Update at bottom: Gov. Jindal's office calls claims of bribery 'ridiculous'
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday named Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal "the worst person in the world" over claims the Republican governor "blackmailed or bribed" his Democratic attorney general into joining a multi-state lawsuit challenging the health care overhaul.
Noting that Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is now "debasing himself" by joining the lawsuit, Olbermann pointed to an article in Eunice Today that alleges Caldwell didn't want to be the "token Democrat" joining the lawsuit but was "backed into a corner" by Jindal.
[T]he Attorney General said the decision was made more out of the necessity of saving jobs in his agency than any real hopeÃ¢â‚¬â€or desireÃ¢â‚¬â€of overturning the health care law.
One employee said Caldwell, in a candid admission, claimed that a deal was made with Jindal. Under terms of that agreement, the governor would not make additional cuts in the attorney generalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s budget if Caldwell joined in the litigation. Caldwell agreed to be the Ã¢â‚¬Å“token Democrat,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said, so that he might save additional job cuts by an administration whose state goal is to reduce the number of state employees by as much as 5,000 per year over three years.
"In other words, Governor Jindal either blackmailed Attorney General Caldwell or bribed him," Olbermann said. "'Support this moronic, pathetic, partisan, legally flimsy lawsuit on behalf of the insurance companies or we'll fire your employees.'"
The allegations suggest that Republicans may not be immune to the spirit of deal-making for which Democrats were criticized during the health reform debate. Conservative commentators pointed to the individual deals made with some Democratic lawmakers as evidence the health reform process was corrupt.
Among those deals was one involving Louisiana: Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's deal with the Democratic leadership that would see Louisiana get $100 million to help fund health care for the poor, in exchange for her support of health care reform.
Landrieu hailed the deal, saying it would help provide drug coverage to some 116,000 Louisiana seniors, as well as fund an increase in Medicare reimbursements to doctors.
Reporting on the Jindal controversy, Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress notes that Caldwell "has been facing significant blowback for his decision to pursue JindalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right-wing case. LouisianaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Black Caucus recently rallied against Caldwell, with state Rep. Regina Barrow (D) saying the services provided by the Affordable Care Act 'could approximately save us $500 million. These savings could be used to cover a majority of the state budget crisis that we currently face, inclusive of higher ed.'"
Gov. Jindal's office is forcefully denying claims of a deal between the governor and Attorney General Caldwell.
"ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ridiculous and completely false," Kyle Plotkin, Jindal's press secretary, told Raw Story Wednesday. "ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no truth to it."
Plotkin added that "thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s absolutely no connection between budget reductions and the lawsuit."
This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast April 6, 2010.