(AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal solidified his place in the national GOP over four years of traveling to fundraise for his re-election and Republican colleagues, pitch his book and mingle with hefty donors and well-connected political organizations.
The Louisiana State Police spent more to provide protection services for the Republican governor’s out-of-state political and fundraising travel than for work trips in other states, according to an Associated Press analysis of expense reimbursement documents.
Jindal’s out-of-state travel cost taxpayers more than $175,000 since he took office in 2008, and more than 57 percent of that spending for flights, hotel rooms, meals and taxis for the Louisiana State Police security guards traveling with Jindal covered trips that had less to do with his job as governor than with his political aspirations.
None of the money has been reimbursed by the governor’s campaign, which raised $13 million for his 2011 re-election and still has nearly $4 million in his campaign account, even after wrapping up his election costs and tallying much of his inauguration ceremony spending.
The governor’s protection is legally required. The governor hasn’t answered questions about whether he’s considered having his campaign reimburse the costs, or whether he has problems with taxpayers picking up the tab for his political travel, particularly as the state has faced repeated budget shortfalls.
“We leave all security determinations up to the state police. The governor trusts them to do their job, and he’s grateful for their service. We wouldn’t second-guess or try to interfere with their duties or security decisions,” Jindal spokesman Frank Collins said in a statement about the spending.
Touted by conservative pundits and Republican leaders as a future White House contender, Jindal has insisted he’s only interested in his position as governor. He was overwhelmingly re-elected in the fall to a new four-year term that runs until 2016. But he has traveled to dozens of states to collect campaign dollars, building up a network of fundraising and political connections that could position him well for a future national campaign.
Jindal’s own travel costs for fundraisers, campaign speeches and other political travel are covered by his campaign, other GOP campaigns or hosts of certain events — not with state tax dollars. But that doesn’t extend to the troopers who travel with him.
The state police determine how many troopers are in Jindal’s security detail depending on the location and event. They work on a rotating schedule. State police protection for the governor and his family is written into law, whether it’s state business, a political event or a campaign fundraiser.
“He’s the governor no matter where he goes. He doesn’t stop being the governor because he’s traveled out of state,” the head of Louisiana State Police, Col. Mike Edmonson, said in an interview.
Edmonson said he’s never had discussions with the governor, who appointed him to the job, about shifting some of the security detail costs to Jindal’s campaign fund, even as the state police has been unable to train new troopers for the last few years because of budget cuts.
Edmonson said even on fundraising and campaign trips, Jindal is still doing his state job.
“He’s always working. He’s always on the phone. He’s always doing interviews back in Louisiana. It’s hard to say when something is or isn’t related to his position back as governor,” Edmonson said.
Since Jindal took office in 2008, he has traveled out of state 110 different times, to more than 30 different states and Washington, D.C. Some trips have been to meet with the state’s congressional delegation, President Barack Obama and the nation’s other governors.
But more than two-thirds of those trips have been for fundraisers, Republican candidate events and interviews promoting Jindal’s book “Leadership and Crisis.” In recent months, Jindal traveled to Tennessee, Texas and Iowa to campaign with then-GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, and he raised campaign cash for himself in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Indiana and California. Jindal also fits in fundraisers when he’s on the road for state business.
Edmonson said he has shifted resources within his department to trim costs and partnered with law enforcement agencies in other states to help guard Jindal and assist with some of the advance work on out-of-state trips.
“You certainly have a governor who’s doing a lot of traveling, but we’ve been able to cover it within our budget, by working collaboratively with other law enforcement and by being creative,” the superintendent of state police said.