Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fleming files formal request for debate

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Erik Fleming delivered a formal request to Republican incumbent Trent Lott today challenging the longtime senator to a debate.
Fleming’s action came one day after the state representative from Clinton publicly requested a debate with Lott before the November general election. The Associated Press reports that Lott’s spokesman Lee Youngblood said Lott never received a formal request.
To ensure Lott received the request, Fleming did the following: He hand-delivered a copy of his letter to Lott’s downtown Jackson office; faxed and e-mailed a copy to Lott’s Jackson and Washington, D.C., offices; and sent a copy overnight to Lott in Washington.
Now, the fate of a debate in the Senate race is firmly up to Lott – who hasn’t debated anyone for office since he first ran for and won the U.S. Senate seat in a 1988 election.
No excuses are valid for avoiding a debate, including that Lott is too busy to participate in a debate, that he doesn’t have time, that he is too busy campaigning or that it’s too late in the campaign.

More criticism for Republican state lawmakers

The Mississippi Homeowners Grant story continues to develop.
The Mississippi Press
reports today, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2006, that Public Citizen – a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 by Ralph Nader – is chastising three Republican state lawmakers who are profiting from a state contract to finalize the grants.
Republican state Sen. Tommy Robertson of Moss Point and state Rep. Jim Beckett of Bruce formed a company and bid on as state contract to complete grants for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Robertson and Beckett hired Republican Rep. Jim Simpson Jr. of Gulfport to finalize grants in Harrison County.
Here’s what the story says:
A spokesman for Public Citizen on Monday called the issue “a classic ethics violation” and a “classic case of violation of conflict of interest.”

“It really is outrageous,” Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s campaign finance lobbyist, said in response to The Mississippi Press’ request for comment. “These lawmakers are cashing in on one of the worst disasters Mississippi has seen.”

The Mississippi Press
is on a roll with this story – and the questions keep piling high.
Click here to read the full story.

Fleming challenges Lott to a debate

Sorry for the absence of a couple of days.
Now, it’s back to business.
First off: U.S. Senate candidate Erik Fleming has challenged incumbent Republican Trent Lott to a debate before the November election. And instead of doing what’s in the best interest if the voters – agree to a debate and discuss the issues with Fleming – Lott’s spokesman said the senator hasn’t received a formal request for a debate.
A formal request? Come on, Sen. Lott. Do you really need a “formal request” to stage a debate? It simply makes good sense to debate. Unless, of course, this is a delay tactic and you simply don’t intend to debate at all.
Well, a formal request you’ll get. Fleming plans to deliver one today, Wednesday, September 27, 2006. When that happens, the ball will be in your court.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Party statement on Katrina grant program

The Mississippi Democratic Party joined the fray over the Homeowners Grant Program. Keeland Sanders, our executive director, issued the following statement to the media:
“Congressman Gene Taylor was right to criticize the slowness of the $3 billion Homeowner Grant Program. These people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast have been suffering for more than a year and Congress passed this funding before Christmas.

“It seems to us that Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and his administration should have gone out of their way to help these people well before now. There is no excuse for the delay. Haven’t Coast residents suffered enough?” – Keelan Sanders, executive director, Mississippi Democratic Party.

Katrina profitting: The plot thickens

Republican state legislators Tommy Robertson of Moss Point and Jim Beckett of Bruce aren’t the only lawmakers apparently trying to profit from Katrina victims.
Now it comes to light that Republican state Rep. Jim Simpson Jr. of Gulfport also has entered the game.
Here’s the deal: Robertson and Beckett formed a company to finalize grants through the Homeowner Grant Program. They will earn $250 for every grant they finalize.
State officials said that 2,000-5,000 homeowners could receive grants, giving Robertson, a state senator, and Beckett, a state representative, the chance to pocket as much as $1.25 million.
Robertson and Beckett hired Simpson to finalize grants in the 1st Judicial District of Harrison County. The Mississippi Press in Pascagoula said Robertson would not say how much Simpson will be paid.
Either way, something doesn’t smell right. Think about it: Three state lawmakers are preparing to profit off of a major disaster – and two of them are from the Coast.
Sounds like a possible ethics issue.

Where’s the money?

U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor wants to know where’s the money that was promised homeowners through the $3 billion, federally-funded Homeowner Grant Program.
The money for the program comes from the $5 billion the federal government gave to Mississippi in January to help homeowners who were flooded by Hurricane Katrina.
But of the 17,000 Coast homeowners who applied for the grants, The Mississippi Press in Pascagoula reports today, only 75 checks have been written.
The Press reported Taylor, the Democratic 4th District congressman, asked Republican Gov. Haley Barbour to speed the process.
“(Congress) passed this funding before Christmas,” Taylor told The Press. “Here we are 10 months later and people don’t have their money. The whole idea was to do something quickly.”
And for many people, the wait continues . . .

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Universities request budget increase

Mississippi’s universities are asking legislative leaders for more than a 36 percent budget increase during the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2007.
Higher education officials made their request during legislative budget hearings on Wednesday. The hearings are in advance of the 2007 Legislature in January.
House Speaker Billy McCoy said higher education’s funding request will receive full consideration.
Read The Clarion-Ledger story by clicking here.

Where's Haley?

Quick, step outside. Up in the sky.
If you look hard enough, you just might see our esteemed Republican governor flying to who-knows-where at Mississippi taxpayer expense.
If you haven’t already seen it, check out the story in the Thursday edition of The Clarion-Ledger that points out that Gov. Haley Barbour has traveled 104,710 miles on state planes from Jan. 1, 2005, through June 30.
Some of those trips may have been legitimate – the ones to the Coast following Hurricane Katrina and Washington to lobby for Katrina help come to mind.
Others seem questionable, extremely questionable. One trip was 112 miles to Philadelphia. Another was a trip to Tunica for a Wayne Newton benefit.
Were those, and possibly others, really necessary at taxpayer expense?
Couldn’t Barbour have driven on his own time to Philadelphia? It isn’t that far.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pickering took contributions from Ney

In case you didnt watch the news Friday or read the papers Saturday, U.S. Rep. Bob Ney agreed to plead guilty to charges related to the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal -- the first elected official to admit his guilt in the Abramoff scandal.
Ney, a six-term Ohio congressman, filed court papers Friday saying he would plead guilty to making false statements and conspiracy to commit fraud, make other false statements and violate U.S. lobbying restrictions.
Heres the interesting thing for Mississippi: U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering accepted $7,000 in contributions from Ney. And Democratic Party leaders, including state Executive Director Keelan Sanders, questions Pickerings move.
As Sanders put it: “It’s clear that the congressman feels there is nothing wrong from taking money from people who have scandal and corruption surrounding them. His interest should be for the people and not for his own personal reasons.”

More fundraiser publicity

The Mississippi Democratic Party picked up some nice publicity last weekend, particularly from newspapers that ran our release on the party fundraiser in Clarksdale. If you didn't read the news release as I sent it out last week, you can catch it at The Meridian Star Web site by clicking here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Photos from fundraiser

More than 200 Democrats from the Mississippi Delta and across the state attended a party fundraiser on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale. Here are a few photos from the event.

Our banner hung from the ceiling of the club, welcoming everyone who attended the fundraiser.

Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman with House Speaker Pro Tem J.P. Compretta of Bay St. Louis, Deshun Martin and Jacob Ray.

Clarksdale Mayor Henry Espy, Freeman, Secretary of State Eric Clark and Coahoma Mayor W.J. Jones.

State Rep. Eric Fleming, the Democratic nominee challenging Trent Lott in the November race for U.S. Senate, and Freeman.

Freeman and partner Bill Luckett, owners of the club, stand on the club’s stage.

Fundraiser attracts attention

The Mississippi Democratic Party fundraiser in Clarksdale on Wednesday, Sept. 13, was a success, attracted more than 200 people and made it in the Clarksdale Press Register.
That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, though.
After all, the event at the Ground Zero Blues Club in historic downtown Clarksdale attracted Attorney General Jim Hood, Secretary of State Eric Clark, party Chairman Wayne Dowdy and former Govs. William Winter and Ronnie Musgrove.
The big draw was award-winning actor, and co-owner of the club, Morgan Freeman -- who spent much of the night talking and taking pictures with attendees.
In the photo here, Freeman stands with Susan Dowdy and Wayne Dowdy.
The Clarksdale Press Register ran several of its own photos from the event. If you can't find a copy of the Thursday edition, however, you can read the story online by clicking here.

-- Terry R. Cassreino

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-- Terry R. Cassreino