The writers for HBO’s satirical show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” might want to get a weekend place in Louisiana. They’ve certainly figured out that there’s plenty of good material here.
In 2015, Oliver zeroed in on Orleans Parish’s badly overburdened and underfunded public defender office. In 2016, he featured state Sen. and former Baton Rouge mayoral candidate Bodi White claiming the election of Barack Obama basically negated the need for school desegregation. This past summer, he used former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick as a poster child for prosecutorial misconduct, and a week later zeroed in on Entergy New Orleans’ use of protesters-for-hire before the New Orleans City Council.
Compared to some other parts of the country, there's not a lot of evidence that Louisiana politics has changed much in the age of Donald Trump.
This week, it was former Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle’s turn in the show’s withering gaze.
In a long segment about President Donald Trump’s purported campaign to “drain the swamp,” Oliver painted Angelle, who now oversees offshore drilling as head of the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, as a true swamp creature.
To bolster his case, Oliver played an old clip of Angelle angrily demanding an end to the drilling moratorium after the BP oil spill, plus a relatively new one in which he gives out his cell phone number to industry insiders and urges them to call rather than text, because texts are public record.
This level of coziness with the industry he regulates would come as no surprise to those who followed his career before he headed to Washington. Angelle, who also worked in the Blanco and Jindal administrations and served a stint as lieutenant governor, has always been an unabashed cheerleader for oil and gas. Industry executives liked him enough to make massive donations to a SuperPAC that supported his losing 2015 gubernatorial bid. He also had a six-figure deal to serve on a pipeline company’s board.
Angelle lost his last race for Congress to Clay Higgins, a Trump-like character who made his name not in government service but in swaggering Crime Stoppers videos, but his presence in the Trump administration is probably more revealing about the state of play. Among other things, it pretty much proves that Washington is as swampy as ever.