Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who Owns George Dale?

I personally disagreed with the original decision to remove George Dale from the ballot. Others had the same sins as he and didn't get the same treatment. I'm glad that he will be back on the ballot. The place to choose the party nominee is in the primary.

Though I am glad he will be allowed on the ballot, I also don't believe that he should be the Democratic nominee for Insurance Commissioner. We are lucky to have two other excellent choices who are more forward thinking.

The disqualification and reinstatement did accomplish one purpose though. It served to highlight the level at which Dale is influenced by and possibly beholden to the insurance companies.

His choice of attorney was that of Greg Copeland who is a registered lobbyist for the American Insurance Association.

Many of the largest insurance companies have become infamous for refusing to pay claims or paying far less than people expected to receive.

Many of these people and their attorneys are understandably upset. One firm, The Scruggs Katrina Group has actually placed newspaper and television ads in the Coast and Jackson media markets that call out the big insurance companies and "the insurance commissioner."

This is one of those ads:

Eaves Inspires at Boys State

At the annual Boys State program put on by the Mississippi Chapter of the American Legion, the young men were happy to hear John Arthur Eaves speak. He instructed them to believe in their own self worth and that honesty is necessary in good government. He reinforced his belief in the value of anyone's ideas by asking the students what they thought were possible solutions for today's problems.

But he told the boys he wasn't afraid to dream big himself.

"When I was on the campus of Yale University, everyone there was walking around with a laptop computer," he said. "I dream that for the high schools of Mississippi. I want to see every student in every classroom working off a laptop."

In closing, he promised the group their voices would be heard in Jackson.

The Daily Leader

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

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The Appearance of Impropriety

There's a higher level of scrutiny for those of us in this business. I've heard that it mostly e

The Appearance of Impropriety

There's a higher level of scrutiny for those of us in this business. I've heard that it mostly only applies to US Senate and Whitehouse staffers, those people who speak with or on the authority of the office. But there is a maxim that most of the people I consider to be professionals adhere to-

"the appearance of impropriety is tantamount to the act itself."

After posting the results of the PEER report about the Auditor's office, I heard a rumor that could be verified by public record. My favorite kind. It is predicated on the idea that because Phil Bryant's office had been dependent on outside CPA firms to do the bulk of its auditing work, his campaign for Lt. Gov was receiving a considerable amount of support from CPA firms. If you'll remember, there was a movement in the Legislature, probably in February, to crucify Jim Hood for the same sort of thing- taking contributions from people who'd been awarded contracts, or vice versa. That's a particularly juicy thing. In campaigns, we like phrases like "corrupt, grifter, and on the take".

I can not substantiate that rumor. According to the Bryant campaign's 5/10 finance filing, they received 3 contributions from CPAs totaling $1500. Campaign pocket change. See the file at

However, you can't get much out of Phil Bryant's campaign finance reports. For the uninitiated, campaign finance reports provide a lot of information. They tell you what political neighborhood a candidate hangs out in, who they do business with. They're there so that the public has all the information about what industries support candidates, what individuals support candidates, and how, if contributions curry political favor, where you can expect the favors to go. It's part of the sausage making process. Knowing the profession and employer of a contributor is one of the most important parts of the filing.

Phil Bryant's finance report doesn't provide that information. In his 99 page finance filing, 1/4 of his contributions list the employer or profession of a contributor as "Info requested". Another handful are 'self employed'. It's legal, but it means one of two things: 1. They don't want folks like me broadcasting where they're getting their money from. 2. The campaign finance staff isn't doing its job. It's a simple form. Everybody uses the same one. You need that information for the legal document that ensures that you're in compliance with state election law. It's kind of a big deal.

For comparison, I looked at the Franks and Ross campaign filings, just to count the "info requested" contributions. Less than 40 out of both.

I can show absolutely no wrong doing on behalf of the Bryant campaign. But it is the appearance of impropriety.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Phil Bryant is ForAgainst Abortion

There is a divide among Southern Republicans that hasn't really made it into the public eye yet in Mississippi. It is highlighted in Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas? The divide is between the so called "Country Club Republicans" who care more about economic issues and are more libertarian on social issues and "Religious Conservatives" who tend to be moderate on economic issues, but are very conservative on hotbutton issues like abortion and homosexuality.

I believe that Phil Bryant is closer to the first variety and doesn't particulary care about the issues Christian Conservatives often focus on.

Former Rankin County Republican Executive Committeeman John Goodman wrote in his blog that in 1990 he witnessed Phil Bryant speak in favor of a woman's "right to choose."

I saw Phil Bryant walk up and down encouraging his supporters to strip the pro-life plank. He yammered about a woman's "right to choose." I remember Tom Hamby, one of the RCREC members who supported the pro-life plank, getting up and
saying, "For God's sake, don't do this. This is the buckle of the Bible Belt."Phil Bryant went all-out to ensure no pro-life plank would ever be in the RCREC
party platform.

Goodman states that Bryant adopted the pro-life postion in an election year ploy the following year in 1991 when he defeated incumbent State Rep. Frances Savage.
Bryant was told if he wanted to get elected, he would have to run as a pro-lifer. Otherwise, Savage was going to defeat him. The Christian Right didn't care much for her, but they weren't going to vote for Bryant if he was pro-abortion (The thinking was: Why have a Republican pro-aborter in the State House?). So he became a gung-ho pro-lifer.
Also I noticed that in his Meridian Star interview he was asked the question:
The Star: Charlie Ross, in an interview with The Star, talked a lot about abortion and the rights of Mississippians to have guns. What are some of your platform issues and do you see those as important to the state?
He avoided the question saying that people aren't worried about guns and failed to even mention abortion in his response.

Phil Bryant appears to be gliding along, hoping no one will notice anything but his name.

Does Phil Bryant Deserve a Promotion?

The state legislature conducts inquiries on a regular basis to determine the effectiveness of state agencies and there is a public record made of these reports. I have recently been made aware of the '07 assessment of the State Auditor's office. Since Phil Bryant, the State Auditor, is running for Lt. Gov, this is a thing worth looking at. You can view the full report at

The PEER report concludes that:

  1. In 5 of the 8 functional areas of the office, significant improvements are necessary.
  2. Between 2002-2006, the office failed to recoup 2.53 million in lost public money that it issued repayment demands for.
  3. The office does not ensure the annual audits of municipalities, as required by law.
  4. The office is relying on contracting out CPA's to accomplish the bulk of the auditing work.
  5. They effectively duplicate audits on school systems. Duplicating audits on school systems reduces the departments' resources with which to perform state agencty and university fixed asset audits. They also use state resources to accomplish the responsibilities of local governments.
  6. In 06-07 did not adequately audit the information provided by school systems regarding attendance data, thus creating the opportunity for educational funds to be improperly disbursed.

There are constant references throughout the report of resources being misallocated. The report also indicates that the Auditor's office is chronically understaffed and has a high turnover rate. Inexperienced people are doing the auditing, in effect.

And that's the part that doesn't make any sense to me. Political staffers, and anybody who works in an agency office is a political instrument and knows it, are a wildly loyal lot. They work for the same guy for 5-8 years. As long as he'll have them, most of the time. High staff turnover is not indicative of the nature of the tribe. Yes, low level people, like staff assistants get offered better jobs fairly quickly (and that's the only reason lots of people take those jobs), but the senior staff stay. Especially specialists, like accountants.

The idea that the guy who for 4 or 5 years was the top Republican in the state has a high staff turnover rate says two things to me. 1. The best and brightest, when given the opportunity, leave his office. There is a bad culture, even for Republicans. 2. That political people were willing to leave politics to not have to work for him. In a lot of cases, that's like a fish voluntarily leaving water.

Imagine the trouble a Lt. Gov would be in if he had to hire a new Legislative Director every January. No experience. No institutional memory. In that job, it equates an inability to function.

Phil is looking for a promotion. I think he failed his annual review.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Phil Bryant Admits that Republicans Have Failed to Support Education

In an interview with the Meridian Star Phil Bryant admitted that Republicans have failed to support education saying "We just said we’re not going to do it, we’re not advocates of public education..."
For a while, Republicans abandoned the field of supporting public education. We just said we’re not going to do it, we’re not advocates of public education and it was the worst thing we ever did. It was dumb. Now, when Gov. Haley Barbour said it was the No. 1 priority at the State of the State address and said we are going to fully fund education now and into the future, all of a sudden Republicans are saying, ‘Me too.’ Well there wasn’t a lot of ‘me too’ there for a while when those of us Republicans were supporting public education.

Now his evidence of the turnaround in support is the Governor changing his mind in an election year. I somehow doubt the sincerity of the changed minds of current sitting Republicans. I think instead Haley Barbour saw the political need to not further anger teachers and parent teacher associations. It will be a good day when the Republican wake up and see that a strong public education system is not only helpful, but also necessary for the purpose of bringing quality jobs to this state and in fact building our own.

The Meridian Star Article

Freedom Chorus at the Sounds by the Sea Memorial Day Weekend Concert

The Freedom Chorus sings before the Gulf Coast Symphony begins. I meant to bring you video of that, but the wind picked up and the audio was no good. Enjoy your evening.

Send us your stuff.

If you have video (in digital form or on a video hosting website) or pictures (in digital form or a photo hosting website) of politicians at events or events of local interest in Mississippi including festivals and concerts among other things we would love to use it and will give you public credit (if you like).

We can arange to get/use that original video or photo content if you e-mail us at cotton-nospace-mouth-nospace-blog at gmail dot com.

As an anti spaming measure you will need to remove the -nospaces-(s) before sending which would make it cottonmouthblog.

- John Leek

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In Memory of Our Soldiers This Memorial Day

This is a Memorial Day video tribute as prepared by Ava Lowery of Peace Takes Courage

Pirates and Barge Casinos

I went and saw the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movie last night and saw a couple things I thought were funny and related to Mississippi.


In one scene (I promise this includes no spoilers) Davy Jones is found to be standing in pretty much a bucket of water (on land) so that he can be a part of a meeting. This little detail must have been written in when the writers decided that "oops" Davy Jones isn't able to leave the sea.

This brought to my mind the many things that Casinos have done in Mississippi during the last decade to build huge structures without supposedly leaving the water (until most recently).

Instead of building on land they put down pilings and secured the barges with far more than simple chains. They are not meant to go anywhere.

I also recall the story of one of the Mississippi River casinos building a canal to a pond to bring a barge into it.

When there is money to be made in a movie or in the business of gambling, there will always be a loophole.


Elsewhere we find a group of ragtag pirates from all over who came together to take on the East India Trading Company and an armada of the British fleet.

As they joined into a cohesive group to protect piracy from the oppressive Lord Cutler Beckett who is gaining control in more and stranger places, I thought of our own Democratic Party and our own "Lord Beckett" in the form of Haley Barbour.

Democrats are coming together to fight for our shared quality of life and the future of all Mississippians over the greed of the East India Trading Companies of our time.


Would you like to see more like this or should I leave movie analysis to the experts? Let me know in the comments.

The Sunday Funny

Jackson Girl Alleges Strange Claims
Local Girl says she is "double first cousins" with a variety of famous figures
An anonymous Jackson woman is now claiming that she is related, in fact "double first cousins" with many prominent political figures. Such people she is naming include the popular conservative radio host Sean Hannity and Republican Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Ross. "For the longest time, I knew I connected with both of the men I mentioned," she says, "but then when I watched Sen. Ross' speech, it was a sign. We were 'double first cousins', I just knew it." Asked about the aforementioned Sean Hannity, the woman says "I have loved his show for a long time, and, like, besides being a Republican, I like it cause we're both related." Representatives from both Mr. Hannity and Sen. Ross vehemently deny these strange allegations. Sen. Ross' representative went so far as to say this woman is quite possibly insane. Representatives from the State Democratic Party, however tell us that insanity is a common trait among Republicans, "especially in the case of this girl."

- Bronwyn Lane (Guest Contributor)

"Double First Cousins" Video

"Double First Cousins" Text

This is satire. (just in case you hadn't figured it out)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Exclusive Congressman Gene Taylor Video on Iraq

Strong Words from Congressman Taylor on Iraq

"How do win a counterinsurgency when 80% of the people don't want you there? It's a complete flip-flop from September of '03 the first time I heard that number in the exact same place and exact same room. It got worse, it said about 60% of the Iraqis said it was okay to kill an American."
"How do you turn that around? Because unless you turn that around, nothing else is going to work. If we don't have the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people telling us where the IEDs are, telling us who's shooting at us, making bombs, if we can't count on their help, we don't speak their language, we can't turn this around. And no one (at the Pentagon) ever gave me a good answer."
"As people are searching for what to do, I'm going to recommend to the President that we ask the Iraqi's to hold an election and that's the question, 'Do you want the Americans to stay?' and you know as it takes in Mississippi it takes a 3/5 vote to raise taxes and that's the percentage I put on it. I don't want just 51% saying we want you guys to stay. Unless 60% of the Iraqis are willing to say 'Yes we want you guys to stay and yes we are going to cooperate with you and we want to tell you where the IEDs are and yes we're going to tell you who's making those mines and yes we're going to tell you who's kidnapping people at night.' If they're not in it with us then I'm at the point of saying to heck with them." (applause)

It may be hard to hear the first minute, but the main quotes follow that section.

Yard Signs

(we're going to use these images later in the post)

I'm in Northeast Mississippi and I'm seeing lots of yard signs. Every body and their brother in law has a yard sign sitting in the right of way at the intersection of Hwy 4 and Hwy 30. These yard signs represent the bulk of my interaction with politics for the last two days and thusly, they've sparked my interest. I'm also interested in why the good folks from the County Justice Center haven't taken care of those since my last trip through. It's illegal to put yard signs in right of ways and all other public properties.

Yard signs make me crazy for a variety of reasons. In a big statewide race or a targeted congressional, they're an after thought. Professionals have a catch all for the attending stuff of campaigns, the stickers, the signs, the t-shirts, all of that knick knack stuff. It's called chum. You'll spend an outrageous amount of money at the print shop and it doesn't move press, money, or polls. Lots of signs, when they're clearly attached to yards and businesses (and not stuck to fence posts on the side of the highway with bailing wire) are a good indicator of momentum late in a race. It's the sort of thing that influences people who like to vote for winners. And they require a lot more work than I imagine they're worth. There has never been a definitive number that says "for every yard sign you put in a yard, you'll get an average of x votes." There was a congressman on the West Wing who claimed that if she'd put out 12 more yards signs she'd have won her reelection bid once. I wrote the writing staff.

But there's something that agitates me worse than yard signs. Way worse. And it is inefficient use of campaign resources. So I'm going to take this opportunity on a Saturday afternoon to talk about the efficient design of a yard sign.

1. Every yard sign or campaign logo should have a star. There's nothing about it that makes any sense at all, but I have never seen a logo that I liked that didn't have a star. I loved the Yarmuth Campaign for Congress in the KY 3rd last year. Loved the candidate, the staff that I knew, his message, the whole nine yards. But I hated his logo and thought up until about October 10th that he was sunk because he didn't have a star. It's a little reminder to me that despite all of the attending nonsense that government, governing, and the choosing of elected representatives is a thing that should be dignified.

2. Size matters. We all know it. If you're not buying 18x24s, don't buy. The 12x18s look like you're short on cash. In January, I saw a sign outside a Phil Bryant rally and he had the 12x18 and I immediately thought to myself "they don't have any money. They're skimping on yard signs"

3. Blocks are out. If you've got a lot of square looking things happening in a yard sign, it's going to look old. I'm into the staggered look, but I've also started to come around on the round/swoosh move a la David Vitter and Bruce Lunsford. The diagonal thing went out years ago. I saw one today that was square, but had been cut in such a fashion as to look like a yield sign. That's new. I don't see much that's new, but I had never seen that before. Good job Travis Childers.

4. And this is the most important thing. It's why I started this post. We buy 1 color printing because it's cheap. That's why we do it. No question. But in printshop world, white is not a color.

Therefore, you have two options. See the images at the top of the post. One is blue text on white, which appears to be the favorite in my neck of the woods. And then there's white text on blue background. Which one of these looks better. The eye is attracted to the color. The blue one gets more attention. Promise.
Forgive the crappy artwork. And the length of what is really a nonsense post. I just had to get this off my chest.

Fred McDowell: Saturday Afternoon Mississippi Music

"Mississippi Fred McDowell"

Find out more about Mississippi Fred McDowell by clicking this LINK.

Charlie Ross Praises Mississippi "Tort Reform." US Chamber Disagrees

Charlie Ross's claim to fame in state politics revolves largely around the credit he takes for passing the many lawsuit restrictions of the past few years.

Apparently those restrictions save you money, make your grass grow greener and make your kids even smarter. At least that is what it seems like he and his boosters seem to want us to believe.

Bill Minor has a new column titled "U.S. Chamber lets the air out of Miss. tort reformers' balloon" which takes issue with some of Ross's contentions.

In an interview with the Jackson Free Press in April, Ross grabbed figures out of the air: that medical malpractice lawsuits have dropped 90 percent; medical malpractice insurance premiums are down 30 percent; and doctors have returned to practice in the state, especially in rural areas.

Ross even claimed the improved legal climate helped land the recently announced $1.3 billion Toyota assembly plant in northeast Mississippi.

That is laughable. Bill Minor is good to point out that Nissan happily came to Mississippi prior to the law change and Toyota actually picked Texas over Mississippi for a plant prior to this one even though the "legal climate" was roughly the same.

Before Ross claims again that lawsuits are down 90 percent and that premiums are down 30 percent, he might want to find some facts first.

I'll quote Bill Minor and ask "Where's the beef?" And I won't even get into the beef plant now.

Friday, May 25, 2007

New Jersey Governor Corzine Message

This Memorial Day weekend please wear your seatbelt and please don't drink and drive.

Weekend Teaser

I'll be posting 2 exclusive "Cotton Mouth" video clips this weekend including 1 featuring the views of Congressman Gene Taylor on Iraq. Look for the first of 2 to be posted Saturday evening and the other to be posted Monday afternoon.

I'll be back once more tonight and then I may disappear to enjoy the third and final installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Take care of yourselves this Memorial Day weekend and this is an open thread.

- John

Update (9:10) I've skiped Pirates and opted for Numbers instead. Y'all have a good night.

Post Katrina State Funds Windfall Not Going To Best Use

Salon magazine looks deeper than the Governor's press releases and finds basic needs unfilled on the Mississippi Gulf Coast:

In Hancock County, Rocky Pullman paints a bleak picture. The recovery is proceeding so slowly that, almost two years after the storm, most of his neighbors still can't get mail. Before Katrina, the majority of Pearlington residents used post-office boxes; but since no post offices -- or any other major city, county or school buildings in Hancock County -- have been rebuilt, they have to drive an hour round-trip to Bay St. Louis to pick up a letter.

"We've been asking for three post offices to be erected in Hancock County for well over a year now and have got no response whatsoever," Pullman says. "Those are the kind of things that really bother you. It's hard to get people to feel good when they have to spend the amount of money they do with the price of gasoline just to get their mail."
President Bush waived the match requirements entirely for New York following the 9/11 attacks, but he has said he opposes any further waiver for Katrina funds. The Iraq/Katrina supplemental appropriations bill passed by Congress last month would have completely waived the match, but the president vetoed it. The new House bill approved last week also waives the match, but the president has not signaled his willingness to compromise on the issue.

If President Bush could someone use Katrina to justify another war, you know he would gladly spare no expense. Republicans had the choice to bring accountiblility to this war and help our struggling cities, but instead they chose to suport partisanship and their President above all else.

But under Barbour's leadership, the state has been unwilling to use its good fortune to help debt-ridden towns -- and some are at risk of going under.

"One thing you continually hear from officials from FEMA to the state level is that -- and they love this phrase -- they've 'never seen a city go under because of a natural disaster,'" Longo says. "But there have been so many firsts in Katrina."

News Roundup

Mississippi Burning mom died Tuesday:
Fannie Lee Chaney, the mother of one of three civil-rights workers killed in the "Mississippi Burning" case in 1964, has died, her son said Wednesday. Chaney, 84, had lived to see a reputed Klan leader convicted two years ago in the young men's deaths.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who helped prosecute Killen, recalled that he held Fannie Lee Chaney's hand to steady her as she walked to the witness stand to testify. Though her legs were shaky with age, Hood said, she seemed to have found an inner strength and calmness.

"She told me she just wanted to live ... to have her day in court over her son's murder," Hood said Wednesday. "I'm glad she got to live to see the trial."

Former Governor Mabus to serve Obama as Mideast Advisor:
Former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Clinton administration, is joining Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as an unpaid adviser on Middle Eastern issues.
Mabus serves on the advisory board for the Center for Middle East Public Policy at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research group. He’s also on the board of directors of America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit group designed to strengthen ties among the U.S., the Middle East and north Africa.

Attorney General Jim Hood Continues to Fight for Consumers

Attorney General Jim Hood will take the 2 of 7 Mississippi oil companies to court that refused to settle on charges of gas gouging that occurred immediately after Hurricane Katrina. The two companies are Wilburn Oil of Mantachie, and Fair Oil of Louisville. These companies took advantage of needy people in crisis and they should get swift justice.

Mississippi law prevents prices from being increased during a state of emergency. The law, though, does allow retailers or oil distributors, such as Wilburn, to pass along price increases they incur.

That apparently is not what happened here.
After the storm, Hood said, his office was inundated with complaints alleging oil distributors of price gouging. He said many companies did raise prices, but that some did so to cover their increased costs.

He said he chose to pursue only the most obvious examples of price gouging. While admitting no wrongdoing, five companies have agreed to cooperate and pay a total of $293,255 to the state, including the cost of the alleged price gouging and penalties.

Keep 'em on their toes Jim, let them know Mississippi is not a place where you can swindle your neighbor.

The Daily Journal Article

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mark Nicholas Moves On

Mark Nicholas, well known for his blog about Democratic politics in Kentucky, Bluegrass Report, is leaving Kentucky to move to Montana. He says in his current front page post that he's going to continue the site from there for the time being while making a decision about the future of the site and its community. He reports that over 1.8 million people have viewed the site over 5 million times. There have been 70,000 comments on his posts in its 23 month run.

Bluegrass Report is one of the reasons I'm involved in Cotton Mouth. Like myself, Mark made his living working on campaigns and we have a shared network of friends. And he was an outsider to KY's organization. That perspective allowed him to be critical of the shortfalls of his party while constantly working to make it better. The results of the KY Democratic primary Tuesday night are proof that blogs can change states. The candidate he bashed lost handily. He actively supported two candidates. One of them is the democratic nominee for Governor. The other was named chairman of the KY Democratic party today. I was talking to a friend whose candidate had been on the bad end of the netroots community and when talking about the loss he said "what do you expect to happen when BGR hits you in the head every day for three months?"

In addition to demonstrating what a blog can do to advance a truly progressive agenda, Mark has been a great help to me while we've been getting Cotton Mouth off the ground. John Leek said "What we need is a big democratic blog " and after the opportunity became available to be more than tangentially involved in the project, Mark was the first person I contacted to find out how to make this happen. He helped guide us through the issues that we faced in terms of the community you want to create. We don't have a diary system largely because Mark Nicholas said it was a bad idea and was terribly convincing.

I hope that he keeps it up, either in its current manifestation or as a larger national site. We need him. But regardless of the future of Bluegrass Report, Mark Nicholas is a hell of a guy and We wish him the best.

Attorney General Jim Hood Takes it to the Gas Gougers

Attorney General Jim Hood continues to fight for all Mississipians and for the betterment of this state. Jim Hood has gotten 5 companies to pay a settlement for taking advantage of Mississippians following Hurricane Katrina.

LegalNewsline Reports:
Hood investigated seven companies, and the five that settled paid a total of $293,254.61, most of that amount coming in the form of penalties. Fair Oil and Wilburn Oil were the two that did not settle.

(Using part of the money)"We are taking an in depth look at the retail gasoline industry within Mississippi by conducting a market study with the assistance of the Economics Department of Mississippi State University," Hood said. "This will give us a significant tool to determine whether anything illegal is occurring and if so, what laws are being broken. This will be a major investigatory tool if price gouging is suspected in the future."

The breakdown of penalties (also from LegalNewsline) is as follows:
-Sumrall Oil: $54,849.51
Disgorgement $4,003.14
Penalties $40,000
Cost and Fees $7,287.29

-Prince Oil: $65,165.79
Disgorgement $9,591.01
Penalties $41,000
Cost and Fees $14,574.78

-Spaceway: $36,086.74
Disgorgement $2,799.45
Penalties $26,000
Cost and Fees $7,287.29

-Southern Oil: $62,861.94
Disgorgement $9,574.65
Penalties $46,000
Cost and Fees $7,287.29

-Moak Petroleum: $74,290.63
Disgorgement $4,003.14
Penalties $63,000
Cost and Fees $7,287.49

Drink Liberally Tonight in South Mississippi

The Hattiesburg Drinking Liberally Chapter meets Thursday, May 24th, 5:30 - 7:30 at the Keg & Barrel. The Keg & Barrel is located on Hardy St. east of Hwy 49.
And remember when drinking liberally to drink responsibly.

Charlie Ross Attacks, Phil Bryant Ducks

Apologies to my friend Matt who beat my lazy self in writing his post titled Debate Dance which is directly below.

I continue with my largely redundant post now. ;)

On May 21st Charlie Ross's campaign began the exchange by again challenging Phil Bryant to a series of debates issuing a press release titled "State Senator Charlie Ross Urges Bryant To Accept Debates."

With the press release the Charlie Ross campaign also released a letter that was sent to Phil Bryant. (It is dated May 21st so the campaign did not expect the Phil Bryant campaign to have actually responded any pause there may have been between sending the letter and sending it tho the press.)

The letter said:
Six weeks ago, I made a sincere challenge to you to join me in substantive, free-flowing Republican debates in each of Mississippi's major media markets. At the time, you responded through your spokesperson that you were willing to participate in such debates.
Our primary is just over two months away. The time for hemming and hawing about debating is over. The time for haggling is over. Let's debate. A blanket acceptance from the two of us will make it clear to our state's broadcasters that we're serious. Join me in the commitment as a demonstration of our good will.

The Phil Bryant campaign responded by issuing a document titled "Phil Bryant Announces Debate Schedule." This document listed 15 events that the campaign termed his "debate and forum schedule."

The Charlie Ross campaign quickly released yet another press release saying:
Phil Bryant today released a long list of luncheons and civic clubs and speaking engagements that he will be attending. But at this point, not a single one of Bryant's campaign stops is a one-on-one, wide-open Republican debate with Charlie Ross. It's disappointing that Phil Bryant is willing to go almost anywhere in Mississippi except to a wide-open, one-on-one debate with Charlie Ross. He should respect Repbulbican voters enough to give them a debate.

Charlie Ross steals this act in the show that is political theater.

Debate Dance

Debates suck. The candidates get the questions in advance, the response and rebuttal times are measured, and a good campaign will spend at least 48 hours on prepping their boy. You time the responses, make sure the 27-9-3s are tight, and make sure they’re familiar with the camera setup so that they talk to voters, not to each other. And they have almost zero electoral impact. They can shift momentum, affect press attitude, and energize a candidate and staff, but they don’t move money or polls.

But the Debate Dance is fantastic. Charlie Ross challenged Phil Bryant to a series of debates so that Charlie can demonstrate that he’s smarter than Phil Bryant. Phil Bryant, not wanting to look like a giant wimp, agreed to said series of debates. But not wanting to 1. concede his status as the preeminent candidate by giving Harvard Charlie free air time and 2. not wanting to get SPANKED by someone who has earned the moniker “Harvard Charlie”, Phil conveniently forgets to actually schedule the debates.

Thrusting, the Ross campaign puts out a series of press releases that accuse Phil of being a big wimp and being afraid to be spanked by Harvard Charlie. Phil parries, releasing the list of “Forums” at which he will appear. And he’s going to be the only candidate at most of them, a fact not highlighted in the press release.

Ross counters with another press release pointing out that Phil isn’t debating, he’s stumping, and afraid to spout his conservative credentials.

The Debate schedule, to my knowledge, has not been finalized or published yet. But apparently I’m no longer on the Harvard Charlie press release list. They think that my views are slanted.

Charlie and his staff at Harvard Yard are winning the inside baseball game. I expect the debates to be announced by the end of next week.

Act Blue Mississippi

I feel like I should preface this, so I will. I am absolutely committed to electing Democrats and am a staunch believer in our party. However, Cottonmouth is not officially affiliated with the Mississippi Democratic Party or any democratic candidate or campaign. I personally post a lot of things which they probably find distasteful. Like saying Franks' tax pledge is bad strategy and that you can't out Christian a Republican. I intend to keep saying those things. Part of learning, growing, and adapting to changing political circumstances is having a discussion about mistakes and recognizing them as such. Cottonmouth can't be a reputable thing with the influence we intend for it to have if we aren't able to be honest that way.

All of that is to say that we're not in any sense "bought and paid for".

However, Wendi Hooks asked me to post this. Wendi is a fantastic talent to have around and we're lucky to have her. She's also one of the best hostesses I've ever known. She knows how to make the chocolate fondue fountain run continuously without getting clogged. Like I said, she's a fantastic talent.

It has the added benefit of helping elect democratic majorities, which happens to be the thing that I am personally and professionally devoted to.

This is the link that you click to give money to the MS Democratic Party. You can find the individual candidate links at

Give early and give often. Money matters in campaigns. We hate to admit it, but if you're getting outspent 3 to 1 (which happens more often than you'd think), you don't have a snowball's chance. So again, give early and give often. $25 dollars helps a lot.

* And for some reason I can't understand, I can't get the formats right for this post. My apologies.

Is Charlie Ross Corrupt?

Jackson radio host Paul Gallo seemed to indicate that he believed Charlie Ross to be corrupt when the two met on air on May 18th.

A Madison County Journal article includes these choice bits from the meeting:

Ross on May 18 was questioned extensively on the Paul Gallo Show about his vote on an amendment to Senate Bill 2424 in 2001 that automatically awarded the hospital association the responsibility of distributing federal Medicaid payments to state hospitals.The amendment changed the language from "may" to "shall contract with the Mississippi Hospital Association to provide administrative support for the operation of the disproportionate share hospital program and the Medicare Upper Payment Limits Program."

This is interesting because this appears that it is possible guaranteed income to the hospital association. This becomes an issue because he works for Wise Carter, the law firm that represents The Mississippi Hospital Association.

"Profiting has always been illegal, if you are profiting from your elective office," Gallo told Ross on the popular conservative morning talk show.

I actually think it is unlikely that this is proof of corruption as can be seen in the other facts presented in the article this is drawn from. I think instead Gallo was fed a particularly interesting tidbit by some of Phil Bryant's people or supporters and jumped for the bait.

Update (6:52): Here is a link to YouTube video of the interview: Gallo/Ross Ethics

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Drink Liberally Thursday in Hattiesburg

South Mississippi liberals have the opportunity to spend the evening with someone other than the conservative in-laws.

The Hattiesburg Drinking Liberally Chapter meets Thursday, May 24th, 5:30 - 7:30 at the Keg & Barrel. The Keg & Barrel is located on Hardy St. east of Hwy 49.

So what is Drinking Liberally you ask?
An informal, inclusive progressive social group. Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don't need to be a policy expert and this isn't a book club - just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it's not taboo to talk politics.

Bars are democratic spaces - you talk to strangers, you share booths, you feel the bond of common ground. Bring democratic discourse to your local democratic space - build democracy one drink at a time.

While drinking liberally, always remember to drink responsibly, and make liberal use of designated drivers. Drinking and driving is reckless and irresponsible, like a neocon war or corporatist tax cut. Liberals, don't do it.

Drinking Liberally

Bringing It.

Rumor has it (actually, I got it off a press release) that the Eaves campaign has retained John Robinson as their new campaign manager.

I talk a ton about the need to professionalize Mississippi campaigns. John Robinson is a major step in that direction. John Robinson was the Dep. Manager and CFO for the Edwards Campaign for Pres. in '04. He came up through the ranks of the Clinton/Gore organization and has a bent for southern politics. This is the guy that guys like me want to be when we grow up.

My analysis- Fantastic hire and a smart move.

Toby Barker vs. Jolly Matthews: An Intriguing District 102 Showdown

In District 102 we find factors that one would find in a "normal" election possibly turned on their head.

The district is open and was held by a Republican who has left to see other office. It takes up parts of Hattiesburg, Mississippi including The University of Southern Mississippi.

The Democrat is Jolly Matthews a longtime resident of his district, a Navy veteran, and man whose wife and three daughters are all teachers.

The Republican is Toby Barker who is a relatively recent graduate of USM and operates a business catering to small business in Hattiesburg.

What's turned on its head is the conventional wisdom that younger voters tend to vote for the Democrat by large margins. Barker has kept strong connections with fraternities on campus and has kept students involved in political campaigns since he was in college. The turnout of college students at USM may have the effect then of actually providing votes to the Republican.

This is one I'll sure be watching. What races are you watching in the state legislature. Add your comment by pressing the "comments" link at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This Is How We Do It #8- Moral Imperatives and Responsibilities

This is the last of the "This is how we do it" posts. Again, if anybody has any questions about anything seen in these posts, please contact me at

#8- Responsibility

The Republican Party represents bad values. They have the most effective campaign mechanisms ever known and I am openly jealous of that. But they govern atrociously, and that’s what affects lives. Conservative values hurt people. Governor Barbour has tried to take away healthcare for the sick and the infirm, he stopped legislation that would have made milk cheaper for children, and he has continually engaged in nepotism, feathering the nests of those who share his last name at the expense of the Mississippi family. There is no better example of what Republicans do when they are given the opportunity to govern.

As standard bearers for the Democratic party, which at this point is the only opposition to these incredible forces of greed, you have an obligation to win. You owe it to the staff and volunteers that invest themselves in you. You owe it to the party, from Gov. Dean to your local county chair, that invests its resources in you. You owe it to yourself to leave it on the field. You owe it to the tax payers of Mississippi, for whom you are probably the only reliable hope. Our party is on a precipice. If we falter here, we’ll suffer through two, maybe three election cycles of bad policy and corrupt government. Twelve years in the woods- an entire public education. You have a responsibility to win. Go do it.

Much love to Gene O for reposting, linking, and commenting on these at Sociable Loner .

Gene Taylor Dresses Too Casually For One Elected Republican

The Hill is one of two respected newspapers covering politics exclusively in Washington D.C. It helps add perspective and understanding to complex issues and covers issues in a timely fashion. So this is just silly:

To joke about clothing comes easier. Last year, a group of GOP lawmakers playeda practical joke on Boehner, a self-appointed fashion critic. They wore their
worst ties to work just to annoy him. Though it hasn’t happened yet, the plan
was to have the wife of Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), one of the pranksters, sew a
pillow for Boehner made of all the bad ties. There are men in the Capitol who
are sick of bad taste. Last week a senior aide to a Democratic senator said with
all the money some higher-level aides earn, their fashion sense ought to match
their bank accounts. He spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We sadly lack it,”
he said of fashion sense. “Too many suits are being purchased at big-box stores
[rather] than Hugo Boss or Barney’s.” He added hopefully, “We’re getting better.
There are some good tailors and some good clothiers and people should [take
Now the strangest part of this article on Men's fashion in Washington is this tidbit tucked away at the very end of this very long article:

One GOP lawmaker who wished to remain nameless said he detests the more
casual look worn by lawmakers such as Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.). Nothing
against Taylor personally, he said, but “Dockers and a blazer is too casual for
what was intended here.”
Ironically, this lawmaker confesses that he once showed
up to vote on the House floor in khaki shorts and a blazer. It’s against the
rules of the House, but it was necessary — he had been traveling and was rushing
to a vote.

Weird. And go Gene! There is no way he beat my having attended a "We the People" competion (I wasn't in it) wearing a three piece suit and running shoes.

The Charlie Ross Video

For your convenience:

The Charlie Ross Education Post and Video

Opening Lines

By Charlie Ross and his campaign staff

Edited, Commented on and Lampooned by M. Arnold

I have the video embedded in a previous post titled "Charlie Ross's Education Plan", so you can see it right here at Cottonmouth.

Some of my favorite lines from Charlie Ross’s announcement speech, and all of this is on the video of his announcement speech. I couldn’t make some of this up.

"...double first cousins, twice removed and so forth and so on. That's who we are."

"Miami might have the beaches, but they don't have our quality of life.
New York City might have the tall buildings, but they don't have our quality of life.
California may have the fruitcakes, but they don't have our quality of life."

"the tort reform fight is now called a model for other nations"

"It's time to test Roe v. Wade."

- I re-read the state constitution just to see if maybe the job profile for Lt. Gov had changed to include some language about circumventing the 5th Circuit after I saw this. And by the way Charlie, it’s being tested by bans that passed IN 2004. Odds don’t look so good now either.

"I got all my thrills flying jets." And " We have lit the after burners. "

There was a thread a couple of months ago on about “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins being his campaign theme song. If he puts on a flight suit… well, I’d probably just laugh and donate the inevitable direct mail piece to the Democratic Party. That just sounds crazy. And the bit about having double first cousins, I don’t think I’d brag about that.

The Workhorse is off to the Races.

State College Board Raises Mississippi Tuition

Mississippi's public colleges have again balanced their budgets on students by while increasing salaries and positions for faculty. Adding more and more cost to a public education is no doubt robbing many of an education they are capable of mentally, but unable to afford.

An example of the ridiculous raises originally requested is the University of Southern Mississippi's President Shelby Thames asking for a 12% tuition hike. 12 percent!

The College Board voted for a 7% percent increase, but that still adds up to about $300 per year which is the same as some college students make in two weeks. It really adds to the burden.

The College Board alone cannot be blamed though. The total dollars the state puts toward higher education per student has dropped from a high of $6,321 in 2000 to $5,103 in fiscal year 2005. That makes for a hole of $1,218 that must be filled.

It is time for this state to realize that education is not it first priority, but a bare necessity and find the resources necessary to deliver the goods without leaving its potential students out to dry.

Monday, May 21, 2007

This is How We Do It #7- Spending Priorities

#7- Spending Priorities

Some helpful indices to guide your priorities for races that don’t buy media:

Values, conviction, and zeal are more important than anything else, but those are things you can’t buy.

Talking to people (direct voter contact) is the most important thing you can buy.

After you’ve paid for your contact through canvassing, direct mail and phones, you can buy things that reinforce your face to face contact like signs and bumper stickers.

Yard signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, knick knacks, polly-wogs, and all of the other attending stuff of political campaigns cannot inspire people to vote for you. And yes, they are going to have to be inspired. Contact with a human being is what inspires them.

In fact, I have noticed a tendency over the last few election cycles: The campaign that spends the most on “feel good stuff”, free t-shirts, pens with the candidates name on them, pizza parties for volunteers, etc… loses. This is more than a tendency I think. It may be a Law or Theory, depending on which term applies.

A good way to prioritize your money in a race where you don’t buy media would be something like this:

Literature for canvassing


Yard signs

Direct Mail Pieces

Paid Canvassers

Phone banks

Various stickers and accoutrement

Keeping Up With McCoy

Keeping Up With McCoy

I’m a big fan of Billy McCoy. He’s from my parents’ district and I think The Speaker has done a great job of putting the brakes on Gov. Barbour & Co. The House is the only place in the Capitol where people aren’t getting rolled. And he still runs a tight ship despite being the damage done by the stroke he suffered three years ago now. (Every time I see him, I think that GHB actually did give someone a stroke.) He’s raising money for V-Pac, was active in the recruitment process for House candidates, and with the help of Rep. Franks (D) Mooreville, held together the House coalitions that put Barbour in such a bind over the tobacco tax swap deal.

Those are also all reasons that he pisses off Republicans. He’s a marked man. They’re throwing the kitchen sink at him. In 2003 he had the first real threat he’d had in my entire life. He put something like 6-8 points up on George Waddell. And people called it close.

This year there are three Republicans in the primary. One of them showed cash on hand in his 5/10 finance report. William Tracy Arnold (my first cousin, in the interest of full disclosure) had around 3k. The Speaker has around 28k.

I wish all those Republicans the best of luck. They’re going to need it..

2007 Mississippi Campaign Finance Totals So Far

The Mississippi Manufacturers Association apparently has its act together as a political organization. Following the March deadline to file to run with the state parties they were the first (and I believe only) people to put together an easily read pdf with all the people for each office in one place on this pdf. I found it rather nifty and printed a copy for myself. They have now released a second pdf with all the candidates for each office AND the fundraising totals this quarter and cash on hand (COH). It's amazing how much some candidates have raised who don't have strong opponents and also how little some candidates have raised who do have an electoral fight coming.

The Mississippi Manufacturers Association May 10th Report PDF

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This Is How We Do It #6- Create Contrasts

#6- Create Contrasts

You have to draw contrasts. Don't be afraid of being negative about republicans because you may end up having to work with one when you're elected. The likelihood that you will win your election and that you'll be working with more democrats when you're in office is directly proportional to the number of times that you say "democrats are good and republicans are bad because..:". Elections are a choice between change and more of the same. James Carville, a most qualified southerner, came up with that. There's no middle ground, no waffling. Those are the kind of distinctions that voters interpret as character. A man who knows that he's campaigning for change and says so is being honest with himself and his audience. Voters base their decisions on who they believe is telling them the truth. We're lucky. The status quo here in Mississippi is a disaster. We can blame that on them and it'll stick.

Ministers and Pastors Organize Against Proposed Choctaw Casino in Prayer Rally

This CottonMouthBlog EXCLUSIVE Video is provided by John Leek. It features Carl King (Senior Pastor of the Crossroads Church of the Nazarene) as the last speaker at the prayer rally.

The event which happened today at 3pm today (5-20-07) had an attendance of 60 to 70 people and a sizable number of local pastors. They stand in opposition to the building of a casino in Jackson County which currently has none and has never voted to approve them. They fear that if the Mississippi Choctaw are able to build, nothing will stop others from following.

Pascagoula Mississippi Press

Jackson Clarion Ledger

The Sun Herald

I Can't Say It

But He can. This is the sum total of my "This is How We Do It" posts, except that I try to be positive, educational, and support my candidates and my party. This guy doesn't put sugar in his medicine.

Polling Gossip

A trust worthy friend in NEMS told me that yesterday he'd gotten a political call.
An approximate transcript of the call:

"Hello, we'd like you to participate in a survey conducted by the Democratic Party. This survey could take up to 15 minutes."

After taking his demographic information the first question was

" If the Democratic Primary for President were held today would you vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama?"

He responded "Barack Obama" and the call ended.

That sounds terribly suspicious to me. Typically, a poll like that wouldn't start with "Conducted by the Democratic Party," and regardless of the outcome of the horserace question they'd continue with the survey. It's a whole range of attitudes and preferences they're looking for. And if it were conducted by the party, or by a candidate, they'd want the whole range of candidates. John Edwards would probably play better in MS than any of the others, if I had to guess.

So barring the entirely likely possibility that it's completely legitimate and the call simply malfunctioned, there are a hand full of possibilities about what this could really be.

It could be part of the microtargeting survey that the state party has been trying to round up money for. But again, they'd want a comprehensive survey, not just a horserace question. And I can't figure out what that particular question might have to do with targeting.

It could have been a push poll. I can't figure out why anybody would drop a push poll in a state without a meaningful primary, but that's an option. When I've had push polls dropped, that's exactly the way they'd go. Step 1. Horserace. If the response wasn't for my candidate they'd get the message that said "would it change your opinion to know that Candidate X committed Y heinous act?" If the ID was for my candidate, the call would end.

However, because of the neighborhood the call was received in and the fact that push polling tends to be more widespread among the other side, it makes me wonder if the call was commissioned by a Republican outfit.

As the title indicates, all of this is wild speculation. It's just interesting to me and I thought I'd share. And if anybody else got a similar call, I'd like to know.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

This Is How We Do It #5

#5- The Dale Carnegie Strategy for Political Campaigns

Unless your club includes roughly 478,xxx registered voters in Mississippi, being insular is a detriment. Open up. Make friends. Influence others. It’s called Direct Voter Contact. You can’t represent people you don’t know intimately.

Rejecting Charlie Ross's Premise

Charlie Ross has said that instead of spending money sending students to college, the state should concentrate on training them for the labor force. See post “Charlie Ross’s Education Plan”.

I refuse to accept the premise that the state government of Mississippi can’t find a way for the children of working families to go to college. They do it in Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and every serious Democratic candidate for Governor in Kentucky is talking about how they’re going to do it. And those states are the ones who are a generation behind places like Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

It’s immoral and it’s bad public policy. These aren’t good jobs he’s talking about. A globalized market demands educated people. Innovation happens in state funded universities with big student populations. Innovation drives the economy, which is what it’s about, stupid. See Bill Gates thoughts on the matter:

BILL GATES: "...There's an almost perfect correlation between the number of jobs in a region and the strength of the universities. And, that will continue, whether it's new fields like nanotechnology, or those two fields I mentioned, on the ongoing strength that they'll have. ... And legislators have decisions to make about the level of investment that is made there, and really thinking through what the follow-on benefits for them are in terms of not only the country, but also their state as well."

"I had a chance to speak at a governor's association meeting earlier this year and I was pretty blunt in talking about the need to change the high school system. I literally used the words that it was obsolete relative to the task at hand. So raising the standards was actually necessary in that. And I'd say that's probably the top issue for the United States. If we do that well, if we really push on that, that will keep us in the strong position we want to be in."

I think this is generally accepted stuff among policy people. That is, people who read reports issued by people who know what they’re talking about. Charlie Ross apparently doesn’t. And that is doesn’t read and doesn’t know.

This guy is a serious contender for a job considered the most powerful position in the state and that pisses me off.

NOAA cuts hurricane money, increases publicity costs.

Curses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is throwing a big party in celebration of being 200 years old. Hoop de do. The cost: $4 million dollars. Here's the kicker. They are cutting $700,000 from the hurricane research portion of the budget.

The incompetence of this Republican Administration is staggering. Every time I think they've hit the bottom they show me and the world that no they can excell further into mediocracy.

The New York Times Article

Facing South's Opinion

Think Progress

Left in Alabama

As folks on the Coast struggle in the rebuilding process and insurance when available now has gone up by double for many at best. This is absolutely nuts. Someone at NOAA should lose their job. A $4 million dollar celebration when lives and property are at stake is proposterous.

If you were to type into the address bar you will find yourself transported to

Apparently very much like how Republicans have purchased and with the intention I assume of later putting up a hit website on him later in the campaign, the Eaves campaign has picked this one up in an attempt to get noticed and drive a little more traffic and in turn more eyeballs to their website.

Hat Tip to MississippiPolitics

Friday, May 18, 2007

Franks Video from Meridian

The Meridian Star put this up.

I'm impressed with the quality of the production. As best I can tell, this seems to be the content of Franks' stump speech. I've seen him be more socially conservative, but these are the policy lines he uses.


#4- Be A Democrat.

Don't run from the label. Already, there are campaigns who are omitting the word DEMOCRAT from their campaign literature. It does not appear on Eaves' website. He pulled this trick when he ran against Pickering. He fell about 6 percent short of the traditional democratic performance. It might be because the base didn't know there was a democrat in the race. Democrats around the country won because they had D by their name in '06. Mississippi isn't at that point, but you can't excite your base without it. Be liberal and be proud of it. Liberal doesn't mean you're a baby killer or any of the other third grade quality labels they stick on us. It means that you're progressive, that you think about the future, that you're concerned about the welfare of all the people, and that you will be a results oriented leader. If that doesn't describe you, then you probably need to hang out with George Dale.

The truth of the matter is that for the first time in recent memory, the national party is a place where you can be a Christian, pro life, pro gun, an economic protectionist and still be welcome. They're spending money in Mississippi through the 50 State Strategy. Hug them and squeeze them for all its worth. Do their dance.

New TV show launched: Musgrove Country

The Clarion Ledger reports that former Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) has launched "a weekly news talk show."

The Ridgeland attorney will interview newsmakers, sports figures and entertainers on “Musgrove Country,” which started airing this week in parts of north Mississippi.

“We get to the point of what's important to Mississippi. What are the real issues?,” Musgrove said in a statement. “With ‘Musgrove Country,’ I hope Mississippians can learn from each other, and help make our state a better place.”

Stations airing the program can be found here: "Musgrove Country"

Bryant recieves Wildmon endorsement for a price

American Family Association founder Don Wildmon has endorsed Phil Bryant for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor. Wildmon emphasised that it was a personal endorsement and not one by the AFA itself. In return Phil Bryant offered this from his press release:

"Phil Bryant also announced a proposed ‘Mississippi Marriage Summit’ that he would lead after the general election and prior to the beginning of the next regularly scheduled legislative session in January. “Today, I am announcing plans to hold a ‘Mississippi Marriage Summit’ so we can bring together community, religious, civic and elected leaders to have an organized summit to discuss any legislation that needs to be enacted to promote and strengthen the institution of marriage in Mississippi,” Bryant said.

Bryant gains the Don Wildmon endorsement in addition to those already granted by the Mississippi Association of Realtors and the Home Builders Association of Mississippi.

Gene Taylor on new Bay Bridge

Gene Taylor who was unable to be on the Coast for the opening due to business in Washington had this to day in published remarks:

Since that fateful day, however, collectively and individually we have made significant strides in our recovery. While much work remains to be done, the rebuilding of this bridge is certainly one of the most significant achievements in our recovery to date. As important as this bridge will be to restoring our local economy and to improving our quality of life, it is also an important symbol of our resurgence.

This new bridge represents our future-constructed better, higher, and stronger. It will be here, as a vital link between the citizens of Hancock and Harrison counties and those who come to visit us, for generations to come.

It can be found in its entirety at the

Thursday, May 17, 2007

#3- The Perks of a Professional Staff

There are bonuses to the staff equation besides having a full fledged pedigreed team of number crunchers. You get two things-- some continuity between campaigns, and you get some respect. I'll use the Lt. Gov race as an example for both points. The Franks campaign just hired a professional operative, AJ Carrillo, to run its operation. Best move they could have made. In 2006, Carrillo was slaying a giant Republican incumbent in the CA-11 and replacing him with a guy who's an alternative energy consultant and, by all reports, a stupefying boring math geek. A.J. has relationships. He has relationships with his former boss, and his former boss's donors. Want to get an immediate net roots bump? Let Carrillo call Rep. McNurty and send out an email to his supporter list. West Coast money flowing to Jamie Franks from Mooreville, MS? Absolutely.

And consider the actual story posted on Magnolia Report. It was glowing. They said that Franks had hired a big shot campaign manager who was fresh from slaying popular incumbent republicans in a conservative district. That plays well in the press, in the political circles, and in the donor circles. The last thing MR printed about Franks was "the fact that he raised less than 30k in the previous year indicates that there's not much enthusiasm for his campaign." That's a big difference. It's not the kind of difference you can expect when your campaign manager's previous job title is "office manager."

Bridge Opening Video

Here is the WLOX (ABC) story and a few video clips on their website.

Miss. Gulf Coast Marks Milestone In Katrina Recovery With Bridge Opening

In Sign of Progress Bay Bridge Opens Again

One factor slowing the recovery of the Mississippi Gulf Coast following the disaster of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 has been problems with transportation. The biggest issue was the destruction of multiple bridges that fed traffic to the coast and along the coast. North bay bridges were quickly resurrected, but the Coastal bridges at Bay St. Louis and between Ocean Springs and Biloxi were almost completely destroyed and have had to be rebuilt almost from scratch. Today The first of the two, the Bay Bridge, is open and traffic is flowing over it again. This is a very big day for the Coast, for recovery and for the spirit of south Mississippi citizens.

The Sun Herald Link

Charlie Ross's Education Plan

"Education: fifty cents out of every tax dollar goes to education. That's good. Education is important. When I'm Lt. Gov, we're going to talk about what we get for that dollar. We're going to measure education success by output, not input. The goal should be that every child that graduates from high school has the skills to go into the workforce. We're going to have to restructure the curriculum to have something akin to Shop Class when I was in HS in Eupora, a vocational path."

Charlie Ross says that if you can't afford to go to college, we'll train you to go to work as a laborer. You can see him say it. That's his economic development strategy too. He says so in the speech.

Tax Pledges are Stupid

The Clarion Ledger has an article out today highlighting Candidate Jamie Franks pledge to increase tobacco taxes and Candidates Charlie Ross and Phil Brant opposing such an increase. It point out why tax pledges are dumb due to a sometime unpredictable state revenue stream and changing conditions.

"State Rep. Jamie Franks has launched his bid for lieutenant governor by signing a pledge to support a $1 hike in the tobacco tax - which puts an odd spin on the contest.

Both Bryant and Ross quickly came out against hiking the tobacco tax - along the lines of Gov. Haley Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist, who vetoed bills to hike the tax while reducing the sales tax on groceries last year and helped defeat it this year.

So now, ironically, you've got a Democrat saying he's for raising the tobacco tax and two Republicans aping the "old" Barbour's "I'm not for raising anybody's taxes," while the "new" Barbour (burned by his anti-tax swap stance) is acknowledging that any fair adjustment of taxes could require some to go up and some to go down."

Mona Pittman

There are six or nine senators who vote with the Governor, or against the party, more often than they vote with us. They’re occupying seats and inflate the power balance numbers, but the governing doesn’t get done. Nolan Mettetal in District 10 is one of those. He’s helped the Republicans gut education funding while telling the teachers in his district that he was with them 100% of the time.

Mona Pittman is running against him in the primary and she’s fantastic. She’s progressive, intelligent, and energetic. I was at the 1st District Dems meeting when she made her first political speech in February. She talked about public education, going beyond teacher pay and focusing on the quality of the educational experience. She told us how she goes to the elementary school and sees the lights in kids’ eyes as they come through the door, and that by the time she sees them at the middle school, they’re disenchanted.

We need more Mona Pittmans. She’s running underfunded against a big incumbent because she knows that he values being in office more than serving his constituents or keeping his word. Check out her website at

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Phil Bryant Looks Funny

I don’t get the hoopla about Phil Bryant. He’s supposed to be this great stump speaker, this polished retail politiker. I’ve seen him speak twice, once at his January announcement speech at USM and once at the AARP forum at the capitol. On both occasions, about 60 days apart, he seemed stiff, uneasy, and like he was unfamiliar with the material at hand. His campaign videos confirm this. They’re not bad, they just don’t make good sense as campaign ads and he still seems stiff. He actually reminded me of John Kerry in the latest one, the public service “prepare for another Katrina” one. If Ross is going to concede being the “show horse” in this race, I really have to wonder about his self esteem.

There are a couple of great speakers among the Republican delegation, but we have a strict policy here not to say good things about Republicans unless it’s to encourage something they might be doing to destroy themselves. But on the whole, I’ll take the Democrats as a team. Rickey Cole is good, patient, and knows how to craft a line. Jamie Franks gets mad better than anybody I’ve ever seen and can almost cry on demand. There’s nobody I’d rather have calling out Republicans. But hands down is Gary Anderson. He’s smooth, polished, and has a good handshake. He’s got that rap around hug move down too, and that’s always a killer on a crowd of old people.

#2- Know Your Enemy and Copy What Works

#2- Know Your Enemy and Copy What Works-

The Republican party has been training operatives in how to do direct voter contact, target, motivate, and mobilize a pretty small percentage of the population in order to get massive electoral victories since at least the late 70’s. There is no such thing as a ‘local republican race.’ Absolutely every candidate they recruit has access to all of their knowledge, all of their infrastructure, all of their operatives and all of their money. Know that on GOTV weekend, there will be dozens of Capitol Hill staffers flown in from DC who have run the 72 Hour Program so many times that they can run it with directions written on the back of a cocktail napkin. I have seen them pull seven points out of GOTV through the 72 Hour Plan.

In order to compete with that, you have to get real staff. In a top targeted million dollar race, there are endless numbers to crunch and those numbers ultimately determine where you're going to put your resources. This is not a game to be eyeballed. Saying to yourself "15% of the white vote and the same turnout we've always seen from the 2nd district" doesn't do it. There are big numbers involved that by their very nature cannot end in three zeros. There's targeting, micro targeting, consumer preference composite modeling, thirty-one flavors of research, and that barely scratches the surface. Nobody expects a candidate to know all of this and there is even less expectation for them to learn it. But you should know that there are hundreds of people who make their living working on campaigns. The majority of them have 202 phone numbers. Seek them out. Call them, be prepared to pay them a seemingly egregious amount of money, and delegate your entire operation to them. They know these numbers. Yes, this leaves you powerless for a few months while you're campaigning. But you get to govern. That makes up for it. I promise.

And They Vote Nay

Senators Thad Cochran (R) and Trent Lott (R) were given the opportunity today to bring accountablility to President George Bush and his failed Iraq War. They chose the status quo: no accounability and no change. This is unacceptable.

Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Lott (R-MS), Nay

Tobacco Tax Game Continues

I understand the tobacco tax debate. Reducing the grocery tax is good for people. Increasing the cigarette tax is good for people. The Governor has continually vetoed every tax proposal, so you throw something in front of him that's revenue neutral. This has the advantage of being wildly popular and you can spin it as Barbour being more loyal to his lobbying clients than the people of Mississippi. In that regard, it's pretty damaging among those who aren't Republican base voters.

What I don't understand is why, while you're on your announcement tour, you pull this out of your pocket. Franks has an impressive list of policy proposals. He knows how to cover the uninsured, he knows how to improve economic development, and he has an alternative energy promotion program that's second to none. Why do this today?

But to their credit, they're framing the contest. Between the AP article where Franks says " I am as conservative as any Republican" and this they've summed it up. Jamie Franks shares your values and will value your well being. Charlie Ross and Phil Bryant don't.

My only fear is that you're letting them decide the battlefield.

2 in GOP spurn Franks' tobacco tax pledge

State Rep. Jamie Franks, the lone Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, promised to support a cigarette tax increase and challenged the two Republican candidates to do the same.

But State Auditor Phil Bryant and Sen. Charlie Ross said they would not agree.

"No way," Bryant said. "As a Republican, it's not my nature to sign a pledge to increase taxes."

Said Ross: "I'm not into making pledges to increase people's taxes, especially when the overall tax burden on Mississippi needs to be reduced going forward."

The winner of the Aug. 7 contest between Ross and Bryant will compete against Franks in the general election in November. The winner is seeking to replace Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, who cannot seek a third term.

Franks, of Mooreville, signed a pledge authored by Communities For a Clean Bill of Health at a Tuesday news conference in Jackson kicking off his campaign. The organization is asking each legislative candidate to support a $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase.

Franks said his grandfather died at age 62 of lung cancer.

"He had two brothers that died in their early 60s from smoking," Franks said. "Smoking kills. That's why, for health reasons and to offset the grocery tax reduction, I'm signing the pledge."

Bryant and Ross this year opposed legislation that would have raised cigarette taxes by $1 and cut the 7 percent grocery tax in half. The measure died when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Robertson, R-Moss Point, chose not to bring it up for discussion in his committee.

Bryant mirrored recent comments by Gov. Haley Barbour, saying, "I'll be glad to look at an overall review of the tax structure. If there's any way to make it more equitable, I'm certainly willing to look at it."

Ross said the Legislature should focus on "creating a pro-business environment by creating a tax environment that will be conducive to the creation of jobs and reducing the overall tax burden on Mississippians."