Louisiana Governor-Elect Pledges To Change Louisiana's Reputation For Corruption

Sunday, October 21st 2007, 8:05 pm

By: News On 6

KENNER, La. (AP) _ Changing Louisiana's reputation for corruption would do more than just make over its image, Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal said Sunday: It could help the state attract businesses and win federal aid for hurricane recovery.

The Republican congressman, a day after his historic win in an election that featured a dozen candidates for governor, pressed ahead with his campaign pledge, saying in an interview with The Associated Press that one of his first acts will be to call a special legislative session to reform ethics laws.

``I think we're setting the bar too low when we say, 'Look, isn't it great that we haven't had a statewide elected official go to jail recently?''' Jindal said.

``The reality is there are a lot of practices that are accepted ways of doing business in Baton Rouge that are considered unethical in other parts of the country, that are considered illegal in other parts of the country,'' Jindal said.

The son of immigrants on Saturday won more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary election to make him Louisiana's first non-white governor since Reconstruction and the nation's first Indian-American chief executive.

His two predecessors, Democrat Kathleen Blanco and Republican Mike Foster, governed with no allegations of cronyism, but the state has a well-earned reputation for shady politics.

Four-term Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards is serving prison time in a bribery and extortion case involving the awarding of riverboat casino licenses. In the past decade, Louisiana has had an insurance commissioner and elections commissioner serve time in jail, and a litany of corruption cases are pending in New Orleans.

Jindal wants legislators to create new state laws requiring themselves to disclose their sources of income and their assets _ a bill that failed to pass in the most recent legislative session _ and to bar their family members from doing business with the state. Louisiana's ethics laws lag too far behind other states' requirements, he said.

And while he acknowledges that some of the concerns are more about perception than reality, he said they can still can harm the state's ability to attract businesses and its requests for aid to recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which struck in 2005.

New Orleans and some surrounding parishes are mired in bureaucratic snarls that slow the repair of schools, homes and businesses. A homeowner repair and buyout program called the Road Home is billions of dollars short of what it needs to pay all eligible homeowners.

Blanco, who defeated Jindal in 2003 but chose not to run for re-election after heavy criticism of her performance after Katrina, is asking Congress for bailout money for the Road Home.

Jindal said he and Blanco will work together during his transition to lobby Congress for the assistance, saying it's a federal obligation. He asked President Bush _ who called Sunday to congratulate Jindal on his win _ for a meeting to talk about hurricane recovery needs, he said.

The president agreed to the meeting, which hasn't been scheduled, Jindal said.

``What is not an option is to break the promise that's been made to the people of Louisiana,'' he said.

Jindal said that he will resign from Congress shortly before his January inauguration and that, after he takes office, will announce a date to fill his congressional seat representing suburban New Orleans.

The governor-elect said he is not worried that in a state known for its brash and flashy politicians, he's seen as methodical and wonkish.

``If I go down as one of the more boring but effective governors, I'll take that as a great compliment,'' he said at a news conference earlier Sunday. ``Our people don't want to be amused by our politics anymore. We don't want to be entertained.''

Jindal won outright in the state's open primary election, finishing atop the slate of candidates with 54 percent of the vote and avoiding the need for a November runoff election.

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