While Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater and Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell were testifying to the Louisiana Public Service Commission that the State simply needed more time to complete its grant application for an $80 million broadband infrastructure initiative (among other things, blaming an engineering consultant for failing to submit documents in a timely fashion), Governor Jindal, through his spokesman Kyle Plotkin, offered a different excuse for the administration’s complete dereliction: The grant was really just a socialist ploy to hurt Louisiana businesses. I imagine it went down somewhat like this:
Plotkin: Governor, the media is asking for a comment about that grant we just lost.
Jindal: Kyle, why are you wasting my time with this? A federal grant? That’s money from Obama. You know the line.
Plotkin: Rainwater and Purcell are going to tell the PSC that we just needed a little more time and that the application was delayed because of a consultant. I think they acknowledge the merits of the grant. Isn’t that kind of a problem?
Jindal: They’re under oath, Kyle. Again, we’re talking about Obama money.
Plotkin: Socialist money? Is that what you mean?
Jindal: Make it work. That’s why I hired you.
Back to reality, here’s part of the statement Jindal’s office released:
Jindal’s press secretary, Kyle Plotkin, said the governor would not phone the president. Plotkin released a statement in Jindal’s name late Wednesday, which said, in part: “This grant called for a heavy-handed approach from the federal government that would have undermined and taken over private businesses.”
If I were Plotkin, here’s how I would have framed it, right before turning in my letter of resignation: “Clearly, we dropped the ball. Broadband access is critical to the global economy, and Louisiana needs to do all that it can to ensure that all citizens enjoy access. As Commissioners Rainwater and Purcell said today, the state was subjected to delays as it retooled the application, including a critical delay by a third-party engineering consultant. Governor Jindal is dedicated to ensuring Louisiana receives its fair share and is committed to working with the President toward a solution.” Say it like that, Kyle. Demonstrate at least a modicum of integrity. I know it may be far easier to suggest the federal government simply wanted to take “over private businesses,” a tired, well-worn line that still somehow finds traction in one of the poorest states in the union. But it’s not true; it’s “undermined,” to borrow one of your words, by the testimony of your fellow colleagues.
Of course, I’d never expect for complete honesty: That the Jindal Administration’s failure was a result of its inability to effectively privatize an infrastructure grant, that they saw an $80 million grant as free money for corporations, and that everyone around them saw through this.
But, even from Jindal and company, I still expected some honesty: After all, they just lost $80 million.