Governor Bobby Jindal spins the Center’s work

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Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal name-checked the Center for Public Integrity when touting his gubernatorial accomplishments on MSNBC Tuesday, but he didn’t get our assessment of his state’s new ethics package quite right. And while we love the publicity, we feel compelled to set the record straight.

“We’ve revamped ethics. Louisiana is now on the top of the list, according to the Center for Public Integrity,” Jindal told anchor David Shuster.

While Louisiana’s new law, which will not take effect until 2009, is on par with other tough ethics laws across the country, the Center has never said that Louisiana ethics law is “on top of the list.” It’s good – don’t get us wrong – but, sorry, Guv, we can’t give you the top ranking. Here’s why:

The Center’s States of Disclosure project systematically ranked disclosure laws for state legislatures in 1999, 2004, 2005, and 2006. In these reports, our team evaluated every state’s laws in order to compare them accurately. In 2008 the Center re-scored Louisiana’s new ethics law when Jindal’s substantial reform package made the changes a newsworthy event. The law certainly scored better on our survey than its predecessor, which ranked a dismal 44th. But other states have passed ethics reform since 2006, and since we didn’t reevaluate every state’s law, our report was careful to say that Louisiana’s law was only among the best.

That means that it’s not “the strongest law in the nation” (Jindal to his state legislature, March 9), “ranked… number one by the Center for Public Integrity.” (Jindal to the Southwest Daily News, March 20) or “first in the country” (Jindal in The Wall Street Journal, August 29). Again, it’s a good, strong law, Guv, and we sure appreciate you name-dropping our humble little shop. We just hope you can settle for being one of the best, just not necessarily the very, very best.

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