Tagged: Geoff Pender

Hatchet job on Lt. Gov. Reeves and shoddy journalism

I admit to being surprised on July 7 when I first read the Clarion-Ledger story that all but accused Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves of putting political pressure on the Mississippi Department of Transportation regarded a road project on Lakeland Drive (Hwy 25) that involves the gated community where Reeves and his family live in Flowood. Mississippi Today soon piled on with its own story about the issue. In my opinion the Clarion-Ledger story was clearly shoddy journalism. I was even more surprised the byline on the story was that of Geoff Pender, political editor of the Clarion-Ledger. It was not long after I read Pender’s story when I received a comment about the story, from someone not in the Reeves camp, saying the Clarion-Ledger was “out to get” Reeves. If you want more balanced accounts and more accurate accounts of this very hot issue, I suggest reading the column below by Jim Prince, publisher of the Neshoba County Democrat and the following column by Alan Lange, owner and editor of Y’all Politics.





And what about MDOT? I have known Central District Highway Commissioner Dick Hall  for many years. He is a good man, a good public servant and I have a lot of respect for him. However, during the recent Neshoba County Fair, I listened to Hall’s interview on the J.T. Show on Supertalk Radio. I later read reports of his speech at the Fair. Considering both the interview and speech, it would not surprise me if Hall received a thank you note from Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood.

Why is this type of shoddy journalism a problem, and even unfair? The original report in the Clarion-Ledger, was followed by the story in Mississippi Today. Naturally, the story by Pender was picked up by the Associated Press and published in other newspapers and broadcast media across the state. Attorney General Jim Hood said he would investigate the allegations of political pressure. Hood investigating in itself is a joke. But what if Hood’s investigation turns up no proof that Reeves, members of his staff or others applied political pressure? What if all the allegations prove false? Most people won’t remember the subsequent stories. People are quick to believe any allegation against a public official or politician. The damage has already been done.

Commissioners should MDOT executive director

And what about Melinda McGraft, executive director of MDOT? During the current controversy involving MDOT, press reports and Lt. Gov. Reeves, Hall praised McGraft as an outstanding professional engineer. I don’t doubt that for a minute. But McGraft is more than an engineer. She is executive director of MDOT. For her allegations of political pressure and comments to the press, Hall and the other two highway commissioners should have the balls to fire McGraft.

“Media is corrupt. It’s chosen a side.”

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, Republican of California and chairman of the House Select on Intelligence, recently said this in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: “Today’s media is corrupt. It’s chosen a side.” Of course, Congressman Nunes was talking about the national media. However, the same journalism plant is growing in Mississippi. A few years ago when Haley Barbour was governor of Mississippi, Barbour gave his usual speech before a huge crowd at MEC’s annual Hobnob event. During his speech Barbour commented about the “Clarion liar”. I chuckled to myself as I thought his remark would not be reported in the Clarion-Ledger’s report of his speech. Of course, it was not in the newspaper’s story the next day.

The Scary Democrat Duck


American Civil Liberties Union calls for protest rally at Mississippi Governor’s Mansion

The scary Democrat duck first appeared on my Facebook page, and it was quickly determined the duck was a Democrat because it wanted free food and water. That was confirmed when the duck received endorsements from Sam Hall, executive editor of the Clarion-Ledger, the news staffs of the Clarion-Ledger and Mississippi Today, Bernie Sanders. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and the newest star of the radical left, socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York City. Less than 24 hours later, the scary Democrat duck appeared again (see bottom photo) when he wanted more handouts and free water. I quickly heard from Ricky Cole who noted the duck was a Muscovy Duck and Cole charged I was “harboring an illegal.” As Cole is a former chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, I was surprised Cole referred to the duck as illegal, instead of just being undocumented. On Facebook I then heard from Wayne Brown, retired Southern District Highway Commissioner.  Brown is a professional engineer and suggested I build a pond for the duck. Brown kindly said he would donate his engineering services to build the pond. With those free labor services, I decided to check to see if the Mississippi Department of Transportation would provide the remainder of the funds to build a pond for the scary Democrat duck. Melinda McGraff, executive director of MDOT, said she would first have to check with Sam Hall and Geoff Pender of the Clarion-Ledger to determine if the pond would be built within 433 miles of the home of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in Flowood, Mississippi.

Did the scary Democrat duck vote for Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary against Chris McDaniel?

Will the duck be a factor in the 2018 contest for the U.S. Senate between Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Chris McDaniel and Mike Espy? McDaniel reportedly is claiming the duck was one of the Democrats who supported former Sen. Cochran by voting in the 2014 GOP primary. There are also reports Hyde-Smith called the White House begging for President Trump to endorse her because the scary Democrat duck could seriously impact her candidacy. Espy maintains he is not so sure our duck friend is a Democrat. Espy apparently thinks the duck resembles one of the federal prosecutors when Espy was indicted on 39 counts of accepting more than $35,000 in gifts, trips and favors. Espy was forced to resign as Secretary of Agriculture after he was appointed to that post by then President Bill Clinton.

Of course, the ACLU is undeterred and still plans to hold a protest rally outside the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson. The Clarion-Ledger and Mississippi Today promise to send 282 reporters to cover the protest. The keynote speaker is expected to be Attorney General Jim Hood who will say everything is just ducky with the scary Democrat duck.

Others can share blame with political boy wonder for Hyde-Smith campaign foul up

When Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to the U.S. Senate to fill the remaining term of Sen. Thad Cochran until this November’s special election, I received a call from a politically savvy friend. My friend held Hyde-Smith in high regard but was worried Josh Gregory and his partner’s firm, Frontier Strategies, were signed up her to direct her campaign. Frontier also directed Cochran’s 2014 campaign when Cochran narrowly defeated Republican primary challenger Chris McDaniel of Jones County. At one time, Gregory was regarded as sort of a boy wonder of political operatives in Mississippi. He did campaign work for former Gov. Haley Barbour and drove the political train that elected Bryant as lieutenant governor and then to two terms as governor. Gregory reportedly has also signed on to direct Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s 2019 race to succeed Tate Reeves as lieutenant governor. Gregory’s reputation took a hit this week when Hyde-Smith sent out a campaign fundraising letter saying she had the support of President Trump and Vice President Pence. She might and probably will eventually receive the endorsement of Trump, but when the letter was sent out, she had not.

On Tuesday I received two electronic versions of Hyde-Smith’s letter. It wasn’t much later in the day that Geoff Pender, political editor for The Jackson Clarion-Ledger wrote that while Hyde-Smith claimed she was supported by Trump, to date Trump and Pence had not endorsed her candidacy. Of course, Gregory can share the blame for this campaign foul-up with others. In Pender’s story, Jordan Russell, Hyde-Smith’s campaign manager, said the letter was a “drafting error” generated by an outside vendor hired by the campaign. What a pathetic response. I don’t care what outside vendor drafted the letter. As campaign

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2017 Legislative Session: Will Campaign Finance Reform Become A Reality?

Will legislators put an end to “legalized bribery”?

The upcoming 2017 session of the Mississippi Legislature will face the usual mix of key issues: funding for public education, transportation, meeting the needs of state agencies while balancing the state budget despite stagnant revenues, providing much need health care for Mississippians, job creation and on and on. The ugly issue of political ethics (i.e. campaign finance reform) will again get much needed attention even if it will not be a favorite issue with many legislators. The past Sunday Clarion-Ledger political editor Geoff Pender reported that House Speaker Philip Gunn says campaign finance reform will be a top priority. Gunn should have, and could have, done something about campaign finance reform during the 2016 session when the bill died a shameful death in the House. Gunn claims he had nothing to do with the disgraceful failure of campaign reform during the last legislative session. That is either a lot of bull or Gunn is admitting he is a weak leader of the Mississippi House. Campaign finance reform unanimously passed the Mississippi Senate before being killed in the House without even a roll call vote. Pender’s excellent column pointed out our current campaign finance laws and how campaign expenses are reported are nothing short of “legalized bribery” paid for by lobbyists and other special interests. He wrote, “As long as they avoid tax scrutiny (reporting as taxable personal income), Mississippi politicians can spend campaign money in ways that would land them in jail in most other states.” Pender noted a  Clarion-Ledger investigative series earlier this year showed “many politicians – legislators in particular – use lax campaign finance laws, farcical reporting regulations and nonexistent enforcement” to spend campaign donations “on clothes, cars, groceries, apartments,

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“Ten Percenters” help drive the campaign fundraiser train

The next local, legislative and statewide elections are not until 2019, but the train to raise campaign funds never slows down. Each week many current elected officials have numerous campaign events. It is expected candidates for statewide elected office, incumbents or others with statewide ambition, never slow their efforts to raise money. Most of the events for incumbent state legislators are held in Jackson. These events are not so the good folks back home can contribute to help their political friends or good candidates for legislative office get elected. Legislators from all over the state have campaign events in Jackson so they can tap the pockets of lobbyists and other special interest groups. There are several things that drive these events, even though the primaries are almost three years away and the 2019 general election is even further in the distance. One reason is more than a handful of legislators have ambition to run for statewide office. Even those who just plan to seek re-election to the legislature want to build a big war chest to discourage potential opponents. More important to some incumbent legislators is the fact that under our state’s pathetic campaign finance laws, elected officials frequently use their campaign contributions for personal, non-campaign related expenses. This unethical practice has been well documented by numerous articles written by Clarion.Ledger political editor Geoff Pender and others who write for that newspaper. Even if an elected official spends his or her campaign funds for personal expenses, under current state law all they have to do is report that part of their spending on their taxes as personal income. It would not be a stretch to say a lot of that personal spending is not properly reported when these elected officials file their federal income tax returns. The fourth reason for the endless off-year campaign fundraising events is what I will call the “ten percenters.” These are individuals and firms who make their living, or part of their living, as professional

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Lynn Fitch Playing Dangerous Political Game

It is no secret that incumbent State Treasurer Lynn Fitch is making noise about running for attorney general in 2019. On May 1, Clarion.Ledger political editor Geoff Pender, one of the state’s best journalists, wrote an early preview about the possibilities for the 2019 statewide races. He mentioned Fitch is said to be “all in” to run for AG. But at the end of his column about the 2019 contest for AG, Pender wrote something that had to make Fitch cringe. He said former AG Mike Moore and some other Democrats might feel that for Democrats, the AG’s race three years from now might be a “lost cause” for their party. Hood and his predecessor as AG, Mike Moore, might consider supporting Fitch. This is based on the assumption incumbent AG Jim Hood is testing the water to run for governor but is unlikely to seek a fifth term as AG. Given the scenario that some Dems think no other member of their party could win the 2019 race, there have been numerous reports that both Moore and Hood would support Fitch and she would welcome their support. In that event, Fitch would certainly solve a lot of fundraising problems in a statewide race for AG. Moore and Hood would be in a position to raise a lot of campaign money for Fitch from their trial lawyer buddies, both inside and outside of Mississippi. However, even quiet support from Moore and Hood would also be a very tricky situation for Fitch in a Republican Primary. With no incumbent running for AG three years from now, the GOP will have a very competitive primary. There’s little doubt Mike Hurst, the Republican nominee against Hood last year, is expected to be a candidate. There would certainly be other strong Republicans, such as Rankin County DA Michael Guest, who would enter the race. Fitch’s election as AG would certainly solve a personal problem for Fitch. Her current salary as treasurer is $90,000 per year. AG pays $108,960. That would almost be a $20,000 per year increase for Fitch. Along with State Auditor Stacey Pickering, Fitch has made it known that both of them are claiming they have a hard time making ends meet at their current salaries. For that, I don’t have much sympathy. They knew what the jobs paid when they ran for their respective offices. I have commented to several people that outside of some school administrators like superintendents and principals, there’s not one K-12 teacher in the state making $90,000 per year. Usually the

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Disgraceful – Mississippi Legislature’s ethical lapse

Clarion.Ledger got it right; besides being a disgrace, it is “legalized bribery”

The 2016 regular session of the Mississippi Legislature recently adjourned. The women and children of the metro Jackson area are safe for the time being. I think very few objective observers would give an overall high grade to legislators for this past session. However, there is no greater embarrassment than the fact that legislators left Jackson when the House shot down campaign finance reform legislation. The Clarion.Ledger’s outstanding investigative series correctly called the current campaign finance laws “legalized bribery.” The series reported that elected officials spent campaign money on cars, clothes, apartments, expensive boots, personal trips out of state, tax bills, insurance, home improvements and no telling what else. Most contributions to these campaign accounts used as a second income for public officials came for lobbyists or other special interests. Prior to the House refusing to pass campaign finance reform, the legislation unanimously passed the Senate. Don’t get the idea that the Mississippi Senate is full of ethical angels. There are many state senators who use campaign accounts for personal expenses but they apparently fell in line when the measure was supported by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and the publicity from the newspaper’s investigative series. A day before campaign finance reform died in the House, it was reported the House was going to negotiate with the Senate to come up with some kind of reform. It didn’t happen. What’s even worse is when the House killed the reform measure, they did it on a voice vote. While it only took a small number of House members, 13, to call for a recorded vote, only a couple members had the guts enough to stand up and call for the vote. You can also blame the weak leadership of House Speaker Philip Gunn for campaign reform dying in the House. Gunn is another legislator who apparently spends campaign funds for personal use. Comments by a number of House members were an embarrassment to that body. Jeff Smith (R-Columbus), a powerful committee chairman, said the Legislature should police their own campaign finances. That’s bad policing. According to political editor Geoff Pender, similar anti-reform comments were made by John Moore (R-Brandon), Mark Baker (R-Brandon), John Hines (D-Greenville) and Omeria Scott (D-Laurel). And note that Baker has also been reported as having an interest in running for state attorney general. That’s sad. Veteran Rep. Bill Denny (R-Jackson) said campaign finance reform needs to be studied. Why does something that is so wrong need to be studied?

Political repercussions?

Some would suggest that the most recent legislative session was one of the most partisan in recent history with Republicans having a supermajority in both the Senate and House.

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A must read even if it is disgusting

The Clarion.Ledger’s “Public Office – Private Gain”

I have never hesitated to criticize journalists and since I started writing again I have taken a number of shots at The Clarion.Ledger. However, let’s give credit where a lot of credit is due. Last Sunday a special investigation by that newspaper’s political editor, Geoff Pender, and reporters Mollie Bryant and Kate Royals, contained an in-depth story entitled “Public Office Private Gain.” That and more is available in the CL’s online edition and we should expect more print stories about the issue next Sunday. It should be a must read by every taxpayer in our state. I’ll have more comments about this in a future post, but for now, congratulations to the newspaper and the three writers who are writing the series. Elected officials using their campaign contributions for personal use is nothing less than a complete disgrace.

Gil Carmichael, R.I.P.

I had met Gil Carmichael several times prior to his race against Mississippi’s political godfather, longtime and powerful Sen. James O. Eastland. I got to know him better when he spent most of one Sunday afternoon in 1972 at my home in Ocean Springs talking politics. At one point during that Sunday afternoon I told the Meridian Volkswagen dealer he should be spending his time campaigning on the Gulf Coast rather than chatting with me about politics. Little did I know in just a few weeks I would become Carmichael’s state campaign manager in his seemingly hopeless and longshot campaign against the powerful Eastland. Initially, Carmichael was kind of a throw away candidate for Mississippi Republicans. In the GOP primary for Eastland’s senate seat, Carmichael’s opponent was James Meredith. Yes, that James Meredith – the same Meredith who almost 10 years earlier had become the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss amidst riots, violence, and one of this state’s ugliest moments. In 1972 Republican leaders in Mississippi cringed at the thought of Meredith being the GOP nominee against Eastland. Thus Carmichael was drafted to run against Meredith. After polishing off Meredith in the

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Will Gov. Bryant Step Up to the Plate for Republican AG Nominee?

In reality, there is only one statewide race that will be competitive this November. That contest is between Republican challenger Mike Hurst and Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood. The seven other incumbent Republicans holding statewide office face only minor Democrat, Reform Party or Libertarian Party opposition. None of those races is expected to produce an upset. Hood easily defeated his Republican opponents in his three previous races for attorney general. Some Republicans feel Hurst could, by far, be Hood’s strongest opponent he has faced. There’s also a feeling Hood could be more politically vulnerable than he was in his previous races. Hurst was highly regarded when he was on the staff of former congressman Chip Pickering, and his reputation was enhanced as an assistant U.S. Attorney until he resigned to become the Republican nominee for AG against Hood. He did not have primary opposition.

Obviously Hurst must raise the necessary money to make a competitive race against Hood. That’s where incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant comes into play. When Bryant was elected governor, he was more or less in the big shadow of his predecessor, Haley Barbour. If Bryant goes full steam politically to support Hurst, he can do something Barbour could not do. Barbour was very successful in making sure that Republicans Al Hopkins in 2007 and Steve Simpson in 2011 had the financial resources to make a strong challenge to Hood. The efforts went for naught. Many Republicans feel if Bryant makes sure Hurst has similar campaign resources like Barbour gave to Hopkins and Simpson, 2015 could result in a different outcome for Hurst and Republicans. At the end of July Bryant had more than $2.8 million cash on hand for the general election against surprise Democrat primary winner Robert Gray. While no politician should ignore any political opponent, if Bryant spends only a fraction of his almost $3 million he will defeat Gray. Contrast this with Haley Barbour. Nobody has ever questioned Barbour’s capacity to raise huge amounts of campaign money, both for his own races and other Republicans.  In 2007 Barbour had a well funded Democrat opponent in John Arthur Eaves. In 2011 term-limited Barbour was

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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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