Ieyoub Revelation Exposes Jindal Health Care Hypocrisy

Richard Ieyoub has revealed that during his tenure as State Attorney General, then-Governor Mike Foster and then-Director of Health and Hospitals Bobby Jindal worked to block Louisiana from receiving its share of a large settlement from the tobacco industry. Acting in his capacity as legal representative of the State of Louisiana, Ieyoub sought damages in a multi-state federal lawsuit to compensate the State for health care expenses to treat illnesses caused by tobacco products: thank-you-for-smoking.jpg

In 1996, Jindal was the Republican Foster administration’s secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals when Ieyoub, a Democrat, filed suit against tobacco companies to recoup the state’s medical costs in treating smoking-related illnesses.

Tobacco interests used affidavits sworn out by Foster and Jindal to attempt to squash Ieyoub’s lawsuit.

The tobacco interests argued in court filings that the Foster and Jindal affidavits showed Ieyoub did not have the authority to sue on behalf of the state and DHH.

The affidavits amounted to an abbreviated list of facts, including that Foster and Jindal were not consulted on the decision to sue the tobacco companies. In January 1997, state District Judge Wilford D. Carter of Lake Charles’ 14th Judicial District ruled Ieyoub did have the authority to file suit.

Ieyoub is not the first to highlight Jindal’s questionable actions; three weeks ago, candidate Foster Campbell brought it up at the Baton Rouge Press Club Forum:

Campbell said Jindal “talks about ethics (in his ads) but he doesn’t come to debates.” He said that when Jindal was head of the state Department of Health and Hospitals he opposed the move to sue the tobacco companies, even though he knew tobacco-related illnesses were costing the state millions of dollars each year in Charity Hospital treatments.

Jindal’s statements contrast heavily with those of retired politician Mike Foster, who did considerably less to spin away his opposition to the lawsuit:

Foster said Monday in a telephone interview that he was opposed to suing the tobacco companies despite the settlement that the state received.

“I’m not a big suing fan,” he said, adding that he also opposes smoking.

Foster said he does not remember the affidavit filed in the case.

Jindal said he signed the affidavit because attorneys from both sides said that would end his involvement with the case.

He said his opinion on whether the suit should have been filed is irrelevant.

As a long-time political figure often lauded for his intellect, it is hard to believe Jindal didn’t know full well which side of the controversy his signature was supporting. One would think that a politician who claims to support preventative medicine in order to improve state health-care outcomes would jump at the opportunity to recoup state money lost in treating preventable illnesses caused by smoking or chewing tobacco products.

Assuming he did realize the consequences of his actions, it is unclear whether he felt that scoring political points against Democrat Richard Ieyoub was more important than supporting the Attorney General in ensuring that the State of Louisiana received its fair cut of the settlement. What is clear, however, is Jindal’s willingness to accept thousands of dollars for the tobacco industry in his bids to be a Congressman from Louisiana. These are the contributions that the Political Action Committees of Big Tobacco has given medical champion Bobby Jindal (via opensecrets.org):

Altria Group Inc PAC (Philip Morris)

3/24/2005

$1,000

Lorillard Tobacco Company PAC

5/10/2005

$1,000

R J Reynolds PAC

6/14/2006

$1,000

R J Reynolds PAC

7/22/2005

$1,000

R J Reynolds PAC

5/13/2005

$1,000

R J Reynolds PAC

2/28/2005

$1,000

R J Reynolds PAC

10/21/2004

$1,000

R J Reynolds PAC

10/15/2004

$1,000

R J Reynolds PAC

9/24/2004

$1,000

US Smokeless Tobacco PAC

3/24/2006

$1,000

US Smokeless Tobacco PAC

5/26/2006

$1,000

Congressman Jindal’s efforts to wiggle out of his obstructive subservience to the tobacco industry is yet another example of the point that perceptive writers have been making for months: the rhetoric of Bobby Jindal the politician is diametrically opposed to the reality of Bobby Jindal the fundraiser.