BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s government watchdog said Gov. Bobby Jindal’s use of state resources to politically attack Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul raises questions.
But Inspector General Stephen Street said in a report released Friday that legal ambiguities make it unclear if the broadside from the GOP governor violated the state constitution, which forbids using public funds for political purposes.
Jindal, a likely presidential candidate, criticized Paul’s foreign policy ideas and described the Kentucky senator as “unsuited” to be commander in chief in a statement released through his office Wednesday that was on his official state letterhead.
Street said while Jindal was free to take political stands, he advised the governor in the future to conduct political business through a political organization. That would “avoid confusion and any appearance of impropriety,” Street wrote.
“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 in his report. “Public officials, including the Governor, have the right to support or oppose candidates, parties or propositions, as long as public funds are not used.”
The governor’s office didn’t comment directly on Street’s suggestions. Jindal spokesman Mike Reed issued a short statement: “We appreciate the Inspector General concluding this matter quickly.”
Jindal’s statement attacking a likely political foe in the 2016 presidential race was issued after Paul blamed Republican foreign policy hawks for decisions that he said created the Islamic State group.
“Senator Paul is taking the weakest, most liberal Democrat position,” Jindal said in his statement. “It’s one thing for Senator Paul to take an outlandish position as a Senator at Washington cocktail parties, but being Commander-in-Chief is an entirely different job.”
Critics quickly blasted Jindal, charging that he violated Louisiana’s constitution, and complaints were filed with the inspector general’s office.
As the governor “and his handlers begin their doomed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, they are already making it clear that neither the demands of Jindal’s day job nor Louisiana state law will stand in the way of his vanity and his ambition,” the Louisiana Democratic Party said in a release.
Questioned about issuing the statement from the governor’s office, Jindal told reporters Thursday that “national security matters are important to the people of Louisiana.”
“I thought it was important for me to share my views on keeping our country safe from the threat of radical terrorists, Islamic terrorists,” he said.
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