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Jindal's 4th Floor Revolving Door

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Dan4th Nicholas
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Flickr

The names Melissa Sellers, Kyle Plotkin, Frank Collins, Sean Lansing, Sarah Haley, Shannon Bates, Mike Reed, Alexis Nicaud, and Doug Cain may not mean anything to you, but each of them has served in Governor Bobby Jindal’s press office at some point during the past seven and a half years.

“I’ve never seen this kind of revolving door,” says MarsanneGolsby, who served as Governor Mike Foster’s press secretary for his entire two terms. “And before I was Governor Foster’s press secretary, I was a reporter covering the capitol, and I don’t remember this much turnover. I do think it’s unusual.”

Bob Mann, who was Governor Kathleen Blanco’s communications director, says changes near the end of a term are to be expected, but the 4th floor door started turning even before Jindal won his second term.

“The governor has hired people who are basically campaign professionals. But I don’t think that he’s ever hired a single person who’s spent a day working as a journalist,” Mann says, noting that’s been a possible factor in the chronic personnel changes. “I think they see the news media as a foe to be vanquished or manipulated.”

Golsby agrees that battle fatigue may be contributing to the turnover.

“You’ve got to care about the people you’re serving,” Golsby explains, listing the qualities that make for a good press secretary. “Number two, you’ve got to believe in the person that you’re working for, and in his or her ability to do the job. And three: you’ve got to like the press.”

While Governor Jindal’s previous press secretaries have had a distinctly disconnected and adversarial relationship with the capitol press corps, his newest press secretary is a familiar and friendly face.

Major Doug Cain, the spokesman for Louisiana State Police, was appointed last week to also handle press secretary duties for the governor’s office. Mann says that’s got to be awkward.

“I can’t imagine that someone like Doug, who has been accustomed to just giving information in a factual, straightforward way, would find it very enjoyable to be working in a governor’s office that is really a spin machine.”

Mann, who teaches political communications at LSU, says he hopes the next six months don’t present Cain with ethical dilemmas that will compromise the major’s 17 years of honorable service as a state trooper. Mann offers the same advice he gives students:

“You sort of see yourself, in a way, as a lawyer. I mean, you’re defending in many cases some people, and you’re not excusing their behavior, but you’re doing your job. You have as much an obligation to your client – the elected official – as you do to the public and the press.”

Cain’s first press release for the governor was issued Tuesday, announcing an investigation into Planned Parenthood, because of a video being circulated via the internet.