Archive for April 2009

Kingfish uncovers some interesting facts about the Jackson bond fees

April 18, 2009

See Jackson Jambalaya for the full story (LINK)

Highlights
*The proposed refinance of Jackson’s 2002 and 2004 bonds will cost $4,071,000 in fees, even though the principal amounts are $33 million less (See page 14 of Swap discussion doc) and the fees for the original transactions were only $1.5 million
*These services were NOT competitively bid but were instead “privately negotiated”.
*Sarah O’Reilly Evans, City Attorney, is paid $60,000 in fees for the refinances
*The bond advisor, Sterne Agee, was paid based on a percentage rate. Sterne Agee’s advice was based on the size of the refinances and contingent upon their closing, while they were supposedly providing “objective” analysis.
*The refinances are based on adjustable rates. Houston was badly burned when the interest rates on its bonds under a similar arrangement rose to 15% recently.
*This deal was proposed by Melton’s finance director, and Marshand Crisler sponsored the motion to adopt the resolution.
*Derivatives are financial contracts whose value is based on other securities or indexes; interest-rate swaps are tied to future changes in lending rates.

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Wall Street Journal: “Pay-to-Sue” / Jim Hood: “First come, first served”

April 16, 2009

The Wall Street Journal writes:

Governor Ed Rendell has finally had to defend his “pay-to-play” relationship with Houston plaintiffs lawyer F. Kenneth Bailey. That’s the good news. The rest of this underreported story is that Mr. Bailey has been running a nationwide “pay-to-sue” operation with Democratic state Attorneys General.

What do you know but they mention our man, Attorney General Jim Hood who Bailey gave $75,000 in contributions to as well as the Democratic Attorney General Association which received $85,000 from Bailey and gave $1.15 million to Jim Hood.

Al Hopkins documented Jim Hood’s pay-to-sue operation in 2007 and in response, Hood attacked Hopkins’ military service. We covered here and Y’all Politics covered here. Here is the Hopkins spreadsheet of contributing firms and contingency fees awarded pertaining to Hood. But these facts stand worth repeating in light of the Wall Street Journal editorial:

On November 15, 2005, Jim Hood received $15,000 from an attorney with Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz of New York. Their firm received a state contract 3 months later on February 16, 2006. In return, they contributed to Hood another 15,000 dollars a week after they received the contract (February 23).

After receiving $25,000 from partners with Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger & Grossman of New York on February 14, 16, & 17th, Jim Hood signed over to them 3 separate state contracts a week later on February 21 and March 14, 2006. The same firm then gave another series of contributions on April 16, 24, 25, & 26, which followed with another contract soon thereafter on May 17, 2006.

Jim Hood received contributions of $11,500 to his campaign from Schiffrin, Barroway, Topaz & Kessler of Pennsylvania in February 2006, which led to contingency fee contracts immediately following in March and April.

Likewise, Wolf Popper of New York contributed $15,000 to Jim Hood on February 22, 2006 and received a contingency fee contract just a few weeks later on March 23, 2006.

On September 19, 2005 Jim Hood signed Baron & Budd of Texas to a contingency fee state contract, which soon led to another $19,200 for Hood’s campaign on November 7 & 8.

Copies of the retention agreements from the above can be found at this Y’all Politics post.

The dialogue from the campaign is good to review as well.

Hopkins: “There is a pattern of behavior that creates an unhealthy perception of your attorney general’s office in the state of Mississippi. We don’t know if he’s selling state contracts for campaign contributions or just suffers bad judgment…In all he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from attorneys who he has rewarded with these state contracts which I personally believe is illegal. The timing of most of those contributions would suggests that the connection is not simply a coincidence. They suggest that Jim Hood’s version of justice is pay to play.”

Hood: “It’s kind of like intellectual property. They’re bringing you an idea….Our system is first come first served.”

Hopkins: “If you look at the situation you see it’s first come first serve to those who contribute to Jim Hood.”

Sens. Merle Flowers of Southaven, Joey Fillingane of Sumrall and Billy Hewes of Gulfport and Lt. Governor Phil Bryant should be ASHAMED!

April 13, 2009

Sens. Merle Flowers of Southaven, Joey Fillingane of Sumrall and Billy Hewes of Gulfport and Lt. Governor Phil Bryant should be ASHAMED! Political posturing and gamesmanship is not acceptable when it comes to something as important as Voter ID.

We were so close and then we killed it? What gives?
-ROM

Hosemann upset over failed voting bills

By TERRY L. JONES and EMMA JAMES

Editor’s note: This is a corrected version of the story.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is still disappointed that members of his Republican Party killed voter identification and early voting bills during the legislative session, he said Friday.

“It was an uneducated, knee-jerk, local reaction to what has obviously been successful in virtually every other Southern state,” Hosemann told the Hattiesburg American editorial board.

With the killing of the bills this legislative session, Hosemann said the state, “lost the opportunity to stop absentee ballot fraud and assisting voter fraud.”

He said the state also missed an opportunity to get past some of the racial battles that have torn the state.

“It means we’re going to spend a whole year or two more ripping scab off things we’ve been trying to put to bed for 50 years,” he said.

The election reform bills were killed last month by Sens. Merle Flowers of Southaven, Joey Fillingane of Sumrall and Billy Hewes of Gulfport.

Hosemann, who also spoke earlier Friday to the Area Development Partnership’s First Friday, said he believes Mississippi will have voter ID and early voting in the near future.

State Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, who attended the ADP meeting, said he shared Hosemann’s disappointment.

“It seemed like very petty reasons caused voter ID to fail,” Barker said. “Everything was in the right place at the right time and it fell through because personal agendas got in the way.”

Hosemann also introduced a wide-ranging agenda for next year that encompasses issues from land management to business law during both of his appearances Friday.

Topping the list is the establishment of business courts in the state. Hosemann hopes to start up at least three pilot programs in Gulfport, Jackson and north Mississippi next year.

Hosemann said the purpose of the business court is to expedite settling lawsuits between companies.

“It’s too expensive,” Hosemann said. “When two companies are fighting it out, they can’t get loans because of a lawsuit hanging over their heads. It holds up business.”

Limited liability laws are also due for an overhaul, Hosemann said, and he hopes to have a bill drafted for the legislature in December that requires limited liability companies to register with the state every year.

“Right now, we currently have more limited liability companies than we do corporations,” he said. “It’s become the way we do business. We want people to come to Mississippi to do business, and the way to do that is to have the best business laws in the country.”

Hosemann is preparing to undertake the reorganization of real property filings in the state. The first meeting of his real properties task force is slated for June 1 and will focus on finding a more standardized system for filing and public access to deeds.

“It’s a massive project, but we are hoping to have legislation drafted for December,” Hosemann said. “We want to lower filing fees and make it easier for the public to access those records.”

Hosemann said his biggest accomplishment since taking office has been the establishment of a Public Policy Department, which provides legislators with in-depth, non-partisan research on public policy.

“It’s a quantum leap forward,” Hosemann said. “Most legislators work for 90 days and then have full-time jobs to go back to. They might not have time to do research on everything that our public policy department can provide to them without a slant. That’s a huge advantage.”

Neshoba: Don’t seat Ike Brown

April 1, 2009

The Neshoba Democrat speaks boldly against Ike Brown. The Mississippi Democratic Party is in such chaos, I don’t know who is to blame: Jamie Franks, Barbara Blackmon, or both. But its fun to watch. Lets see what they do Saturday.

No one would tolerate Republicans putting a white county political boss who had been convicted of violating the civil rights of black Republicans on their state executive committee.

But supporters of Noxubee County political boss Ike Brown are seeking to do just that by giving him a seat on the state Democrat Party’s executive committee.

Brown, who is black, was recently prosecuted by the Justice Department for violating the voting rights of white Democrats in Noxubee County.

Democrats this Saturday will apparently vote on Brown again.

Mississippi Democrats who have worked so hard to unify the party and move the state forward should be outraged and embarrassed at even the notion of seating Brown.

Giving a racist as vile as Ike Brown a place of prominence sends the wrong message about the Democrat Party and Mississippi.