Gov. Bobby Jindal has been advised to avoid issuing some politically charged statements through his taxpayer-funded office, following complaints over a news release the governor’s press office sent out this week calling U.S. Sen. Rand Paul “unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief.”
On Wednesday, the Governor’s Office drew some criticism after it sent out the news release, which bore the state seal and was posted to a government website, slamming Paul’s presidential ambitions because of critical remarks the Kentucky Republican had made about Republicans on national television.
In a statement Friday, Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street didn’t outright condemn the Governor’s Office, saying only that the incident “raises questions.” But he suggested that Jindal should handle future situations differently to avoid complaints.
“The Governor’s office could have easily avoided such questions by issuing the statement through means that did not involve the use of public funds or employees,” Street said, adding that he recommends that, “in order to avoid confusion and any appearance of impropriety in the future, any such statements by the governor be issued through non-publicly funded means, rather than through his publicly funded and maintained state website.”
Jindal’s office released a statement in response but didn’t comment on Street’s recommendation.
“We appreciate the Inspector General concluding this matter quickly,” Jindal spokesman Mike Reed said.
Paul launched his 2016 presidential campaign last month, but Street questioned whether he counts as a “candidate” under state law because qualifying won’t start until December. Meanwhile, Jindal last week launched an exploratory committee to weigh his own 2016 run.
After Jindal’s press office released the statement Wednesday, Louisiana Democrats called for an investigation, claiming it violated state law. Lawyer and frequent Jindal critic C.B. Forgotston identified himself among those who complained to the Inspector General’s Office, and, in a blog post, he urged others to do the same.
Jindal’s office repeatedly has defended the release. As Jindal has weighed a presidential run, Jindal’s press staff increasingly has sent out statements from the governor on national policy issues, including those that often target his foes, particularly President Barack Obama. Though it was headlined “Gov. Jindal: Senator Paul Unsuited to Be Commander-in-Chief,” the Jindal administration has maintained that the point of the Wednesday release was to draw attention to the threat of radical Islam.
Jindal defended using his taxpayer-funded office for the release during a meeting with reporters on Thursday.
“Look, I think that national security matters are important to the people of Louisiana,” he said. “I thought it was important for me to share my views on keeping our country safe from the threat of radical terrorists, Islamic terrorists. They’re not just attacking us overseas, as we saw at the awful incident in Garland, Texas. They’re attacking us here at home, as well.”
Paul had said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday that Republicans are to blame for a rise in Islamic State militants.
“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of these arms were snatched up by ISIS,” he said.
In recent months, Jindal has commented extensively on radical Islam and the Islamic State group.
“This is a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief. We have men and women in the military who are in the field trying to fight ISIS right now, and Senator Paul is taking the weakest, most liberal Democrat position,” Jindal argued in the Wednesday statement from his office. “(T)he next President’s job is to have the discipline and strength to wipe ISIS off the face of the earth. It has become impossible to imagine a President Paul defeating radical Islam and it’s time for the rest of us to say it.”
Jindal’s presidential exploratory committee sent a similar email, with links to a donation page, on Thursday.