Feb 18, 2013 12:58 PM by AP
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - While Gov. Bobby Jindal crisscrossed the country stumping for Mitt Romney's unsuccessful White House bid, Louisiana taxpayers picked up the tab for the governor's security detail, with a price tag topping $18,000.
The Republican governor's trip on an Iowa bus tour aimed at ousting an Iowa Supreme Court justice cost Louisiana nearly $1,200. A September speech by Jindal to the New Hampshire Republican Party added another $2,500 to the tally.
Taxpayers in Jindal's home state have shelled out thousands as the governor travels the country for political events, fundraisers and campaign speeches that have little to do with official state business.
Jindal's campaign, other GOP campaigns or event hosts pay for the governor's flights, meals and hotels when he travels for non-state business, but the Louisiana State Police reaches into its own budget to cover similar costs for the governor's bodyguards.
An Associated Press review of the expense statements filed by troopers shows at least $226,500 has been paid for out-of-state travel with Jindal since he took office in 2008.
Sixty-two percent of the money spent on flights, hotel rooms, meals and taxis for the security guards involved trips that had more to do with Jindal's political ambitions and his prominence within the Republican Party than his role as Louisiana's chief executive.
A spokesman for the governor, Sean Lansing, didn't directly answer a question about whether Jindal has considered reimbursing the security detail's travel costs from the $3.7 million in his own campaign account, rather than from tax dollars in a state struggling with repeated budget shortfalls.
"The state does not pay for the governor's 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," Lansing said in a statement.
"The governor trusts them to do their job, and he is grateful for their service. We wouldn't want anyone else interfering with their security determinations," Lansing said.
Considered a possible 2016 presidential contender, Jindal has traveled to dozens of states to collect campaign dollars, meet voters and help other Republican candidates. He has built a network of fundraising and political relationships that position him well for a future national campaign.
The governor has visited 37 states on almost 170 trips, according to an AP tally of the travel announced by Jindal's office since 2008.
In 2012, Jindal campaigned with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He talked at the Oklahoma Republican Party's state convention. He helped fundraise for the GOP in Alabama, New Mexico and Colorado. He traveled across 10 states to pitch Romney for president.
Col. Mike Edmonson, the superintendent of state police and a Jindal appointee, said he has never asked - and the governor has never offered - to reimburse the trooper travel costs.
"When is he not the governor? They're always governor no matter what they're doing, so you have to protect them," Edmonson said.
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 state police determine how many troopers are in Jindal's security detail depending on the location and event.
Edmonson said the out-of-state expenses haven't been a hindrance to his budget. He said he has worked with other states to have their local police help with security to reduce Louisiana's costs, and he said Jindal keeps the trips short, which shrinks expenses.
"Bobby Jindal will come home a lot, so he's not spending the night out. A lot of these things are one-day trips. The ones that are overnight have been minimal. That cuts down on costs a lot," the police superintendent said.