Archive for December, 2009


RR: Operation Fairplay; Wanting Less for Christmas; A Look Back at 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Time to catch up on a few of my recent columns.

I took a look at the brains and financiers behind the software Operation Fairplay that Attorney General Jim Hood uses to catch online child predators. His office is doing a good job at taking these people off the street, and the story behind the software is worthy of a movie. You can read my column here: Perry / Hood targets online predators but I highly recommend this profile of Hank Asher from Vanity Fair in 2004.

When it comes to Christmas 2009, all I want is less: less government, less taxation, less regulation, less fees. I look at some of the proposals for the coming legislature including tax amnesty, fee increases, extra fees and regulations on small business LLCs, and a great proposal by Senator Walter Michel to reduce the size of government by shrinking the size of the legislature. You can read the column at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Wanting ‘less’ for Christmas

And looking back over 2009 there were several great political stories involving MDOT, Judge Larry Buffington, Congressman Bennie Thompson, municipal elections, Mayor Frank Melton and more. Take a stroll back through the months: Perry / The year Melton dropped dead (I don’t always write the headlines, by the way).


RR: Thompson’s ethics investigation

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

National newspapers broke the story on two investigations into Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson recently.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that former Thompson staffers allege a hearing he conducted on the credit card industry was actually an attempt to get campaign contributions. He received $15,000 within weeks from the industry and its lobbyists and no legislative action was taken. Here is an excerpt:

The committee had never before dealt with credit card issues, but Thompson warned Visa, MasterCard and others that Congress might need to impose tighter security standards costing millions of dollars to protect customers from identity theft.

Behind the scenes, some of Thompson’s staff members sensed a different motive — an attempt to pressure the companies into making political donations to the chairman, according to several former committee staff members.

Now the House ethics committee is investigating the propriety of the committee’s operations, and whether its members’ interactions with companies compromised its work. Within a few weeks of the hearing, Thompson collected $15,000 in donations from the credit card industry and its Washington-based lobbyists, a Washington Post analysis shows. No legislation on card security has been introduced.

You can read the full story in the Washington Post: House Homeland Security Committee faces ethics inquiry

Thompson and his chief-of-staff both deny the accusations.

An Ethics Committee document obtained by the Post notes a seperate investigation into Thompson. This was the subject of a New York Times article on Sunday. Here is an excerpt:

It takes a little digging to find the role big companies with lobbyists played in sponsoring the Congressional Black Caucus’s four-day 2008 conference at a casino resort in Tunica, Miss.

Each of the 14 House members submitted a detailed agenda for approval to the ethics committee. It listed social events like a golf outing, but it also included serious topics like health care and global warming.

But there is something missing from the agenda sent to the ethics committee.

A different copy handed out to the caucus members is much the same — except for the line under each event that names a corporate sponsor. A workshop focused on health care included the words “Sponsored by Eli Lily,” the big drug company with a huge stake in health care legislation. Edison Electric Institute, an association of power plant owners, hosted the global warming seminar. Wal-Mart sponsored a clinic to teach lawmakers and other attendees how to skeet shoot; after the lessons came a competition sponsored by the International Longshoremen’s Association.

William A. Kirk, the Washington lawyer and lobbyist who helped arrange the weekend, said the sponsor companies did not directly pay for the events or member travel. They became sponsors by contributing to the general fund of the caucus’s Political Education and Leadership Institute, which is a nonprofit. Money from the general fund, however, paid for hotels and other accommodations. Members were responsible for their own flights, though some used campaign funds.

The House ethics committee is separately investigating another event attended by members of the caucus, a November 2008 conference at a resort on St. Maarten in the Caribbean, which included corporate sponsors like American Airlines and Citigroup.

You can read the full article in the New York Times: Rules for Congress Curb but Don’t End Junkets

Yesterday, the New York Times again mentioned the Tunica investigation in an editorial titled “From the Alps to the Pits”

The ethics panel also cleared a four-day conference for the Congressional Black Caucus at a casino resort in Tunica, Miss. The agenda submitted didn’t mention corporate sponsors, including Eli Lilly, which subsidized a health care workshop (or that Wal-Mart was running a skeet shooting contest)….Representative Zoe Lofgren, who leads the ethics panel, said that if nonprofit groups are being used “as a pass through” for corporate players, then “that is a fraud.” It looks that way to us. So who will fix it?

I covered these investigations in my column this week and noted that the Tunica investigation mirrors an already ongoing investigation into a trip Thompson and other members of congress made to the Caribbean in 2007. Here is an excerpt from my column:

As this column wrote in March, Thompson took a 2007 Caribbean trip hosted by the Inter-American Economic Council which was largely funded by now disgraced financier Allen Stanford of the Stanford Financial Group. (On that trip, Thompson chatted with Stanford at a private reception on his yacht.)

On the 2007 Caribbean trip, the event agenda listed Thompson as speaking on “National Security: A Pre-Condition for Success” sponsored by the banking firm HSBC, and “Port & Airport Security” sponsored by Macy’s.

In March, I noted it was reasonable to suggest Thompson did not know of the corporate sponsorships before he arrived and I explained that his pre-trip ethics reports were properly filed and approved.

But it is harder to believe that Thompson was unaware of corporate sponsorships at the Tunica event. More troubling is the near identical agendas filed with ethics without sponsors listed, while the materials at the event clearly noted corporate sponsorship. Why the cover-up? It would appear to be an intentional deception of the Ethics Committee by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute who officially hosted the Tunica event. The chairman of the Institute’s Board of Directors is - you guessed it - Bennie Thompson.

You can read my full column at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Thompson’s investigations

And here again is my column from March (also in the Madison County Journal) of this year discussing the investigation into Thompson’s Caribbean trip: Perry / Bennie’s ties to Stanford


RR: Budget solutions found in ‘Dave’

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

The Mississippi budget excites few, but it affects us all through government actions and through government collections: fees and taxes. It isn’t just overspending, but spending outside the necessary role of government. This week I write about priority in budgeting and take a clip from the movie Dave as an example.

Here is an excerpt from the column:

We also need outside of government thinking that doesn’t base a budget measured on “cuts” or “increases” from previous years. If I can’t afford to pay my bills, I don’t make across the board cuts. I don’t say “I’m going to trim my cable bill by 12 percent by cutting out premium channels, and I’m going to trim my food budget by only eating six days a week.” I’m going to zero out my cable bill completely before I go hungry.

Mississippi needs to focus on essential government services and zero out items that practically we can’t afford and principally are not the role of government. For example, the State of Mississippi collects from our tax dollars to spend $1.9 million on the Mississippi Arts Commission. For centuries, kings and popes and wealthy families have commissioned artists and funded creations that have enriched humanity and glorified God. I suggest in a prosperous free-market, private-property based society we let individuals and organizations fund the arts, not tax dollars. One could convince me there is a place for Mississippi to promote the arts, celebrate artists and recognize artistic achievements, but the Mississippi Arts Commission receives private support which could pay for those activities. Do you want to tell a teacher we can’t give her a raise because our tax dollars instead will go to an arts grant so a suburbanite can learn to make folk jewelry? Do you want to take a police officer off the street so we can fund the Mississippi Academy of Ancient Music or the Mississippi Puppetry Guild? Somebody call “Dave”.

You can read the full column online at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Budget solutions found in ‘Dave’


Gingrich at Rankin Republican Fundraiser

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

The Rankin County Republican Party is hosting Newt Gingrich at a fundraiser Thursday night. I’ve posted the details below, but I decided to dig out this old photo of a previous visit Newt paid to the Magnolia State.

Governor Kirk Fordice introduces Speaker of the House Newt Ginrich on the South Steps of the Mississippi Capitol in 1996

Governor Kirk Fordice introduces Speaker of the House Newt Ginrich on the South Steps of the Mississippi Capitol in 1996

Here are Thursday night’s details.

Chairman Gary Harkins and the Members of the Rankin County Republican Executive Committee Cordially invite you to The 18th Annual Rankin County Banquet Honoring Congressman Gregg Harper With Special Guest The Honorable Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker, United States House of Representatives
Date: December 3, 2009
Time: Reception 6:00 pm; Banquet 7:00 pm
Location: Jackson Marriott Hotel, 200 East Amite Street, Jackson, Mississippi
Banquet: Individual tickets $125.00 per person; Table of Ten (10) $1,000.00;
With full table purchase you also receive 2 complimentary reception tickets.
Reception: $125 per person; personally visit with Speaker Gingrich, Congressman Harper, and many other Mississippi dignitaries, Republican Party officials and friends.
Please make checks payable to RCREC (Rankin County Republican Executive Committee) and mail to:
RCREC Chairman Gary Harkins, 4 River Bend Place, Suite 110, Flowood, Mississippi 39232.
For more information contact:
Jim Cooper 601 594-2742 or jimcoopermail@comcast.net or Gary Harkins 601-932-4663 or gjharkins@bellsouth.net.


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