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General News    H3'ed 3/9/11

Is GOP "Funny Money" Cycling Through Non-Profits in the Deep South?

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Message Roger Shuler

Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

U.S. politicians increasingly are launching non-profit organizations, apparently as a way to get around ethics and campaign-finance laws. The practice has become common around the country, with members of both parties. But it seems to be particularly popular among Republicans in the Deep South.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently found himself in the spotlight of The New York Times because of a foundation run by his wife. In Alabama, non-profits have become popular with politicians who no longer are in office. Former Governor Bob Riley, just before leaving office, announced plans to start a non-profit focused on education. Bradley Byrne, who was Riley's hand-picked successor before losing to Robert Bentley in the GOP primary, recently announced the formation of a non-profit called Reform Alabama.

Where is all of this headed? It's probably too soon to say for sure. But sources tell Legal Schnauzer that law-enforcement officials have taken an interest in the proceedings.

Most private foundations, those launched for genuinely charitable reasons, rely on funds from their founders' pockets. But that's not how foundations work in the world of postmodern politics. Funds for those "charities" come from corporations and individuals who want to influence the politician. Here's how it works with the foundation set up by Bobby Jindal's wife:

AT & T, which needed Mr. Jindal, a Republican, to sign off on legislation allowing the company to sell cable television services without having to negotiate with individual parishes, has pledged at least $250,000 to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana's Children.

Marathon Oil, which last year won approval from the Jindal administration to increase the amount of oil it can refine at its Louisiana plant, also committed to a $250,000 donation. And the military contractor Northrop Grumman, which got state officials to help set up an airplane maintenance facility at a former Air Force base, promised $10,000 to the charity.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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