Hosemann is the official who will certify the election results, announce any unforeseen problems, and make general observations about turnout before the day is done. Recall that Hosemann cares so much about the integrity of our elections that he credits himself with the "success" of the implementation of Voter ID, although columnist Bill Minor cited a recent federal ruling that questions whether success in limiting access at the polls really means voter suppression.
|Photo Credit: AP|
Despite his rhetoric about preserving the integrity of Mississippi's elections, Secretary Hosemann's office seems to care very little about the overall integrity of Mississippi's political system. While grandstanding as a champion against (non-existent) in-person voter fraud, Hosemann has shown an astonishingly high tolerance for fraud perpetrated by elected officials once in office.
As this blog has shown, at least four leading lawmakers in Mississippi have embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from their campaign accounts on Hosemann's watch during Hosemann's current four-year term:
(i) Since 2011, Finance Chairman and State Senator Joey Fillingane embezzled from his campaign account approximately $26,000 for clothing, vehicle expenses, apartment expenses, and cell phone expenses, although Fillingane faced no opponent in 2011, faces only a general election opponent this year, and has a short drive to the capital, which is right next to his district.
(ii) Since 2011, Public Health and Welfare Chairman, Finance Vice-Chairman, and State Senator Dean Kirby embezzled from his campaign account $36,744.38 to purchase a vehicle and car insurance and $14,876.99 for fuel when his district adjoins the capital and he has faced no opponent in the last two elections. Since 2011, Kirby also embezzled from his campaign account an additional $32,059.70 on other items such as cell phone expenses, credit card bills, and furniture for a total of $68,804.08 in what appear to be embezzled funds documented in Kirby's own handwriting using Kirby's campaign account in the last four years.
(iii) Since 2011, Education Chairman and State Representative John Moore embezzled from his campaign account $9,300 for transportation costs in a non-election year (2013) and an additional $6,100 in 2012 for expenses that are illegally undesignated either as itemized disbursements or (exempt from disclosure due to aggregate amounts of less than $200) unitemized disbursements.
(iv) Since 2011, it had originally appeared that Rules Chairman and State Representative Mark Formby embezzled from his campaign account only $22,035.00 for a Jackson-area apartment. However, since I blew the whistle on Formby's 2012 annual campaign finance report in that blog, which was fraudulently submitted by Secretary Hosemann on Formby's behalf and showed only $0 spent and $0 cash on hand (a mathematical impossibility considering carryover's of cash on hand from previous years), a new amended report for 2012 has been uploaded by Secretary Hosemann with March 15, 2013 shown as the "filed date"--although the report was never uploaded until two and a half years later on August 24, 2015--disclosing Formby's Jackson-area apartment embezzlement total to be $29,778.17 since 2011 based on the newly disclosed $7,743.17 disbursement to Nejam Properties for 2012 (See series of screen shots below).
Secretary Hosemann's Incompetence or Complicity With Campaign Finance Fraud
A DHM post from last week helped to force Secretary Hosemann to do his job and upload the fraudulent 2012 annual report of Representative John Moore. Contrary to law, the report was unavailable online for 2 1/2 years, but exposure by DHM led Hosemann to upload it late, although he lied and said that it was uploaded when it was filed.
Lies to coverup his own incompetence or other candidates' campaign finance crimes are becoming an unbecoming pattern for the "champion of election integrity" Secretary Hosemann when it comes to late-filed campaign finance reports containing further evidence of fraud or crimes. It happened again this week after DHM published evidence that Hosemann actually filed Representative Mark Formby's 2012 report on Formby's behalf. That report showed a mathematically impossible $0 cash on hand when carryovers from previous years should have accounted for more than $50,000 if the balance was truly $0.
Lo and behold, again more than 2 1/2 years late, Hosemann's office uploaded an amended report a day after my blog post on the fraudulent and criminal omission by Representative Formby. Was it Formby's fault or Hosemann's fault? I'm going to credit Hosemann and Formby for this one, since Formby should have filed his own original report on time in the first place, rather than allow Hosemann to submit one on his behalf subject to later amendment.
But as for Hosemann and what is beginning to be a glaring blindspot in his competency as an elections official, the man has 110 people listed as staff on his website, with 15 devoted to technical issues, 10 devoted to regulation and enforcement, 4 devoted to research and policy, 6 devoted to administration, and 8 devoted to elections. Yet one blogger found two serious mistakes (Formby and Moore's missing 2012 reports) made by Hosemann and his 110 professional staffers in a matter of hours. I know you picture me in my mom's basement with a ponytail, a yellow-stained t-shirt, and a bowl of Chex Mix right now, but I'm way cooler than that.
The law is clear on the intent of campaign finance disclosure. People have a right to know who is spending money influencing their politicians, and people and law enforcement officials have a right to know how politicians spend their campaign money to protect against fraud, bribery, and all manner of abuse of power. That is why Secretary Hosemann has the enforcement mechanisms in his power--the ability to fine officials and start procedures to stop officials' salaries or even charge officials with misdemeanors and jail them for missing or incomplete campaign finance reports. Yet we see the opposite. Except for when you are on Hosemann's bad side such as was the case with Senator Sojourner in 2014 or the anti-establishment anonymous mailers this year against whom Hosemann is happy to enforce the law, Hosemann is reluctant to enforce the law. Instead, he has been complicit in its violation as has been the case with Formby and Moore.
And as the following screenshots will show, transparency matters. How many of Rep. Formby's voters, for instance, knew that he spent thousands using campaign reelection funds to travel and stay more than 600 miles away in Tampa, Florida during the 2012 presidential convention? What does a presidential convention have to do with reelection to represent people in Picayune? How many people who vote for Formby knew that this money was spent on such a frivolous campaign expense until this week when DHM embarrassed Secretary Hosemann into doing his job and uploading this report?
Plus, as the forgoing series of screenshots will show, the unavailability of Formby's report concealed many material facts related to his spending of campaign funds for personal expenses. There is, for instance, the matter of Formby spending $7,743,17 in 2012 on a Jackson-area apartment using campaign funds when his actual constituents live more than two hours away in the Picayune area. That brings the total apartment expense to an astonishing $29,778.17 since 2012.
I think Hosemann and Formby are probably both nice guys in person, but they are both facilitating the sale of Mississippi's democracy to the highest bidders. That is wrong, and someone needs to do something about it. Lobbyists are not supposed to pay politicians an extra salary. Taxpayers pay politicians' salaries in exchange for those politicians' loyalties to the taxpayers and children of their district. Is it any wonder that these same four lawmakers paying themselves extra out of campaign accounts are against fully funding education? Is it any wonder that they won't expand Medicaid to help the poor?
I wish the press and other public officials, including prosecutors and law enforcement, would jump into the fray on this campaign finance abuse in Mississippi and make it a real cause, rather than this lone voice in the internet wilderness.
If anything can be done to help Mississippi help itself, we need the right people steering the ship. Unfortunately, the four Chairmen named in this blog and the Secretary of State that oversees their abuses are not the right captains to steer the ship of Mississippi into a better future on health, finance, education, rules or any of the other committees or interests those chairman and lawmakers lead.