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Jindal Off and Running — and Exaggerating

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  Gov. Bobby Jindal unofficially kicked off his re-election campaign last week by launching a statewide media buy for a TV ad touting his anti-tax and job-creation credentials. Jindal has no declared opponent, but he does have more than $9 million in cash on hand in his campaign account. Most observers admit he may as well spend some of his campaign money before voters get a dose of bad news in the upcoming legislative session, during which the governor and lawmakers will announce budget cuts.

  Jindal's ads also reinforce his no-taxes position to lawmakers, some of whom are grumbling that Louisiana should look beyond budget cuts and one-time monies to balance the next fiscal year's budget. In his proposed budget, which was released almost a week before the ads began running, Jindal uses a combination of higher tuitions and fees to keep higher education whole and a combination of one-time funds and cuts to plug the rest of what was once seen as a $1.6 billion revenue shortfall.

  "Our economy has certainly done better than the region and the country's economy, but we are impacted by this national recession," Jindal says in the ad. "We can't get complacent. We can't be satisfied with the progress we've made."

  That message echoes what Jindal is telling crowds as he travels the state. On March 15, the governor appeared at the Jefferson Parish Pachyderm Club's annual cochon de lait at the Harahan Lions Club. Jindal told a packed audience of GOP faithful and elected officials that he will not budge on his opposition to taxes — not even on cigarette taxes, which many people favor as a way to reduce smoking.

  He also touted his ethics reform credentials, which caused some in the crowd (including a few lawmakers) to roll their eyes. "We are rated No. 1 in the country for legislative ethics laws," Jindal crowed, ignoring the fact that his own office ranks near the bottom among America's governors on the issue of transparency.

  Jindal made the most recent "Worst Governors" list issued annually by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). CREW's stated criteria were "whether governors had violated ethics, campaign finance and personal financial disclosure rules as well as whether they had complied with state transparency laws." Jindal was in the bottom 11 of the list.

  CREW noted that Jindal "prevented the public release of government records and has fought legislation to make government more transparent," "weakened the authority of the state ethics board" and "rewarded campaign donors with government jobs and contracts" (see Gambit's March 23, 2009 cover story, "Jindal's List"). — Clancy DuBos

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