It all started with a story in the Bloomberg News outlining in glorious detail how Barbour's friends and family have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane related business. His former lobbying firm, which still makes payments to him, has represented four clients with business related to the recovery - not to mention casinos and tobacco companies. His nephew doubled his lobbying fees after Barbour appointed him to a special reconstruction panel. Another nephew's wife owned a company that managed FEMA trailers and is now being investigated by the FBI.
This article caused a major uproar. This is not some lefty blog or Democratic press release. Bloomberg is the largest financial news and data company in the whole wide world. It was founded by Michael Bloomberg, now the Republican Mayor of New York City, and it made him a gazillionaire. It has grown into a global financial news empire, including television, radio, Internet, and publications.
Shortly thereafter, Bloomberg News ran another article about Barbour's so called "blind trust". Barbour said he had severed ties to his former lobbying firm, but Bloomberg somehow got a copy of the trust, which says he still had a stake in the company worth $786,000 PLUS pension ($300,000 a year) and profit sharing. Barbour says his trust is legal in Mississippi. Yeah, but, as Bloomberg points out, Mississippi laws are ridiculous and require no disclosure. Barbour refuses to disclose his finances.
The website of the national magazine The Atlantic had a further article, recommending the author of the Bloomberg articles for a Pulitzer Prize. It states that:
"...there is already enough in the public domain to show that Governor Barbour knew that he had an ongoing stake in the work of his former lobbying firm."
The article also mentions a prior ethical lapse by Barbour, when he was Chairman of the National Republican Party. In 1993, he set up a not for profit organization called the National Policy Form, which was theoretically a think tank. However, in reality it was used as a vehicle for funneling foreign money into Republican campaigns. The IRS eventually shut down this boondoggle, ruling it was a subsidiary of the Republican Party and not a nonprofit group.
Conservative columnist David Brooks lambasted this and other corruption of the conservative Washington establishment in a column entitled "The Masters of Sleaze." He talks about the infamous convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but points out "Abramoff didn't do it on his own. It took a village." The village consisted of what he called the "sleazo-cons" - "people who, having read Barry Goldwater's 'Conscience of a Conservative', embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part." These were Barbour's buddies in Washington.
Then another national magazine, The New Republic, comes out with an article entitled "Barbourism: The K Street Evil Genius Who Took Over Mississippi". WOW - powerful stuff! This article sets out in detail how Barbour took the "K Street Project" he helped create in Washington and recreated it in Mississippi - and it's scary! The Washington K Street Project led to the conviction of Lobbyist Jack Abramhoff, the resignation of Majority Leader Tom Delay, etc. The American People eventually became disgusted with the corrupt Republican Party and voted Democrats into power in Washington.
And this corruption has come to Mississippi? Yep! Here's one example:
"After his election in 2003, Henry and Austin Barbour (Haley's nephews) joined Capitol Resources, a lobbying firm just steps from the governor's mansion--much like Barbour Griffith & Rogers overlooks Capitol Hill. The firm shares a number of BG&R's clients, including Northrop Grumman and Lorillard Tobacco Company. Most lobbying shops in Jackson are small, single-person firms, which, while business-friendly, have rarely dominated the legislature the way that Capitol Resources has, with its 15-strong battalion. 'They made a habit of going after other lobbyists' clients, saying, "If you want anything done in the Mississippi legislature, you better hire us,"' says one Democratic legislator."
And how does it work? Here's one small detail. Barbour vigorously opposed the cutting of the grocery tax and making up for it with an increase in the tobacco tax. Last year, he vetoed it. But this year:
"...the bills died at the hands of Senate finance committee chairman Tommy Robertson. Oddly, Robertson had been a vocal advocate of previous tax-swap bills. Earlier this year, however, he and two other Republican legislators--who, in their day jobs, are lawyers--had received a $1.2 million contract from the Mississippi Development Authority, which is overseen by the governor, to help homeowners finalize their Katrina grants."The national and state media just took off on this story, and it's still out there. Do you know what most commentators say? "Those Mississippians believe all that BS that Barbour is feeding them. He'll win in a landslide."
Maybe not. Tommy Robertson, who killed the tax swap bill, was defeated in the Primary, in spite of Barbour campaigning for him. Insurance Commissioner George Dale, who sold out the victims of Katrina to the insurance companies, also lost in the primary. I'm not sure Mississippians are quite as dumb as those Yankees think we are.