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Bobby's Symbolic Splash

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Does Gov. Bobby Jindal dislike LSU football? He snubbed an invitation from his predecessor, then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco, to watch the Tigers win the BCS championship on Jan. 7 in the governor's suite of the Superdome, and now he's giving up his 10 free tickets to the university's suite in Tiger Stadium.

Before any purple-and-gold diehards fire up a recall petition, take heart: he's doing it all in the name of "ethics."

According to Jindal's executive counsel, Jimmy Faircloth, LSU is indirectly under the governor's control and, therefore, accepting free tickets to LSU home games might be seen as a gratuity. "The perception is so obvious that it makes it an easy decision," Faircloth told The Times-Picayune last week.

That's an interesting quote, coming from Faircloth. He's the guy who promised, upon getting his appointment from Jindal last December, that he would give up his private law practice. Less than six months later, on May 1, he signed on as lead trial counsel in an ongoing lawsuit on behalf of one of his "former" clients. Apparently Faircloth's turnabout was a matter of nuance, nowhere near as "obvious" an ethical dilemma as a governor attending the home football games of the state's flagship public university.

Don't get me wrong — I'm all in favor of ethics and ethical standards. In fact, that's the rub: if Jindal wants to establish an ethical standard, then by definition it should apply across the board. That's not what's happening here.

For example, Jindal is not giving up his tickets to Saints home games in the Superdome, where the governor's office has a suite. Nor is he foregoing his use of the governor's suite in the New Orleans Arena for Hornets home games. Here again, Faircloth has parsed Jindal's ethical runes and concluded there are no inconsistencies: "There's actually lease agreements ... that assign those to the governor's office," Faircloth told the T-P.

Yeah, that clears it up.

On top of all that, you can bet Jindal's staff will continue to score tickets to Hannah Montana concerts and other high-demand events. That kind of access comes with the suite in the Arena. (Jindal's chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, scored three ridiculously hard-to-get Hannah tickets for his brother, and Jindal gave free tickets to favored lawmakers — right in the middle of his famously pious push to bar them from getting free tickets to sporting and cultural events.)

Truth be told, if Jindal really wanted to succumb to a fit of ethics — which I would applaud — he could start by applying to himself and his staff the same ethical standards that he seeks to impose on others. Like financial disclosure, which he refused to apply to his inner circle during his own special session on ethics. And Louisiana's Public Records Act, which specifically exempts the governor's office. In two legislative sessions, Jindal opposed expanding the law's application to his office.

He also could support the kind of "transparency" proposed by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, who recently authored a bill to require governors to disclose information about campaign contributors who they later hire or appoint to plum state jobs or commissions. Jindal vetoed Abramson's bill, which lawmakers passed unanimously, claiming the measure had a "drafting error."

Just to be clear: I'm all for Jindal making a splash in the name of "ethics." But it sure would be nice if we got something substantive out of it — and not just a toothless tiger soaking us with symbolism.

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