You’ve probably already heard something about the mess Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder is in this week thanks to a newspaper story about a remodel of his suite at the Pentagon Barracks apartments legislators use when in session at the Capitol.
Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder used his stepsons’ company to remodel two Pentagon Barracks apartments he uses, and his wife arranged for the appliances to come from the company she works for, our media partners at The Advocate report.
When a pipe burst at the Pentagon Barracks in February 2021, the state agency that oversees the historic structure across from the State Capitol moved forward in normal fashion to fix the three damaged apartments. Officials hired a state-approved contractor, who set about replacing the waterlogged floors and fixtures with a goal of getting it all done before that year’s legislative session six weeks later, The Advocate reports.
But House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, the leader of the House, insisted on a more comprehensive remodel of the two apartments he uses at the Pentagon. One unit provides living quarters, while the other serves as a lounge for visitors.
And Schexnayder ditched the state’s contractor and brought in a new company to do the work: A small contractor called DAPA Enterprises, owned by his two stepsons, Jonathan and Beau Diez, according to documents received from an Advocate public records request. The documents included emails between state officials, invoices, budgets and notes from state officials.
It’s a tempest in a teapot, and what’s probably most accurate about this is that it’s the Baton Rouge Advocate throwing a brushback pitch on Schexnayder for his having empaneled an investigation into Gov. John Bel Edwards’ cover-up of the Ronald Greene killing by the State Police. The remodel was done in early 2021, after all – it isn’t like this is fresh news.
And it isn’t like wasting 48 grand of taxpayer money is a particularly big deal. Edwards wastes $48 million practically daily just in the Louisiana Department of Health, and the Advocate can’t be bothered to investigate that.
There is something about this that hasn’t gotten a lot of play, which is that the reception area Schexnayder had his stepsons build out of the apartment adjacent to his is the site of his weekly luncheon that he only invites Republicans to. And Schexnayder has made it a point to hold that weekly luncheon at the exact same time the House Republican Delegation has always held its own meetings. So Schexnayder spent that money essentially to cut the legs out of the delegation, as it’s the organization from which comes the primary dissatisfaction with his leadership.
None of which is a big deal to Joe Six Pack from Bunkie, Louisiana. Like we said, it’s a tempest in a teapot.
But the State Capitol is without question a teapot, so Schexnayder ended up taking the microphone on the House floor to talk about the remodel – and honestly, it might have been better had he not done so…
“I brung in a crew that my stepson came in and overseen,” probably isn’t the best way to kick off your explainer.
What offends us about this is how badly Schexnayder is handling it. This violates the basic rules of politics.
First of all, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. You put out a press release on this – you don’t put yourself on video from the House chamber that somebody could then use to clobber you in a 30 second ad in, let’s say, next year’s Lt. Governor campaign.
And second, when faced with something small like this which threatens to become something big if it’s not swept away, you absolutely must change the narrative.
Rather than take to the floor defending himself for his stepsons’ remodel/repair job at his Pentagon Barracks mini-palace, what Schexnayder should have done yesterday was to bring up Rep. Dodie Horton’s anti-grooming bill and pass it. The bill was discharged to the House floor last week on a 55-39 vote after three RINO members of the House Education Committee voted with the Democrats on that committee to kill it, and it’s just sitting there waiting for a vote.
If Schexnayder were to move that bill and get it to the Senate it would cause a furor, and Edwards would be screaming about “don’t say gay” and the intolerant homophobe Republicans and their Speaker, yada yada. And you’d see all of those stories at the Advocate and elsewhere.
But you know what you wouldn’t see?
Anything about his stepsons and that remodel job.
If you’re going to get beaten up, get beaten up for being a conservative. Not for being a crook. You can defend being a conservative. Maybe not in the eyes of Tyler Bridges and Sam Karlin, but honestly – who cares what those guys think? The majority of voters in the state would have Schexnayder’s back if he was getting conservative legislation passed.
We can’t understand why something this basic is getting missed.
It’s this old trope that Louisiana offers a graduate-level education on politics to people who practice it, and honestly we don’t know whether that was ever true. It definitely isn’t now – the House Speaker is a high school dropout who can barely speak the language and doesn’t seem to understand how to do basic tasks of political survival, and yet he isn’t being ousted by the majority party most of whom can’t stand him.
That doesn’t look like graduate-level politics, frankly. It looks like Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest in a race to the intellectual bottom. And we’ve got to get more out of our legislature than this.