Jindal to amend campaign finance report after ethics complaint

Published 2:35 pm Friday, September 7, 2007

BATON ROUGE (AP) — U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal will amend his campaign finance report in the governor’s race after an ethics complaint claimed the GOP candidate failed to report more than $118,000 worth of direct mail sent on his behalf by the state Republican Party.

The expenses, which are included on a campaign report filed by the party, should also have been listed as an ‘‘in-kind’’ contribution to Jindal’s gubernatorial campaign, the complaint says.

Jindal’s gubernatorial campaign spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said in an e-mail that the congressman would file an amended campaign disclosure form even though he had been advised the matter was not a violation.

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‘‘As soon as this was brought to our attention, we consulted the ethics administrator who told us that she did not think that it was necessary to report it, but we will file an amendment out of an abundance of caution,’’ Sellers said.

The complaint with the Louisiana Board of Ethics was filed Aug. 21 by Chris Stow-Serge, a 2007 Tulane University graduate who is a first-year high school government teacher in the New Orleans Recovery School District.

Stow-Serge, who is a past president of the Tulane College Democrats, said he decided to file the complaint after he and some friends noticed a discrepancy in the campaign finance reports filed by Jindal and the state party. After looking through the state ethics code, Stow-Serge said he thought he should notify the authorities.

Officials with the ethics board refused to comment, citing a long-standing policy of not discussing complaints on which the board has not taken action. Stow-Serge said the complaint is scheduled to receive its first hearing in an executive session by the board Sept. 13.

Jindal, R-Kenner, has made government ethics and competence central themes in his second campaign to become governor.

Chris Sommers, a compliance officer with the ethics board, said candidates are required to disclose expenditures made on their behalf by third parties. But the board does not check to make sure that expenses listed on one report are also cited as a contribution by the recipient.

‘‘We don’t cross-reference it. Someone would have to file a complaint indicating that,’’ Sommers said.

An ‘‘in-kind’’ campaign contribution can be anything of value, other than cash, that’s provided to a candidate. Typically, such contributions involve donations of meeting space, catering services, office space or transportation for candidates.

The complaint against Jindal cites six expenditures by the state GOP on behalf of the Jindal campaign to Majority Strategies, a Ponte Vedra, Fla., firm specializing in direct mail, between June 4 and June 28. The expenses, totaling $118,264.76, are listed on a campaign finance report that the state party filed on July 25.

But the same expenses do not show up as a contribution on Jindal’s campaign finance filing of July 23, which covers the same reporting period, nor do they appear on an amended report Jindal filed Aug. 10.

James Quinn, executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana, said he had not seen the complaint and declined to comment. He said the state party never notified the Jindal campaign that it had to disclose the mailing expenses as a contribution.