Friday, April 3, 2009

Early Edition: "Jindal's List," Part 2

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2009 at 9:39 PM

(Every Friday afternoon, Gambit will be posting a story from the upcoming week’s print edition as a Web extra “early edition” for our Internet readers. This week: Jeremy Alford continues his multi-part series about the finances of Gov. Bobby Jindal. Part 1, "Jindal's List," is here.)

DEEP POCKETS

By Jeremy Alford

The first person to benefit from economic development aid under Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration was Gary Chouest, owner of Edison Chouest Offshore and C-Logistics in Lafourche Parish. The announcement came last year during Jindal's second special session. During the governor's opening remarks, he identified a group of "real people," including Chouest, and asked them to stand.

??The bayou mogul obliged and gave a nod to the new Republican governor. Chouest was a happy man that day, sporting a smile ear to ear. Who could blame him? After all, Jindal had just announced that the state was prepared to invest $10 million into the Port of Terrebonne to accommodate LaShip, an Edison Chouest subsidiary.

??That's big bucks, even for a man like Chouest. Luckily for Jindal, Chouest believes in investing in politicians with whom he agrees. Over the past two years, Chouest's businesses and closest family members have given Jindal's campaign at least 18 donations totaling $85,000.

??Did that money help Jindal make his decision to back the LaShip project? Kyle Plotkin, Jindal's press secretary, calls that a ridiculous notion. "Contributors to Gov. Jindal support his agenda for reforming Louisiana and moving our state forward, not the other way around," Plotkin says. "In fact, the governor has more than 21,000 contributors representing all different types of people and organizations."

??Still, Jindal has made such an issue of his own ethical purity that when he does what other governors have routinely done -- reward campaign contributors with state work or appointments -- it raises eyebrows. And make no mistake: Jindal has used the power of his office to reward friends as much as any of his predecessors.

??Based on a review of Jindal's 2007 and 2008 campaign finance reports and the state's vendor payment list for the current fiscal year alone, the governor's critics could easily claim that campaign contributions play a significant role in helping companies land state work and/or assistance. Since he took office in January 2008, the state has awarded tens of millions of dollars of work and incentives to various Jindal donors....

Read the rest of the story here.

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