Jindal’s Asia trip costs taxpayers $57,000

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s weeklong business mission to Asia cost taxpayers roughly $57,000.

More than half of the tab was for the governor and first lady’s security team. Taxpayers picked up state troopers’ lodging, meals, airfare, dry cleaning and subway tickets.

Added expenses included breakfast meetings and rental cars as the governor and his entourage hopped from Taiwan to South Korea and then to Japan in mid-January.

“On the trip, we met with about a dozen companies that are actively considering large potential manufacturing projects in our state. It is clear there is a high level of interest in Louisiana among companies based in Asia because of our state’s economic momentum and continuous growth, and we expect the trip will have a high return on investment for taxpayers,” the governor said in a prepared statement Monday.

The Governor’s Office, the state Department of Economic Development and Louisiana State Police released travel expense records in response to a public records request.

The records span several hundred pages. Louisiana State Police heavily redacted its Bank of America statements, blacking out purchases it said were unrelated to the trip.

Jindal billed the trip as a marketing and business development mission. The governor met with Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-Jeou as well as Formosa, Shin-Etsu and Sumitomo Corporation executives.

The governor’s wife, Supriya, and his chief of staff, Kyle Plotkin, accompanied him on the trip.

Also making the journey were state Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret and two members of Moret’s team: John Voorhorst, executive director of international commerce, and Jeff Lynn, executive director of FastStart.

Jindal and his wife always travel with security. For the overseas trip, State Police sent seven troopers. State Police spokesman Capt. Doug Cain said a big team was needed due to the number of locations, transportation issues and language barriers. Security costs rang in at $30,160.90.

Before the trip, the Jindal administration said the governor would use campaign funds for his airfare to defray costs.

However, the state’s records include an $883.30 airline reservation for Jindal. He apparently flew from Taipei, Taiwan, to Seoul, Korea, and then from Seoul to Osaka, Japan, on state government’s reservation.

The state also paid at least some hotel costs for the Jindals and Plotkin with the swipe of a credit card held by state Department of Economic Development officials. It is unclear from the records whether the agency picked up their meal expenses as well.

The governor’s press office said Monday that Jindal’s campaign paid for all of his flights as well as his hotel expenses in Taipei and Seoul. The office said the campaign also paid for most of the meals with the exception of food consumed during business meetings.

During the weeklong trip, the delegation stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Taipei, Taiwan; Hilton in Osaka, Japan,;Imperial Hotel in Tokyo; and JW Marriott in Seoul, Korea.

The most glamorous was the Imperial — a 1970s-era replacement of the hotel Frank Lloyd Wright designed. It is described by Conde Nast Traveler as Tokyo’s answer to The Ritz.

It was the priciest of the group’s accommodations at nearly $300 a night.

The records include a lengthy email exchange over setting up a breakfast meeting for 12 people at the hotel in Seoul.

“Please ensure that Diet Coke is with the soft drinks,” Economic Development Department executive assistant Angel Tetrick stressed in one email. Rather than the Korean or Japanese breakfast, Tetrick chose scrambled eggs and ham for the delegation.

Originally, the trip was supposed to extend by an extra day. The added day was not canceled far enough in advance to prevent Jindal’s security team from dispatching to the location, incurring costs.

“We had a potential, additional meeting opportunity come up to possibly extend the trip by a day, but the logistics didn’t work out for the company involved. Fortunately, executives of that company indicated while we were in Asia that they will come to Louisiana later instead to discuss our proposal,” Moret said by email.

The $30,160.90 tab for the Jindals’ security is less than what New Jersey taxpayers paid for their state’s governor, Chris Christie, to spend Holy Week in the Middle East in 2012. Travel for Christie’s state troopers cost nearly $40,000.