The fallout from the sweeping decree that came from the governor’s office — that people in various departments and agencies must have prior approval from that office before speaking with anyone from the media — continues.
And my phone continues to ring as people inside the governor’s office and in state agencies tell me stories of the chaos that has marked the early months of the Sanders administration.
For now, let’s continue to give our new governor the benefit of the doubt and just say she has received awful advice from what I call the Traveling Trumpettes — political apparatchiks who are simply passing through Arkansas on their way to their next political job; people who know nothing about Arkansas and care nothing about the people who live here. The only goal is to keep “the boss” happy and move up the political ladder.
I mentioned yesterday my calls from and visits with various state government officials — people I’ve known for many years, by the way — who consider their hands tied by this decree and no longer feel like they have the freedom to run their agencies.
One told me that if I wanted to have a lunch meeting we had previously agreed to, I would need to call Alexa Henning, someone I’ve never met.
Who is Alexa Henning?
Around the office, some of us call her the Readout Queen. Soon after Gov. Sarah Sanders took office, we began receiving these strange emails titled “a readout from Alexa Henning.”
I spent several years living on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., covering the federal government. I had the privilege of being, at one time or another, in the Oval Office with three consecutive presidents — one Democrat and two Republicans. So I’m not new to the Washington political game. But I had never heard the word.
I contacted my editor from almost 40 years ago, who’s still active in the business, and asked, “What the heck is a readout?” (or at least words to that effect).
She didn’t have a clue. After a bit of research, she told me it’s a newfangled Washington term for somebody who wasn’t one of the principals in a meeting trying to describe said meeting.
Ms. Henning, this ain’t Washington. This is a state of only 3 million people. We tend to know each other on a first-name basis. I’ve known the governor, for example, since she was 10. If the governor wants to tell us about a meeting, she should do it herself rather than someone from out of state we don’t know.
Even better, open some of these meetings to the media so they can report how hard you guys are working and how productive the meetings are.
Henning, one of the Traveling Trumpettes, worked for Sen. Ted Cruz’s losing presidential campaign in 2016 and later worked in the Trump White House. She then worked in 2020 for Trump’s losing presidential campaign, making her two for two in working for losers.
In 2021, she joined the staff of Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who had been one of the leading Trump lapdogs in the Senate.
After Trump’s loss in November 2020, Johnson fell in for a time with the lunatic fringe that was claiming the election was stolen. A former Wisconsin GOP official said Johnson had confided in a November phone call that he knew the election was legitimate but was scared to say so publicly.
I could go on about things such as Johnson’s involvement in the Trump-Ukraine scandal, but this post is about the out-of-staters who are now running Arkansas state government. I want to shed just a little light on those to whom the good people in our departments and agencies are now having to answer.
Henning joined the governor’s office in January with the title of communications director.
Next: The political apparatchik who fled to Arkansas under an ethical cloud and wound up as the governor’s chief of staff.
Hi Rex—telling it like it is. Thanks, maybe the Governor will moderate this gag order after reading your very perseptive column. Thanks for stepping out with it. Transparency is important! It is time for us to catch up with breakfast or lunch….
All the best, Mark
Rex, as I’ve said a thousand times to you and to others, you are a truckload of Arkansas diamonds; truly, a state treasure.