A charity headed by the wife of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has received nearly $1 million in donations from insurers, oil companies and other large corporations, reports The New York Times. What do the companies have in common? They're all highly vulnerable to the whims of state regulators. The Times' extensive report details the contributions made to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana's Children. It's a wonderful-sounding charity that gives high-tech whiteboards to needy schools across the state. But is it receiving funds in exchange for regulatory favors from governor Jindal? You decide. Here's a breakdown of the facts from the report.
Cause for Concern
- After Jindal's administration signed off on Marathon Oil's request to increase its oil refinery's output, the oil giant committed $250,000 to the foundation.
- AT&T needed Jindal's signature on a bill giving the company more freedom to sell cable TV services. It committed $250,000 to his wife's foundation.
- Northrop Grumman, a military contractor, forged a deal with the government to build a maintenance facility at a former Air Force base. It has pledged $10,000.
- Dow Chemical, a petrochemical company, was under investigation for a spill at one of its plants and, in 2009, the state proposed fining the company. Dow has pledged $100,000 to the charity and thus far hasn't been fined.
- Alon USA, an Israeli oil company, wanted approval to release more pollutants at one of its refineries. It has pledged $250,000.
- D&J Construction has won $67.6 million in state contracts since 2009. It has pledged $10,000.
- Governor Jindal hasn't "entirely distanced himself" from the charty, notes the Times. He's pictured with his wife on the charity's corporate solicitation web page and his chief fund-raiser is the charity's treasurer, according to its tax returns.
In Defense of Jindal
- Jindal's spokesman insists the governor has never personally helped any of the charity's corporate donors in the state government.
- Jindal's press secretary described the charity as a "completely nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization created by the first lady, who as an engineer and the mother of three children, has a passion for helping our young people learn science and math.” She added that "anything other than this reality has plainly been dreamed up by partisan hacks living in a fantasy land.”
- The president of Alon USA denies his company wanted favors for its donation. “I can understand how people might be concerned, when you have a congressman or others who have their own charities,” he said. “But that is not the case here. It is apparent that the children of Louisiana have been blessed by Supriya’s involvement.” A Marathon Oil spokesman responded similarly, saying its donation was a good match for its philanthropic mission.
- Jindal is hardly alone. According to the Times, "foundations linked to more than a dozen members of Congress have routinely accepted donations from businesses seeking to influence them."
- Also, the chalkboards the charity is distributing sound pretty sweet. They are interactive and "allow teachers to download multimedia lesson plans to help teach math or science." The charity has already installed 170 of them at a cost of about $1 million.