There is an often-quoted line which states, ‘Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.’ In other words, it’s easy for individuals to demonstrate integrity when they are being monitored by many. However, when they are in private and no one is around do they still behave in a legal, ethical and moral manner? The quote was never intended to serve as instructions for those who lack integrity. Though it appears that is exactly how Clay Schexnayder and his minions must be interpreting the text. Why confront their own issues with integrity when they can just eliminate those that are watching?
Clay’s Ministry of Truth
While on the National level Biden sought to create an Orwellian Disinformation Governance Board in which the National government would undoubtedly become the final arbiter of what is true and what is false; what is good and what is bad. Here on the state level, Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder seeks to control the narrative by restricting who can watch the inner-workings of the House of Representatives and who can’t; who has a front row view and who is restricted to the ‘cheap seats.’
Some would deny that there is a difference between being able to observe the operations of House up close, from the balcony, and in person versus watching the live stream. But there clearly is a difference. It could be likened to watching a football game on television, from the nosebleed seats, or from the sidelines. After all, it is only on the sidelines where you can see and feel the emotions of the players; where you can hear the strategic chatter; and where you can witness for yourself what is really going on.
Legislative Ministry of Communications
Have you ever heard of the Legislative Ministry of Communications? Well, it is a real thing. If you search for the Legislative Ministry of Communications, you won’t find one. At least not in Louisiana. You won’t find mention of it in the State Constitution. It is not codified in the law, nor is it mentioned in House Rules. You won’t even find mention of their trade name, Legislative Communications Office. It is this group of individuals, acting in concert with the enforcement arm of the House (Sergeant at Arms) under the direct oversight of “King Clay,” that get to determine who is recognized as “press” for the purpose of exercising fundamental rights protected by our Constitutions. It is a bureaucratic weapon to silence others wielded by the faction in control.
Earlier this year, Jamie Pope, investigator, photographer, journalist, etc. with Citizens for a New Louisiana, applied for and was granted a media badge by the Ministry. That badge would be stripped from her a few weeks later by a House overseer on a routine patrol. The exact reasons may never be known, but the “official” government story is that she/we/us are not media enough.
Liberal Media Organizations Only
In response to a public records request it was learned that there were less than sixty applicants seeking media badges for the 2022 year. The lion’s share of those applications being approved under the arbitrarily enforced rules were provided to liberal media organizations such as WAFB (issued thirteen badges), WGMB (issued ten badges) and LPB (issued eleven badges). A media blog site, Louisiana Illuminator, was also granted a media badge. While Citizens for a New Louisiana was initially approved, we and William Wallis Workshops are now the only entities that have been denied access.
In an e-mail, the Ministry explained that the issuance of a Media Badge to Citizens for a New Louisiana was a “misunderstanding.” It concluded that Jamie Pope is not a correspondent, reporter or photographer and that Citizens for a New Louisiana “engages in advocacy and the solicitation of donations for advocacy, not news reporting.” Somehow in Baton Rouge reporting on the events at the State Capital and “news reporting” have two very different meanings. That may help explain why most of us don’t tune in to local “news” anymore. What they call “news” we know as “propaganda” and what we call “news” they refer to as “advocacy.”
Silencing Members of the Legislature
More recently, Schexnayder and the Legislative Ministry of Communications took aim at silencing Representative Royce Duplessis, members of the Legislative Black Caucus and possibly other members of the legislature. On the third day (June 18, 2022) of the 2022 Second Extraordinary Session, Rep. Duplessis requested to be recognized for personal privilege and received confirmation from Schexnayder that he would be recognized. The chamber video for the day shows a break in the video and audio from 11:55 – 13:30, after Rep. Duplessis requested to be recognized (07:48 mark). Video and audio resumes at the 13:31 mark with Schexnayder uttering the words “executive privilege” before there is yet another break in the video and audio lasting over twenty minutes. When the switch is flipped allowing the public to again see and hear what is happening in their House of Representatives, we see over a dozen individuals standing at the podium, most being members of the Black Caucus. They were joined by other representatives such as Mike Echols and Roy Adams. Edmond Jordan is observed mid-speech, talking about the ‘sheep separated from the goats’ and continues speaking for less than a minute.
Who spoke and what was said during those twenty minutes is not known. Sources tell us it was the Speaker himself who ordered the streaming and recording to be disconnected; silencing the black caucus and blocking observers from viewing the deliberations. Even those that were present must now rely only on vague recollections and memories of what transpired. That’s because the Speaker had also previously instructed the security staff to restrict citizens from photographing, videoing, or otherwise recording the activities of the session.
If it pleases the King…
As it turns out, the e-mail message sent to us by the Ministry’s Chief Communication Officer, Cory N. Stewart, was not even authored by Stewart. An e-mail obtained by Citizens for a New Louisiana makes clear that the message was originally drafted by Speaker of the House staffer Cindy Mancuso. So, it was the Speaker himself who ordered our “media” designation be dropped and made to appear as though Corey Stewart had done it.
It is at the pleasure of the King and only the King that we are allowed to exercise our rights at the state Capital. Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys at the trial of Algernon Sidney remarked ‘no man has a right to curse the King, in public or in private.’ Sidney was ultimately put to death for writing but not publishing phrases such as “That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law ought not to be obeyed.”
If we’re not watching them, who will?
Citizens for a New Louisiana is the only organization in Louisiana dedicated to reforming local government. With the help of numerous volunteers we are making some progress. However, there’s much more work we could be doing. Making a difference will take a little more than reading an article every now and then. Your community doesn’t need another spectator. They need someone willing to step onto the field and become a real part of the solution. Will you join us?