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Three decisions to affect Jindal’s popularity with GOP/Dem. base voters

28th November 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

No sooner than he had been re-elected to a second term, Bobby Jindal came under fire from many of nominal allies on the Political Right — as well as some of his antagonists on the Left.

Over the last month, the governor refused funding for rural high-speed Internet lines (which many of his fellow GOP governors embraced), refused to involve himself in the debate over the state losing a congressional seat, and opted to appoint a former Edwin Ed­wards crony as the new “Repub­lican” Senate President.

Nearly 100,000 Louisiana residents are without access to high speed Internet. Despite this, the Jindal Administration opted to sacrifice nearly $80 million in federal grant money that would have strung some 900 miles of fiber-optic cable — and with it, broadband Internet service — to 21 rural, poor communities that private Internet providers have consistently opted not to serve because of the cost of building the infrastructure.

The state Board of Regents, which oversees colleges and universities in Louisiana, initially applied for the grant from the U.S. Commerce Department as a means to tie together colleges and universities in Louisiana and Mississippi. Along with higher education, primary and secondary schools, libraries, health care centers and homes in those underserved communities also would get high speed internet.

Shortly after the grant was awar­ded, though, Jindal Admini­stration took over control of it, and added on a provision that ultimately killed it.

Commissioner of Admini­stra­tion Paul Rainwater, in testimony before the state PSC, argued that the Regents should not have applied for the grant because the government-run program would potentially steal business from private industry in future. “We do not believe in state-run enterprise competing with private companies,” Rainwater told Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.

It did not matter that private industry had previously denied to build the fiber optic lines in poor rural areas.

The Governor’s advisors altered the grant request to demand that private internet providers sell access, without having to bear any of the cost of building the lines. They would get the profits, without any front investment, and predictably, the U.S. Commerce Department balked. Under the moniker of “public/private partnerships,” the administration’s plan involved leasing broadband use rights from local Internet providers instead of building new ones.

The curious element of the controversy is Louisiana is the only state that was refused the grant on these — or any other — grounds. Several sunbelt Repub­lican-controlled Guber­na­torial administrations saw little point in providing profits to private Internet service providers on the fear that the Government might be competing in areas where there was no private service currently. Ninety-eight percent of the grant money is still flowing from the Commerce Dept.’s coffers into rural areas in the South and Mid-West. Just not the Pelican State.

(Campbell reportedly replied to Rainwater, “I represent one-half of north Louisiana, many of whom can’t get high-speed Internet, and you’re telling me we’re not getting it because you had a problem with it philosophically?”)

The curious outcry, though, comes from many of Jindal’s supporters in the retail industry, that saw expansion in rural areas of Louisiana as an untapped market. Many on the Right equated the decision with only letting the private sector build toll roads, instead of constructing public right of ways for transport and commerce.

However, GOP outrage with the Republican governor was minor in comparison to his decision not to involve himself in the battle over Louisiana’s lost congressional seat due to census counts of illegal aliens. In doing so, Jindal not only angered many of his key GOP supporters but also African Americans experiencing diminished clout in Congress potentially due to the census overcount.

As some of the governor’s Republican critics have argued, in order to avoid alienating politicians and voters in Texas, Florida, and California Jindal refused to fight for keeping our 7th Congressman–a fight in which Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is currently engaged.

As demographer Elliott Stone­cipher explained, “Nearly three years ago, while drinking my favorite coffee concoction in my favorite chair at my favorite Barnes & Noble, I phoned Dr. John Baker, my friend who just happens to be a constitutional scholar, hoping he could answer a question I had arrived at in my study of this subject.”

“My question to Dr. Baker was deceptively simple, worded just about exactly this way: ‘How in the world can the Census Bureau include non-citizens in decennial Census numbers that determine reapportionment of the U. S. House of Representatives?’ I thought at the time that I probably should have known the Census Bureau had been doing this for a long time, but the more research we did, the more we learned how few people knew or even thought about it. Without the explosion of undocumented migrants moving into America over the past 15 years or so, these statistical red flags in Census Bureau data would not have appeared.”

“As we learned, most people assumed one had to be a U. S. citizen to be counted in a decennial census. Not only was that not the case, but to make things even more maddening, the Census Bureau had for some time been purposefully failing to determine which Census respondents were, or were not, citizens. With a closely estimated 23,000,000 non-citizens in the country when our work began, it seemed a very big deal. (Many of that number are in the nation legally, but those who are not constitute a segment more than large enough to cost Louisiana and four other states a U. S. House seat.)”

“Regardless of the many – mostly political partisans – who pooh-poohed our concern, the State of Louisiana had the maximum amount of skin in the game: After having lost a congressional seat in reapportionment after the 1990 Census, we were about to lose another one. Yes, our population out-migration wounds have all been self-inflicted, but this seemed like piling on. The simple fact was and is this: Louisiana has many, many fewer unauthorized immigrants than other states — especially next-door neighbor Texas — so in the Census Bureau’s reapportionment math, Louisiana and like states are penalized. When the smoke cleared after the 2010 Census, immigrant-rich Texas and California each gained two additional House seats, Florida gained one, and Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina and Ohio each lost one seat.”

“In August 2009, Dr. Baker and I had progressed far enough in our work to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. We quickly learned that the substance of our work was lost in the hyper-partisan American political world. That our case was viewed precisely along partisan lines jumped at us from the polar opposite stands taken by our state’s own two U.S. senators. To further document the underlying math of our case, Republican Senator David Vitter, unsolicited, tried to have a citizenship question added to the 2010 census questionnaire. His effort, via direct Senate action, died for lack of a single vote in the key procedural action on the Senate floor. Casting the 60th and last required vote against Senator Vitter’s effort, and all the work to save a Louisiana congressional seat, was ‘our own’ Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu.”

“Senator Landrieu’s vote was then, and remains, very difficult to fathom. Owing to the rule that ‘things can always get worse,’ they did. A short time later, ‘our own’ Republican governor’s support was also inexplicably withdrawn. Al­though Attorney General Buddy Caldwell shortly thereafter joined Governor Jindal in the jump overboard from our Good Ship Louisiana, Caldwell later reversed course, and is the lead plaintiff in the Petition before the Supreme Court, both as Attorney General of Louisiana, and individually.”

As Caldwell explained in his lawsuit filing, through a Washington, D.C. firm that also is involved, “Louisiana’s complaint simply asks the court to require the federal government to recalculate the 2010 apportionment of U.S. House of Representative seats based on legal residents — just as the Constitution requires.” He continued, because Louisiana’s population growth was far exceeded by other states’ increases, largely because the U.S. Census chose to count millions of illegal immigrants, the Legislature was required to draw new election boundaries for six, not seven, members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A study estimates that as many as 23 million people who are not citizens are in the country. Stonecipher said that equates to 32 of the 535 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Louisiana C=conservatives are in a fury over the fact that Jindal has refused to aide the campaign in any fashion, noting that the victim of the loss of the 7th Congressional seat was Tea Party Congressman Jeff Landry. However, Jindal is also under fire from some African-American activists as well.

An unknown part of this year’s redistricting fight was the effort by the Black Caucus to create a second Black Majority Congressional seat. With one-third of the state’s population African-American, the Justice Department appeared prepared to force the creation of two Black-majority seats, instead of drawing the current 2nd District from Downtown New Orleans, up the West Bank of the Mississippi, to Baton Rouge.

The effort would have insured that the Crescent City and the Capitol City each retained separate minority seats. However, with Louisiana losing a Congressional seat, Justice decided not to force the issue on a smaller Con­gressional delegation. Instead of a 5-2 split, White-Black, the state ended up with a five-one split. Or put another way, 20 percent of the Congressional clout rather than almost 29 percent.

(It was the reason that many Black leaders were annoyed with Mary Landrieu, perceiving that the Democratic Senator chose the rising clout of Hispanics over the Party’s African-American base.)

Caldwell said the requested relief in the suit will not require a new census because the needed information is already available in the 2010 Census results. He said those numbers would restore Louisiana’s 7th District. And, there is considerable evidence that Justice would not push for another Black majority district this late in the game. Still, it’s a rare case of Jindal angering both sides.

Black leaders were more comfortable with the governor’s choice of Democrat-turned-Repub­lican John Alario for Senate President. How­ever, prominent Democrats yelled that the former Democratic House Speaker was being rewarded for switching parties — after serving as a loyalist of former Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Yelps from the political Left were nothing compared to the fire that Jindal has endured from his most stalwart allies on the conservative Right.

The St. Tammany Parish Republican Executive Committee launched this broadside against the governor two weeks ago. “The RPEC wishes to call attention to the fact that Senator John Alario is being considered and supported by Governor Bobby Jindal for Senate President. The committee has concerns that if he were elected Senate President it would be seen as a regression to the old ways of state government to tax and spend.”

“The RPEC wishes to remind the citizens of the values of the Republican Party and for which the Republican Party stands including smaller government, lower taxes, and strong national defense. In keeping with its values, the committee of the RPEC wishes to alert the citizens of St. Tammany Parish and urge them to contact their senators and the governor to voice their opposition of John Alario as the next Senate President as the RPEC does not feel his represents the values of the Republican Party.”

The Governor’s closest advisor and former Chief Aide Timmy Teppel said two weeks ago that he expects the Governor to run for a third term after sitting out for four years. That kind of staying power is hard if one alienates the base of both parties in one’s home state. It makes perfect sense, however, if Jindal is campaigning to become the Republican Vice Presidential candidate.

This article was originally published in the November 28, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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