Taxpayer Flight to Political Event?

Was Delbert Hosemann’s and others’ flight to DeSoto County on state’s King Air for a political event just a coincidence? I think not.

Last Monday evening the DeSoto County Republican Women held their annual Christmas dinner. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was the guest speaker for the event. Shortly before 2 p.m. on Monday, the state-owned (i.e., taxpayers) Super King Air 300 left Jackson and flew to Olive Branch in DeSoto County. After the GOP women’s dinner the state plane (“Air Mississippi”) left Olive Branch about 9 p.m. and returned to Jackson. Others on the flight included State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, two Hosemann staffers, Cory Wilson, who is running for the legislature next year and works for Fitch, and even more interesting, State Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who had driven to North Mississippi with two staffers earlier in the day for insurance department business, flew back to Jackson on the plane for the return trip only.

Hosemann has two offices in North Mississippi in Hernando and Tupelo. There is no question that the party line will be that Hosemann was in Desoto County on official state business after the flight landed in Olive Branch that afternoon until the GOP dinner that evening. At this point I have not received a response from Hosemann’s chief of staff for a comment on the flight on the state plane. However, anyone who thinks that flying to the Republican dinner where Hosemann was the guest speaker was not the main reason for the flight is very naïve. Even if official state business was conducted during the trip, it is clear that the main purpose of the flight was because Hosemann was the guest speaker at the Republican women’s dinner.

It is almost as interesting that State Sen. Watson flew with Hosemann, Treasurer Fitch, and the others on Air Mississippi. As everyone knows Watson is the closest sidekick of State Sen. Chris McDaniel who ran in the GOP senatorial primary against U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. Why was a state senator from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, at opposite ends of the state, attending a dinner sponsored by the DeSoto County Republican Women? The political answer is that if Hosemann decides not to oppose Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ re-election next year, Watson could take up the challenge. Gov. Phil Bryant and his political insiders would more than welcome someone running against Reeves.

However, the real issue here is that those who went to DeSoto County for a political function made the trip on the state’s King Air 300. When a member of Congress mixes official business with a political trip, they can receive reimbursement from their official allowance for the official part of the trip and pay for the campaign-related part out of their own campaign account. That’s not going to happen with the flight to DeSoto County. What is even stranger is that Hosemann is one of the three statewide elected officials who ranks highest in net worth. Besides that, he has a hefty balance in his campaign account that could have paid the cost of a privately chartered flight to Desoto County. But unfortunately, that would not account for the sense of entitlement, at taxpayer expense, that is part of many of our elected officials.

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