Category: Candidate Spending

Will Governor Increase His Campaign Account IRA?

On Oct. 8 Gov. Phil Bryant will host his annual statewide fundraiser in Madison, MS. (It is labeled “statewide”, but he has had many more during his current re-election campaign.)  Contributors have a choice of sponsoring and contributing to The 2015 Victory Fund or to the Friends of Phil Bryant. According to the invitation, Contributions to Victory 2015 will be used to “elect the best conservative leaders for Mississippi’s future.” Contributions to the Friends of Phil Bryant are for Bryant’s re-election campaign. There are a couple of initial impressions. On his most recent campaign finance report filing, Bryant listed $2.8 million cash on hand. I don’t think anyone questions that $2.8 million is enough to handle his November opponent, Democrat Robert Gray. Gray spent zero in his surprising win of the Democrat nomination. Gray, a truck driver, has even received a lot of national publicity for his primary victory. Still, there is no person in Mississippi who seriously thinks the likeable Gray represents any sort of serious challenge to Bryant’s second term. Bryant could probably spend little or nothing of his $2.8 million to turn back Gray’s challenge. The second impression is his Oct. 8 fundraiser will raise contributions for other Republican candidates running for statewide office or to ensure that the GOP remains in control of the Mississippi Senate and House. The obvious statewide race is the campaign for attorney general of Mike Hurst against Democrat incumbent Jim Hood. Hood is the last remaining Democrat to hold statewide office and the contest is the only real competitive race slated for November. To date, Bryant has done little or nothing to help Hurst financially in his challenge to Hood. Contrast this with former Gov. Haley Barbour. During his two campaigns for governor Barbour gave and directed millions of dollars to assist other GOP candidates for statewide office and the legislature. The sponsor levels for Bryant’s statewide event are not modest. The “Chairman” level is $25,000, the “Co-Chairman” level is $10,000 and someone can be listed as a “Host” for a mere $5,000. The cost to attend is $1,000. At this point there is no way to make an educated guess of how many contributors on Oct. 8 will give to the Victory Fund or will elect to contribute to the Friends of Phil Bryant.

There’s a lingering suspicion, even among many Republicans, that Bryant will have a huge cash on hand balance after he is elected to his second term and final four years as governor. Under the state’s current, and very pitiful campaign finance law regulations, Bryant will be allowed to convert any leftover campaign funds to personal use as long as he pays the applicable federal and state income taxes. Thus, many people view his campaign account balance as sort of a campaign contribution IRA. As one veteran Republican told me earlier this week, reporters, at every opportunity, should ask Gov. Bryant if he intends to convert any campaign funds to personal use.

“Black Lives Matter” activists boo and heckle D.C. mayor

National Review magazine reports that murder is way up in the District of Columbia. The new mayor, Muriel Bowser, says she intends to do something about the soaring murder rate and will put more cops on the street in the most violent neighborhoods. At a meeting when she made the announcement, Mayor Bowser was booed and heckled by “Black Lives Matter” activists.

It’s not fantasy sports, it’s fantasy gambling

During the past few weeks, there is hardly a time when I listened to a TV or radio broadcast that I didn’t hear an ad for a fantasy sports website. A small blurb in USA TODAY made it clear.  Combined sum daily fantasy sports websites DraftKing and FanDuel spend $27 million on television ads during the opening week of the NFL season. If you’ve heard or seen the ads, most tell you to pick your sport, pick your team (players) and pick up your cash. Sure, quit your day job and just participate in fantasy sports gambling. In August, Mississippi casinos had $172 million in gaming revenue. It is more accurate to say gamblers lost $172 million at the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River casinos.


Do Some Republicans Have a Death Wish?

I admire politicians who have strong convictions. Purity in politics is another matter. Political purity means nothing if it causes a candidate to be defeated and even worse, to have no chance for victory. A favorite derogatory term of ultra-conservatives is to call someone a RINO (Republican In Name Only). I will sidetrack for a minute to recall one of my favorite RINO stories.

The late Mayor Ken Combs of Gulfport was one of my favorite people. Early one morning I received a call from a businessman who did a lot of business with the City of Gulfport. He was a friend of Combs, but also had a good relationship with several of the city councilman. Combs was a three-term mayor of Gulfport, a very likeable man, and served the Gulf Coast city well. “Did you hear, ” the businessman asked, “last night Ken called one of the council members a wino?” I commented he had called one of his Republican councilman a RINO, not a wino. RINO is a term we are hearing more often these days. You mostly hear it coming from ultra-conservatives who spend more time attacking fellow Republicans than Democrats. Next year’s presidential election is very critical for Republicans. They have majorities in both the Senate and House, but with Democrat Barack Obama or another Democrat in the White House, the Republican agenda won’t get very far.

For me personally, the most important reason for having a Republican president in the White House is conservative appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. As far as a death wish, that would be the case if someone like Donald Trump got the GOP nomination for president. If he did, which I think and hope he won’t, Democrats will be dancing in the streets. Recently I noted that another Republican contender, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, showed that having graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School with honors doesn’t keep someone from being a whack job. Being a billionaire like Trump certainly proves success in business and having a lot of money does not make someone qualified to be president. To me it is a little scary that right now Trump is polling higher than other Republican contenders and almost one in every five Republicans favors Trump.

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Will the Farce of Mississippi’s Campaign Finance Report Law Continue?

Many races were decided by the August 4 first primary. The others will be determined by the August 25 runoff or November general election. Hopefully, when incumbent and newly elected state legislators return to Jackson in January of 2016, one issue won’t be neglected – Mississippi’s pitiful campaign finance laws. Those laws garnered attention before August 2 when Clarion-Ledger political editor Geoff Pender reported State Auditor Stacey Pickering was being investigated by the FBI for issues involving his campaign account. The issue of candidates using campaign contributions for personal rather than campaign expenses has also been raised regarding Attorney General Jim Hood, State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, and Sen. Will Longwitz. Make no mistake. This issue is far more widespread than just a handful of legislators or some statewide officials. In an excellent column the Sunday before the first primary, Pender wrote about what can best be described as legal fraud is allowed because of the state’s campaign finance laws. He wrote about Rep. Hank Zuber, a Republican from Ocean Springs, offering several bills to prohibit campaign donations from being used for a politician’s personal expenses. Somewhat tongue in cheek Pender said Zuber’s bills he has introduced during more than one session have been referred to the “Committee of the Azalea Bushes.” He added that Zuber’s bill also died in the “Tico’s Steakhouse Committee.” Tico’s is a Jackson dining and watering hole where many legislative souls have been bought with steaks and booze. During the 2015 legislative session, Zuber filed HB 169 which would make it unlawful for a candidate to use any campaign contribution for any personal reason unrelated to the candidate’s campaign. HB 169 was  double refered to the House Judiciary A Committee and the Apportionment and Elections Committee. A double referral is used more often than not to make sure a bill is never reported to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote by all members. Judiciary A is chaired by Mark Baker of Brandon and the Apportionment and Elections Committee is chaired by Bill Denny of Jackson. Both are Republicans. Of course, HB 169 died in committee.

Dark Horse Mississippi nails two leading Senate Repubicans

Dark Horse Mississippi is a political blog that tilts to the left and favors Democrats. A couple of things about DHM bother me. The site hides behind anonymity. I think any blogger or anyone making comments on a blog that uses anonymity is gutless. If

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State Campaign Finance Reports Are a Farce; An Explosive Story About Stacey Pickering’s Campaign Expenditures

More than eight months ago I wrote that the campaign finance reports candidates must file with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, especially the reports on candidate expenses, are all but worthless. Because no real documentation is required candidates can use their campaign contributions to pay personal expenses instead of legitimate campaign expenses. All that blew up in the headlines this week with an excellent story by political editor Geoff Pender of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. The story was first posted online early Thursday evening and headlined that the FBI is probing State Auditor Stacey Pickering’s campaign funds. The story raised a lot of serious questions and could certainly become an explosive issue that could seriously hurt Pickering’s re-election campaign. The issue regarding Pickering’s campaign expenditures was first raised a few weeks ago on the Gulf Coast by his Republican primary opponent. Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler raised the issue of the state auditor’s campaign disbursements being used for personal expenses. The original  story in a  Gulf Coast newspaper did not receive widespread coverage. That certainly won’t be the case with Pender’s story. Pickering can talk all he wants about “negative campaign tactics” and last minute dirty politics, but a capable reporter like Pender does not play a political game against any candidate or for the benefit of any candidate. Anyone who has bothered to review Pickering’s campaign finance reports for several years knows there are some very obvious questionable items regarding his campaign expenses. Forget about all the BS about last minute dirty campaign tactics. Just read Pender’s story about the FBI probe of Pickering in the newspaper or go to the Clarion-Ledger online and read the story. Too often reporting about campaign finances only deals with the big question of how much money a candidate has raised or how much cash they have on hand for the rest of their campaign. That is not the case with Pender’s story.  Remember, Chicago mobster Al Capone eventually went to prison for tax evasion, not the many murders he was alleged to have been involved with. If Mississippi candidates are taking money for personal expenses out of their campaign accounts they should be reporting it on their federal and state taxes as income. (Editor’s note: The column above was written prior to Pickering’s written response to the article by Geoff Pender. In a word, Pickering’s statement can only be described as weak and  still left unanswered questions. His statement would almost indicate that the Clarion-Ledger article about the FBI probe of his campaign finances was written by his opponent, Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, rather than by Pender.)

Valid campaign expense reports issues raised in Republican Sen. Will Longwitz’s re-election campaign

While Pender’s story of the alleged FBI probe of Pickering’s campaign is making the big headlines, campaign finance reports of state Sen. Will Longwitz are also a legitimate campaign issue. As I noted last December, Mississippi campaign finance reporting laws are so weak that one could report a $2,000 campaign check to American Express. No

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Campaign Expenditure Reports Can Be Worthless

The campaign contribution arms race continues at a high level, and candidates for 2015 statewide and legislative offices are wearing out contributors with requests and fundraising events. The reason is fairly obvious. Candidates want to make sure they have plenty of cash on hand to ward off potential opponents, or in some cases, they want a hefty campaign bank account to seek a higher office. There’s also no doubt that current elected officials like to show a large amount of cash on hand to discourage possible opposition.

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Political This and That — Arms Race, Mending Fences, and Votes for Show

The Arms Race is On

No, I’m not talking about an arms race between two or more nations for military or weaponry superiority. What I’m talking about is the arms race for 2015 campaign contributions when statewide and legislative elections will be held. Last year the 2015 elections were two years away but most people said they had never seen the number of fundraising events or fundraising letters, etc. that were held in 2013. In the past 30 days or so there’s been a steady barrage by elected officials seeking campaign contributions.

One obvious reason is that the next deadline to report campaign contributions is January 30, 2015 for contributions and campaign expenditures made through December 31 of this year. One way for candidates seeking re-election to discourage opposition is to report a large war chest on hand at the end of year. Some politicians might also have their eye on higher office that will require much larger campaign funding. A lot of legislators not only have campaign events in their district but also will hold events in Jackson — the easier way to tap into contributions from Jackson lobbyists and major companies that have a presence in the state capital.

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The Cochran Campaign’s Amended FEC Report

“Screw up” not necessarily bad, but it should not have happened

There was a time a few years ago when I received hard copies of all Federal Election Commission reports that detailed fines and other actions levied against federal campaigns. There were plenty of them.

About a week ago it was reported that the Sen. Cochran’s campaign, amidst allegations of vote buying, would amend its FEC report for an accounting mistake regarding the campaign’s get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts. The mistake involved nearly $53,000 in cash used for GOTV.

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