Brushing aside questions about U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s alleged adultery, Rep. Bobby Jindal said Monday that his first major action as governor would be a special legislative session devoted to passing stronger ethics laws.
Surrounded by about 100 cheering supporters at the first leg of a seven-city publicity tour, Jindal criticized the state Legislature for its failure to pass several ethics-related bills during the recently concluded two-month session.
“The Legislature had time to spend our money. They didn’t have time to do serious ethics reform,” Jindal, R-Kenner, said.
Although lawmakers approved a handful of minor tweaks to the ethics code, including a bill requiring ethics training for lawmakers and statewide elected officials, they could not agree on a measure that would have required legislators to disclose their income sources and property holdings.
The bill died on the last day of the session when the House and Senate could not agree on whether local officials should be covered.
Jindal said ethics reform is key to the state’s ability to attract economic development projects. “Until we have public leaders who understand they serve us, not themselves, we won’t be able to attract those investments,” he said.
But the second-term congressman did not say how he would change the ethics laws, saying he would do so in the weeks ahead.
With barely three months left before the Oct. 20 primary, Jindal has yet to provide any details of what he would seek to do if elected.
Instead, he spoke in broad-brush terms about improving ethics and combating what he views as government incompetence and “out of control” spending.
Jindal rebuffed several questions about the potential impact on his campaign of last week’s allegations that Vitter patronized prostitution services in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.
“We addressed that on Friday,” Jindal said, referring to a two-sentence statement he released late Friday in which he expressed “disappointment” in Vitter’s actions and said he was praying for the senator and his family.
“Today is about where we go for Louisiana,” Jindal said.
Vitter, a Republican, has been a prominent Jindal supporter and had been expected to campaign on his behalf. But the senator has not been seen or heard from since issuing a statement on July 9 confessing to a “very serious sin” after his telephone number appeared among those associated with a Washington, D.C. escort service.
Although Jindal announced his candidacy in January and has been traveling the state for months giving speeches and raising money, Monday’s publicity tour is being billed as the campaign’s official launch.
After starting the day with a brief rally at a Baton Rouge airplane hangar, Jindal is expected to stop in Alexandria, Monroe, Shreveport, Lake Charles and Lafayette before finishing the day with a rally in New Orleans.