Corruption and Cronyism in the State Auditor’s Office

When are we ever going to wake up to the fact that the Republican establishment is corrupt and full of cronyism? New revelations out today about Stacey Pickering, the635497632705960008-Stacey-Pickering State Auditor, is eyebrow-raising, to say the least.  As Geoff Pender details in the below article, Pickering’s office seems to be riddled with cronyism and corruption – no-bid contracts and lining the pockets of his friends.  For a detailed analysis of the larger issue of no-bid contract thoroughout our state government, see another great article by Geoff Pender and Emily Le Coz, “State awards billions in no-bid contracts.”  It seems that Mississippi has earned the title of “Most Corrupt State.”

But, sadly, this is not an isolated incident with the State Auditor.  Let us not forget that Mr. Pickering was also held in contempt of court for withholding public records in the DMR scandal on the Coast.  Who was he protecting in that incident?  We’ve also got a major scandal with the Department of Corrections, where the feds had to bring the indictments, not the state.  There’s also corruption on the local level, and not just in elections.

Yet despite all this, the State Auditor and the Attorney General have done nothing.  If this doesn’t prove that the whole bunch needs to be sent home, then I guess nothing will.  It’s time for a clean sweep in 2015!  Let Public Corruption be the major issue from now until November!

Pender: Auditor’s no-bid contracts raise questions

By Geoff Pender, Clarion Ledger, December 20, 2014

In the fallout from the prisons’ bribery-kickback scandal, Gov. Phil Bryant said he will work with State Auditor Stacey Pickering to strengthen controls over contracts throughout state government.

But some of Pickering’s own contracts he approved for his agency raise questions and appear to mirror the government-wide potential problems with “no bid” contracts.

Staff or contractor?

In 2010, Pickering’s agency spokeswoman, Lisa Shoemaker, left her job to work on Steven Palazzo’s first (successful) campaign for Congress.

But instead of hiring someone to replace Shoemaker, who was making about $70,000 a year, Pickering hired Shoemaker under a no-bid contract at $60 an hour plus expenses to continue handling communications and media relations.

The initial contract was capped at $61,395 for nine months. But in July 2011, Pickering approved a new contract for up to $88,000 with Southern Strategies, a company Shoemaker created, for the same services.

In July 2012, Pickering approved another contract with Southern Strategies for up to $176,000 for Shoemaker to continue serving as the state auditor’s spokeswoman and press officer through June 2013.

Pickering said the contract ended when Shoemaker took a job as director of the Mississippi Cable Telecommunications Association in December 2013.

During her time under contract, Shoemaker appeared to continue to serve as the agency’s spokeswoman and media contact as she had while employed. She sent out press releases identifying herself as director of communications and serving as point-of-contact for the media at least through early December 2013. When asked in 2010 about her working on Palazzo’s campaign, she told media she was on leave from the auditor’s office while working on the campaign.

State law prohibits employees from working on campaigns during work hours or from taking leave at the expense of the agency to work on campaigns.

Pickering said Shoemaker has worked as a volunteer in his campaigns, on her own time, but not as a paid campaign worker as she did on Palazzo’s.

When Shoemaker left to work on Palazzo’s campaign, Pickering said he didn’t have anyone to handle public relations and media, so he hired her under contract. He said the agency did not supply her office space, which would violate IRS regulations, while she was a contract worker. He said the agency didn’t pay Shoemaker the total amounts for which the contract would have allowed.

“When she left our staff to go to work for Palazzo, we retained her on a contract basis,” Pickering said. “… Whether her or her company, (from late 2010) through January 2013, somewhere around $140,000 to $150,000 was the total paid out … That included travel and expenses. Her salary prior to that did not include that.”

Pickering has since hired a replacement to handle PR and media at a salary of $41,255, state records show.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke has questioned the state’s “revolving door” practice of employees leaving — particularly those who retire — then coming back under contract.

“You do question whether some of these are truly independent contractors,” Clarke said, talking in general, not specifically about the auditor’s office. “… You’re supposed to have multiple clients and not just go back and do the same job you did.”

Under the cap

Pickering, over about 21/2 years starting in July 2011 hired veteran Republican fundraiser and campaign adviser James H. Johnson, who is from Pickering’s hometown of Laurel, as a consultant.

Johnson, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, served as deputy undersecretary of agriculture in Washington during the Reagan Administration, was a senior adviser on the Republican National Committee, and worked on the campaigns of former Gov. Haley Barbour and for Barbour’s D.C. lobbying firm.

Pickering’s initial contract with Johnson was for up to $31,200 for about five months, but it was amended several times. In September 2012, it was amended for up to $99,900. This contract would come just under the $100,000 cap, which would have required approval by the state Personal Services Contract Review Board.

Speaking in general and not about the auditor’s office, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said he questions state contracts that come just under the threshold for the Contract Review Board’s approval.

“If you see a contract at $99,000 and some change, you can’t help but wonder if it was negotiated at a level intentional to get below the threshold,” Reeves said. “That is skeptical and cynical, but it’s also perfectly rational.”

The auditor’s contracts with Johnson called for him to “provide advice and consulting assistance as may be necessary … to assist with special projects, provide strategic planning and local government services.” It also provided that Johnson “may be authorized to speak to civic clubs and other organizations on behalf of the auditor and OSA,” and that he would report directly to Pickering.

Pickering said Johnson was paid a total of $95,000 to $96,000 over about 21/2 years.

“That included mileage, expenses, salary, everything,” Pickering said.

Pickering said the main reason he hired Johnson was to work with “city halls and courthouses across the state” dealing with the local governments sending money to the state from traffic tickets.

“We had several local governments who were significantly behind or where we had seen big drops in the fees that come back to state government,” Pickering said. “No, (Johnson) did not audit them. He went in and said, this is the issue. He was more of a customer service followup. A portion of that was dealing with customer service, how is our audit working from the local perspective.

“(Johnson) was either unemployed or underemployed at the time, and he was somebody we didn’t have to bring up to speed or train,” Pickering said. “… He’s been in government most of his career and knows how it works on every level.”

Campaign contractor

Another no-bid contract Pickering approved was for advertising work for the auditor’s office in 2012 by the same Laurel firm that worked on Pickering’s 2011 campaign.

Pickering hired Roberts Creative Group of Laurel at $75 an hour, up to $5,175, to work on an ad campaign for the agency about public corruption. Pickering said the campaign, paid for with money recovered from public corruption busts, was in conjunction with a campaign the FBI was doing.

“The FBI paid for billboards, and we used special funds to pay for newspaper ads,” Pickering said.

The contract between the auditor’s office and Roberts Creative says the “contractors shall provide creative services and media purchase (with) SuperTalk — TeleSouth Communications.”

Campaign records show Pickering paid Roberts Creative more than $25,000 for his website for his 2011 campaign for state auditor.

Contact Geoff Pender at (601) 961-7266 or gpender@jackson. gannett.com. Follow @GeoffPender on Twitter.

Senator Chris McDaniel’s Annual Christmas Turkey Giveaway

Every December, just a few days before Christmas, at West Ellisville Baptist Church, Senator Chris McDaniel hosts a turkey giveaway, handing them out free to needy families.  This Tuesday will be2XBJ_Turkey_Giveaway_12_21_13_McDaniel_family_4019 the 9th annual event.  Most years he and a team of volunteers hand out as many as 500 turkeys.  This year 2.5 tons of turkeys will be handed out.  Those who would like to receive a turkey only have to drive up to the church, remain in the vehicle, and say “Merry Christmas.”  It’s that’s simple.

Sadly, this story receives far less media attention than it should.  Since it began, Senator McDaniel has spent more than $40,000 of his own money on the giveaway.

Do we see such generous gestures from any of our political leaders? No, but Senator McDaniel doesn’t do it for the publicity, only for the generosity.

For those cynics who might think he started the event simply to curry favor with voters, think again.  This began in 2006, before he began his political career in the state senate.  And, contrary to the nasty and untrue ads run against him, there is not a shred of racism anywhere.  In fact, most of the families who receive turkeys are African American.  And they are as welcome as anyone else.

turkey giveaway USEChris McDaniel is a deeply committed Christian who believes in walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord commanded us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, to love one another and to be a blessing to our fellow man.  Senator McDaniel has succeeded greatly in the legal profession and built a stellar political career dedicated to serving the people.  His annual turkey giveaway is one of the many ways he gives back to his community.  One would be hard pressed to find a finer example of Christian values, generosity, and compassion for others.

More Outrageous Hypocrisy From The Obama White House: The Border Fence

By Ryan S. Walters

In the wake of recent intruders on the White House grounds, and within the building itself, the Secret Service has issued a report on how to better protect the President and the facility:  Build aap_white_house_security_fence_jc_140923_16x9_992 bigger fence around the Executive Mansion.

The report stated: “A number of common-sense improvements should be explored. For sure, the fence must be taller; even an increase of four or five feet would be materially helpful. Horizontal bars, where climbers can easily place feet or hands, should be eliminated or placed where they provide little assistance. The top of the fence can also be manipulated in certain ways-such as including curvature outward at the top of the fence–to make scaling it much more difficult for most.”

The hypocrisy is astounding.  So we should build a bigger, stronger, taller fence to protect His Majesty but not a bigger, stronger, taller border fence to protect the American people from the illegal immigrant invasion that’s been on-going for decades?  We’ve been promised over and over again that a fence would be constructed along the border but the liars, including Bush, have never delivered.  Meanwhile, vicious criminals have entered the United States and threaten the peace and safety of our people.Illegal-immigrants-climbing-over-border-fence

Here is what the new Republican Congress should do:  withhold all funds for construction of a new White House fence, and begin to cut funds to the Secret Service, until a durable protective fence is in place along the southern border with Mexico.

But I’m not holding my breath that the corrupt cowards in the Republican Party will do anything.

Hey, the Gang’s All Here: Fox News Image Captures Big Flaw In Our System

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Check out this image from Fox News this past Sunday.  Who do you see following close behind Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell?  That’s right, Ole Haley Barbour is not far behind.  A man whose dishonest dealings in the Mississippi US Senate race, along with his corrupt cronies, still have access to the highest levels of our government.  This should frighten any decent and honest person, particularly in Mississippi.  Do you honestly think we the people are being represented here?  Not a chance!

Senators Chris McDaniel and Melanie Sojourner responded to this image on their Facebook pages and they are both worthy of inclusion here: [Read more…]

The Establishment’s Man: Jeb Jumps in early, much to the chagrin of conservatives

By Ryan S. Walters

We all knew it was coming. After weeks of giving strong signals, Jeb Bush has announced he is “actively exploring” a run for President with the formation of an exploratory committee. But we know what this really means: He’s in the race for 2016. And conservatives are already up in arms about it.jeb-bush-2016

Since 2012, pundits have argued about which candidate the establishment would back to the hilt for the GOP presidential nomination. Much of the early talk centered around Chris Christie. There’s even a movement to run Mitt for a third time, which he seems poised to do. But there should be little doubt: Jeb Bush is the man they really want.

Jeb Bush is the prototypical establishment candidate. First and foremost, if not most importantly, he is not a true conservative, no matter how he tries to portray himself. He is very pro-immigration, both legal and illegal. In fact, Chris Matthews of MSNBC recently said that Jeb Bush is “the most pro-immigration guy in either party.” That should be enough to oppose him vigorously.

There are also concerns with some of the other big issues. Bush is also highly in favor of the Common Core education standards, leans toward the liberal theory of man-made global warming, and is, to say the least, lukewarm on the issue of taxes. [Read more…]

MCD News Shorts: Gun Control, Campus Rape, Liberal Hypocrites, and Mississippi’s Education Funding Shortfall

More Liberal Gun Control Garbage

The Left just will not stop its assault on the Second Amendment. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, on CNN this past weekend, touted a long-used liberal myth about guns and personal protection. “This mythology that you end up killing bad guys by arming good guys just doesn’t work. Reality is that if you have a gun at home, you are more likely to be killed by it than to kill an attacker or someone that’s going after your neighbor.”

How do they arrive at such seemingly alarming statistics? To say it plainly, they lie, just like they always do when it comes to stats.

To arrive at such numbers, that you are much more likely to die with your own gun if you have one in your home, they include suicides committed with firearms! So yeah you are more likely to die by your own gun if you stick it in your mouth and pull the trigger! But these stats, as well as others just like it, are used to push a political agenda, not to convey truth. [Read more…]

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Blasts Sen. Elizabeth Warren On Her Government Shutdown Hypocrisy

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