FAILURE THEATER UPDATE: Inside Clay Schexnayder’s Secret Meetings

In our last update we addressed the rather bizarre phenomenon wherein Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder is holding meetings with private citizens who have criticized his performance on Facebook in order to lecture and gripe at them for that criticism.

We noted that Lafayette conservative activist and blogger Michael Lunsford was invited to one of them, and Lunsford wrote a detailed description of that meeting at his blog. That was the first of the two meetings we’re aware of; the second was attended by four women from the Baton Rouge area, most of whom had been involved in the effort last month to reopen high school football in the state.

Highly curiously, the attendees at these meetings were required to deposit their cell phones in a basket which was removed from the meeting area. That fact more than anything else surrounding these peculiar meetings, has generated a great deal of buzz. Schexnayder clearly isn’t interested in transparency when meeting with his constituents or the citizens of the state, something that is frankly quite wrongheaded if he expects to make himself understood to be a representative of the people. Louisianans have long been suspicious of politicians who insist on doing business behind closed doors, and yet Schexnayder is the least transparent House Speaker in a long line of back-room dealers.

Which is quite clear from the recording we’ve received from the meeting with the four abovementioned women.

You read that correctly. You’re about to hear audio of Schexnayder’s secret meeting which took place at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 16 in the Speaker’s office at the State Capitol.

What you’re about to hear is four ordinary citizens attempting to get a straight answer from Clay Schexnayder and the others he has pulled into the meeting, largely in an effort to “big-boy” them into shutting up about their anger that Louisiana has not fully reopened, and in return what they receive is excuses and browbeating about their criticism.

The women invited to the meeting had been approached via email by Schexnayder’s legislative assistant Gina Duhe. They were led to believe it would be a private meeting attended by the invitees, Schexnayder, and Duhe. That wasn’t what they found when they arrived. Also on hand were a trio of state representatives in Schexnayder’s inner circle – Rep. Barry Ivey, Rep. Paula Davis and Rep. Buddy Mincey, along with Mincey’s wife Michelle. Also in attendance was Lionel Rainey, who is Schexnayder’s political consultant (Rainey also runs Schexnayder’s dark-money organization Leanding Louisiana), House Legal Division Director Robert Singletry, and Cindy Mancuso, who is Schexnayder’s executive legal counsel.

As you can imagine, this looked a lot more like an inquisition than a town hall to the civilians in attendance. Particularly after the phones were taken away.

Here’s how the meeting started…

Everybody’s on the same page. They all want to reopen the state.

So you’ll know. They want you to know nobody disagrees that the state ought to be reopened.

We all want to reopen the state. So why isn’t the state reopened when Louisiana law allows for the legislature to act unilaterally to dissolve a governor’s emergency declaration and his assumption of powers therein? That’s what the citizens want to know, and they’re also curious as to why they’ve been called to this meeting. What Schexnayder says in response to that makes him sound a little on the sensitive side…

Then comes the discussion about the reopening of high school football in the state – which according to Clay Schexnayder was a Clay Schexnayder production; he boasts that the Louisiana High School Athletic Association buckled when he threatened to open a special session solely for the reopening of high school football, at which he would feed them three “shit sandwiches”…

Then comes a segment that in which one of the women gets all four state legislators to agree that COVID-19 is not currently a crisis in Louisiana based on the numbers, and then states the case for Louisiana’s citizens that the House has the power under state law to reopen the state, but as she phrases it, “chose not to.” The speaker you’ll hear in this clip who’s rattling off all the things he’s doing to reopen the state is Ivey.

That took the meeting in the direction of why the petition to reopen the state hasn’t been put into effect. According to Schexnayder, the answer is it’s unconstitutional. The explanation and the discussion that followed went on for almost 10 minutes and it’s well worth listening to if you want to make an informed assessment of how badly the House Speaker really does want the state to reopen.

A bit later, Rainey gave a “Civics 101” lecture to the women which was completely wrong. He said that it’s not possible for one part of one branch of government to “overthrow” the other. Which is not true, seeing as though in lots of states the Senate is given the power to approve or reject a governor’s appointments, which could well be interpreted as “overthrowing” the governor.

But it’s worse than that, because the statute which allows for a petition to end a gubernatorial declaration of emergency was passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed by the governor. It’s the emergency which is the extraordinary measure, not the petition. The petition signifies a return to the state’s constitution, not a departure from it. The presumption works completely opposite to Rainey’s declaration (he isn’t a lawyer, by the way).

Then it got weird. Davis proceeded to ask the women where they get their information, and the legislators began berating the women about things that had been written about them on social media. Schexnayder hotly denied he was pals with Edwards or the governor’s puppet, which isn’t really the issue – the issue is that he’s been ineffective in countering Edwards, so much so that people are suspicious about that. That’s when Mincey jumped in and attacked Rep. Alan Seabaugh for having said he had 53 signatures on the petition (Seabaugh actually said he had verbal commitments and/or signatures from 53 people, commitments which went away when Schexnayder came out against it).

Mincey then began whining about how he had been called a RINO, and his argument that the charge was false was that it was made on the basis of his vote for Schexnayder as the Speaker, and he said he voted for Schexnayder essentially because Schexnayder treated him well.

One of our favorite axioms of politics is that “if you’re a politician, nobody gives a damn about your problems.” This fits within that. The meeting started to unravel at that point.

Schexnayder then tried to tell the women there are all kinds of things the Legislature does behind the scenes for strategic reasons, and his suspensive resolution, HCR 9, which is parked on the Senate calendar and has been for more than two weeks, is one of them.

Nobody was very excited about that, and the women said they’re more interested in results than maneuvering. From there Gina Duhe (we think it’s Gina Duhe) said they get calls from people wanting to keep the state closed. That didn’t fly, because, as it was said, everybody there agreed the state isn’t in a true public health crisis.

From there, Rainey proceeded to lecture the attendees that a “global pandemic” isn’t Schexnayder’s fault, and demanded the Speaker be congratulated for taking time out of a busy special session day to meet with the peasants. One of the women snarkily commented “thank you for talking to your constituents” in response.

Schexnayder at that point was attempting to disengage from the meeting, so he then started giving a speech with walking-away points. He claimed Seabaugh has never had more than 20 signatures on his petition. But even if that were true, Rep. Mark Wright had a petition and Reps. Tony Bacala and Richard Nelson have had a petition, and both of them certainly have had more than 20 signatures, so that’s a disengenuous statement at best.

Schexnayder then whined about criticism on social media, which is boring, but then he admitted something interesting – his tire shop flooded during the August 2016 flood, which apparently he didn’t have insurance for, and it hasn’t reopened. That fits with the fact that his ethics disclosure says he has no other means of income outside of the Legislature – which isn’t a good thing.

For his trouble he got a verbal shotgun blast from the women who have their own sob stories, and he was told that maybe if he’d been more forthcoming he might have had less trouble – and that also goes for Mincey, who has transparency issues as well.

“The state needs to reopen,” one of them said. She wasn’t interested in Clay Schexnayder’s problems.

That brings us to our final clip, in which Schexnayder was told that he’s the Speaker of the House and if he were to endorse the petition and ask his members to sign it, it would get its majority. He denied he has sway with the Republicans in the House, saying there are “10 or 15” who won’t vote to reopen the state, and then he said he doesn’t want to see anyone be attacked when his audience seized on that to ask him who those people are.

Bear in mind, he had already talked about Seabaugh behind his back. Now he won’t talk about the opponents within the delegation behind their backs. Even so, with 68 Republicans in the House you could have 15 not signing a petition and you’d still be at 53.

At that point Davis took over and made some exceptionally bad arguments, the worst of which is that if Edwards’ declaration were to end then East Baton Rouge Parish would be under the thumb of its mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome with respect to COVID-19 restrictions, and she didn’t want to see Broome turn into LaToya Cantrell.

Which would be the best thing that ever happened to East Baton Rouge Parish, seeing as through Broome is up for re-election, and a Cantrellesque lockdown would surely ruin her. Davis comes off as grasping for any viable argument against a petition, and seeing as though she has opposed every iteration of the petition one can very easily come to the conclusion she isn’t telling the truth as to whether she’s for reopening the state.

The entire recording goes an hour and 45 minutes. For now we’re just restricting this to the 10 clips above. There is more, though – toward the end, things become quite unruly when, after Schexnayder has left, Mincey gets ugly with the women about the criticism he’s endured and Davis proceeds to gripe about how well informed, or not, the audience is. We might drop that audio later, but it isn’t really relevant to the substance of the meeting, which is this bizarre exercise in excuse-making Schexnayder has made multiple performances of.

It’s Failure Little Theater. And audiences are giving it two thumbs down. This is a show that needs to close for good as soon as possible.



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