March 3, 2011

Bobby JindalGovernor Bobby Jindal’s (R-LA) campaign donors recognize the value of strategic charitable giving. CREW researchers found nine companies that contributed to Gov. Jindal’s campaigns have also collectively pledged $790,000 to a charitable foundation headed by First Lady Supriya Jindal.  That’s a lot more cash than the $5,000 that Louisiana campaign finance laws allow donors to contribute directly to the governor’s campaign committee. Also, Gov. Jindal’s chief fundraiser coincidentally serves as treasurer for the foundation, which distributes interactive whiteboard technology to schools across Louisiana.

The companies donating money have a lot of incentive to build up their influence with Gov. Jindal.  Not only do these companies make tens of millions of dollars doing business with the state of Louisiana, they employ a small army of state-level lobbyists dedicated to turning their wish lists into reality, and they’ve benefited directly from some of Gov. Jindal’s actions. Read the details in CREW’s report here.

Gov. Jindal’s donors aren’t the first to use a family charitable foundation as a path to influencing a politician. But just because it represents business as usual doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

Reporter Eric Lipton wrote about CREW’s findings in The New York Times today:

“The foundation has collected nearly $1 million in previously unreported pledges from major oil companies, insurers and other corporations in Louisiana with high-stakes regulatory issues…”

“It is among the newest of charities set up by elected officials, including members of Congress, or their families that are mutually beneficial: companies seeking to influence politicians or curry favor can donate unrestricted amounts of money, while the officials benefit from the good will associated with charitable work financed by businesses.”