By Ryan S. Walters | @ryanswalters73
Recently, two Jackson-based Republican political operatives, Greg Brand and George Williams, entered no contest pleas for a misdemeanor charge concerning a printed campaign mailer distributed during the 2015 state election cycle.
Their target was Madison mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler, who was running in the primary for State Auditor. The mailer ridiculed Hawkins-Butler but was also anonymously distributed with no names or addresses listed, a violation of state law because it mentioned a specific candidate for office.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who oversees the state’s election laws, referred to such seemingly outrageous conduct as “destructive to the republic.” Columnist, political consultant, and establishment mouthpiece Brian Perry pushed the same narrative in a recent column, writing that “if you mention a candidate, put a disclaimer on it” because “it’s the law, and also just good manners.”
Hosemann, along with establishment spokesman Perry, has either had a “coming to Jesus” moment or, more likely, is the biggest hypocrite in Mississippi, a state with no shortage of political frauds.
During the 2014 McDaniel-Cochran race, the ads that flew across the state from the Republican Establishment were far more disgusting than anything hurled at Mary Hawkins-Butler and many of the racist flyers trashing McDaniel that were distributed in black communities in the days leading up to the run-off were anonymous. Yet Hosemann said nothing about them, while Perry helped fund them.
So let us take a stroll down memory lane and rehash the major highlights from June 2014, shall we?
Brian Perry had a particularly central role in nasty ads, serving as the treasurer and a high official in the Barbour-backed Super PAC, the Mississippi Conservatives PAC that enthusiastically backed Thad Cochran and trashed Chris McDaniel. Their track record on ads was nothing short of disgusting, and without a shred of “good manners” attached to any of it. Their ads attacked Senator McDaniel’s character and accused him of the vilest behaviors imaginable.
To hide their involvement in the smear campaign, Mississippi Conservatives PAC fully-funded two new PACs – “Citizens for Progress” and “All Citizens for Mississippi.” These two new organizations funded the despicable race-baiting ads that ran on state radio, the flyers appearing on car windshields in strategic locations, and robocalls heard across the state. And even Greg Brand himself was fingered as the man who purchased the infamous “Klan ad” that tried to tie McDaniel to the KKK.
FEC filings prove that Citizens for Progress was the recipient of $44,000 from the Mississippi Conservatives PAC. Running the Citizens for Progress PAC was Atlanta-based operative Mitzi Bickers, hired specifically by the Barbour-backed Mississippi Conservatives PAC to produce the race-baiting robocalls against McDaniel.
Bickers has been back in state news lately because of the scandals surrounding Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, where it is alleged that Bickers’ operation hired strippers for sex parties involving Yarber. Perry wrote a column last month discussing the “major league scandals” but interestingly never mentioned Bickers by name, only using the benign “Atlanta fundraiser” moniker. Why? Because he knows that his sleazy operation was tied to Bickers.
The other PAC, All Citizens for Mississippi, received $145,000 from Mississippi Conservatives. It was headed up by Bishop Ronnie Crudup, it was unethically headquartered out of the New Horizon Church International, a church that enjoys tax-exempt status from the IRS, which, according to one expert, “are not allowed to be involved in super PACs.” Located in a strip mall in Jackson, a reporter for the Jackson Free Press paid a visit and “found a white sheet of printer paper taped on a door in the complex, reading, ‘ALL CITIZENS FOR MISSISSIPPI SUITE 600.’ New Horizon’s name and logo span across the front of the building strip.”
Throughout the campaign, Crudup’s PAC never registered with the FEC, nor filed any reports on contributions or expenditures, all in clear violation of FEC regulations, and most likely state laws as well. Only after Crudup returned from a trip to Africa, months after the end of the race, did he finally get around to filing all of his paperwork. But no need to worry, he told Jimmie Gates of the Clarion Ledger, because everything “was legal, and none of it was unethical.”
Furthermore, many of the most vicious attacks against McDaniel came in the final days before the runoff vote on June 24, which also violates state law. Ads attacking a candidate’s character within 10 days of an election are illegal.
Yet amazingly, the now suddenly indignant Delbert Hosemann never investigated any of these outrageous campaign violations, not even to check for possible, and likely, state law violations. NOT. ONE. SINGLE. INQUIRY. Nor did he ever, AT ANY TIME, express any outrage or concern over the nature of the attacks. NEVER!
Perhaps there’s a reason for such aloofness on Hosemann’s part. He has salivated after Cochran’s Senate seat for years and, before Ole Thad decided to run for a seventh term, Hosemann was making plans to run himself, even against McDaniel in the primary should Thad step aside.
And to help his efforts, he sent one of his own employees from the Secretary of State’s office to research McDaniel’s voting records in Jones County, then, after being caught, tried to explain it away with lies and obfuscation, to which he was never called to account.
And, strangely enough, that same information, gleamed from McDaniel’s voting records, made it’s way into an anti-McDaniel, Pro-Cochran campaign ad. Imagine that!
So, in our present time frame, we have a recent prosecution for one anonymous mailer that mocked a Republican candidate for State Auditor, which Delbert Hosemann calls “destructive to the republic,” while Brian Perry characterizes it as not “good manners.”
Yet when illegal and unregistered organizations produce ads smearing a candidate as a racist and a friend of the KKK, not to mention funneling tens of thousands of dollars of unaccounted for cash rumored to be a massive vote-buying scheme, we hear not a peep. The silence was deafening, particularly from the very state office charged with upholding election laws.
No wonder the state of Mississippi is considered the most corrupt state and remains a national laughingstock with the sleaziest politics imaginable. Cleansing the state pigpen is a must. The sleaze, and the defenders of sleaze, should come to an end.