Maybe not, but right now, it sure looks that way.
On December 22, 2014, Bob Yarborough, acting in his official capacity as a representative of “Friends of Bobby,” the state campaign fund for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, signed a one-year agreement with Timmy Teepell and his firm OnMessage. The Jindal campaign still had more than $1.5 million left in the bank from their 2011 re-election contest, and considering the governor was now term-limited and had his eyes on the White House, they apparently decided to begin drawing down as much as possible from their state fund.
Timmy Teepell has been a central figure in Team Jindal since 2004, when he was hired to manage Jindal’s first congressional campaign. He’d actually interviewed to run Jindal’s 2003 bid for governor, a position ultimately given to someone else, and after the loss, Jindal apparently had buyer’s remorse. Over the last eleven years, Teepell has helped orchestrate four landslide victories for the governor. Other than his wife, Jindal says, Timmy Teepell is his best friend. He served as his first chief of staff, then took a hiatus to help him raise money for the Republican Governor’s Association. He returned only briefly, resigning again to run Jindal’s 2011 re-election campaign. Instead of once again rejoining the ranks, Teepell then took a lucrative job with the D.C.-based political consultancy OnMessage, and Jindal subsequently hired Teepell’s brother Taylor and their brother-in-law Matt Parker. It’s almost a family business.
Today, all three of them are helping to run Jindal’s long-shot bid for the presidency, in addition to Curt Anderson, the founding partner of OnMessage and the co-writer of Jindal’s first book, Leadership and Crisis. Others in their company have been assigned to run the pro-Jindal “Believe Again” SuperPAC, which will be explored in greater detail in a subsequent article.
Teepell’s contract with Friends of Bobby- the state fund- guaranteed him $30,000 a month from January until June, ostensibly as an advisor on state policy, the budget, and personnel matters. The contract contains no language about campaign-related matters except, specifically, that it “shall not include any strategic consulting advice concerning federal elections or federal election activity.” This, of course, is curious, considering that Teepell’s firm, OnMessage, had been not-so-secretly laying the groundwork and preparing the logistics for Jindal’s presidential campaign the entire time.
Jindal announced his campaign for president on June 24, 2015, and perhaps not coincidentally, the contract calls for Teepell, who is now the manager of the presidential campaign, to drop down to $15,000 a month. According to the current terms of the contract, Teepell, through his company OnMessage, is being paid $15,000 this month and will continue to be paid that amount until December.
This is problematic for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that the contract itself prohibits strategic consulting advice on federal elections. It’s difficult to imagine how Teepell could avoid providing strategic consulting advice, though considering Gov. Jindal’s lackluster performance in the polls, there may be a case to be made.
Regardless, though, the law is clear that money raised by a state campaign fund can only be used in support of a state campaign. In fact, there are specific prohibitions against using funds for presidential campaigns. The Times-Picayune looked into a similar story involving Jindal’s travel expenses last November. Quoting (bold mine):
(Kathleen) Allen (of the Ethics Administration) cited provisions defining who is a candidate and what constitute public office. Together they exclude “the office of president or vice president of the United States,” as well as Congress, presidential electors and party offices.
“When I read these provisions together the conclusion is that you are a candidate for a state race, and the money you raise can be used only for (a state) campaign or for exercise of that office,” Allen said.
I have asked Timmy Teepell and Curt Anderson for comment, and thus far, have not heard back.