State Rep. Wayne Waddell seems an unlikely irritant to Gov. Bobby Jindal. Waddell, a Republican from Shreveport, represents a conservative corner of the state where the governor is very popular. He also shares Jindal's GOP affiliation. Yet, Waddell has consistently — and sharply — criticized Jindal from Day One for the governor's lack of transparency.
As early as the regular session of 2008, just a few months after Jindal took office, Waddell filed a bill to open more records in the governor's office to public view. Jindal got his allies in the Senate to kill the bill in committee.
Last year, Jindal went on the offensive with a so-called "transparency" bill that actually made his office and his records even more secretive. Waddell and others fought the measure, but the governor prevailed.
At the same time last year, Waddell filed two transparency measures that got short shrift, thanks to Jindal and his legislative allies. A bill that would have opened more records in the governor's office to public view was killed in committee, and just to show how loathsome Jindal considers true transparency (as opposed to the phony kind he peddles in his speeches), a Waddell resolution asking for a mere study of the issue died on the House calendar.
Waddell isn't giving up, however. This year he filed several transparency bills, but they remain long shots. House Bill 307 seeks to undo the damage wrought by Jindal's "transparency" act of last year. HB 499 limits the public records exception accorded to economic development negotiations, and HB 501 limits the time a governor can keep "pre-decisional documents" and gubernatorial schedules (which Jindal's "transparency" act rendered secret last year) out of public view. HB 501 also requires governors to preserve all their records and turn them over to the Louisiana State Archives or a public university upon leaving office, much like a presidential library.
"Regardless of who is governor, the bottom line is the same: People do not know what government is doing to them and what government is not doing for them unless the records of public officials are open," Waddell says. "We do not call them 'public records' because they are private. ...
"Too often, public officials carry an expectation of privacy to public office. I think we have to learn to check it at the door."
Waddell is not alone among the GOP's ranks in criticizing Jindal's lack of transparency. In the Senate, fellow Republican Robert Adley of Benton, also in northwest Louisiana, has sparred with Jindal over transparency issues. (See Commentary, p. 7.) And last year, Republican House Speaker Jim Tucker fell just a few votes short of amending Jindal's so-called transparency bill on the House floor.
It's more than a little ironic that Jindal draws some of his sharpest criticism from fellow Republicans — and on an issue the governor likes to tout as part of his "reform" image. Truth is, Jindal has done more to gut transparency and openness than former Gov. Edwin Edwards or any other crook ever dreamed of doing. Too bad the GOP's transparency warriors aren't getting more help from their own party — or from Democrats.