In October 2017, about 50 people in bright orange shirts filed into New Orleans City Hall for a public hearing on Entergy’s request to build a $210 million power plant in eastern New Orleans. It was easy to tell who supported Entergy’s proposed power plant at a public hearing last fall; they were the ones wearing fluorescent orange shirts that read “Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power.” Some of those people were professional actors paid to show up and support the plant. Photo: Michael Stein / The Lens

By Michael Isaac Stein
4 May 2018

(The Lens) – Last October, about 50 people in bright orange shirts filed into City Hall for a public hearing on Entergy’s request to build a $210 million power plant in eastern New Orleans. Their shirts read, “Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power.”

The purpose of the hearing was to gauge community support for the power plant. But for some of those in the crowd, it was just another acting gig.

At least four of the people in orange shirts were professional actors. One actor said he recognized 10 to 15 others who work in the local film industry.

They were paid $60 each time they wore the orange shirts to meetings in October and February. Some got $200 for a “speaking role,” which required them to deliver a prewritten speech, according to interviews with the actors and screenshots of Facebook messages provided to The Lens.

“They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power,” said Keith Keough, who heard about the opportunity through a friend.

He said he thought he was going to shoot a commercial. “I’m not political,” he said. “I needed the money for a hotel room at that point.”

They were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements and were instructed not to speak to the media or tell anyone they were being paid.

But three of them agreed to talk about their experience and provided evidence that they were paid to endorse the power plant. Two spoke on the condition that they not be identified, saying they didn’t want to jeopardize other work or get in trouble for violating the non-disclosure agreement.

Another attendee, an actor and musician who played a small role on HBO’s “Treme,” told WWL-TV he was paid to wear one of the orange shirts at a meeting of the council’s utility committee. […]

Soon after the meeting began, the city council chamber was full. Residents who arrived late were barred from entering. At one point, Guidry asked people who had already spoken to make room for others waiting to get in.

One of the people locked out was Danil Faust, who at the time was running for a seat in the state House of Representatives. Eventually, he got in. “I walk in and the first thing I see is a really close friend of mine in an orange shirt in the third row,” he said. “And he sees me and just puts a finger to his lips.”

That friend was Keough. After the meeting, Faust convinced Keough, who was about to move to North Carolina, to tell him what was going on.

In later meetings, Faust openly accused Entergy of paying people to be there. Wilkerson took notice and told his people to avoid Faust, according to Facebook messages and two of the actors.

They were directed to the nearby Dave & Busters to get paid. “It was very shady, very secretive, especially when we got paid,” said one of the actors. “They literally paid us under the table.” [more]

Actors were paid to support Entergy’s power plant at New Orleans City Council meetings

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