowa, where party caucuses are the first presidential preference contest every four years, and three trips to New Hampshire, where the first presidential primary election is held.
The governor’s travels included trips first in support of Perry, then for Romney after Perry failed to secure his party’s nomination, according to the documents.
Jindal also went on a family trip to Miami and attended Mardi Gras festivities in Washington, D.C., a White House dinner and a number of Republican Party events, the records show.
The governor declined an interview request to talk about the reasons for his travel and its costs.
His press office instead released a prepared statement quoting Jindal as saying: “The state does not pay for my unofficial travel out of state. As far as State Police, they have a legal duty to provide protection. As far as how, when, and where they do that — that’s up to them. We leave all security determinations up to the State Police. I trust them to do their job — and I am grateful for their service. I wouldn’t want anyone else interfering with their security determinations.”
Much of Jindal’s travel expenses are detailed in records provided by State Police, which is tasked with guarding the governor, his wife and children. The records were made public at the request of The Advocate.
State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said he tries to keep down costs by avoiding overtime and by asking other states to help with the governor’s security when Jindal leaves Louisiana.
“I’ve been very frugal,” Edmonson said. “I utilize people that are on the scene.”
He said Jindal remains the governor even when he is outside Louisiana. That status, Edmonson said, requires protection.
Shortly after New Year’s Day 2012, Jindal flew to Iowa, the records indicate, in an attempt to help boost Perry’s lagging poll numbers ahead of the state’s pivotal presidential caucuses. Perry blanketed Iowa with television advertising — the most of any candidate — and 500 volunteers, according to newspaper accounts at the time. Jindal recounted in speeches how Perry sent planes to help evacuate Louisiana hospitals during hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Jindal also said Perry, who had not lost an election since 1984, was an executive who could create jobs.
Perry came in fifth in the Iowa caucus balloting.
The cost to Louisiana taxpayers for that Iowa trip was $1,642.03. State troopers ate meals, tipped bellhops, slept at a Sheraton hotel, rented a vehicle, bought gas and paid $60 in airline luggage charges.
A Jindal family trip to Miami after the Iowa caucuses was more expensive. Jindal paid for his family’s travel and lodging.
For that trip, State Police records show, the luggage charges were $770 to fly the family’s bags ahead of them on an earlier flight for their vacation.
Edmonson said it is standard security procedure to avoid making a top level official wait for luggage at an airport.
“He goes right to the plane,” he said.
Troopers bunked where the governor’s family slept, paying nearly $500 a night for a room at a hotel, the name of which is blacked out on State Police records.
In April, three months after Perry suspended his campaign, Jindal announced his support for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who hoped to oust Obama from the White House.
Jindal made a number of appearances on the campaign trail for Romney, including a trip around the Fourth of July to Ohio and Pennsylvania. Jindal and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were dispatched to counter a campaign trip through the area by Obama.
According to reports from newspapers in Ohio and Pennsylvania: Jindal and Pawlenty stopped by Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream stand in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; told University of Akron student Alyssa Bailey to volunteer to work on political campaigns; attacked what Jindal called Obama’s broken promises to a crowd of about 20 in Maumee, Ohio; talked over chanting protesters in Parma, Ohio, to say Obama was “the most liberal and incompetent president since Jimmy Carter”; and ordered a turkey and cheese sandwich at Primanti Brothers restaurant, a Pittsburgh institution.
Jindal rode on a “Romney for President” bus, but Louisiana taxpayers paid $2,672.22 for his security detail’s meals, tolls, parking, hotels, airfare, fuel and car. Included in the tab was $125 for luggage.
Right before Jindal left on that campaign trip, his administration learned of the impact of a Congressional decision to slash the federal government’s share of funding to the state for its Medicaid program for the poor and uninsured. The administration had to figure out how to make up about $859 million in lost money. The congressional action led to LSU announcing dramatic cuts in services at the state’s 10 public hospitals.
October was particularly busy for the governor. He was out of state nearly half the month, raising money for Republicans, campaigning for Romney, attending a presidential debate and making appearances at Republican Governors Association events.
In the 55 days prior to the Nov. 6 presidential election, Jindal was out of state for 24 days visiting the battleground swing states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Nevada and Wisconsin. Jindal also visited the firmly Republican states of Georgia, Indiana and Montana, as well as the Democratic states of California and New York.
After the election, from Nov. 13-16, Jindal went to Nevada, where he was elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
He also met with billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, according to The Wall Street Journal. The sitdown with Adelson fueled speculation in the national media that Jindal wants to run for White House in 2016.
Adelson is a prolific campaign contributor, who according to Forbes Magazine donated $53 million to GOP candidates during the most recent election cycle.
The cost to Louisiana taxpayers for the Nevada trip was at least $3,600 because of airfare, luggage, meals, hotel rooms, tips, fuel and a $99 tour ticket stamped with the name Bellagio, a luxury hotel and casino in Las Vegas.
The governor closed out the year with a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend an education event at the Brookings Institute.