Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eaves Has An Ethics Plan / Haley Has An Ethics Problem

Eaves' plan from a press release:
Mississippi’s standards for ethics should be stronger. Over the past decade, much of the rest of the country has been increasing disclosure standards, while Mississippi has done nothing. We need a Governor who will change this. Mississippi’s elected officials should be held accountable for their actions. The legislature has tried to pass ethics reform in the past, but has been thwarted at every turn by Governor Barbour and his special interest friends. As Governor, John Eaves will make ethics legislation a priority. Below is the outline of his plan.

Shinning Light on the Ethics Commission

Members of the Ethics Commission will be required to recuse themselves from cases that involve the person whom appointed them to the commission. Nor can they rule in cases where they have any financial interest before them or personal connection to any of the parties involved.

All complaints filed to the commission are to be made public on the commission’s website within 72 hours of filing. Only the personal information of the person filing the complaint and specific details that the commission deems sensitive may be redacted from the document.

All hearings, votes, and opinions of the Ethics Commission must be made public and available electronically within 72 hours of occurrences.

The review process for a complaint will be changed. First the complaint is received and the staff determines if it meets the minimum threshold of having any potential basis in fact. Once it meets that threshold, the staff presents it to the commissioners for a vote to proceed. If the vote is in favor of proceeding or a tie, then it will go forward and the staff will investigate the merits of the complaint. The staff is authorized to compel testimony of anyone, including elected officials. After the investigation is complete, the staff will present their findings to the commissioners who will then vote on the matter.

Keeping it All Out of the Family

Nepotism is defined in other sections of the Mississippi Code as relatives to the third degree, but conflict of interest applies only to relatives defined by parents, children, and spouse. Conflict of interest laws should be strengthened to include the same definition of nepotism used elsewhere in Mississippi law.

Giving Teeth to Ethics

Failure to disclose economic interests- If a candidate failed to properly file his or her “Statement of Economic Interest” and did so in an attempt to hide his or her sources of income, that person shall be subject to no less than one and to no more than five years in prison and a fine equal to the salary the State would have paid the candidate over his or her term.

Illegal Campaign Funding- If a candidate is found guilty of illegally taking funds, that candidate will be forced to pay a fine equal to the amount of illegal funds received plus 50%. The candidate may use campaign funds only to pay the portion of the fine based on the amount of illegal funds, not the 50% additional fee.

Electronically Searchable Disclosures

Today candidates in Mississippi can rest assured that their disclosures will hide in obscurity because there is no way to quickly search them. Under the Eaves plan, all candidates for the legislature or statewide office must file their campaign finance disclosures in an electronically searchable way in a database to be maintained by the Secretary of State. In addition, all lobbyist disclosures and all spending by outside groups to influence an election must be filed electronically as well.

Fuller Financial Disclosure

Each year that a candidate is running for statewide office, or is an elected statewide official, he or she must disclosure their annual income and the amount of taxes they paid to the US Treasury. This requirement may be fulfilled by releasing the summary pages of the candidate or officials tax returns.

Haley vetoed the only reform that made it to his desk; he hasn't brought it up since.

Papers Endorse Rickey Cole for Commissioner of Agriculture

The Hattiesburg American:
Rickey Cole, 41, who grew up on a truck farm in Ovett and is the former chairman of Mississippi's Democratic Party, brings strong ideas to the table.

Most importantly, he does not bring the baggage of Mississippi's $55 million bailout of the failed beef plant in 2004 - which happened on Spell's watch and for which he refuses to take any responsibility.

Cole would refocus the marketing arm of the department and work on ways to connect Mississippi farmers to wholesalers and retailers. He wants to put more Mississippi produce into Mississippi grocery stores. He would revamp the "Make Mine Mississippi" program and the farmers market in downtown Jackson, which he says was poorly thought out and has not paid back the state's investment.

The Clarion Ledger:
The 2007 race for the post of commissioner of agriculture and commerce shouldn't even be a contest, given the incumbent's inability to take responsibility for himself in office.

A wag could put it as incumbent Lester Spell against the beef plant. In this, the state loses both ways: with Spell refusing to take responsibility for the $55 million fiasco, and the fiasco itself. But, really, it's Spell vs. Spell.

But, if the plant were not an issue, how would Spell measure up? Not well.

Before the beef plant idea darkened the state's door, Spell's Southern States Meat Goat Cooperative brainchild also flopped, though less expensively and, hence, less noticeably. And, after the goat plant and as the beef plant unfolded, Spell destroyed the old and beloved Farmer's Market in Jackson in favor of a new one he wanted at the Fairgrounds that also has been unsuccessful.

The department needs a fresh approach from top to bottom, Cole told The Clarion-Ledger Editorial Board, and he's right. He wants to have the department objectively evaluated by a performance audit to determine most efficient use of taxpayer money. He wants to empower family farmers and develop resources to promote "niche" farming to help local communities' economic development. He will return accountability and support agriculture, not impose it, or waste resources.

It's time for a change. Cole is the best choice on Nov. 6.

Rickey Cole is the best choice. He deserves your consideration and support. He will be an excellent public servant and will help all of Mississippi move towards prosperity.

Big (total) Money Republicans (and smaller money Democrats)

Wow. Republicans continue to raise and spend substantially more than the Democrats. I'll be doing a cost breakdown right after the election to break down cost per vote for each candidate. Watch for it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Brandon Jones for State House

Rickey Cole for Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce

Rickey Cole is the Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce. His opponent is Democrat turned Republican Lester Spell. Major issues in the race include the failed culled cow "beef plant," getting farmers crops to places of sale, proper regulation of grocery stores and gas stations and "country of origin labeling." Rickey Cole is the best choice for the office of Agricultural Commissioner.

Jolly Matthews for State House

Gerald Buffington's TV Ad

Here is Gerald Buffington's TV ad. He's running for State Senate, District 41, against Joey Fillingane, aka Joey Fieldinstream.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Eaves Site: Barbour's Record

The Eaves Campaign has put many of the charges against Haley Barbour in one place.

Check out www.Barbour'

David Blount for Senate District 29 Ad

David Blount is the Democratic candidate for Mississippi Senate District 29 in Hinds County. This David Blount ad focuses on crime and the Jackson Metro Area highlighting that David Blount is the only candidate supported by Mississippi police officers.

New Eaves Ad "That's the Difference"

John Eaves contrasts how he would tackle important issues compared to how Haley Barbour has saying that unlike Barbour he will "serve my creator and the people of Mississippi."

Cole VS. _____ in Ole Miss' Paper

The College Democrats and College Republicans at Ole Miss agreed to do a series of opposing editorials on several candidates. One of those was the race for Agricultural Commissioner. When time came for both to present their work the Republicans backed out of attempting to defend Lester Spell. Here is an excerpt of the Democrats' column on the choice for commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce:
Cole, on the other hand, has been an impressive candidate.

He vows to restore the "Country-of-Origin" labeling requirement for meat products sold in Mississippi, something that's been on the books for a while but not enforced. This is probably a good thing to have in place if there's another Mad Cow Disease scare, something that has no cure and is 100 percent fatal.

He also wants to do a better job of networking and marketing local growers and buyers.

Some people feel that cutting the state's grocery tax would put localities in a bad position. But what about the additional "fuel tax" that the people of this state have to pay for crops that are being grown elsewhere and then shipped here?

There are many factors that influence the price that is paid in the store for produce, but the price increases over the past three years, due to transportation costs alone for many vegetables in Mississippi grocery stores, is higher than the seven percent grocery tax rate itself.

Importation may not have been a big issue when the average unleaded regular price was $1.89 a gallon back in 2004, but it's nearly a dollar higher today.

The column is written by Jesse Johnson. Check It Out.

The Final Week

Posting today was made difficult by what is rumored to have been a severed line at USM cutting off internet access for much of the day.

Posting will be slow through the election because I have moved most of my efforts to field work offline and few will be influenced at this point.

I look forward to rejoining y'all on a regular basis after the election.

Bryant's Newest Friends

This fact sheet came from the Jamie Franks campaign earlier today. It's interesting that Phil Bryant wants to portray himself as "tough on crime," but apparently has made friends with an organization that is being implicated in some serious legal issues and frequently finds itself working against law enforcement.

FACT SHEET - Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA)
Controversial front group bankrolling TV ads for Phil Bryant

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America, considered a “Stealth PAC” by the consumer advocacy organization, Public Citizen, presently is running an estimated 250K dollar statewide independent expenditure TV advertising campaign in support of Phil Bryant.

The LEAA's attempts to influence political contests have often been accompanied by controversies, frequently involving alleged campaign finance irregularities.

The LEAA has figured in a Texas investigation into whether the Texas Association of Business (TAB) and Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), established by disgraced former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R), illegally influenced the
outcome of the 2002 state legislative elections in Texas through the use of money laundering violating Texas law.

The LEAA has repeatedly worked against respected national police organizations. Their positions on issues have consistently been contrary to those of the major national and state law enforcement organizations in this country.
-International Association of Chiefs of Police
-Major Cities Chiefs Association
-National Association of Police Organizations
-National Fraternal Order of Police
-National Sheriff's Association

Friday, October 26, 2007

ESPN at Southern Miss!

I'm working for ESPN this weekend at Southern Miss. which should be cool.

Of course that does mean I'll be away from my computer all weekend; tough.

Go Eagles!

(Note: I will be attending the Jefferson Jackson Hamer Day Dinner Saturday; You should too!)

Gary Anderson Will Be A Fiscal Conservative And An Advocate

Delta Democrat Times:

Fiscal Conservative:
“While I was chief fiscal officer, I had to cut out over $200 million in government waste, and we did so. I sat on two insurance boards, and while I was CFO we made some tough decisions on insurance.”

He pledged to build a “strong, vibrant marketplace” for insurance in Mississippi, increase competition and lower rates.

“In the rural areas of our state, we will increase fire protection and lower rates by implementing a new rule initiative to speed up the response time that it takes to fight fires. My plan for Mississippi means lower insurance rates for all citizens.”

We need an Insurance Commissioner who is independent of Insurance companies to make decisions in the best interest of Mississippi. As Anderson says, "you can't protect people's pocketbooks if you're in the back pocket of Big Insurance."

SCHIP Needed For Working Families

The Clarion Ledger:
Republicans have been coming up with a lot of reasons to supposedly oppose the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The Clarion Ledger takes one of those excuses on.
Bush supporters are lining up behind the "sound byte" that it would provide health insurance for families with incomes up to $80,000 in some states which poorer states like Mississippi might find unpalatable.

But, it costs more to live in urban areas. Homes that cost $200,000 in Mississippi can cost $1 million in places like San Francisco. To try to equate the costs with a family of four in a rural area is comparing apples and oranges, and those who do it know it.

The fact is, CHIP is aimed at providing health insurance for the "working poor," those who are not on welfare and work, but are not offered it through their employers and earn too little to be able to afford it.

It's ridiculous that President Bush will keep vetoing children's healthcare, but that is what he continues to do.

First insurance CEO comes to visit Lott

The Sun Herald:
"He's the only CEO of an insurance company who has been in my office since Katrina and I have hammered them regularly," said Lott, who sued State Farm after his Katrina claim was denied and has since settled his case. "If somebody was going after me the way I've been going after them, I would go to their office and say, 'Hey, let's talk,' but the CEOs of State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide - none of them have come to see me."

Wow. I assumed they already would have met. I guess it's easier to sit in their comfortable offices and refuse to face the folks they've wronged.

Business Group "Stop Lawsuit Abuse" does Independent Expenditure On Behalf of Chaney

"A good Mississippian" I was surprised there were no puppies. We need more than that in this very important role. Support Gary Anderson for Insurance Commissioner.

Thank You Congressman Taylor!!!!!!!

Call Congressman Gene Taylor at 1-800-861-5343 and thank him for voting to support the children of Mississippi.

Congressman Taylor had previously voted against the extension of SCHIP and against the veto override - one of only two Democrats to do so. A coalition of citizens worked hard to turn around his vote, and we were successful! Democrats made some changes in the bill to take care of all reasonable objections and brought the bill back for a vote yesterday. This time Congressman Taylor voted in favor. Please take time to thank him for this crucial vote that must have been difficult for him.

Here's some information about the Mississippi SCHIP program from the Clarion Ledger:

In Mississippi, only children from families who earn no more than 200 percent of federal poverty level - or no more than $41,300 a year - qualify for the plan.

But other states have more generous qualifications, registering children from higher-income families and pregnant women under the program.

The program is run on a cost-sharing basis, with the federal government picking up most of the tab, depending on a state's income levels.

In Mississippi, the federal government pays for 83 percent of the cost of insuring a child under CHIP.

At least 20 states - including Mississippi - would soon run out of money to administer the program if it is not reauthorized on or before Nov. 16.

Of course, our two Republican Congressman (Pickering and Wicker) voted against children again. But no one even bothered lobbying them. They don't know how to think for themselves and always support the President no matter what - even when it hurts Mississippians.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Joey Fieldinstream

Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane has made the blog of a radio show host in Georgia for being the hypocrite of the week. Their findings:

1. Though endorsed by the NRA, there is no record of Fillingane ever having a hunting license in the State of Mississippi.

2. A strong supporter of family values, he just recently moved out of his parent's house... at the age of 34.

3. After comparing trial lawyers to the people who killed Christ, he, in fact, advertises himself as a trial lawyers in the local phone book (see below). If someone has a better image, please send it in.

Northern Public Service Commissioner Ads Take 2

Ad for Democratic candidate Mayor Brandon Presley:

Ad for Republican candidate Mabel Murphree:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cole and Spell @ The Debate

The following is one student's firsthand summary account of last night's debate provided exclusively to Cotton Mouth:

"The winner of Tuesday night's Agriculture Commissioner debate was Rickey Cole without question. Throughout the night, the 211 member audience sat anxiously to hear Commissioner Lester Spell's reason as to why the infamous $55 million dollar beef plant failed and who is to blame. Without hesitation, Spell took the lower road and accepted no blame as to the beef plant's demise. Rickey Cole charismatically mentioned how Spell should take some of the blame stating how Commissioner Spell refuses to take "1/14th of the blame," referring to the 14-member Land, Water and Timber Resources Board that initially pushed the project.

When November 6th arrives, citizens are going to remember the one question Rickey Cole asked Lester Spell; "Where's the beef?"

More Control For Barbour OR Balanced Government?

That's the choice Charlie Mitchell gives inThe Sun Herald
It may not be the key issue on voters' minds, but a key consequence in selecting Mississippi's next lieutenant governor is whether the state Senate will become an echo chamber for Gov. Haley Barbour, who most believe will get the nod Nov. 6 for a second term.

At the national level for much of recent history, voters have seen to it, purposely or not, that the president was from one party and majorities in Congress were from the other. The result has been a combative imbalance, often called gridlock, but, hey, people seem to prefer that arrangement. Indeed, it is often good for the public when new laws either aren't passed or follow hard-fought compromises.

Anyway, the deal is this: Barbour wants a Republican House, which would be a first, and a greater Republican majority in the Senate. While he has been more effective in managing the Legislature than any governor in memory, the fact remains that lawmakers run the state.

If voters want to see how Barbour's policies would work for Mississippi if unfettered, electing Bryant would be a big part of making that come true.

If, however, they want to see the agenda of a second- term governor challenged, they'd have to go with Franks.

MFEP ethics violation

It's hard to feel sorry for Lex Taylor and the Mississippians for Economic Progress after learning that they've been violating lobbying laws for the past two years.

From the Clarion Ledger:

Last month, the Mississippi Ethics Commission approved a settlement among the Secretary of State's office, MFEP and Taylor. MFEP agreed to pay a $500 civil penalty under the Lobbying Law Reform Act, which requires lobbyists and their clients to file certain reports, said Chris Graham, the commission's assistant director and counsel.
After setting out on a mission to demand more transparency of finances and contributions, it's quite ironic they don't want to make public their finances as a lobbying organization.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Central District Public Service Commissioner

One of the problems that campaigns run into is that in attacking their opponent, they also raise their name ID. Republican candidate for Central District Public Service Commissioner Charles Barbour manages to get around that in this new ad:

Here is "The Other Guy" Lynn Posey:

I saw several properties in Copiah County with Republican Haley Barbour AND Democrat Lynn Posey. I haven't seen any polling in this race so I have no idea where this one is, but I do know that Posey has a lot of crossover appeal. I wish him the best of luck.

Dykes: Danger, FEMA is coming.

I've been amused by Mr. Dykes' signs up and down our state highways. Other than the obvious difficulty of trying to get conservatives in Mississippi to vote for Dykes for Senate the signs have been otherwise amusing.

Will Bardwell got a picture of one of the signs.

Ridiculous Ads

First on the list is Mike Chaney's ad for Commissioner of Insurance. Instead of promoting affordable home insurance, or working with the Governor to put children back on health insurance, he goes after phantom frivolous lawsuits. Lawsuit abuse is not an issue in Mississippi, but we have to appreciate the fact that he does not have faith in Mississippians, the people who sit on juries who hear lawsuits, to make a proper judgment.

Next on the list is the Republican State Leadership Committee (not to be confused with the Republican running for Lt. Governor) television ad that desecrates a holy site in an inaccurate ad against Rep. Jamie Franks.

Click here to see what another blog has found out about the ad.

Democrats Ought To Thank John Eaves

Daily Journal:
Eaves has run a credible campaign with effective television commercials that have at least kept Barbour interested in the race and less able to actively campaign for other candidates. Eaves also has raised some serious issues that probably deserve additional debate.

For instance, it seems Mississippians should at least explore and debate the possibility of providing health insurance for all children as Eaves has proposed. Maybe there is an innovative way to achieve a goal that probably most Mississippians would think was a noble effort.

Perhaps the pros and cons of Eaves' proposal to raise Mississippi's state casino tax from 8 percent to 10 percent should at least be explored.

And no doubt, if the governor is going to be able to shield all of his assets in a blind trust, then there should be some state oversight of that process.

The Daily Journal

Eaves decided to run knowing that the road would be steep and the chances would be slim. Even folks who disagree with him should thank him for giving Mississippi a credible choice in the general election for governor.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Democratic Candidate For Agricultural Commissioner Rickey Cole

Constitution Party Candidate For Agricultural Commissioner "Les" Riley

Republican Candidate For Agricultural Commissioner Lester Spell

Democratic Candidate For Governor John Eaves

Republican Candidate For Governor Haley Barbour

Eaves' Ad on Barbour's Immigration Record

Russ Nowell for MS House District 43

Rudy Warnock for Transportation Commissioner 2nd Ad

The Central District needs a commissioner that can work with other people. Dick Hall is not that man.

Rudy Warnock for Transportation Commissioner

New Franks Ad: Phil Bryant Has Failed As Our Auditor

State Auditor's Department about Auditing

We should all appreciate the fact that the Democratic candidate for State Auditor, Mike Sumrall, is committed to improving and promoting the State Auditor's office.

Staffing is Sumrall's main concern because he says some of the more experienced auditors have resigned. "Staffing is the key problem," Sumrall said. "The staff they have is young and inexperienced."

Sumrall also said he wants to make sure auditors know how to do a complete audit, not just parts of one, and he wants employees to be trained in different departments.

"I want to create a cross-training program so we can use people in different areas," he said.

Sumrall added he would like to see employees in the auditor's office get extra pay when they get an advanced degree or certification. He said those incentives are added to and taken away from the budget, but he wants them to be restored.

While fraud prevention and prosecution is important, if auditors aren't trained to find fraud, we'll miss a critical piece to that puzzle. Mike Sumrall proves, once again, he's got the experience and not just the rhetoric to be our next State Auditor.

Click here to read the complete story.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

For All You Facebookers Out There

The Right-Wing Facebook

It's pretty amazing.

Faggert: Keep the Flag, Keep the Governor

The Associated Press:
Earl Faggert, the leader of a heritage group that fought to keep a Confederate emblem on the Mississippi flag, is now on the payroll of Gov. Haley Barbour’s re-election campaign.

A finance report filed this month shows the Barbour campaign had paid Faggert $7,651 through Sept. 30.

Faggert said he is a longtime supporter of Barbour and particularly admires the governor’s work in the state’s Katrina recovery.

In a statewide election in April 2001, Mississippians voted nearly 2-to-1 to keep the Confederate battle flag in the design of the state flag. Faggert was chairman of the Mississippi Heritage Political Action Committee, a group that campaigned to keep the Confederate symbol — a blue X with 13 white stars, atop a red field.

The Confederate battle flag has been part of the state flag since 1894. In May 2000, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that flag had lacked official status since 1906, when state laws were updated and the flag design was not described in statute.

I'd always assumed that the folks trying to turn out "heritage" voters were closely connected with the Barbour campaigns. This doesn't prove anything, but it comes awfully close. In other news Barbour says he wants 20% of the black vote. I'll make a prediction right now. He doesn't.

Dirty Election-Time Tricks

I received the following in a e-mail:
This is to report that vandals cut through lines on all four air-conditioning units at the AFL-CIO Headquarters in Jackson last night, Thursday, October 18. Robert Shaffer reports that they worked diligently through the day today and will be on the job undaunted, preparing to help worthy candidates during the last weeks of the General Election. "They think they'll stop us," Shaffer said. "They just don't know who they're messing with. But, we must be doing something right, or they wouldn't be so worried about us."

Call Gene Taylor; Mississippi's Kids Are Worth It

Call 1-800-861-5343 to let Congressman Gene Taylor know how disappointed we are in him for not supporting the S-Chip Program that would have provided insurance for the many Children in America that are currently without health insurance.

John Eaves Defends Himself; Stands With America's Veterans

From the Clarion Ledger
"Yes, I did sue the military, and I would do it again because I stood up for veterans who had not been treated right by the Pentagon bureaucrats," Eaves said during a news conference at the War Memorial building in downtown Jackson.

For the past two weeks, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour has been airing TV commercials that say Eaves is "wrong for Mississippi."

"He's repeatedly sued America's military for personal financial gain," the announcer says.

Jesse H. Moore, an Army veteran who lives in Jackson, called the Barbour ad "distasteful."

"I think it's just a ploy for the governor to try and discredit John Arthur Eaves," said Moore, 65, who stood with Eaves.

The Clarion Ledger

Tort Reform Doesn't Work (For What They Say It Does)

From the Texas Observer:
Proposition 12, and the far-reaching changes in Texas civil law that it dragged behind it, was built on a foundation of mistruths and sketchy assumptions. The number of doctors in the state was not falling, it was steadily rising, according to Texas Medical Board data. There was little statistical evidence showing that frivolous lawsuits were a significant force driving increases in malpractice premiums.

Perhaps the most insidious sleight of hand employed by Proposition 12 backers was their repeated insistence that medical malpractice insurance rates were somehow responsible for doctor shortages in rural Texas.

“Women in three out of five Texas counties do not have access to obstetricians. Imagine the hardship this creates for many pregnant women in our state,” Gov. Rick Perry told a New York audience in October 2003 at the pro-tort-reform Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “The problem has not been a lack of compassion among our medical community, but a lack of protection from abusive lawsuits.”

The campaign’s promise, that tort reform would cause doctors to begin returning to the state’s sparsely populated regions, has now been tested for four years. It has not proven to be true.

Big Business and Big Insurance got together to sell us on throwing away our rights to hold them accountable in court. They took a few of their millions and used them to convince us that a jury of our peers couldn't be trusted and that we should fear attorneys more than the multinational corporations that actually harm us. That's what happened and dammit we let it.

The Texas Observer

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Meet Phil Bryant or Mr. Tort Reform Crusading Man, Man!!!

Did anybody know that Phil Bryant actually brought tort reform to Mississippi in 2005? Neither did the Legislature! But, that didn't stop him from taking credit for something he didn't do. Here's a recap of Phil's claim:

At The Meridian Star

Is Bryant so silly that he doesn't realize people would spot this for what it is - a desperate attempt to curry favor with big insurance?

The insurance types who want to make sure the status quo of big premiums with no payouts continue in Mississippi are all for Phil Bryant, a former insurance investigator whose job it was to disprove claims made by policyholders.

His opponent for Lt. Governor, Jamie Franks who actually was in the Legislature when tort reform passed, has pledged to not appoint an Insurance Committee Chair who has ties to the industry. He wants insurance policyholders to also have a strong voice in the state Senate - in other words, people matter more to him than big, multi-national corporations.

Good News In The Senate

After a day and a half of testimony, the Judge ruled that Scottie Cuevas' election contest had no merit and dismissed it at about 2 p.m. He can now appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Cuevas was a Senate Democrat who voted like a Republican. He was expected to change parties after the election, but Baria removed that option by beating him in the primary.

Cuevas then raised lots of money with the help of business interests and with the help of Republican attorneys attempted to win by other means. It looks as though the voters choice will stand and David Baria will be a new, strong, progressive voice in the State Senate!

The district is District 46 in South Mississippi.

One Year Of Health OR One More Week In Iraq

Technical Issues

Posting may be slow for the next few days due to technical issues. Enjoy Jim Payne's ads though.

Bryant's Connections To the RSLC

Whether He Admits To Them Or Not

Dewey Phil Bryant said this to WLBT yesterday:
"Our campaign has really had no input in that commercial," says Bryant, who is currently State Auditor. "It's the Republican Leadership, State Leadership Organization. They decide what they want to put out there, what message they think is important."

The impression he seeks to leave is that he has no connections to the group.


1. Neil Forbes, the Bryant Campaign Manager, worked for the RLSC directly before taking his current job with Bryant.

2. The RLSC purchased the domain name (which I wouldn't click if you don't want pop ups) over a year ago showing their interest in the race while Forbes still worked for them.

When I checked in the Spring This reflected that. They've altered it to hide that fact now.

Breaking News: SCHIP

House fails to override Bush's veto of SCHIP. The vote was 273-156, which was 9 votes short. Congressman Taylor was one of only two Democrats to vote with the President and against our children. How very sad! Not surprisingly, there is nothing on his website about it. I'm sure we'll see some statements in the local press.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Look Out Delbert; Jim Payne Has Got Some Funny Ones Of His Own

Jim Payne is running for the 12th district which includes Oxford. He's had some difficulty with his signs disappearing and incorporates that into these humorous ads:

No Payne, No Gain / Know Payne, Know Gain

I wonder how long it took them to come up with that one :) I can't argue with it though, it's easy to remember.

Charlie Mitchell in the Sun Herald on the Ag. Race

The Sun Herald:
It's not about the beef plant, or at least it's not all about the failed facility at Oakland that cost Mississippi taxpayers at least $50 million.

That's a point on which the party nominees for commissioner of agriculture and commerce - Dr. Lester Spell for the Republicans and Rickey Cole for the Democrats - agree.

It's kind of surprising that they do because Spell, in office for 12 years, has been taking a lot of hits in the state's press about the implosion at Mississippi Beef Processors along with myriad jabs from Cole.

But until election day, Cole said in an interview, his focus will be on two questions: "Is your food safe?" and "Do you know where your food comes from?"

It's about the beef plant, the goat meat processing facility, the new Jackson farmers market and a half dozen smaller failures. We need someone with vision who won't simply sign the check without asking the necessary questions.
Before becoming a mover and a shaker in state Democratic politics and to a large degree since, Cole has been involved with his family's vegetable, timber, livestock, grain and hay production at Ovett in Jones County. He now lives in Utica in Hinds County, but says his experience in direct farm-to-market operations is a recipe for rural Mississippi.

"Everybody wants a Nissan factory," he said, "but it's the little businesses that make the economy grow." He told of a dairyman telling him he was selling his herd because he couldn't break even. On his way home, Cole said, he paid a record price for a gallon of milk.

Cole believes it's entirely possible for the Department of Agriculture and Commerce to foster food-crop operations in Mississippi that could operate year-round jobs and pay workers in the $14-per-hour range plus benefits. Cole said networking local growers with local buyers could save energy, keep shipping costs down and super-boost profits because consumers would pay premium prices for commodities that were fresh and wholesome.

Small businesses create far more jobs than huge ones, but because they are spread out and gradual politicians don't usually focus on them. As Cole says you won't see the governor there when a farmer gets a bigger order and plants another row of his crop or when the barber adds a chair for his son to have a job for 40 years, but those are the jobs that build and sustain communities. We should value them and do all we can to support them. We don't generally have to bribe those folks to create jobs here.

The Sun Herald:

Rickey Cole In The Mississippi Press

The Mississippi Press:
"I will do the job much differently than it is currently being done," Ricky Cole said. "We will work to restore the department's credibility with the public and rebuild effective working relationships."

Cole served as the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party for three years and managed a vegetable market for 15 years. He faces 11-year incumbent Lester Spell for the post in the Nov. 6 general election.


"Agriculture is not some antiquated exercise in nostalgia. Mississippi farmers and cattlemen are small-business men, and most run sophisticated, wealth-producing enterprises that have major impacts on local economies," Cole said.
The Mississippi Press

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rudy Warnock for Transportation Commissioner

Rudy Warnock's Website

You saw it here online first.

He's running for the Central District position.

Phil Bryant Is Going To Get A Big Head

Yes, even bigger than the ones by the side of the road.

Other than the neighbor is there a list or press release that says who these Phil Bryant supporters are? All the other testimonial ads I've seen for other candidates have their name show up on the screen when folks speak. I'm just curious. If you know let me know in the comments.

Phil Bryant Proposes Bad, Un-Christian Idea

Yes, we need to fight crime, but a two strikes and you go to prison for life policy doesn't won't particularly help.

It will expand the number of people in prison and saddle Mississippi's taxpayers with their upkeep for at least decades.

Set prison sentences can have the same deterring effect without senselessly adding far more cost to an already strained budget.

It also doesn't allow for the option of redemption which goes against the Christian values of many in this state.

It's bad policy and he shouldn't be put in place to support bad policies just because they sound good in a campaign commercial.

When you "lock 'em up" there are consequences. We and Phil Bryant should consider those before reflexively choosing that option.

Advocates Call for Congressman Taylor to Stand with Mississippi Children

A Press Release from the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program

For more information, contact Roy Mitchell 601.353.0845

Gulfport, MS – Congressman Gene Taylor (4th District) can help over 100,000 uninsured children in Mississippi obtain health coverage by voting to override President Bush's veto of the CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2007. Advocates will join with the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program at the Turkey Creek Head Start Community Center— 14175 Rippy Road in Gulfport, MS on Wednesday, Oct 17 at 1:00 encourage Congressman Taylor to align himself on the side of Mississippi families by voting to expand SCHIP.

"We want to let Representative Gene Taylor (4th District) know that our children's health is no longer up for debate," declared Roy Mitchell, Program Director for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. "The time is now to provide coverage for the over 100,000 uninsured children in our state."

The U.S. House of Representatives will attempt to override the President's veto on Thursday, October 18. While the legislation passed in September with a bipartisan majority, its passage was 24 votes short of the two/thirds necessary to override the veto. Every vote counts, so it is crucial that we continue to demand Taylor's support! Congressman Bennie Thompson was the only member of Mississippi's Congressional delegation to vote for the legislation, which has vast support in both parties.

In defending his vote against children's healthcare, Taylor claimed that he was looking out for "the least of us." The truth is, the insurance provided for in the bill – financed by a federal cigarette tax increase—would disproportionately benefit lower income households since it is targeted at children with incomes below 200% FPL.

The cigarette tax increase would not only fund children's health insurance but it would also prevent thousands of Mississippi children from becoming smokers—saving the state millions in future healthcare costs.

"Low-income families with children who obtain coverage under SCHIP would gain much more than they lose, even if one or more family members smoke," said Mitchell.

While Congress debates the legislation, the healthcare situation in America and Mississippi continues to get worse. There are over 9 million uninsured children in the country and over 100,000 of them reside in Mississippi. Counter to many of the myths circulated about the uninsured, in most cases the faces of the uninsured are the faces of hardworking individuals and their children. A report issued by Families USA found that four out of five of the uninsured (79.3%) were in working families.

The CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2007 would expand coverage to another 3.8 million children. Our congressional leadership should not choose flawed ideology over our children's health and future.

Please do your part to help the children of Mississippi!

Democratic Candidate For Attorney General Jim Hood

Republican Candidate For Attorney General Alben Hopkins

Phil Bryant Loses Nerve: Campaign Once Again Playing Fast and Loose With the Facts

The Bryant campaign essentially called Jamie Franks a liar for saying he Phil Bryant wouldn't debate. This is the Franks campaign's response:

From a press release:
The "debates" the Bryant Campaign states as being debates all have a few things in common: they either took place prior to the primary election, they were not broadcast on radio or TV, and they were strictly forums. Forums are simply a Q&A format with no rebuttal – a rebuttal being a necessary condition for an actual debate.

The most prestigious of debates is sponsored by the Stennis Institute, a debate that Governor Barbour and his opponent John Eaves participated in. The Stennis Institute provided in September a broad list of dates in October in which they would be willing to host the debate; however the Bryant campaign, according Stennis Institute Director Marty Wiseman, was "too busy." Wiseman has since extended the offer to host the debate at "any time."

"If Phil Bryant can't discern the difference between a debate and a forum, apparently he doesn't know what a debate is, or he simply once again is manipulating the facts. Either way his behavior in this situation proves yet again that Mississippian's simply can't trust Phil Bryant," stated Jamie Franks spokesman A.J. Carrillo

"As for the forums, or debates in 'Phil-speak', when it comes to forums discussing issues important to working families, Phil has been MIA. He has backed out of the forums hosted by the Coalition for Children and Public Education, the American Association of Retired Persons, and the League of Women Voters. His actions beg the question, when it comes to issues important to working families, what does Phil Bryant have to hide?" concluded spokesman Carrillo.

Rickey Cole in the Hattiesburg American

The Hattiesburg American:
On Lester Spell criticizing him:
Told that Spell earlier on Wednesday had called him a "liberal Democrat who's misleading the voters," Cole replied, "He and I were both delegates for Al Gore to the Democratic National Convention in 2000. He and I both signed a pledge of support to John Kerry in 2004."

On the Beef Plant:
"Had I been commissioner, knowing what they knew then, I would not have been supportive of the beef plant," he said. "It was a huge investment in a business that was at the very bottom of the market."

With a realistic approach to immigration:
Asked if Mississippi industries should be punished if they hire illegal workers, Cole said, "I don't believe any right-thinking government official in this country would tell employers we're coming to fine you today for hiring illegal aliens and we're going to shut your operation down. ... The economy would grind to a halt."

The Hattiesburg American

Monday, October 15, 2007

Clarion Ledger Article On Jobs

The Clarion Ledger:
Eaves, a trial lawyer from Jackson, countered in an interview: ‘The governor likes to take credit for jobs, but just because he cuts a ribbon don't mean he brought the business. If he's going to take credit for every job that comes to Mississippi, he needs to take credit for every one that's lost, too.’ … In August, the national unemployment rate was 4.6 percent and Mississippi's was 5.9 percent. Only two states were worse off than Mississippi. Alaska's jobless rate was 6.3 percent and Michigan's was 7.4 percent.

It's always been odd to me when politicians took credit for jobs. People create jobs, small businesses create jobs, big businesses consolidate jobs, Governor's don't create jobs (unless they are government jobs).

Where Barbour's Money Is Going (The Mississippi Republican Party)

I've commented several times that I was curious how Barbour was spending so much money without appearing to be on TV any more than John Eaves.

Well, I've found two big pieces.

1. Mississippi Republican Party

From 7/30/07 to 9/17/07 the Haley Barbour campaign listed disbursements from the campaign to the Mississippi Republican Party of $1,750,000.00. That has paid for a lot of direct mail (see below) and for ads attacking Democrats running for Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and House Leadership. He wants to makeover all of state government in his own image.

Ads by the Mississippi Republican Party attacking Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor Jamie Franks have added up to $325,000 plus the Mississippi Republican Party transfered $35,000 in cash to his account for a total of $360,000 in assistance.

2. Direct Mail (paid for by Mississippi Republican Party)

While attempting to appear above the fray in his TV ads (with one exception) Barbour's money at the Mississippi Republican Party has purchased a lot of direct mailings attacking John Eaves from several angles. It's a reasonable strategy; appear cool and non-threatened in mass media and go hard negative in targeted media. If anyone will send me a scan I'd be happy to put them up.

Guess Who's Back... Delbert's Back...

Attention Chaney Campaign

If you know which one of your supporters thinks it's okay to put your signs all over the Southern Miss campus you should tell them to stop.

Though candidates and their supporters do this often and everywhere I'm going to point this instance out for two reasons.

1. The signs go up on the day of every home game (three times so far) and whoever puts them up doesn't bother to take them down leaving the job to university employees.

2. The print at the bottom of the Chaney sign.

An example of a Chaney sign in the heart of campus next to the student union:

The small print I was talking about:

Click on the photos for larger pictures.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Southern Miss 28 / SMU 7 (An Excellent Game For Homecoming)

The pictures are in no particular order. (I'm trying out my new phone that has a camera)

Homecoming At Southern Miss

A homecoming at any college is likely exciting and many (including alumni) have been celebrating since Thursday.

One thing that makes this year different is all the elections. Several candidates including Democratic candidate for Governor John Eaves are scheduled to be on campus.

Partisans on both sides have littered the campus and medians with campaign signs.

I'm still curious how Barbour is spending all his money, but I did see this today which explains one small piece:

If you look there is a Barbour sign on this "mobile billboard." I'd never seen a candidate use one before.

Go Eagles!

Republican Candidate For Lt. Governor Phil Bryant

Democratic Candidate For Lt. Governor Jamie Franks

Democratic Candidate For Secretary Of State Rob Smith

Republican Candidate For Secretary Of State Delbert Hosemann

Democratic Candidate For Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson

Republican Candidate For Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney

Democratic Candidate For Auditor Mike Sumrall

Republican Candidate For Auditor Stacey Pickering

Democratic Candidate For Treasurer Shawn O'Hara

Republican Candidate For Treasurer Tate Reeves

Mississippi Public Broadcasting produced these video clips.

Chaney: It's Not Right To Take Money From Those You Regulate / Oops!

According to a financial disclosure report, Insurance Commissioner Candidate Mike Chaney has taken over $44,000 in insurance industry money since July 29th. That's according to his October 10th financial disclosure. Chaney, who first said he would not take insurance money, later changed his mind, saying he would only take money from individual insurance agents. Now his report shows thousands collected from insurance company executives, insurance PACS, agents and insurance companies.

"I have not taken a single dime from insurance companies or insurance special interests. Mr. Chaney cannot protect the pocketbooks of the insurance ratepayers if he is taking money from insurance interests. Taking money from an industry you would be responsible to regulate is a direct conflict. I call on Chaney to return every dime and come clean with the people of Mississippi," says Anderson.

If you don't believe Anderson listen to what Chaney says at the end of this Cotton Mouth Original video clip:

Of course Republicans here and in Washington haven't been particularly good at keeping promises.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"(Republican Ad) One Of The Most Offensive Pieces Of Garbage Ever Aired In Mississippi"

From a press release:

Still afraid to defend Phil Bryant's record as state auditor, an out-of-state group, the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC, placed a statewide $440,000 ad buy distorting Jamie Franks' record in an offensive commercial where an actor literally walks across people's graves.

"This most recent attack is undoubtedly one of the most offensive pieces of garbage ever aired in Mississippi," Franks said. "It confirms that my campaign is speaking to Mississippians and we are ahead."

Ad Watch: "Headstone"

CLAIM: "Jamie Franks supported the death tax." (HB 1781, Mar. 31, 2004; SB 3174, Apr. 20, 2004)

FACT: For HB 1781. On Mar. 31, 2004, the House FAILED (70-51) HB 1781, which would have increased the state estate tax exemption to the federal amount. Jamie Franks voted AYE. (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Mar. 31, 2004; HB 1781, 2004)

For SB 3174. On Apr. 20, 2004, the House FAILED (64-57) SB 3174, the Republican-controlled Senate's copy of the same estate tax bill. Jamie Franks voted AYE. (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Apr. 21, 2004; SB 3174, 2004)

In both instances, Franks voted to decrease the amount of taxes loved ones would owe on estates.

CLAIM: "Jamie Franks blocked millions in economic development money." (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Nov. 9, 2004)

FACT: For Delaying Bond Projects. On Nov. 8, 2004, the House Ways and Means Committee PASSED (18-10) a measure to delay votes on any bond projects until the next regular session. The vote effectively put off implementing $109 million in projects offered by Gov. Barbour. Jamie Franks voted AYE. (Northeast Mississippi Daily

Journal, Nov. 9, 2004) Franks later helped to craft a compromise that included $50 million in bonds for community and junior colleges.

Opponents: Education Bonds Not Included. Those who supported delaying the bonds argued that another session was needed to include much needed money for education. (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Nov. 9, 2004) Jamie Franks is a strong supporter of public education.
One has to wonder why a Washington D.C. group is spending $440,000 in a Lt. Governor's race in Mississippi. Who do they serve? What do they expect in return?

Don't Tell Me The Republicans Don't Fear Franks

The State Republican Party has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads attacking Jamie Franks.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has now purchased 440,000 of advertising against Jamie Franks.

It's not inconceivable to think that by the end of this campaign that Phil Bryant will have been the beneficiary of over one million dollars in independent expenditures.

Do you think the Republicans are sure of their man's re-election?

Do you think Bryant really has that double digit lead they happily fed Republican partisans?

I think it's clear that the race is close and Republicans are scared. The question is will burying Franks in negative advertising work?

Jamie Franks on Phil Bryant's Real Record

I'll add documentation if/when I get it.

Republicans In Graveyard Using Death As A Tactic

I guess the ad is made to stand out with the odd man standing in the cemetery. It probably doesn't matter that the man probably has never set foot in Mississippi, but he doesn't sound like he's from anywhere in Mississippi I've been.

The ad also makes several claims that can't really be backed up with facts.

The claim: "(The estate tax) has caused family farms to be sold."
The truth: No right wing group has ever shown where a family lost their farm to the tax.

I'm sure the Franks campaign will issue a more detailed response soon.

The video of Franks is from a Meridian Star interview. I wonder if they got permission to use it.

Notice how he smirks at the end and then walks over the graves. Pure class.

The group paying for the ad is called the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Congressman Taylor to Be Targeted with Ads

Catholics United will launch a radio advertising campaign targeting ten members of Congress whose opposition to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) have compromised their pro-life voting records, and Congressman Taylor (D-MS) is one of them.

The ads, which feature a mother urging her Congressional Representative to support SCHIP, will primarily air on Christian and talk radio stations from Monday Oct. 15 to Wednesday, Oct. 17 as Congress approaches a critical Oct. 18 vote to override President Bush's veto of bipartisan SCHIP legislation.

Let's hope Congressman Taylor reconsiders.

Click here for more information.

UPDATE: Click here to see the Press Release from Catholics United and listen to the ad.

Cha Ching! Show Us The Money!

Today marked the day where us mere voters were privy to the campaign finance reports of all are elected offices. Some surprises ( I cannot believe the Constitution party actually believes in American money to raise some. Wait sorry wrong joke.), and some not (the GOP is strong in the greenbacks in Mississippi).

Here are the results of donations and cash on hand from July 1 2007 to September 30 2007 (92 days total) (Numbers with help from Clarion-Ledger)

Race/Candidate: Total of 92 days Cash On Hand

Haley Barbour (R) $2,871,769.18 $5,945,274.71
John A. Eaves (D)
$1,470,247.80 $23,799.32

LT. Governor:
Phil Bryant (R) $967,670.31 $373,712.69
Jamie Franks (D) $267,752.00 $595,941.00

Atty General:
Jim Hood (D) $646,131.00 $313,213.94
Al Hopkins (R) $591,757.05 $333,753.01

Sec. Of State:
Delbert Hoseman (R) $318,009.00 $276,640.42
Robert Smith (D) $26,092.77 $10,824.14

State Auditor:
Stacey Pickering (R) $67,718.00 $217,235.61
Mike Sumrall (D) $16,138.17 $4,581.54

State Treasurer:
Tate Reeves (R) $49,347.94 $720,199.87
Shawn O'Hara (D) n/a n/a

Insurance Commish:
Mike Chaney (R) $324,048.00 $270,126.00
Gary Anderson (D) $114,617.34 $23,885.87

Agriculture Commish:
Lester Spell (R) $121,341.21 $115,745.84
Rickey Cole (D) $37,385.00 $39,320.57
Paul Leslie Riley (C) $3,970.00 $79.00

The upside so far is that Franks has a ton of cash on hand for a last month push. Thing is, as we all expected so does Barbour. Attorney General is tighter than I would like to see it, but at least there is ground being held there.

And a little local Starkville Flavor:
State Representative District 37
Gary Chism (R) $12,550.00 $16,657.00
J.C. Patton (D) $16,452.99 $12,535.37

And thats all I know for Starkville's representation! Sorry!

View all records of today's reports here: Mississippi Secretary of State's Campaign Finance Reports Website. Yay for the FIOA!

Jim Hood Won Millions For Mississippi; What Has Hopkins Done?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bryant Opts For Media Attacks Over Public Debate

From a press release:
Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor Jamie Franks, today, accused Republican Phil Bryant of using the press to do his "cowardly bidding."

"For the past three weeks, Phil Bryant has issued press release after press release, distorting my words and mischaracterizing my statements. All toward the end of trying to use the media to promote his campaign platforms and agenda. All of this while trying to duck even one debate where we can meet face to face and discuss the issues man to man. There have been two debates in the governor's race, yet Phil continues to hide. His acts are cowardly and desperate," Franks said from a campaign stop in Gulfport where he signed the Mississippi Insurance Policyholders' Bill of Rights. "Phil Bryant is hiding behind his press secretary, Mick Bullock. How cowardly can he be?"

Franks said the most recent act of cowardice was Bullock's release from Bryant's headquarters quoting Franks as saying crime is not a "real issue." "Nothing can be further from the truth," Franks said. "I have authored bills and have a voting record in the House which both speak to my stance of being tough on crimes against children and the elderly, and being tough on drug crimes. If Phil Bryant wants to distort my record and my words, he should as least be brave enough to say it to my face in the forum of a debate, rather than hiding behind his press secretary. I am confident that the media will not be duped into promoting Phil Bryant's media war of words. I will debate him anywhere, anytime."

I have to commend Haley for actually debating. As others have pointed out Haley didn't have to debate, with few incumbents choosing to when they are perceived as ahead.

Charlie Ross was right to attack Bryant for failing to engage in debates accross this state. I doubt that Bryant is secure enough to debate someone who actually disagrees with him if he wouldn't even debate someone from his own party. I hope he cares enough for this state to do so though.

Ralley For Childen's Healthcare In Jackson

From a press release:

Make Your Voice Heard!!

On October 3, 2007, President Bush vetoed The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2007. The overwhelming bipartisan support of this bill, demonstrated by 265 members of the House of Representatives and a veto-proof majority in the Senate (67-29), was dismissed with a stroke of the President's pen.

On October 18, 2007, the United States House of Representatives will vote to override President Bush's veto of CHIPRA. Why is the vote important?
ü There are more than 9 million uninsured children in this country.
ü There are more than 100,000 uninsured children in Mississippi.
Our children are suffering!!
Representatives Gene Taylor (4th District), Chip Pickering (3rd District), and Roger Wicker (1st District) voted against the Children's Health Insurance Program. Mississippi's Congressmen need to hear from you!!

Join the Children's Defense Fund, parents and advocates for a press conference on Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 2:00 p.m. in front of the Eastland Federal Courthouse, 245 East Capitol Street, Jackson, MS. The purpose of this press conference is to encourage Mississippi's Congressional delegation to stop our children's suffering and vote to override the President veto of CHIPRA.

Jamie Franks Stands Up For The Coast and Ratepayers Statewide

From a press release:
Candidate for Lt. Governor Jamie Franks pledged his support of the Mississippi Insurance Bill of Rights today during a signing ceremony in Gulfport with the bill's creator, Kevin Buckel of Long Beach.

The Mississippi Insurance Bill of Rights delivers concise and understandable policy language for Mississippi's homeowners insurance policy owners. This bill will ensure that policyholders have some basic rights the insurance companies cannot take away, making it harder for insurance companies to deny initial claims after a disaster.

Additionally Jamie Franks signed a pledge that stipulates that as the next Lt. Governor Franks would not only endorse the Insurance Bill of rights, but has committed himself to appoint a committee chair with no ties to the insurance industry, and he would ensure that the bill reaches a vote of the full Mississippi State Senate.

"Jamie Franks endorsing the Insurance Bill of Rights and signing this pledge shows his commitment to fighting for us here on the coast,"
said Kevin Buckel. "Jamie Franks stepping up not only to endorse the bill but committing to make sure it reaches a vote of the entire State Senate is a true demonstration of his commitment to Gulf Coast residents."

"There is still much work that still needs to be done on our Gulf Coast, and as the next Lt. Governor I will lead the fight in making sure the coast is not forgotten," said Lt. Governor Candidate Jamie Franks. "This important piece of legislation will make sure insurance companies fulfill their commitment to their policyholders."

Front Page New York Times Story on John Eaves

The New York Times:
“The Eaves campaign, with its heavy emphasis on prayer and faith, says it is gaining with evangelicals and born-again Christians in Mississippi, a voting bloc making up perhaps half of the electorate here. And evangelicals are paying attention.”

“‘I’m a Democrat because Democrats invest in people; I’m a Democrat because I’m a Christian,’ [Eaves] said in a recent interview, after shaking hands at a diner in the courthouse town of Kosciusko. ‘Jesus came to help the people. He healed the sick, and he tried to help the poor. The Democrats’ core fiber is to help people. That was Jesus’ mission.’”

The Full New York Times Article

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Virtue of Virtue in a Venal World (apologies to Prof. Smith)

I am currently studying in law school, as the ten people who read this might know, and I'm right now taking a class on corporate scandal and reform - essentially, how Enron happened and how Sarbanes-Oxley and other responses purports to address and actually addresses the Enron problems.

The point of that is this: my professor wrote an article with the same title as this post, talking about, essentially, how law can only go so far in creating an environment of investor and consumer confidence in capital markets - that at some point, it is necessary to admit that we are dependent on the integrity of actors both at the corporate level and at the market level.

And he's right. The role of law in preventing fraud and corruption is limited. Ultimately, the best role that law can play is that of deterrent and enforcement - it cannot proactively create an environment in which actors don't WANT to cheat; merely one where they choose not to.

But there's a problem. When the enforcement of the laws is arbitrary and capricious; when it is based on a proposition other than the question of whether a law was actually violated; when law takes a back seat to power; then the entire scheme breaks down. At that point, what becomes clear is that law depends not on what you do, but who you are.

In case you were wondering, the word "privilege" comes from two Latin roots that translate literally as "private law." And that is what happens when Justice peeks from under her blindfold; those who are privileged realize that they will not be punished. And so they act in accordance with that realization. Some (those with integrity) will not do wrong; others may.

Which brings us to Paul Minor and his judicial co-defendants. A little bit of background might be in order. Briefly (the long version in the link):

Three prominent Democrats and a Republican who supported individual plaintiffs in tort cases were indicted on federal corruption charges (bribery, honest-services mail fraud, and some others). They were tried. One (the Republican, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz) was acquitted on all charges, the other three were acquitted on some charges and the jury hung on others. In a second trial for the hung charges, the three Democrats, trial lawyer Paul Minor and judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield, were convicted. Now, in all fairness, a good friend of my family once told me of Oliver Diaz that "he didn't need to be bought," but that is neither here nor there. I am not familiar yet with the relevant background law, but I'm going to get up to speed (in my "spare time"). But I do know this, first of all:

Legal Schnauzer has incorrectly stated the holding of U.S. v. Mariano, 983 F.2d 1150, 1159 (1st Cir. 1993), where they say that the fact that bribery involves an intent to affect a quid-pro-qou. Don't get me wrong; that is, in fact, exactly what Mariano holds. But the case is not directly on point. In that case, the defendants had actually intended to affect a quid-pro-quo. Thus, in this case, the holding is merely persuasive authority, with its persuasive value reduced by the fact that is not binding in Judge Wingate.

What, you didn't know that? If a judge has no power to force a lower court to follow her rulings, that judge's opinions cannot bind a lower court. Thus, Judge Wingate was bound only by United States Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit precedent; neither of which have passed on this issue.

In addition, Legal Schnauzer has also misunderstood the conviction. Let me rephrase that; the bribery charge includes a lesser included offense of giving an illegal gratuity, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 201(c)(1)(A). This offense is defined as giving something of value “for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official.” To be fair, this particular statute arguably applies only to federal officials, Sec. 201(a). But, and again, I do not have all the facts yet, it is possible that the jury instruction that LS finds so offensive referred to the illegal gratuity lesser included charge, which would be perfectly all right. And unfortunately for Minor and his codefendants, the illegal gratuity statute does not require any sort of quid-pro-quo.

Also unfortunately for them, despite Judge Wingate's apparent confusion regarding the rules of evidence (again, I don't know and I am loathe to assume that a federal judge got it wrong), it as a canon of appellate review in this country that an appellate court will affirm a lower court's decision for any reason in the record, even ones that the lower court did not follow. In other words, as long as you get the right answer, the method you use to get there doesn't matter.

As to Judge Wingate's evidentiary rulings, even assuming they are erroneous, I suspect that the Fifth Circuit will find them to be harmless error; given that the evidence the expert witnesses would have provided was irrelevant to the lesser included charge, I suspect that the Fifth Circuit will find that even with that testimony, the jury could have found the defendants guilty. Therefore, even if the result is ultimately unjust, I doubt it will be disturbed.

Were these four men the victims of a "partisan witch hunt?" I suppose it's possible. But in a cursory review of the file, I'm not convinced of any sort of error that is reversible upon appellate review. And there is certainly no evidence in the record of partisanship influencing the decision. The best you can offer on that is Judge Wingate's evidentiary rulings and the jury instruction; and as I've shown, it is at worst equally plausible that the rulings were at least arguably correct.

But there's a larger issue here. What does it say about our justice system that someone can put together a patchwork of actions and convince themselves that there really is some sort of partisan witch hunt going on? What has happened when officeholders on trial for corruption can claim that their opponents are attempting to bring them down, and have it actually be plausible?

Needless to say, I am appalled by the fact that reasonable people can even argue about this question. Because I admit, there are things about the trial that seem fishy. But what is appalling is not that there were errors made; courts make errors all the time, even when the law is settled. A judge misreads the law or just never understood it, an ambiguous decision is poorly interpreted, or the lawyers screw up and the judge doesn't catch it, and that's why G-d made appellate courts. What is frightening is that Republicans who put Party over Country have so confused Americans of every race and creed, have so utterly bamboozled us, that we think it's normal for appointed officials to play partisan games with their supposedly neutral offices.

The most important thing that can happen in the election this November and next November is for Americans to stand up, together, and repudiate the idea that officeholders should be looking for ways to perform their duties in a manner that advances their political ideology. I had hoped we had moved past this in the Civil Service Reform battles of the late 19th century, but apparently we have not.

This is the single, overarching issue; it's a simple return back to the culture of corruption. How can we trust any officeholder that was complicit in the development of this system, where we can believe that our judges aren't impartial and nautral? And that's the most frightening thing:

That we can believe that this is no longer a nation of laws, but of men.

Barbour Unintentionally Makes Argument For Eaves' Biblical Literacy Classes

In their debate last week Haley Barbour quoted the bible once. He used that opportunity to attack his opponent. I guess he thought it'd look cheeky.

Shortly after hamming it up for the crowd saying "my opponent likes to quote the bible," he brought up Daniel 5 outlining the point in the passage where King Belshazzar sees a hand appear out of an write on the wall. Barbour then states that even if a hand could appear right now in this room and write on the wall that Haley Barbour's blind trust is ok, that Mr. Eaves still wouldn't believe that Barbour had no ties to Barbour, Griffith and Rogers.

A college friend advised me to look up what Daniel 5 actually says. Yes, the hand appears, but here is what was written on the wall:

25 "This is the inscription that was written:
Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin [e]

26 "This is what these words mean:
Mene [f] : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel [g] : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres [h] : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

29 Then at Belshazzar's command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, [i] was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

If Eaves somehow continues to close the gap this will be very ironic. For now it just serves as a good reminder of how much we need Biblical Literacy in our schools. The Bible is the foundation of much of literature, art, culture, and civilization. It's not unreasonable to expect students, or at the very least the Governor, to have at least a basic knowledge of it.

A Funny Thing Happened At The Gas Pump

From a press release:
Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell is apparently listening to challenger Rickey Cole’s speeches. For several weeks now, Cole has been mentioning the fact that the fuel pumps at Hubbard’s truck stop at the intersection of highways 27 and 18 in Utica had not been inspected by Spell’s office since April of 2005. This weekend, Cole noticed that each of the pumps at the station was sporting not just the usual one but three shiny new yellow inspection stickers boldly bearing “Lester Spell, Jr. D.V.M.” in prominent letters.

On his way from Ovett to Utica yesterday, Cole stopped in Collins and in Ferguson (just north of Monticello) and photographed inspection stickers at stations in those towns. The pump in Collins was last inspected in May of 2006. The pump in Ferguson hasn’t had a visit from Spell’s crack team of inspectors since February of 2003.

Whomever Spell sent to Utica to inspect the pumps at the truck stop must not have had enough time to work the whole town. The pumps at the Pit Stop on Highway 18 in Utica haven’t been inspected since April of 2005. Perhaps most disconcerting, the fuel pumps at the recently reopened convenience store at Highway 27 and Cayuga Street in Utica have not been inspected since April of 2005, even though that store just reopened a few months ago after having been closed for more than a year.

On his campaign website, Spell claims that he will “continue strong enforcement of consumer protection laws that insure safe foods and correct pricing in grocery stores and make sure customers get what they pay for at the gas pumps.”

Cole responded “Fuel pump accuracy and fuel quality hit Mississippi consumers in the pocketbook every day. Gasoline is just too high for any inaccuracy to be tolerated. Consumers can see for themselves that there are pumps around the state that Spell has not inspected for years. Once again, we have seen that Spell’s true performance in office falls far short of his self-promoting rhetoric. His credibility gap is so wide you could drive every cull cow in Mississippi through it sideways.”