Archive for the ‘Reasonably Right’ Category

Recap of 2013 special legislative elections

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

My column this week looks at the nine 2013 special legislative elections and can be read in today’s Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Special elections - generally the column looks back at information already posted at this blog this past year; however, there are a few new thoughts and this to consider about the seniority currently in the legislature:

Half of the legislators in Mississippi have served less than two terms in their respective houses. More than 60 percent of Senators have served less than two terms in the Senate while only 20 percent have more than fifteen years of service. In the House, 49 percent of Representatives have served less than two terms, and 30 percent have served more than fifteen years. Three senators and 11 members of the House - or 8 percent of the legislature - have 29 or more years in their current chamber.

Cochran Reelection - Will he run or not?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

As we approach 2014, politicos in the Magnolia State wonder whether U.S. Senator Thad Cochran will run for reelection. I believe he will and wrote about it in my column this week in the Madison County Journal.

I have no inside scoop on Cochran’s reelection plans. I am convinced only he knows the likelihood of his choice. But when he turns a healthy 76 years old this December, I doubt he has plans for a post-Senate lobbying career, or actively serving on national corporate boards, or running for some other office. Were he not to run again, I think he would have an actual retirement in Oxford, finishing out his life as a distinguished former gentleman Senator. He would be done with his professional career. And that might be appeal to him.

But he loves the Senate. He loves it as an institution and he enjoys his work of persuading and sparring with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. For more than forty years his work has been on Capitol Hill. He admits the Senate has changed, sometimes not for the better, but his quiet leadership has built a reputation for Mississippi, his staff and himself that is not easily put aside. He could continue that service to his country and state. And that might appeal to him.

I don’t believe he is ready to retire. He is prepared for an election. He is still strong. In the first six months of this year he raised $350,000: not a staggering amount but on track to have a million dollars cash-on-hand by the end of the year. Once elected to the Senate, he has never won less than 60 percent of the vote for reelection even when challenged by then sitting Governor William Winter (1984).

If he doesn’t run for reelection, it will set off a chain of events in Republican circles that could impact congressional seats, statewide office holders and even the Mississippi Supreme Court. Jere Nash and I discuss that scenario on WLBT’s Red Blue Review this week: - Jackson, MS

MS Press Convention

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

I enjoyed my annual visit with members of the Mississippi Press Association at their summer convention. It is always a chance to hear from publishers how the print news business is doing, and from editors on challenges and successes of reporting and delivering news. While newspapers are not out of the recession woods, things are getting better.  I talk about that and good news from a survey commissioned by the MPA on the state of readership in a recent column: Mississippi newspapers strong.

Capstone's Brian Perry, Louisiana Press Association President Norris Babin, Mississippi Press Association President Jim Prince, and former editorial director for the Clarion Ledger David Hampton.

Capstone's Brian Perry, Louisiana Press Association President Norris Babin, Mississippi Press Association President Jim Prince, and former editorial director for the Clarion Ledger David Hampton.

Thompson aims at “fishy” Republican “tricks” in Jackson mayor’s race

Friday, May 17th, 2013

My column* this week examined Congressman Bennie Thompson’s involvement in Democrat versus Democrat races this year in municipal and special elections (read it here). Particularly, I looked at his radio commercial (audio here) for Canton Mayor William Truly.

From the column:

Thompson says in the radio spot, “This is Congressman Bennie Thompson endorsing mayor William Truly for re-election as mayor of Canton, Mississippi. I’ve worked with Mayor Truly to bring change to Canton, Mississippi. Now the Republicans have hand-picked candidates in every race. They can’t win out-right, so they picked people who look like US to run. Don’t fall for the Republican tricks. On May 7, vote to reelect Mayor William Truly: mayor of Canton, Mississippi.”

Thompson’s emphasis on the word “us” begs the question of whom is he speaking. Perhaps he means Republicans who look like Democrats (odd because people don’t change how they look by marking a party affiliation on their qualifying papers). He can’t mean actual Republicans because while there are Republicans running for mayor and one alderman seat, there are not Republicans in every race. There are a number of independents running, perhaps he means them. Whoever he means, they apparently look like Thompson in some way.

Civil right lawyer Robert McDuff, who has contributed to Thompson’s campaign in the past and has served as attorney for Democrats in redistricting issues, wrote a law review article on the importance of the Voting Rights Act on Mississippi and discussed the term “us.” In it he writes, “The phrase ‘one of us’ implies there is a ‘them.’…The use of this in black-white campaigns-suggesting that ‘us’ is one race and ‘them’ is the other-is particularly unfortunate since it exploits racial divisions. Regrettably, this is not a thing of the past…Racial campaign appeals still surface in elections in the state….the white candidate in a black-white election adopted the campaign slogan, ‘one of us,’ which had been characterized as a racist appeal by a federal court when it was used by a white candidate in a black-white congressional race over twenty years earlier…The three-judge federal district court, in its subsequent 1984 decision, pointed out that this was an obvious racial appeal to the white majority: ‘Evidence of racial campaign tactics used during the 1982 election in the Second District supports the conclusion that Mississippi voters are urged to cast their ballots according to race. This inducement to racially polarized voting operated to further diminish the already unrealistic chance for blacks to be elected in majority white voting population districts.’”

Now Thompson has a cut a spot for Jackson radio (WMPR 90.1FM) for Chokwe Lumumba (audio here) in the Democratic Primary run-off. It seems Thompson is after those tricky Republicans again. But not Jackson Republicans; no, he puts the blame on Rankin and Madison Republicans.

["Bennie Thompson, he's the one we need" music] Hello, this is Congressman Bennie Thompson endorsing Jackson mayoral candidate attorney Chokwe Lumumba. When I see Republicans from Rankin and Madison County supporting the other so-called Democrat in this race, I know that something is fishy. I know these Republicans well because they are the same Republicans who always support my opponents and they opened their checkbooks last fall for Mitt Romney in an effort to kick President Obama out of the White House. These Republicans want to create charter schools, pass voter-ID laws, cut Pell Grants, end Medicare and reduce Social Security benefits. Jackson voters are too smart to fall for these old Republican tricks. On Tuesday, May 21, vote for a real Democrat, vote for attorney Chokwe Lumumba. Thank you. [Paid for by the Committee to Elect Chokwe Lumumba Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi]

Thompson calls candidate Jonathan Lee a “so-called Democrat.” Lee is a Democrat for sure, but Lumumba, the “real Democrat” told a crowd during the last cycle, “It’s an election we intend to win. But there is no question we are not a Democrat like Barack Obama. We are not a Democrat period and I make that statement clear.” He later clarified according to the report, “Lumumba says he is affiliated with the Mississippi freedom Democratic Party and that qualifies him to run on the Democratic ticket. He also says he intends to make history if he wins by creating a new political party.”

Thompson is a strong political force. If Lumumba loses, he faces little short-term political damage in Jackson. If Lumumba wins, Thompson maintains his status as kingmaker.

The only real question from the Jackson ad that came to my mind is whether the use of Thompson’s own political jingle (which he uses in his own federal campaign and promotes him as “the one we need”) at the beginning and end of the Lumumba paid campaign spot runs afoul of federal campaign finance rules.

Federal rules permit candidates like Thompson to “endorse other federal and nonfederal candidates without running afoul of the coordination rules. They may also solicit federal funds for other federal and nonfederal candidates, political committees and certain tax-exempt 501(c) organizations as permitted by 11 CFR 300.65.5 Such endorsements or solicitations are not coordinated communications (i.e., in-kind contributions) with respect to the endorsing or soliciting candidate unless the communication promotes his or her candidacy or attacks his or her opponent.” Certainly any infraction would be minor, but I know when I first heard the ad, I wondered why a Bennie Thompson campaign ad was running this year.

(*A correction in the column: I noted that Republicans in the Mississippi delegation had not endorsed in Republican versus Republican fights, but reader Steven Carter noted that in fact Congressman Gregg Harper was a fundraiser sponsor for Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler in her primary against Supervisor John Bell Crosby.)

InJustice producer: “I don’t come up with solutions. I bring awareness”

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Last week I wrote about the film “InJustice: A Film About Greed & Corruption in America’s Lawsuit Industry” which interviewed a number of Mississippians and featured the wrongdoings of other Mississippians. The film was screened in Jackson, Mississippi as part of a nationwide tour. Here is a quick video recap of the reactions.

As a follow up to my column (read here: ‘InJustice’ and state’s trial lawyers) I was able to sit down with Brian Kelly, the film’s producer, before the screening.

Kelly’s background includes 27 years in network filmmaking including senior roles at Discovery and Investigation Discovery. What peaked his interest in this subject was an article from Reader’s Digest on the silicosis case thrown out of court in Texas when Judge Janice Jack determined many of the medical records were falsified. Kelly said the article provided a great outline for a film including trial transcripts and story action.

Kelly explored that case along with Milberg Weiss scandal involving among others William Lerach and Mel Weiss, and of course in Mississippi the Scruggs Scandal. Of Lerach, Weiss and Scruggs, Kelly said, “The film is not meant to bash lawyers…[these lawyers] had one thing in common when we finished the film, they were all in jail.”

With the Scruggs Scandal, Kelly said what bothered him the most was how attorney Johnny Jones described the Scruggs legal strategy as a stool with three legs: politics, public relations and the law. He said when looking at how politics and public relations played into the cases he thought, “Wait. Isn’t this supposed to be about justice?”

He said the film cut a lot of “man on the street” interviews for time sake, but generally the response was “that’s just lawyers; that’s what they do.” He said that apathy is troubling and it is difficult for anyone or any business to do the right thing if they’re afraid of getting sued by lawyers who use the law as a club and a threat.

That fear of uncertainty extends beyond big companies, and the apathy in the average citizen toward certainty in the law diminishes confidence in the legal system.

Kelly asked, “If you’re IBM and you can’t get justice, how can a single mom going into court in Jackson, Mississippi get justice?”

Kelly said the film is about abuse in the legal system by specific individuals and does not deal with policy issues. “I’m a film maker. I don’t come up with solutions. I bring awareness,” Kelly said. He said if the film somehow makes things better, that’s a great thing. But it doesn’t keep him up at night trying to change the world because that isn’t his job: “I doubt I’m going to change policy. State legislators: that’s their job.”

As to a follow up film on legal abuses, Kelly said there is a great appetite for more, “I feel like there’s another movie ready to be made.” But he wouldn’t elaborate on his next project, he said, until it has the green light for production.

Kelly said his favorite part of this project is connecting with the viewers. In television, his feedback essentially was make a show, get the ratings, make another show. Now he gets direct interaction from e-mail and social media, as well as in the screening tour questions and answers and watching an audience react.

As to suggestions that this film is an answer to the movie “Hot Coffee” he said he was unaware of that production until after he had finished “InJustice.” He said sometimes people are better able to dismiss a film they don’t like if they label it. So some people call this a “tort reform” film and put it in that box so they don’t have to confront it.

But you can confront it anytime you want, now, even if you missed the screening. The film is available for purchase as a digital download ($4.95) or DVD ($13.20).

Mike Wallace’s interview with Judge Charles Pickering

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

When I heard Mike Wallace passed away last weekend, I thought back to the pleasure I had to meet and work with him in 2004. He did a segment with Judge Charles Pickering, Sr. for 60 Minutes and I was working for Pickering’s son, then Congressman Chip Pickering. Working with Wallace was personally and professionally a rewarding experience. I wrote about Wallace and his interview with Pickering in this week’s column in the Madison County Journal: Perry / Mike Wallace’s Mississippi story

Judge Pickering dedicated a chapter to the Mike Wallace interview in his 2007 book, “A Price Too High: The Judiciary in Jeopardy.”

You can find some excerpts from the interview here.

Below are a few pictures from the interview day.

Mike Wallace with Margaret Ann Pickering & Charles Pickering

Mike Wallace with Margaret Ann Pickering & Charles Pickering

Mike Wallace and Charles Pickering by the pond on Pickering\'s Jones County farm

Mike Wallace and Charles Pickering by the pond on Pickering's Jones County farm

Mike Wallace in full enjoyment of making \"good tv\" while reporting the news

Mike Wallace in full enjoyment of making good tv while reporting the news

Mike Wallace interviews Congressman Chip Pickering

Mike Wallace interviews Congressman Chip Pickering

Mike Wallace begins his interview with Judge Charles W. Pickering, Sr.

Mike Wallace begins his interview with Judge Charles W. Pickering, Sr.

Who pays for Hood’s pardon costs?

Thursday, March 15th, 2012
In The Madison County Journal this week I write about the decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court (decision here) to uphold the late term pardons issued by then Governor Haley Barbour. In the column I mention one of the political aspects that I find quite entertaining:
Of some amusement coming from the pardon legal challenges was Hood’s revelation that his office was collecting the costs of the legal work and investigations and that Barbour might be held personally responsible for repaying those costs after the pardon issues was settled. Defense attorney Tom Fortner, who represented some of the individuals receiving pardons, dismissed that idea as ridiculous and posed the question of whether if Hood lost, whether he would personally pay the costs. Another defense attorney, Cynthia Stewart, suggested that a cause of action exists to sue the State of Mississippi for monetary damages because of Hood’s actions.

While some individuals were held in prison for nearly two months after they received their valid pardons, I suspect most will be thankful to move on with their lives. Some may seek to punish the state for Hood’s actions; but I hope they will instead exhibit a measure of the grace shown them by Barbour instead.
Here is a little background on that issue from The Clarion Ledger in January - “Pardoned ex-trusty found in Wyoming”:
The attorney general said he plans to quantify how much money this pursuit has cost the state, and how much more the legal challenge will cost.

“All of the expenses that have been incurred - Gov. Barbour is going to have to pay one day,” Hood said.

“We’re going to add it all up,” he said. “I’m going to see if I can hold him responsible for every dime we have to spend.”

Tom Fortner, who said he has not been asked to represent Ozment but does represent the other former trusties, said Hood doesn’t have the power to do that.

“If [Hood] loses, is he going to write the personal check for how much he has cost the people of Mississippi for this mess?” he asked.
Hood did lose. I don’t expect he will write a personal check for the costs. But I’d be interested to see how much Hood spent considering every lawyer I spoke to on the issue was sure he had a losing legal argument.

Senator Wicker: Obama ‘Recess’ Appointments when Senate not in recess a “blatant abuse of power”

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

There is nothing unusual about a President making a recess appointment. But to do so when the Senate is not in recess is, as Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker said about President Obama’s recent appointments, a “blatant abuse of power.” I take a look at the recess appointment power and Senator Wicker’s remarks in my column this week. You can read it in the Neshoba County Democrat online: Perry / Wicker disputes ‘appointments’

You can view Senator Wicker’s speech as well:

RR: Mississippi Ballot Initiatives - Life, Liberty, Property

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

There are some frivolous ideas out there for ballot initiatives.  One in Mississippi has to do with a dispute over the mascot at the University of Mississippi. Not having attended Ole Miss, I’ve been entertained by the mascot war which began with the sacking of Colonel Reb and has resulted in the creation of the Rebel Bear (or Black Bear or Rebel The Bear or A Bear Named Rebel or something). I don’t have a dog in that hunt. I liked Colonel Reb just fine but right or wrong the university made a decision and I don’t think opposing it should rise to the level of a constitutional amendment. But as they say, its a free country.  Just because it isn’t my thing doesn’t mean others don’t care passionately for it and they can avail themselves of the same political process as everyone else.

I doubt they will get the required signatures to put it on the ballot. Only five times has that been accomplished.  The first two times were term-limit measures (in 1995 and 1999) and both lost on the ballot.  The other three times are this year: Personhood, Voter-ID, Eminent Domain.  I write about these initiatives in my column this week and you can read it online in the Neshoba County Democrat: Perry / Initiatives on life, liberty, property

RR: Lawyer from Noxubee case takes on Dept of Justice

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

In his new book, “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department”J. Christian Adams presents a disturbing and frightening picture of a federal agency with power over Mississippi’s elections and redistricting. In additional to national stories and an insider perspective of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Adams examines Mississippi election fraud in Noxubee and Wilkinson counties and what he says the Department of Justice did and didn’t do to stop - or maybe assist - in those activities. You can read my column on the book in the Madison County Journal: Perry / In-Justice Department in Noxubee.

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