Archive for May 2009

We’re negotiation Medicaid, Mr. Chairman, what are you going to do? “I’m going to Disney World!”

May 28, 2009

While some legislators are working to craft a budget for the state and preserve Medicaid, others are taking it easy, according to WLBT.

A key budget negotiator decided it was time to take his family on vacation. Representative Dirk Dedeaux is a Democrat from Perkinston in South Mississippi. Now, he is the House Medicaid Committee Chairman. And WLBT has learned that he is at Disney World on a family vacation that he says was planned three months ago. Committee Vice Chairman Robert Johnson of Natchez will take his place in budget talks but, get this, published reports say another legislator actually signed him as present Tuesday at the State Capitol even though he was in Florida. Dedeaux says he notified the House Clerk of the error. Mississippi Republicans of course are reacting with some harsh language. State GOP Chairman Brad White issued this statement, “Public service is a sacrifice and if it is one Dedeaux is unwilling to make, he should consider another line of work.”

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Harvey Johnson vs Jamie Franks?

May 18, 2009

During the Jamie Franks vs Barbara Blackmon fight over Sam Hall, it seemed everyone claimed to be in charge but no one was actually running the Party. The question often asked: “Who has the keys?” In other words, everybody who was anybody seemed to be able to host a press conference inside the headquarters even when they were attacking the “Chairman” Jamie Franks. I don’t know if they are the big-tent party but they are the open-door party…to everyone…even campaigns during a primary.

The Jackson Free Press reports that campaign workers for Marshand Crisler, Democratic candidate for Mayor of Jackson, used the Mississippi Democratic Party Headquarters to make calls in their campaign against Harvey Johnson, another Democratic candidate for Mayor of Jackson.

Jamie Franks continues his administration’s record of apology and excuses.

Chairman Jamie Franks said today that the state party remains neutral in the Jackson mayoral Democratic runoff.

It was brought to the attention of Chairman Franks and Executive Director Sam Hall that calls originated from the office on behalf of Crisler. The calls were made on Friday, May 15. Both Franks and Hall were out of town in Richmond, Va., for a DNC conference.

“These calls were not authorized by the Party, and their being made from party office was a mistake,” Franks said. “The Mississippi Democratic Party remains neutral in this primary, like all Democratic primaries.”

The calls were allowed to be made at the office when representatives of the Crisler campaign told a party official that their phone system was down.

“While we want to help any Democratic candidate when they are in a bind, the Party does not get involved with individual campaigns during primary elections,” Franks said. “We regret that these calls took place. It was a mistake, and the person responsible understands that it will not happen again.”

So who is “the person responsible”? With Franks and Hall out of town, my guess would be Chris Smith, who Hall hired to help appease Democratic State Executive Committee members who wanted Smith for Hall’s job. Smith worked on the Travis Childers campaign. But the thing that keeps me from being sure about that guess is that we still don’t know, “Who has the keys?” The lack of answer to that question is a metaphor on Franks apparent “leadership.”

American Lawyer: Securities Case? Bring It On! Mississippi busts the PSLRA lead plaintiffs limit.

May 12, 2009

The Amercian Lawyer writes about more “Pay to Play” by Jim Hood, rewarding his big campaign contributors with no-bid contracts to pursue millions on behalf of the state. This article suggests that even among activist attorneys general, Hood is going beyond belief:

Even in a new wave of activist state attorneys general, is Mississippi AG Jim Hood too active?

Hood is charged with deciding which cases to bring on behalf of the state’s largest pension fund, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi (MissPERS). According to his critics, Hood is having a hard time saying no to any of the plaintiffs lawyers–many of them major campaign contributors–who propose cases.

MissPERS is currently vying to become lead plaintiff in a case in New York federal court on behalf of investors who purchased mortgage-backed certificates sold by big banks. But another fund that is also seeking the lead plaintiff role–Iron Workers Local No. 25–has argued in court papers that Mississippi has become a professional plaintiff in recent years and should be denied the lead plaintiff role.

The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which governs the rules for securities class actions, was supposed to put an end to the practice of professional plaintiffs by limiting parties to five lead spots in a three-year period. Since February 2006 according to the Iron Workers, MissPERS has been named lead or co-lead plaintiff in ten cases. “MissPERS is already stretched too thin to actively direct counsel,” wrote attorneys for Iron Workers at Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, a firm that has not contributed to Hood.

In addition, Mississippi’s active caseload has brought charges that Hood is essentially running a pay-to-play state. In the past two years, New York plaintiffs firm such as Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, Wolf Popper, and Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer, have given tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Hood. Many contributors, including those three firms, have been appointed lead counsel.

At press time New York federal district court judge Jed Rakoff had not decided whether to appoint MissPERS in the mortgage certificate case. Hood, no doubt, is already lining up his next target.

Conservatives Reject Tax Hikes

May 5, 2009

The Mississippi legislature, which claims a number of conservatives in both chambers, will be voting tomorrow on a cigarette tax. There are two conservative reasons to reject tax hikes.

First, this is a redistribution of wealth from one group of consumers (smokers) to another (car drivers) with no logical connection. As my Tea Party friends remind me, Mississippians are Taxed Enough Already.

Second, higher taxes mean a bigger government. I understand health advocates who want to increase cigarette taxes in order to decrease smoking because that is a positive indirect consequence. But a negative indirect consequence is bigger government and more spending.

I encourage conservatives to hold the line on tax hikes, and we’ll see where legislators truly stand philosophically after the vote.

Eric Stringfellow vs Jamie Franks

May 1, 2009

Eric Stringfellow wades into the clashing waters of the Mississippi Democratic Party in his April 20 Clarion Ledger column. He brings some more information about those infamous meetings and also asks some questions of Jamie Franks.

In some quarters the Democratic Party of Mississippi’s focus this spring has been more on entertainment than politics, which is regretable…The Party, under Jamie Franks’ leadership, appears to be in disarray.

The squabble seems to have its roots in the March 6 meeting and how Hall was selected. Some said he was chosen on a secret ballot, which they say is not allowed under party rules. And new members of the Executive Committee were not seated before the vote, meaning they were not allowed to participate in the election. That doesn’t seem right. Worse, despite questions about the ballots, Executive Committee members claim Franks has not allowed the ballots to be inspected.

Franks did not respond to a telephone message left at Democratic Party headquarters.

Some committee members also claim the Franks administration ignored the party’s constitution in selecting its executive vice chair, a position created to help maintain that racial balance among the leadership. Franks’ choice for this position was white Hispanic male. These moves followed the ouster of the party’s African-American executive director, who was replaced by a white male.

What is his vision for th party? What does he hope to gain by alienating the party’s base? Is the party’s history of power sharing among African Americans and whites history?

After reading this, my question is, can we really trust Democrats to participate in fair elections if they allegedly do trickery inside their own meetings?