Posted: Mar 16, 2011 8:20 PM by Alison Haynes
Updated: Mar 17, 2011 5:04 AM
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - As Gov. Bobby Jindal crisscrossed the country this fall to promote his book, stump for out-of-state candidates and raise campaign cash, part of the cost was being picked by Louisiana's taxpayers.
While the Republican governor's campaign account or those hosting events cover his expenses for such political trips, state tax dollars pay for flights, hotel rooms, meals and taxis for the Louisiana State Police security guards traveling with Jindal.
An Associated Press review of public records shows Jindal's out-of-state travels have cost taxpayers $134,000 through the end of last year, 56 percent of it for dozens of trips that weren't state business.
None of the money has been reimbursed by the governor's campaign, which has raised more than $12 million for his 2011 re-election and has $9 million in the bank.
"I leave all security determinations up to the state police. I trust them to do their jobs. I'd never want to second-guess them," Jindal said in an interview Wednesday.
More than $75,000 of the spending was for Jindal's own re-election fundraising, a book tour that included stops in California and New York, and campaign help for gubernatorial and congressional candidates from Wisconsin and Illinois to New Mexico and Florida.
Jindal, who has been mentioned as a future White House contender, sidestepped questions about whether he's considered having his campaign fund reimburse the costs, saying the troopers are providing the security for the governor as required under state law.
Budget cuts have stopped state police from training new troopers for the last two years. A new trooper earns a $31,000 starting salary.
The state police determine how many troopers are in Jindal's security detail depending on the location and event. They work on a rotating schedule. State police protection for the governor and his family is written into law, whether it's state business, a political event or a campaign fundraiser.
"The law doesn't distinguish. The law requires us to provide security for the governor, and that's what we do, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Lt. Doug Cain, a state police spokesman.
Since Jindal took office in 2008, he's traveled to two dozen different states and Washington, D.C. - more than 70 trips in all. Some have been to meet with the state's congressional delegation, President Barack Obama and the nation's other governors.
But more of the travel has been for his re-election bid and his assistance for other GOP campaigns.
From September through December, after a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico had been plugged, Jindal took 20 trips around the country, including stops in New York, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, California, Texas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Georgia and Ohio.
Nearly all were for political events, including a whirlwind Republican Governors Association tour of states with tough governor's races, a series of stump speeches and fundraisers for congressional candidates, and a New York trip to NBC's "Today" show and for other interviews promoting his book "Leadership and Crisis," which came out in November.
Jindal didn't do similar endorsements and campaigning for Louisiana candidates during the 2010 election cycle.
The head of Louisiana State Police, Col. Mike Edmonson, said he's made moves within his department - and specifically within the protective detail - to trim costs and use his dollars more efficiently.
When the governor's traveling away from Louisiana, Edmonson said he's partnered with law enforcement agencies in other states to help guard Jindal and do some of the advance work.
"I said, `Let's be responsible, let's look for cost-savings factors,"' Edmonson said Wednesday. "It is not taking away from me doing other things. Even though they may be traveling more, we're not spending a whole lot more."
The frequent trips have drawn complaints from some voters who say the governor should stay home and cope with Louisiana's budget problems, recovery from the oil spill and economic issues, said Baton Rouge-based pollster Bernie Pinsonat.
"It came up as a negative for Jindal," Pinsonat said of the
trips around the nation. "There are people who think his job
should be governor and activities outside the state should be
limited and curtailed."
But Pinsonat said Jindal's clearly tried to address those
concerns by spending significant time traveling around Louisiana
and holding regular events to describe his work on state budget
troubles and other matters.