Zurik: Jindal deflects questions on campaign travel costs

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Governor Bobby Jindal deflects our questions about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Louisiana State Police travel during his presidential campaign. Our investigation from November showed more than $400,000 spent on rental cars, rooms and airfare, and nearly $600,000 spent on police overtime.

Tuesday, we tracked down the governor after he toured a 9th Ward school; we asked whether he will repay any of that money to the state.

"Lee, look, we defer to [Colonel Mike Edmonson] and State Police regarding any decisions regarding security," he told us.  "I am very, very grateful for the job they do. They do a great job, protecting me and my family."

In 2015, State Police spent 255 days on the road protecting Gov. Jindal in Iowa, New Hampshire, even Ohio as he campaigned for president - travel that cost state taxpayers plenty.

"The governor needs to reimburse the state," State Treasurer John Kennedy told us in a November 17 interview. "It won't be his personal funds, it's out of his campaign account. I think that would be the right thing to do, and I hope bobby will consider doing that. I think he'll feel better after he's done it, I think the taxpayers will feel better. And I think it'd be the right thing to do."

Apparently, Jindal isn't planning to do that.

"We are here with parents and kids, talking about education reform," Jindal told us as we reiterated our questions.  "If you've got follow-up questions, you're welcome to talk with State Police."

Col. Edmonson told us the governor is the governor, no matter where he goes or what he does - and state law requires him to be protected.

But nothing in the law would prevent Jindal or his campaign from reimbursing the state.

"When you're running for president, it has nothing to do with Louisiana taxpayers," Kennedy told us. "He ought to pay for it."

Jindal's federal campaign records show he didn't rent a single car this year.  In 2015, Louisiana taxpayers spent $60,000 on out-of-town rental cars, mostly in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Consider the campaign reports for two other governors running for president. Ohio's John Kasich and New Jersey's Chris Christie have presidential expenditure reports filed from mid-July to mid-September.  For that time period, Christie's campaign spent $6,195 on rental cars, Kasich $7,983.

Remember: Jindal's campaign spent nothing on rental cars. But during that same period of time, mid-July to mid-September, Louisiana taxpayers rented dozens of cars. All totaled: $8,535.

When we asked about that rental cost, Jindal once again told us, "You're more than welcome talk to State Police. We're happy to defer to… all security decisions to State Police."

When we pressed further, the governor told us, "I am answering your question.  You may not like my answer, but I am answering your question.  We defer all decisions to State Police...  You can talk with State Police about how they make those decisions. I'm grateful for the work they do. I'm grateful for the job they do every day, not only for the job of protecting me and my family but for protecting Louisianans every day."

On July fourth of this year, hours before records show Jindal traveled to New Hampshire, Louisiana taxpayers even paid for his Iowa rental car to be washed.

Jindal repeatedly deflected our questions to State Police, even though taxpayers are footing the bill - at the same time the state budget has a half-billion dollar deficit.

Finally, when we suggest that this is not only a security decision but a fiscal decision, Gov. Jindal responded, "Again, we defer all these decisions to State Police. You are welcome to talk to State Police. We have always deferred all security decisions to State Police."

And those decisions, over the past few years, have cost taxpayers around $3 million.

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