Archive for February, 2009

Paul Gallo Show 7:05am Monday

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I’ll be joining guest host, the Honorable Senator Terry C. Burton, on the Paul Gallo Show Monday morning on Supertalk Mississippi.  You can listen in or watch streaming video online at

Bar Association task force suggests reforms

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

he Mississippi Bar Association’s “Task Force to Strengthen Confidence in the Legal System” has released its initial report for member review and comment.  I wrote about the report in this week’s Reasonably Right.  Here are some excerpts:

The report begins, “The legal system in Mississippi has recently been inexcusably shamed by investigations, indictments, convictions and pleas involving lawyers and even judges…these recent events have caused widespread loss of respect for, and loss of confidence in, our legal system as a whole.” Because such a system “will not long by tolerated by the society it is expected to serve” the task force suggests several reforms to “heal our legal system.”

The report calls money the “core of today’s mistrust of Mississippi’s legal system” with the crux being the high cost of elections for the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the “staggering” fees awarded to outside lawyers hired by the office of attorney general to sue on behalf of the state.

The report recommends moving from an elected to an appointed system for choosing member of the Supreme Court. This idea actually became an issue in a 2008 supreme court campaign. Former Chief Justice Jim Smith had suggested the study of and consideration of just such an alteration. His opponent, Jim Kitchens, used that as a campaign issue and spent nearly a million dollars in his successful campaign to unseat Smith.

I have mixed feelings on the appointment vs election argument; but personally, I’m comfortable with the current system.

The report notes the role of Mississippi’s Attorney General has changed over the years from a legal advisor and chief lawyer to a “high profile crusader.” It says, “More and more, the office [of attorney general] has exercised its power to pursue high-profile criminal investigations and/or highly-publicized civil cases. Public confidence that such power is not subject to potential misuse is essential. The means to public confidence is a fully informed public.”

The report recommends: “Fees paid to private lawyers appointed as special assistant state attorneys general should be subject to open and impartial scrutiny.” Such openness should be in writing and on the internet, include disclosures of any campaign contributions or gifts between the attorney in contract and the attorney general, contain records of time spent and expenses incurred, and involve outside and independent (the report recommends judicial) approval of the fees.

The Mississippi Legislature is currently considering shining just such accountability onto the Attorney General, which would fulfill this recommendation by the task force. (In full disclosure, I have a client who is promoting “sunshine legislation” before the Legislature.)

Other recommendations by the task force include greater disclosure of lawyers who contribute to judicial campaigns, creating a procedure for an independent resolution of recusal motions, increased judicial and legal education, and higher salaries for judges.

Members of the Mississippi Bar have until March 30 to submit comments to the task force, before the report is reviewed by the Mississippi Bar Association.

You can read the full column at the Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Judicial reform

MSU President Keenum Headlines Noxubee Alliance Banquet

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Mississippi State University President Dr. Mark E. Keenum will deliver the keynote address at the 2009 annual Noxubee Alliance banquet at 6:30 pm on Monday, April 6 at the Noxubee Civic Center.  This event will be among the first of Dr. Keenum’s major public addresses since taking office.  The Noxubee Alliance encourages any alumni and supporters of MSU to attend.  Tickets are available for purchase from the Noxubee Alliance (601-914-6731).

Brian Wilson serves as the Noxubee Alliance Executive Director and says, “Mark has been a friend since our days working together on Capitol Hill.  He has always been a real asset to Mississippi and a strong supporter of agriculture and rural development.  I can’t wait for the people of Noxubee County to meet him in person.”

RR: Who’s next in Scruggs saga?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Reasonably Right this week looks at disclosed information from the Scruggs saga to wonder where the investigation goes next.  Most of the information is not new, it has been released and reported on blogs and in print for months even years now. But the recent disclosure that Dickie Scruggs is cooperating and that Timothy Balducci and Steve Patterson may be testifying before a March federal grand jury, warrants a revisit of some of these details.

Here is an excerpt:

In a FBI report and subsequent testimony before a federal grand jury, Balducci described a plan by Scruggs to influence Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to drop his criminal investigation of State Farm Insurance so they would come to civil settlement with the Scruggs Katrina Group involving $20 million in fees.

On Nov. 27, 2007, Balducci told the grand jury, “You had on the one hand the Scruggs Group which was suing State Farm and aggressively pursuing them in civil litigation. And at the same time you had the Attorney General who was investigating and threatening to indict the company and prosecute them criminally….State Farm was not going to settle these civil cases unless they could be assured that the Attorney General was not going to prosecute them criminally…me and my partner Steve Patterson have had a long relationship with the Attorney General. And the Attorney General in fact is distantly related to Steve, my partner. And General Hood and I have known each other for a long time going back to when he was the DA here and when I was a practicing lawyer here. We had a close relationship.”

Balducci went on to explain that Scruggs paid him and Patterson $500,000 to meet with Attorney General Hood to get his dispute with State Farm resolved to “pave the way for Scruggs to settle his State Farm cases.” Balducci said, “We were successful.” He and Patterson returned to tell Scruggs “we had completed the job that he had hired us to do….”.

Balducci and Patterson met with Hood in late 2006. In January 2007, after presenting information to a Jackson County grand jury, Hood declined to prosecute. Shortly afterward, the Scruggs Katrina Group settled with State Farm.

Hood admitted he met with Balducci and Patterson, but remains firm that their meeting had nothing to do with his decision to drop his criminal pursuit of State Farm. He issued a statement, “The decision on whether to indict State Farm Insurance Company was based solely on the advice of senior prosecutors in our office…the majority of the prosecutors working on this case determined with a high level of certainty that no fact pattern existed that fell squarely within the insurance fraud statute. I made my decision that there was insufficient evidence to uphold a conviction of State Farm…I am too hardheaded to be influenced by outside forces - I do what I think is right for the working people of Mississippi.”

In February 2008, during a civil lawsuit against Hood, a State Farm attorney suggested in his questioning that Patterson and Balducci told Hood that if he didn’t cooperate, Scruggs would fund a candidate against him for Attorney General. Hood replied that such was “absolutely not” the case and “if you’re asking me did somebody come to me and threaten me, the answer is no.”

At a press conference later that month, Hood said of the meeting, “If I knew they were getting paid that much I would have told them to get out of the office because it just didn’t smell right.” When asked about a political threat from Scruggs he said, “I didn’t care who (Scruggs) supported. I wasn’t crazy about being attorney general anyway.’

Balducci, Patterson, and Scruggs appear to have attempted to inappropriately influence Mississippi’s Attorney General. For his sake, and the sake of the state, I hope they failed.

You can read the full column online at the Madison County Journal: Perry/Who’s next in Scruggs saga?

The comprehensive work by blogs like Y’all Politics, and and InsuranceCoverageBlog made going back and digging through the details manageable. If you want to follow the Scruggs saga as it develops, be sure to frequently visit Y’all and Folo.

The morality of free trade

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

This week’s Reasonably Right discusses a paper titled “The Morality of Free Trade” by Belhaven College professor Dr. J. Stephen Phillips. He presented the paper to the Free Market Forum at Hillsdale College last year.

You can read my column in the Neshoba Democrat here: Perry/The morality of free trade

But I highly suggest you read the paper itself here: The Morality of Free Trade

Keeping a Red State Red

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Ryan Annison (who served as deputy campaign manager of Wicker for Senate 2008 and Barbour for Governor 2007) and I jointly wrote a case study piece on the 2008 Wicker Campaign for Politics Magazine (formerly known as Campaigns and Elections Magazine). It will be on newsstands this month.

We discussed the Wicker Campaign’s positive and contrast messages, the political environment in Mississippi in 2008 affecting Senator Roger Wicker and former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, message delivery through direct mail and television, fundraising, the campaign ground game, and the nature of the campaign and outcome.

The special Senate election in Mississippi required basic campaigning: blocking and tackling. Consistency can be boring, even scary, for those outside the campaign. But sure and steady won the race.

You can read the full article online (Politics Magazine: Keeping a Red State Red) although if you want to see the maps and graphics, you need to buy the hard copy.

Stimulating Talk on Gallo Show

Monday, February 9th, 2009

This morning, economist James Leggette and I appeared on Supertalk Mississippi’s ”The Gallo Radio Show” to discuss the trillion dollar stimulus packagedeficit spending bill pending before the U.S. Senate. (We were on right after the barber shop quartet.) The grassroots activists and people on the street I see all agree the stimulus bill will not be effective and is a troubling expansion of government. We discussed the legislation to some extent (and I wrote about the House version last week) but it occurred to me, that many people don’t care about the details. IF it is necessary to fix our economy, Americans are willing to sacrifice as they always do. Showing examples of the ludicrous spending measures illustrates the Democrats are employing politics as usual; but for Americans to reject this bill, Republicans must show that it is unnecessary in its current form.  The three Americans to convince first are Senators Specter, Collins, and Snowe. By the way, you should check out Supertalk’s new website where you can now not only listen but also watch the Gallo Show, JT & Dave, and others.

O’Rouke on Conservatives: “We Blew It”

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

P.J. O’Rourke combines William F. Buckley’s intellectualism with the humor of David Zucker to produce a satire I covet. John Rounsaville shared with me O’Rourke’s piece in November’s Weekly Standard that I had missed until now. I won’t excerpt it, but it is well worth the read: “We Blew It: A look back in remorse on the conservative opportunity that was squandered.”

RR: Federal spending takes a hard left

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

This week Reasonably Right looks at the $819 billion so-called stimulus package. I was proud for the GOP that not a single Republican congressman voted for the measure. And it reminded me that when Republicans departed from their conservative roots, the Democrats promised fiscal responsiblity. But the times, they are a changing. And Republicans hope they are changing in a new political direction. Here are some excerpts:

“Our federal budget should be a statement of our national values. One of those values is responsibility. Without a return to fiscal discipline, the foreign countries that make our computers, our clothing and our toys will soon be making our foreign policy. Deficit spending is not just a fiscal problem - it’s a national security issue as well,” says the 2006 Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel House Democratic campaign plan, “A New Direction for America.” It took Republicans 12 years to lose their way in the majority, it seems the Democrats have reversed their new direction in fewer than three. Now Pelosi and President Barack Obama are making George W. Bush look like a deficit hawk, and they united Republicans in the process.

Eleven Blue Dog Democratic congressmen joined Republicans in voting against the spending bill, including Mississippi’s Gene Taylor. Taylor appeared on CNN and called the bill “nuts” and said, “President Obama ran on change. This isn’t change…this is just more of the same.”

Democrats Bennie Thompson and Travis Childers from Mississippi voted for the measure. Republican Gregg Harper opposed it saying, “I wish Congress would open their eyes to the wasteful government spending that is contained in this bill and that will drive the country further into debt. The American people know we cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity.

The Congressional Budget Office scored the bill’s total cost to taxpayers at over $1.17 trillion. Initially touted as a Franklin Roosevelt style infrastructure funding bill - highways, dams, water, sewer, railroads, parks - liberals hijacked the bill. There is still plenty of spending, but not much on infrastructure and not immediately. Only 15 percent of the new spending would impact the economy this year.

Republicans proposed an alternative focusing on tax cuts and shovel-ready infrastructure to create 6.2 million new American jobs by the end of 2010 at half the cost of the Democrats’ bill. More jobs; less spending.

According to projections from the House Republican Conference, 221,501 small businesses in Mississippi would benefit from the GOP 20 percent tax cut to small employers. More than half a million Mississippians would pay less money into the federal spending under the Republican plan to reduce the 15 percent tax bracket to 10 percent. And, more than 872,000 Mississippians would benefit with the 10 percent bracket’s reduction to 5 percent.

In Mississippi’s four congressional districts, those benefiting the most from the Republican plan would be in the First Congressional District held by Democrat Travis Childers. But, the Democrats defeated this plan.

Republicans in the Senate have scuttled the prospect of quickly approving the House plan. Whatever comes out of the Senate will look very different, but will still likely contain billions in wasteful spending and political handouts. This is just HR1, the first House bill. But as public opinion shifts, Democrats may indeed discover that Americans are looking in a new direction.

You can read the full column at the Neshoba Democrat: Perry/Federal spending takes a hard left

WSJ - Voter Turnout Higher in Voter ID States

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Hans von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commissioner and now a visiting scholar at The Heritage Foundation, writes this great piece in the Wall Street Journal on Voter ID and its impact (or lack of) on voter turnout. Here are some excerpts:

Numerous academic studies show that voter ID had no effect on the turnout of voters in prior elections. The plaintiffs in every unsuccessful lawsuit filed against such state requirements could not produce a single individual who didn’t either already have an ID or couldn’t easily get one.

Figures are emerging from the November election. If what liberals claimed was true, Democratic voters in states with strict photo ID requirements would presumably have had a much more difficult time voting, and their turnout dampened in comparison to other states. Well, that myth can finally be laid to rest.

The two states with the strictest voter ID requirements are Indiana and Georgia. Both require a government-issued photo ID.

According to figures released by Curtis Gans at American University, Georgia had the largest turnout in its history, with nearly four million voters. The Republican turnout was up only 0.22 percentage points; the Democratic turnout was up an astonishing 6.1 percentage points, rising from 22.66% of the eligible voting population to 28.74% of the eligible population.

The overall turnout in Georgia increased 6.7 percentage points from the 2004 election — the second highest increase in turnout of any state in the country. According to the JCPES, the black share of the statewide vote increased in Georgia from 25% in the 2004 election, when the photo ID law was not in effect, to 30% in the 2008 election, when the photo ID law was in effect.

By contrast, the Democratic turnout in the neighboring state of Mississippi — which has no voter ID requirement but also has a large black population similar to Georgia’s — increased by only 2.35 percentage points.

In Indiana, which the Supreme Court said had the strictest voter ID law in the country, the turnout of Democratic voters in the November election increased by 8.32 percentage points. That was the largest increase in Democratic turnout of any state in the country. The increase in overall turnout in Indiana was the fifth highest in the country, but only because the turnout of Republican voters actually went down 3.57 percentage points. The nearby state of Illinois (no photo ID requirement) had an increase in Democratic turnout of only 4.4 percentage points — nearly half Indiana’s increase.

The JCPES predicts that when the final turnout numbers are in for the 2008 election, black turnout will probably reach a historic high of almost 67% and likely surpass white turnout for the first time. All at a time when about half of the states have passed various forms of voter ID requirements, including two states with strict photo ID laws.

With every election that has occurred since states have begun to implement voter ID, the evidence is overwhelming that it does not depress the turnout of voters. Indeed, it may actually increase the public’s confidence that their votes will count.

You can read the full column here: Voter ID Was a Success in November - Turnout was higher in states that took a simple step to prevent fraud

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