Zurik: Jindal gets super support from super PAC donors

Zurik: Jindal gets super support from super PAC donors

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Bobby Jindal's presidential run has been fueled by more than $4.5 million in money, sent to independent groups connected to the Louisiana governor.  Those groups have mostly raised Louisiana money, with most of the donations connected to state government.

Shavano Park, Texas, just outside San Antonio, is 475 miles from the state capitol in Louisiana. But one Texas resident, Dan Brouillette, has interest in our state.

The Louisiana native is now a Texan.  He sits on Louisiana's state mineral board, which oversees oil and gas industries in the state. Brouillette is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy and now works for an insurance company, USAA, as a senior VP of governmental relations.

In 2013, Governor Bobby Jindal appointed Brouillette to the state mineral board. This year, Brouillette's company, USAA, donated $100,000 to the American Future Project, a 527 group, to help fund Jindal's presidential campaign.

"Big bucks" is what UNO political analyst Ed Chervenak calls that sort of donation.

USAA sent FOX 8 this response to our requests for comment on this report:

USAA provides financial services to military families, and we provide financial support to candidates and organizations that embrace policies that help us serve those families. USAA's support of the American Future Project in 2015 was in recognition of work and positions taken with regard to defense and security matters, including the impact of sequestration on the military community.

We also encourage all our employees to engage in community and public organizations. Louisiana native Dan Brouillette's 2013 appointment to the state mineral and energy board was presumably due to his expertise in the energy sector. He was legislative director to a longtime Louisiana congressman, and later served as Staff Director to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.  He also served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, nominated by President George W. Bush.  Dan serves pro bono on the mineral board and receives no state compensation or reimbursement for his expenses.  This is in keeping with his long history of serving his home state, which includes his service in the U.S. Army and leading Katrina catastrophe response efforts for his former employer, Ford Motor Company.  We are not surprised to see that record of service continue.

The connections between Jindal's presidential contributions and Louisiana boards came into sharp focus earlier this month, with the publication of a story by the Huffington Post about Jindal's supporters.

"Some of these folks are giving money for access," explains Jeremy Alford of the political news site LaPolitics.com.  "Access doesn't come free; it certainly doesn't come cheap."

The most given for Jindal's presidency was by Galliano businessman Gary Chouest, who in one day this year wrote Jindal's super PAC a $1 million check. In 2008, Jindal announced the state would invest $10 million in the port of Terrebonne, which would help Chouest's company expand its operation.

So why are these powerful business people donating so much money in support of Jindal's presidential ambitions?

"That's a great question," Chervenak says. "It seems like a lot of money to give to a candidate who has no absolutely no chance to become president."

Jindal has a presidential campaign account.  But that account has limits on the amount contributors can donate.  So many are sending their money to two other accounts: Believe Again, a super PAC, and American Future Project, a 527. Both were created to support Jindal's presidential bid.

Alford calls super PAC's "the Wild West of fundraising." Contributors can donate as much as they want to super PAC's and 527 political groups, giving big bucks to a presidential long shot.

"He could end up in a secretary's gig," Alford suggests. "He could end up higher up with the [Republican National Committee]. He could end up with an influential nonprofit, maybe even his own. So I think that there's a back end to consider on this, that, you know, maybe they're not paying to have access to the future president but to whatever position Bobby Jindal ends up in after this race."

Roy Martin of Alexandria gave $25,000 to Believe Again. Martin's companies have received more than $80 million in incentives and tax breaks from the state, including some approved a month after this donation.

Martin sent us this statement:

RoyOMartin is a forest products manufacturing and forestry company that currently employs 1100 people directly and owns more than 570,000 acres of Forest Stewardship Council certified timberlands in 33 Louisiana  parishes. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in plant assets located in rural parishes creating hundreds of direct and thousands of indirect jobs over the past 40 years and even more since our founding in 1923.

Kennedy Rice Dryers gave $22,120.  In the last three years, that company has received $3,192,047 in economic development incentives from the state.

Madden Contracting gave $25,000.  Last year, state records show, the company made $40,668,034 in state money.

In 2014, MCNA Healthcare became the operator of Louisiana's Medicaid dental plans.  State records show it's a $484 million contract.  Less than a year after signing that deal, MCNA donated $50,000 to Jindal's super PAC.  One month later, MCNA donated another $50,000 after receiving that large state contract.

"The folks who are going after those contracts are going to throw money around on the political side," Alford says. "And really, quite frankly, it's perfectly legal."

In June 2014, Jindal reappointed James Moore to LSU's board of supervisors.  Early this year, Moore gave Jindal's super PAC a $25,000 donation. Another LSU board member, Lee Mallett, gave $25,000 through his company, Best Buy Industries, LLC.  And Marsha Yarborough, wife of LSU board member Bobby, gave $100,000.

Dave Roberts, a Jindal appointee on the state's Superdome and racing commissions, also gave $100,000.

"The system, which has taken away limits, does work when you can do reports based upon campaign finance disclosure," says FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman. "Where the system breaks down is when you get into a world where the donors and the amounts of money that they give is hidden by voters."

Acadian Ambulance, through connected companies and its owner, gave Jindal's presidential campaign $219,322.86.  Acadian participates in the state's Medicaid program and, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals, was paid nearly $27,985,394 during the last fiscal year.

Acadian responded to our request for comment on this story with this statement:

Over the last 5 years, reimbursement rates for ground ambulance services have been cut by in excess of 12%. While reimbursements under the Medicaid Program for services provided may amount to "millions of dollars" over a referenced time period,  actual earnings on those reimbursements under the state Medicaid Program have been reduced over the past 5 years. Therefore, quite to the contrary, we see  no correlation whatsoever between political contributions of the company in support of the Governor's policies and the reimbursements to Acadian, or other healthcare providers, for that matter,  for participation in the Medicaid program.

"They are a major player on the scene," Alford says. "They throw a lot of money around."

Nursing homes gave $357,000 to Jindal's presidential run. One nursing home owner gave nearly half the money - Teddy Price donated $150,000 through 22 different companies.

The head of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association told us by email that campaign finance is a reality.  Two years ago, Joe Donchess responded to statewide contributions in an on-camera interview.

"Campaign contributions are just, you know, a part of the process," Donchess told us. "People ask us for contributions; we give contributions."

Most of the money to Jindal's presidential run was donated on April 13 of this year.  We asked Donchess if the Nursing Home Association held a fundraiser on April 13, and he told us no. We then asked if LNHA held any fundraisers for the Jindal presidential campaign, or whether members themselves held such functions; he never responded.

In response to this story, Jindal's campaign sent a one-sentence statement: "Successful business people in Louisiana believe in and support Governor Jindal."

In the past, Jindal has been unwilling to answer our questions about connections between government and his campaign.

The $4.5 million in contributions to these political groups covers just half of the year, from January through June.  Jindal remains a presidential candidate, despite hovering around the 1 percent mark in nationwide polls. But his showing so far has not dissuaded some deep-pocketed supporters from contributing freely to Jindal's super PAC and other political groups.

"Bobby Jindal is still governor of Louisiana," Alford notes.  "He still has sway over the capital outlay process, certain contracts.  So he still has a finger on the pulse of Louisiana. Although he's outside the state more than he's inside the state here, lately, he still is the chief executive."

The owner of this TV station, Tom Benson, donated $25,000 to Jindal's super PAC.

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