Following the collapse of the recent special legislative session, one of State Rep. Cameron Henry’s (R-Metairie) colleagues, Rep. Ted James (D- Baton Rouge), joked on Twitter that Henry was the actual Speaker of the House, not Taylor Barras; it’s funny, because, as so many see it, it’s true. Henry, who got his start in politics as an aide to then-State Rep. Steve Scalise, is generally considered one of the most powerful members of the legislature.
Three years ago, when it appeared inevitable that David Vitter would simply waltz right into the Governor’s Mansion, Henry was widely speculated to be the heir to the speakership. But instead of being relegated to the sidelines, Henry managed to maintain his influence, particularly among the far-right. Today, although he does not control the dais as he had hoped, Henry still helps control a dwindling but important faction of his party, which recently sabotaged the first special legislative session, at a cost of nearly $1 million, by continuing to insist that Louisiana has “a spending problem.”
“We just concluded a special session that the governor called. Clearly, it was very premature to call this session,” Henry told constituents on a taped video posted to his Facebook page. “The governor didn’t have a clear plan of what he actually wanted to do, and surprisingly, he didn’t have the support of his own Democrats to get anything actually passed.”
Of course, Gov. Edwards was repeatedly and abundantly clear and open about his plan, and Republicans, as the majority party, could have easily worked across the aisle on key legislation if they hadn’t attached poison pills to every reasonable proposal. But even if every Democrat had voted in favor of Republican-led plans to close the fiscal cliff, those bills still would have failed, because, as anyone who watched the past two weeks will tell you, there are enormous divisions in the Republican Party.
“I think it’s important for taxpayers to know that when the governor started off, he said we had a $990 million shortfall,” Henry continued. “A shortfall is defined in Baton Rouge as not giving an agency the amount of money they would like to have.”
Over the next few weeks, the people of Louisiana should all pay particular attention to which “agencies” Rep. Henry wants to eliminate or reduce, because thus far, he hasn’t done anything other than treat the state’s problems, which he was elected to help fix, as a self-aggrandizing fundraising opportunity.
Perhaps there is a reason.
According to the most recent income disclosure reports required by law to be submitted by all elected officials in Louisiana, Henry and his wife are entirely reliant on his part-time job in the state Capitol and a rental home and some sort of interest payments that each bring in $5,000 to $25,000 a year. Thus, Rep. Henry wants the entire world to know that he earns anywhere in the range of $38,000 a year, at the very least, and $78,000 a year, at the very most.
He is required to also disclose his wife’s income, and even though she is a lawyer and rumored to have a financial stake in her family’s successful restaurant, Henry claims that his wife doesn’t earn a dime.
Together, the Henrys also own a consulting company, ThinkNOLA, which also apparently didn’t earn any money in recent years, and separately, Henry owns JCOM LLC, which he describes as a holding company for Henry Industrial Supply and which also makes no money, apparently. (But that’s a different story).
Together, they live in a home valued at around $660,000, which they originally purchased a few years prior for $485,000.
Henry’s most recent vehicle retails for $68,000, according to publicly available records.
On Jan. 31st, 2018, Cameron Henry filed his second extension on his taxes, from 2016, which he reported to the Ethics Administration. There is no indication why the state representative continues to request more time, because if the personal financial disclosure documents he filed with the state are accurate, his taxes should be fairly straightforward:
Around the same time, he also filed campaign finance reports for both his state campaign fund and his political action committee, CameronPAC.
All told, the two funds spent a total of more than $120,000 last year, nearly five times the amount he earns as a legislator, and he spent that money almost every single day of 2017, a year in which there were only a small handful of elections.
Others, like Senate President John Alario, have more money in their campaign and PAC accounts, but last year, no current state legislator spent as much as Henry did.
To be sure, many of the charges seem legitimate: $10,000 for a website, a handful of donations to local non-profit events, a $115-a-month storage unit, and a couple of consultants who earned more than $10,000 during the year. Henry also moved money to at least three campaigns directly: Stuart Bishop, Beau Beaullieu, and State Rep. Julie Emerson’s campaign for Louisiana GOP Chair.
But it’s impossible not to ignore the other expenses: Thousands of dollars spent on travel and airfare, thousands more on food and fine dining, and, of course, thousands on LSU football tickets.
He spent more than $700 with a company that specializes in transporting motorcycles and high-end automobiles and another $2,600 to “repair” his “campaign vehicle.”
In only one year, he racked up 39 Uber rides on his campaign and PAC.
There are 117 different line-items for food, ranging from daily cups of coffee to a nearly $900 meal catered by Galatoires.
There are 122 different line-items for travel, including everything from a tank of gasoline to a couple of $1,400 tickets one weekend and a $682 night at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
It is worth noting that legislators receive a per-diem when they are in session, and Henry, like everyone else, appears to have taken advantage of that perk: His base salary, after all, is only $16,800.
Here’s a good representation of the ways in which State Rep. Henry spent his campaign’s money during late January and February of last year:
And here’s a good representation of how he spent his PAC’s money in the months of August and September:
I am not arguing, in any way, that Henry’s campaign and PAC expenditures are illegal or even improper. But they are problematic.
And perhaps it’s not wise to take financial advice or lectures about “spending problems” from someone who still can’t figure out his taxes from two years ago, seems to have difficulty filling out a simple personal financial disclosure form, and uses the “company” credit card like Kevin McAllister in Home Alone 2.