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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Documents show many of Gov. Bobby Jindal's appointees to the Louisiana Board of Regents personally donated to his campaign within a matter of weeks of being placed on the board.
The 16-member Board of Regents oversees higher education in Louisiana. Nine of the current members of the board were appointed by Jindal. Records of Jindal's campaign contributions indicate eight of the nine members Jindal appointed to the Board of Regents gave sizeable donations to his campaign. Some made those donations within just a few weeks of being appointed and that has raised questions.
"That's an awful lot of people for that to be a coincidence," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW). "It's hard to believe that each of the people would miraculously give money close in time to their appointment to the board."
The Jindal campaign adamantly denies the donations had anything to do with the board appointments and, indeed, there is no evidence that proves donations were a necessary part of being appointed. Below is a breakdown of the contributions and appointments. In some cases the appointment came before the donation was made, but in others, the person made a contribution before being selected. The maximum personal contribution allowed by law is $5,000.
Charlotte Bollinger - appointed Dec. 2008, donated $5,000 in Jan. 2009
Ed Antie - appointed Dec. 2010, donated $3,000 in Aug. 2010
Joseph Farr - appointed Dec. 2010, donated $5,000 in Nov. 2009
Roland Toups - appointed Jan. 2009, donated $5,000 in Oct. 2008
Chris Gorman - appointed Dec. 2010, donated $4,500 in Nov. 2010
Bubba Raspberry - appointed Jan. 2009, donated $5,000 in Sept. 2008
"It sounds like a quid pro quo. It sounds like it costs you $5,000 to get on the Board of Regents," Sloan explained.
Two other Board of Regents members also donated to the governor, but their donations came quite a bit of time before he appointed them.
Joseph Wiley - appointed Aug. 2009, donated $5,000 in Aug. 2006
Robert Bruno - appointed Jan. 2009, donated $5,000 in Oct. 2007
The only current board member appointed by Jindal who does not show a personal donation to the governor's campaign is Scott Ballard.
Southern University student Venese Morgan has filed suit against the governor regarding the racial makeup of the board of regents. The board's current makeup includes 15 white members and one black student member. Her suit claims the governor is breaking the law by not insuring the racial makeup of the board reflects the racial makeup of the state.
Last December, Jindal removed two black members from the board and appointed white members to take their places. While her lawsuit does not address the campaign donations, Morgan said she finds the donations very troubling.
"What I want to say to the governor is that he's wrong and he knows he's wrong," she stated. "This is not fair."
The governor's chief of staff Timmy Teepell calls the allegation ridiculous.
"Every contribution is made in accordance with campaign finance laws and fully disclosed in the campaign report," he stated in a news release. "For any board appointment, we always look for the most qualified folks who share our agenda for moving Louisiana forward. The campaign has tens of thousands of donors representing all different types of people and organizations."
Ten of 12 appointments Jindal made to all board and commissions in Louisiana were also examined. Records show only two of those people has ever made a contribution to Jindal and the money was donated years before their appointments.
There is no documentation suggesting the Jindal campaign donations are in any way tied to board appointments. The written statement from Teepell was the only response from the governor's office when a request for comment on the issue from Jindal was made.