By Matthew Boyle, Breitbart News, June 22, 2014
JACKSON, Mississippi — When a super PAC supporting Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) came under scrutiny for receiving what appeared to be an unsecured loan for $250,000, the bank that issued the loan came to Cochran’s rescue, publishing a high-profile letter clearing the super PAC, Mississippi Conservatives.
But a closer look at the bank reveals it has long maintained a close relationship with Cochran, including donations to Cochran from top officials and assistance to his close aide Kay Webber in purchasing her house.
A series of publicly available Washington, D.C., real estate and loan documents show that the Capitol Hill home that Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) resides in, owned by his executive assistant Webber, was purchased with help from a member of Trustmark’s board of directors.
The documents show that Webber purchased a 99 percent interest in the Capitol Hill home on April 25, 2001. A woman named Betty Shows cosigned with her, purchasing the other one percent of the home alongside Webber.
“She clearly needed a co-signer in order to qualify,” Ken Cummins, the president of CII Title, LLC, and a settlement agent and real estate expert in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, told Breitbart News in a phone interview. “That’s what a co-signer does. You get to use the co-signer’s financial background. She wouldn’t have qualified for the loan without Betty Shows.”
Shows’s husband, William T. Shows, served on the board of Trustmark Corporation at the time according to the company’s 2001 annual report. In one of the documents, signed April 18, 2001, William T. Shows signs over power of attorney to his wife Betty Shows in order to represent him “at settlement or closing to release any spousal interest in real property” at Kay Webber’s Capitol Hill home.
While a cosigner would be insignificant in the vast majority of cases of home purchases, Cummins says what’s unusual in this case is how subsequent real estate documents show that Shows was dropped from the deed and loan a mere year and a half later in October 2002 when Webber became the home’s sole owner and the only signer on a new mortgage.
“The question is what changed in her financial situation during that 18 months?” Cummins asked. “Something had to change.”
During that period, Webber’s taxpayer-paid salary increased from $73,000 to $91,000, public records show.
In 2003, Cochran himself moved into the basement apartment in Webber’s home—paying her rent and listing it on several documents, as previously reported by Breitbart News, as his address on a series of official documents including multiple statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The D.C. government’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is currently investigating whether Webber filed the correct paperwork to rent the space commercially, according to an agency spokesman.
“It’s not unusual to see somebody cosign,” Cummins told Breitbart News. “If you can’t qualify, your options for a loan with your own financials—the option is to get somebody to co-sign for you and put your resources at risk. When Betty Shows was doing this for a million dollar property, she was doing it for only a one percent interest in it on the books.”
VIEW THE DOCUMENTS:
Beyond serving as Cochran’s landlord, Webber has accompanied him on dozens of taxpayer-funded trips overseas and often attends evening events in Washington, D.C., with him. Following one trip, a U.S. embassy listed Webber as Cochran’s “spouse” in captions to photos of the delegation’s overeseas trip. Cochran’s campaign has described her as a senior aide who performs essentially professional duties in his congressional office.
Trustmark Corporation is a Jackson, Mississippi-based nationally chartered bank whose officers have regularly financially supported Cochran’s political campaigns over the years. In 1989—a year before Cochran ran unopposed for re-election in 1990 for his third U.S. Senate term—Trustmark chairman Frank Day and president and CEO Robert Gaddis each donated $500 to Cochran’s campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Reuben V. Anderson, the first black Mississippi state Supreme Court justice who also served for a time as a director at Trustmark, donated $1,000 to Cochran when he served in that capacity for Trustmark. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Cochran is the only Republican he ever donated to—spending most of his money donating to Democrats like Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), now Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, and former Rep. Ronnie Shows (D-MS). Ronnie Shows is William T. Shows’s brother.
Richard Hickson, a CEO of Trustmark after Gaddis retired in 1996, has donated $3,000 to Cochran’s campaigns over three $1,000-per-piece donations in 2000, 2001, and 2007, respectively. The bank’s current CEO, Harry M. Walker, donated $1,000 to Cochran’s campaign in 2014, and back in 2000 he gave Cochran $250.
Adolphus Baker—who goes by Dolph Baker on FEC records— donated $1,000 to Cochran in January and is listed on Trustmark’s 2013 annual report as a director.
Fred Carl, now of Jackson-based Viking Range Corporation but previously a director at Trustmark, donated $1,000 to Cochran in March, and donated $2,000 to Cochran back in 2001 and 2002 over two other separate donations.
In January, Trustmark’s chairman Daniel Grafton donated $1,000 to Cochran’s campaign, too. Kenneth Williams has also donated $2,000 over two donations to Cochran’s campaigns over the years—one donation in January and another back in 2007. In both years, Williams has served in various leadership and board roles for Trustmark according to those years’ annual reports.
Trustmark received $215 million in bailout funding from TARP in 2008. While Cochran voted against the bank bailout’s final passage, in a statement he provided to press at the time he said, “I will work with the Administration to expedite the development of an acceptable and workable plan for recovery.” Even so, it’s unclear what specific role—if any—Cochran had in directing TARP funds to Trustmark.
At that time, Cochran was the ranking member of the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
Trustmark has become a key player in this 2014 GOP senate primary between Cochran and conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel. It is the bank alleged by conservative super lawyer Cleta Mitchell of the American Conservative Union (ACU) and of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund (TPPCF) to have given an illegal loan to the pro-Cochran Super PAC Mississippi Conservatives. Both TPPCF and the ACU have endorsed McDaniel.
On Jan. 29—within days in either direction of many of these late January donations from current and former Trustmark executives to Cochran’s campaign—Trustmark made a $250,000 loan to the pro-Cochran Super PAC, which is run by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s nephew Henry Barbour.
The PAC and the bank argue that the loan was secured by a Certificate of Deposit by a third party, though neither will divulge the identity of the CD’s owner.
Mitchell has alleged that whether or not it was secured by a deposit by a mysterious benefactor, the arrangement comprises an illegal in-kind donation.
Days after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook’s founding president Sean Parker—who still works closely with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as a supporter of Zuckerberg’s FWD.us on that organization’s board—each donated $250,000 to the Barbour-run Super PAC in mid-May, Mississippi Conservatives made, according to the FEC filings, a $220,150 payment to pay off the loan from Trustmark. It’s unclear at this time if the loan is paid in full, or if the Super PAC still owes Trustmark money.
That Super PAC, Mississippi Conservatives, is the group at the center of of efforts to drive black Democratic voters to the polls. The efforts are under increasing scrutiny after a series of allegations from officials in both political parties that illegal tactics are being used.
Cochran’s campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment for this article.