When the announcement came last week that the Louisiana State Troopers Association was endorsing John Bel Edwards, we figured it was more or less the same thing as the Sheriffs’ Association – a combination of personal connections, resistance to some reforms and funding alterations David Vitter has proposed (and perhaps a resistance to the idea of changing the Louisiana State Police’s mission by installing a permanent troop presence in New Orleans, which is the most important policy issue involving the State Police in this election) and maybe some reluctance by a law enforcement organization to endorse a candidate accused by his opponent of “breaking the law.” (Though as Oscar noted last night, the statute of limitations has likely run on that, but not on this bit of lawlessness).
But it turns out all of those factors may not have been at play after all. This Facebook post has been shared nearly 150 times as of this post’s publication…
That’s not just some wild accusation, either. On Friday, a buddy of ours who has been a state trooper for decades and is now retired, and who actually served in higher echelons of the LSTA, called us and told the same story – that the board never polled its members and that the troopers were furious, that endorsing political candidates has always been something the LSTA has refused to do and that it was a surprise call.
So much so that when our friend contacted one member of the board to ask what the hell had happened, that board member said he’d been forced to make a “split-second decision,” and went along with the push to endorse Edwards.
And our friend told us that a poll of the members would NOT produce an endorsement for Edwards at all; in fact, in the unlikely event the troopers would agree to make an endorsement Vitter would have gotten their preference.
We’ve also been told threats were made to the LSTA’s management that if they know what’s good for the future of the State Police they’d better be on board for Edwards’ big victory. Which is of a piece with what we also heard from a state legislator who had spoken out against Edwards’ legislative record – he got a disturbing phone call from Edwards promising retribution.
In other words, old-school strongarm Louisiana Democrat politics. You’re either on board with the machine, or you get to find out just how vindictive the machine can be.
It seems that the LSTA has top brass who are either part of the machine, or are intimidated by it.
And this is one more example of how the John Bel Edwards campaign is simply not what it seems to be.
UPDATE: From a trusted friend…
I have a friend who’s a trooper who’s quietly supporting Vitter who told me Saturday that [state police commander Mike] Edmonson “ordered” the Trooper’s Association board’s “endorsement” of JBE because he cut a deal with Edwards to get himself reappointed as State Police Commander in an Edwards administration. He had been supporting Vitter until he became convinced that Edwards was going to win.
14.2 Prohibited Political Activity.
(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) (below), no member of the State Police Commission and no classified member of the State Police Service shall:
1. Participate or engage in political activity, including, but not limited to, any effort to support or oppose the election of a candidate for political office or support or oppose a particular political party in an election;
2. Be a candidate for nomination or election to public office;
3. Be a member of any national, state, or local committee of a political party or faction;
4. Make or solicit contributions for any political purpose, party, faction, or candidate;
5. Use or attempt to use his position to influence, punish or coerce the political action of any person, including a classified member of the State Police Service;
6. Take active part in the management of the affairs of a political party, faction, candidate, or any political campaign;
7. Take active part in an effort to recall from office an elected public official, or seek, solicit or attempt to influence or coerce any person, including a classified member of the State Police Service or of the State Police Commission, into participating in any such effort or attempt to influence or coerce any person into signing a recall petition; or
8. Directly or indirectly, pay or promise to pay any assessment, subscription, or contribution for any political party, faction or candidate, nor solicit or take part in soliciting any such assessment, subscription or contribution, and no person shall solicit any such assessment, subscription or contribution of any classified employee in the State Police Service.
(b) Prohibited political activity shall not include:
1. Seeking election as the classified state police officer serving on the State Police Commission;
2. Activity in support of or opposition to the election of the state police officer serving on the State Police Commission;
3. The exercise as a citizen of the expression of an opinion privately;
4. Serving as a commissioner or official watcher at the polls for any state or federal election;
5. Casting a vote in any local, state or federal election;
6. Except as provided in subsection (a) (7) (above), activity in support of or opposition to any referendum, including a tax referenda, amendment of the state or federal constitutions or issues involving bonded indebtedness; or
7. Signing a petition to recall from office an elected public official.
So that would seem to be a fairly clear rule barring the entire association, and the board as well, from making an endorsement.
Why would they have made that endorsement knowing the rules? One would have to think it wouldn’t have happened but for a sweet inducement or an ugly threat, or perhaps both, in order to engender such a departure from the published code of conduct.