Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Confederacy of Homophobes… An Election Year of Unintended Consequences in Mississippi

Despite all of the political oxygen blowing in the direction of the confederate flag debate (and Mississippi's GOP leadership divided between House Speaker Philip Gunn's gutsy shot across the bow for reforming the flag and Governor Phil Bryant's yellow-bellied reliance on the outcome of a fifteen-year-old referendum in support of the flag), I'm thinking the big story will shift by the end of the week to recognition of rights for gay and lesbian couples to marry.

(The two issues of government-sanctioned racism and government-sanctioned homophobia are related, and the nexus is both States Rights as an ideology and the key individuals who ascribe to States Rights as a legal or governing philosophy. If you don't believe there is a connection between homophobic politics and racist politics in the Deep South, first read Tom Freeland's last blog before he passed away about Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justice trying to channel anti-Civil Rights reactionaries by issuing orders that defy the federal government on the issue of marriage equality. Then, just for fun, go back and read one of my first blog posts about how some of the very same chancery judges of modern-day Mississippi act as moral police on gay rights but cut their teeth by actively spying on Civil Rights activists or by sitting at the knee of those who did. By the way, an update is in order; all three chancery judges profiled in my 2013 piece were reelected the following year.)

Predictions For Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Fallout in Mississippi

By the end of this week, the Supreme Court is expected to find in favor of marriage equality -- or as some may describe it in a less sentimental way, homosexual parity with heterosexuals on the legal issue of marriage.

Semantics aside, the Supreme Court will likely find 6-3 in favor of a Constitutional right to marry between two consenting adults. I say 6-3, rather than 5-4 (with Kennedy almost certainly joining the liberal wing of the court), because I leave room for Chief Justice Roberts to concur with the majority but perhaps without a full-fledged recognition of a constitutional right to marriage equality from his very nuanced constitutional perspective. But what can we expect from conservative Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas on gay rights? Fuggedaboutit.

Make no mistake. Any decision in favor of marriage equality (whether 6-3 or 5-4) is a good thing for human rights and the moral leadership of the United States in the 21st Century.

On the other hand, this decision will challenge the system here in Mississippi and across the Deep South in ways that will lead to potentially disastrous and certainly embarrassing consequences.

First of all, it's an election year here in Mississippi, and the gay marriage decision may derail every campaign from Attorney General down to Circuit Clerks from their current tracks. And with the AG and Circuit Clerks having to weigh in on marriage equality, you can expect Governor Philbo to strike again as the grandstander in chief for all things regressive.

The 2015 elections may become a race to scoop up the low hanging fruit of hellfire conservative voters who are already mad at what they see as a radical Obama agenda and the godlessness of the Supreme Court.

Call this meta-narrative for Mississippi's 2015 campaigns an election ran under the "banners of tradition" (or the "banners of hatred" for you semantics fans). The twin banners under which the hardliners will be campaigning are of course both the preservation of the current state flag and the preservation of the current definition of hetero-exclusive marriage. These twin banners of tradition (or hate) have the election-year potential of absorbing all other worthy campaign issues, including the current hot topics of education, corruption, and Medicaid expansion.

After the high Court decision, I foresee three things:

1) Local Circuit Clerks will split. Some will discharge their duties faithfully by upholding the Constitution of the United States as per their oath. Others, out of election-year pandering or perhaps devout religious objection, will take it upon themselves to deny homosexual couples a marriage license. They will resort to all manner of dirty tricks to do this. Need a license? Oh, sorry, I'm going out to lunch. Be back never! This will create a crisis, as the media in Mississippi is bored as hell and really like stringing stories to the national media to kick their portfolios up a notch. I don't blame them. I like doing stuff like that too. But still, it will give every ambitious hick in every circuit clerk's office in the state way more publicity than they deserve.

2) De Facto party leaders of import, Democratic Attorney General Hood and Republican Governor Phil Bryant, will have to do something or at least say something in reaction to the Supreme Court decision, whether because of the Circuit Clerk crisis or because of pure election year politics. I have a couple thoughts on Hood and Bryant, although others may also try to jump into the scrum over gay marriage in an election year.

Hood will issue an advisory opinion to some circuit clerk either telling them to do their damn job, regardless of how yucky it is, or perhaps…. knowing Hood's populism and his conservative credentials, the Democrat may tell the clerks that denying licenses is the right thing to do, because, well, states rights, election year, blah blah blah. Mike Hurst, Jim Hood's Republican opponent, just may push him into a corner on this issue. But the issue is more delicate than either probably realizes. If you go too far on a red meat issue like this, you will alienate some of the more enlightened voters that helped defeat that crazy personhood amendment in 2011.

Like AG Hood, Phil Bryant has a choice. He can either grandstand and use this opportunity to score massive political points as standard-bearer in this state for the twin banners of tradition (pro-flag and anti-fag, if we're being as un-PC as your Uncle Jimbo's Facebook posts), or he can act in ways that would make Dixiecratic Governors of yesteryear proud.

Bryant just may be crazy enough to call a special session to enact all manner of interposition legislation. He may do this solely to please certain legislative candidates who want to embarrass Democrats or steer the campaign into this rabbit hole as opposed to running on their records. There are all sorts of ancillary issues to marriage like individual access to state benefits based upon marriage, and many homophobic politicians will derive great joy from denying such benefits even if marriage has already been decided for them.

Or Bryant may take a middle road approach (or what passes for middle road in the Deep South) and call a couple statewide government holidays to appease those who sympathize with the Circuit Clerks who don't want to do their jobs registering gay couples to marry. This will allow Bryant to speechify and show he doesn't approve of womenfolk kissing each other, while it will not do as much potential damage to the state's national image or his legacy as a special gay-bashing session would.

3) 2015 Legislative candidates may lose their way if the narrative shifts like I think it will when Circuit Clerks, the AG candidates, and the Governor all weigh in on gay marriage. Like I mentioned, there is a high likelihood that the old bugbears of the Fox News-manufactured culture war may distract from the real issues.

The real issues include whether children should receive an adequate education, whether more people should have access to medical care, and whether our government gives too much money to crony corporations and too much power to crooked lobbyists.

To me, legislative candidates losing their focus may be the saddest potential election year unintended consequence from the marriage equality decision to be handed down this month. The legislative candidates out there on the trail are having a real debate right now about important things. If they get sidetracked by campaigning as "pro-flag and anti-fag," it will be a huge disservice to Mississippians from all walks of life.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


UPDATE: How about a hint on what the countdown is for? 

Well I'm working on a piece of writing of broader interest than the narrow federal election topics I usually cover. It should be of interest to the political crowd at Neshoba, which makes it a well timed surprise for this summer, I hope.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

William Faulkner's Words of Wisdom for #MS01 (And Other Election-Day Last Words)

Despite the lethal hardware brandished by Trent Kelly in the combat picture shown below, there has been little "shock and awe" in the Special Congressional Election to replace the late Congressman Alan Nunnelee.

A few committees and clubs hosted some entertaining public forums, but even the clown car antics of third tier candidates like Sam Adcock (the lawyer slayer) got repetitive.

A smutty novel penned by a potential frontrunner surfaced, but alas Purple Church was not enough to erect the average #MS01 voter with a Cialis prescription, nor was the erotic story enough to elect an emergency room physician with the power to write such a scrip for Cialis but apparently little power to write much else.

The most effective campaigners who survived to make it to the runoff (Trent Kelly & Walter Zinn) did so in the old fashioned, boring way. Prior to May 12th, they both ran relatively low-budget campaigns and pounded the pavement with volunteers.

After May 12th, the runoff consisted of more of the same. Although the Republican Kelly saw his fundraising numbers soar as he advanced to the runoff in this predictably red district, something was still more important than television ads. The more important thing seemed to be a mad scramble by both candidates to bend the narrative away from national talking points, discuss their personal biographies, and earn lots of free media. The Democratic candidate Zinn seemed to have the edge in terms of earning free media, which is not surprising given his career as a political strategist.

Where is the Shock and Awe in #MS01?

All of that is well and fine, but it amounts to lots of boring inside baseball stuff and no shock and awe like we saw in the 2014 United States Senate Race, right? I mean, aside from campaign finance laws, no one in #MS01 broke any laws. No one this year was arrested, which happened multiple times in 2014 during #photogate and could have happened, arguably, in the infamous Hinds Courthouse incident as well as in Chuck Johnson's false reporting of vote buying.

No one was accused of having an affair this time, as both Cochran and McDaniel were both so accused in 2014. Also thankfully, no one died this time. We all unfortunately remember the tragedy of 2014 wherein one operative committed suicide following his arrest and charges associated with disrupting the peace for Rose Cochran in her own final months of life.

Finally, no candidates or inner circle staffers in #MS01 had a public emotional meltdown, which happened over and over in 2014 thanks to memorable performances by Melanie Sojourner, Noel Fritsch, and Chris McDaniel.

I'm kind of glad there was no shock and awe this time.

William Faulkner's Old Verities and Truths of the Heart

We all love a good show, but isn't democracy supposed to be a process of reason and personal connection as we winnow down the candidate field to those most suited to serve the greater good of our family, state, or nation? All of us have gut reactions -- or William Faulkner would say glandular reactions -- to certain "shock and awe" candidates and their bombastic messages. Think Starner Jones' welfare-baiting commercials and Sam Adcock's "I hate lawyers"political platform.

But what about the "old verities and truths of the heart" emphasized by the earlier #MS01-dwelling characters in William Faulkner's North Mississippi, his fictional county of Yoknapatawpha?

Instead of searching for shock and awe in the democratic process, shouldn't we insist on "love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice?"

Lacking these old verities and truths, William Faulkner in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech suggested "any story is ephemeral and doomed." And I think it would be safe to add an addendum to that: Without insisting on men or women of character and courage serving in government, any democracy is also ephemeral and doomed.

Both Walter Zinn and Trent Kelly, like so many who came before, claim they seek to be the "voice" of North Mississippi. Faulkner's advice to poets during his Nobel Prize winning speech is especially relevant to both candidates then. Replace poet in Faulkner's speech with congressman, and the winner of tonight's special election runoff should read Faulkner's words uttered more than a half-century ago as a kind of sacred charge:

"The [congressman's] duty" and "his privilege" is to "help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice… The [congressman's] voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."

Obviously, I replaced "poet" with "congressman" in these excerpts from Faulkner's famous speech, but you get the idea.

The Past is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past.

When considering the choice #MS01 voters are left with making today, it occurs to me that another oft-quoted phrase from Faulkner's Requiem For Nun may be pertinent: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

I think Zinn and Kelly both bring something good to the table. They both know their history. And although their policy aims rarely overlap, both Zinn and Kelly are exceptionally smart and strategic in thinking about how history informs the present.

During a Tupelo forum, of all the 13 candidates to respond to a question about which presidential leaders they would honor with a reconstruction of Mount Rushmore, Zinn and Kelly were the only two candidates with both thoughtful and historically-grounded answers.

A few of the Tea Party candidates had historically-grounded answers, but these answers were not that thoughtful, especially since there is a cottage industry devoted to churning out "Constitutionalist" history-by-the-numbers nonsense. We all know Glenn Beck has lots of ideas for sale in books in which he tells us which presidents to put on a reconstruction of Mount Rushmore, but candidates should still think for themselves and not just read these stale old Tea Leaves brewed by Glenn Beck.

Zinn's answer to the Mount Rushmore question was thoughtful in that he chose not just the obvious progressive presidencies of FDR and Barack Obama as the kind of leadership he admires. Zinn also gave some surprising credit to Richard Nixon as a president with a legacy of investing in the future of America in various ways. Although I would not agree with placing the felonious and polarizing Nixon on a national monument, I respected Zinn's fresh perspective and his deeper understanding of history. Zinn demonstrated that he knew enough about history at the forum to correct lesser informed candidates like Sam Adcock on a few points.

Like Zinn, Kelly's answer to the Mount Rushmore question during that Tupelo forum also showed a better grasp of the nation's heritage (and the implied public trust from that heritage) worthy of the office he seeks.

Playing to his own strengths, Kelly chose four wartime presidents that he would honor with a place on a new Mount Rushmore. Like Zinn, however, Kelly chose one surprise: Thomas Jefferson. Most people do not even know Thomas Jefferson was a wartime president, but Kelly was very familiar with Jefferson's legacy in fighting the Barbary Wars to protect American trade interests against North African pirates threatening and attacking American merchant vessels. These pirates, similar to some modern-day terrorist outfits, would enslave and ransom the Americans and others they captured.

This depth of knowledge is especially not surprising coming from Kelly, since he has not only a law degree but a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As demonstrated by his answer to the Mount Rushmore question, Trent Kelly knows who America's enemies are, but I also hope that Kelly understands from his own combat tours as a Colonel in the Mississippi Army National Guard that American blood and treasure are resources that American politicians should not expend unless absolutely necessary.

DHM's Last Words and Predictions for #MS01 

Unlike other blogs and editorial boards, I am not endorsing in #MS01. I will only say that, while neither is perfect and while I have criticized both, I think both Zinn and Kelly would make fine congressmen.

Although I will not endorse, I'll do something even more foolhardy and make a shoot-from-the-hip prediction.

Tonight the results will be something close to this…

Vote Total: 58,000 votes

Kelly: 35,000 votes (60%)

Zinn: 23,000 votes (40%)

I'll wait and see, but I bet I'm within 3,000 votes and within 2 percentage points all around.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pontotoc's Prodigal Sons: Dem. Walter Zinn "Went Rogue" On His #MS01 Client Starner Jones

Most thought the second phase of the #MS01 Special Election culminating in the June 2nd runoff was going to be boring. In a conservative district, the #MS01 conclusion seems to be an all but inevitable victory for the Republican prosecutor and war veteran (Trent Kelly) against the only other candidate left (Walter Howard Zinn, Jr.), a progressive Democrat with a strictly political resume.

Because it was not worth the blood and treasure to really fight this runoff to the end as a possible 2015 statewide election-year proxy war between Education-minded Democrats and Business-ended Republicans, the Democrat was supposed to go down fighting the good fight against the last Republican standing, and then both sides were supposed to shake hands and go home.

But then, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, a great movie with more than one connection to Mississippi's First Congressional District, "Zinn happens." 

Or, if Zinn is not to be blamed for the latest twist in this story (read on for the twist), you could say that Starner happened… again. Either way, some weird stuff has gone down a couple times now in this special election cycle, and that pungent smell throughout the campaign seems to primarily originate from Pontotoc County.

Pontotoc County had two prodigal sons return to the First Congressional District in time to run in the Special Election on May 12th: Republican Starner Jones "moved" his residency back to Pontotoc County from Memphis where he still works as an emergency room physician; and Democrat Attorney Walter Howard Zinn, Jr. returned to his native Pontotoc County after working as a political consultant and policy aide to Democratic mayors in Jackson, Mississippi.

It would be difficult to imagine two more different candidates among those running in the May 12th Special Election. Their home county is about the only thing Zinn and Jones share. Zinn is African American and epitomizes the well-dressed, cosmopolitan candidate with wonkish knowledge of the issues, a set of traits that fit the cliche for which some Democrats are derogatorily labeled "latte liberals." On the other hand, Starner Jones is "a white guy's white guy" who shows up for political events in his doctor's coat and oozes both awkwardness and Tea Party anti-intellectualism. 

So that's why I was shocked to read rumors over the holiday weekend that Walter Zinn started out in this same Special Election as a political consultant for Starner Jones. The consultant went rogue and became a candidate himself, the rumors suggested. I was even more shocked when the rumors were confirmed by more than one source, including (to some degree) Zinn himself.

Democrat Walter Howard Zinn, Jr. Hired To Consult For Tea Bagger Campaign of Dr. Starner Jones?

My initial source for reports that Zinn worked for Starner Jones was a Tweet from Grant Fox, an attorney, Trent Kelly supporter, and political consultant at Hill Country Strategies

Fox, no stranger to North Mississippi politics (as he made it to the runoff in a Special Election in 1994 for the same congressional seat that Zinn is now running for), Tweeted in the standard form for lawyerly plausible deniability when sharing political scuttlebutt: an interest-piquing question.

After reading Fox's Tweet, I probed sources, including asking Fox himself if the question was anything more than a rumor posed as a question. 

I then confirmed from those sources that Zinn had, in fact, worked for Jones. Just as Fox initially reported it, sources detailed that Zinn worked about three weeks for Jones' congressional campaign. According to these reports, Zinn only quit the Starner Jones campaign because of some payment dispute. 

After reading these reports, I saw that Zinn himself provided a confirmation of sorts that admits little but denies nothing in response to Fox's Tweet.

So…. The reports combined with Zinn's own "sort-of-confirmation" brings to mind several questions that Zinn should answer, if he wants to avoid any deterioration to his political and/or consulting brand in this part of the state. 

1. Business is business, but did Zinn really work as a paid consultant for three weeks to deliver the district he now claims to care so much about to the arch-Tea Bagger anti-poor candidacy of Starner Jones (a rapey fiction author, mocker of the poor, and arguably the worst candidate in #MS01 from both a moral standpoint and a progressive policy standpoint)? 

2. For which "candidates" was Zinn consulting in #MS01? Zinn seemed to suggest in his response that Starner Jones was a candidate for whom Zinn consulted, but making the statement plural he unequivocally suggests there was more than one #MS01 candidate for whom he worked. And for each of these candidates, what exactly was Zinn doing? Political messaging consulting? Get out the vote consulting? African American demographic micro-targeting consulting?  

3. What about the potential ethical problems of Zinn directly competing against a former consulting client? And if Zinn really quit and then ran against Jones because of a payment dispute rather than an ideological dispute with the Jones campaign, does that circumstance suggest even more of a lack of integrity? 

4. What about the political problems of not sharing Zinn's dual role as a consultant-turned-candidate with #MS01 voters prior to the May 12th election? Does that show a lack of candor? 

5.  Why is Zinn's financial disclosure statement so barebones? As the screenshots below show, Zinn lists his income only as a cryptic disclosure of "consulting" for Jackson political candidates. Decidedly missing from his report is any income whatsoever for the reporting period from January 1st of 2015 through April 10th. This failure to list his consulting income for #MS01 suggests again a lack of candor  (and even a lack of honesty) by Zinn. 

Some will argue that I should not write this damaging post about a candidate that at the end of the day may believe in a better healthcare and education system for North Mississippians -- or at least a candidate who grandstands about a more progressive vision than his Republican opponent. 

Those critics have a point. But it's not my intent to hurt Zinn or help Kelly. My intent is for Mississippians to have better public servants in Washington. As a political consultant who helped Starner Jones and then competed directly against Jones when (reports suggest) he became upset about a payment issue, who does Zinn even serve? Who does Zinn serve when he won't even list his sources of income in a candid manner on his financial disclosure statements? 

And who does Zinn serve when he is burning bridges with the National Democratic Party because they refused to exhaust a lot of resources in a deep-red district? I ask that last question, because I noticed that Zinn seems to be going rogue not only on his former clients but also on his own political party (as the screenshots below of Zinn's Tweet from a few days ago show). 

This is not the sort of campaign I had hoped Zinn would run. Even if he lost, I wanted him to speak truth to power. But his secretive conduct throughout the campaign now suggests he is not speaking truth to anyone. If anything, Zinn is not speaking truth to power but is only seeking money from power. 

I think most voters would agree that it is fine to work for candidates of another political party if you are a political strategist, but I suspect those same voters will agree that working for candidates and then running against those same candidates just weeks later is not ok, regardless of how much we all love freedom, free speech, capitalism, apple pie, and the Fourth of July. 

Democrats knew this was not going to be the happiest election when power players with Name ID, good reputations, and the right mixture of populist and progressive politics decided not to run. (Looking at you, Brandon Presley.)

But with yet another congressional candidate disappointing Democrats for the second year in a row in #MS01 thanks to a lack of candor (remember in 2014 when Democrat Ron Dickey lied about his service record and lost the state party's support?), Democrats will have to count their blessings and move forward. 

At least the Mississippi House of Representatives is in play this year, and there will be a chance to run a candidate with clearer intentions and more candor against Trent Kelly in 2016. But as an incumbent, Kelly will be twice as hard to beat by that point. Still, #MS01 voters deserve a real choice in every election, and the people of Mississippi deserve a two-party system that is as robust as the system is in swing states like Colorado and Ohio. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nostra-Dark Horse? Which Predictions About #MS01 Came True?

While reflecting last night on the #MS01 election returns (posted here as grand totals for all of #MS01 and here in county-by-county tabulations), I realized I predicted the likely pluralities/winners in 18 out of 22 counties.

Uploaded below is the #MS01 "battlefield" projection map I published on April 20th, followed by a map using the same key to represent the actual plurality winners on May 12th in each county. Notice that the only wrongly predicted counties were Calhoun, Tippah, Tate, and Lafayette. 18 out of 22 ain't bad!

I know self-promotion is supposed to be bad form, but I'm not claiming credit for some Nate Silver-like algorithm that I can sell to anyone. I just made educated guesses. But rather than just shooting from the hip based on fundraising as some national observers seemed to do, I am someone familiar with these candidates, knowledgeable of individual county demographics, and experienced in observing several North Mississippi federal election cycles -- one of which, the 2014 midterms, I used as a model for the projection map I made below.

Nostra-Dark Horse? DHM Prediction map depicted above was published on April 20th, 3 weeks before the #MS01 election on May 12th. It turns out the map accurately predicts 18 of 22 counties. The avatars represent projected plurality winners in each county (some of which I admittedly hedged my bets).

Map depicting #MS01 May 12th election plurality winners in each of the 22 counties.

Here's where it gets more interesting…

In another post from April 16th (this one almost a month before the election), I accurately predicted within 3 points the percentage of the vote share for every single #MS01 candidate EXCEPT Walter Zinn Jr. (I was 7 points off for Zinn who ended up winning 17% of the vote. I admit I seriously underestimated Zinn's ability to get the word out to his Democratic base when the ballot lacked party identification.)

Disclaimer: The methodology of that April 16th post gave me some wiggle room. I gave each candidate that I considered second or third tier a five-point range (0% - 5% for third tier and 5% - 10% for second tier). Then I gave the two candidates I considered top tier, Trent Kelly and Mike Tagert, a projected ten-point range for their vote share (10%-20%). Like many of the tier projections, that range turned out to be right for Kelly and Tagert.

While handicapping the race in this sliding scale of tiers makes my prediction seem less prescient, consider this: The tier system that I used actually held up for all 13 of the candidates. As I predicted would happen, candidates only moved up one tier (e.g., Pirkle & Jones from 3rd tier at 0-5% to 2nd tier at 5-10%; and Zinn from 2nd tier at 5-10% to 1st tier at 10-20%) or down one tier (e.g., Whitwell and Sparks from 2nd tier at 5-10% to 3rd tier at 0-5%).

However, as my blog post predicted on April 16th, no one shifted two tiers up or down, and I accurately predicted the exact tier-range outcomes for 8 out of 13 candidates. For four out of five of the aforementioned candidates I initially placed in the wrong tier (Pirkle, Jones, Sparks, and Whitwell), they may have finished one tier off, but they only moved 3 percentage points or less outside of their projected tiers. Zinn at 7 points out of range was an outlier.

And while all of that may be interesting "inside baseball" for the few readers who give a shit about election minutia, here's where it gets kind of weird.

I predicted the exact election outcome for my favorite candidate, profane fiction author Dr. Starner Jones. The Tweet below was from the day before the election.

Jones ended up with exactly what he needed to garner between 8% and 9% of the vote.

I wasn't right about everything, but it's my blog so I can pretend I was. A couple of the other Tweets that turned out to be accurate predictions are shared below.

So all of those Tweets were right on the money too. No one was a clear winner in DeSoto, though Tagert got a weak plurality as I predicted on my map. Mills won a plurality in Itawamba handily as I said he would. Ross and Sparks, two extreme underdogs, won pluralities as favorite sons in their home counties. As predicted, Starner Jones lost his home county (probably because of that whole porn thing that was published a week before the election).

And Quentin Whitwell, the man without a county (who claims to be a resident of several counties), came in second in Lafayette (just as my Tweet, above, predicted), but he was 12th out of 13 in his overall vote share (nowhere near top three in the district, just as the Tweet predicted).

The sad thing is that many of the biggest losers of the night spent a lot of their own money. Looks like I could have saved several of the candidates (10 out of 13) a lot of time, effort, and money if they had just listened.

Many people getting paid big bucks got this election wrong. I'd be more humble about my predictions except I don't get paid to follow politics. Ego-cookies are all the renumeration anonymous bloggers can hope for.

So the big lesson for candidates is this: an anonymous blogger is probably better at predicting than your paid consultants and pollsters are, and money can't buy you love. Cue the Beatles!

#MS01: Resolving Those Lingering Questions About Purple Church in the May 12th Election Aftermath

Despite spending a ton of money bashing poor people, I doubt the 5th place finisher in the May 12th #MS01 election, Dr. Starner Jones, rides off into the sunset as he should in a "welfare wagon" (grocery cart) pushed by a Simpson's character

Because we will never see that kind of poetic Dickensian ending, I'm here as the faceless narrator of #MS01 to answer a handful of unanswered questions about Purple Church and its infamous author. These are questions I would have been prepared to answer with deviant glee mixed with civic duty had Dr. Jones made the runoff, but now I only answer these out of a storyteller's duty to complete the arc. 

We have seen Act II where Starner Jones rose to the front of the pack in #MS01 through a much-heralded Herman Cain endorsement, non-stop advertising in North Mississippi, and unsourced poll hype. And of course we've seen Act III where Jones's vote share fell to 8% after being thoroughly embarrassed for his "rapey" fiction.

What we haven't seen is the beginning of this story. So let's answer a few of those burning questions readers may have when it comes to the origins of the Purple Church controversy:

1. First and foremost, who actually read the this tripe from an "author" that Governor Barbour naively called "one of the freshest voices I've read in years" (after Barbour almost certainly failed to read the book)?

Well, one lady definitely read it! The below-embedded video from WREG (Memphis News) is my source. In this clip, a male anchor and female anchor interview Starner Jones about Purple Church, the novel that recently made Mr. Jones politically infamous as a Tea Party candidate moonlighting as a rapey fiction author

Hilariously, the lady of the morning news duo said to Jones of her experience in reading Purple Church: "I'm not going to get a lot of work done today because I've got to go home and finish. It really started strong."

Then, both anchors compared Jones to John Grisham and requested his autograph. 

Small wonder the guy thought he had a shot at Congress when a governor, a U.S. senator and the Memphis media are blowing smoke up his ass! Not to mention his patient-bashing letter going viral and echoing for years on Facebook…

2. Where did Jones come up with this story? Upon whom is it based?

In the same Memphis interview, embedded below, Jones admits the story is "autobiographical" with the fictional Brother Jimmy being inspired by his own experiences. 

The rape scene, however, was based on Emergency Room victims' stories. Yuck. The general counsel attorneys for the hospitals where Jones has worked must be scratching their heads over all of the HIPAA risks this guys' mouth and pen have caused between the viral letter and the noxious novels. Yes novels. Jones said in the interview a sequel was in the works.

Anyway, I'm through talking about the good doctor. I wish him the best. I just thought readers should know the answers to these two questions in case he pops up again...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Follow the $$$: #MS01 Candidates Involved in Incompetent Messups, Criminal Coverups, and Making Big Bucks

A few bad boys in tomorrow's Special Congressional Election for the First District of Mississippi failed to file a Financial Disclosure Statement: Sam Adcock, Dr. Ed Holliday, Henry Ross, Daniel Sparks, and Quentin Whitwell. (A concerned citizen tipped me off to this issue today and provided a link to a searchable database for congressional candidates' Financial Dislcosure Statements.)

Unusual Suspects? Left to Right: Ed Holliday, Daniel Sparks, Sam Adcock, Henry Ross, and Quentin Whitwell broke federal law by failing to file Financial Disclosure Statements in #MS01

According to Federal law (5 USCS Appx Section 101, Subsection (c)), candidates for Congress must file a Financial Disclosure Statement detailing their sources of income, their assets, and their debts within 30 days of becoming a candidate (or "in no event later than 30 days before the election.") Candidates failing to file these statements may face penalties, including a civil fine.

In other words, the required Financial Disclosure Statements are now at least 29 days late for Adcock, Holliday, Ross, Sparks, and Whitwell.

Incompetent Messups 

As first-time candidates with limited campaign funding, Holliday's and Sparks' failures to file financial disclosure statements may be explained as mere incompetence based on their amateurish campaign operations.

Full disclosure: I also like these two. They seem like good dudes, although I may not agree with most of what they say.

Criminal Coverups? 

I'm more hesitant to forgive Adcock, Ross, and Whitwell. I don't believe for a moment that these three simply forgot or simply didn't know about the filing requirements.

Ross ran as a Tea Party candidate for Congress in 2012. If that wasn't enough, the Tea Partier has made his living serving in both the federal and local government as a federal judge's clerk, a Navy JAG Officer, a Justice Department lawyer, and as Mayor of Europa.

As a perennial government employee and as a lawyer to boot, Ross ought to have more regard for federal law. But I guess as a crazy Tea Party guy, we can assume his failure to file a financial disclosure statement is based on some small-government privacy principle or some such pretext (i.e. bullshit)?

But look at Sam Adcock. This guy worked for U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott as his Legislative Director and as his security policy advisor. And Adcock's campaign has lots of cash ($250K+), some of it self-funded ($120K) presumably based on his willingness to take his federal defense contract fortune (via Airbus in Columbus) and parlay his connections and federal money through the revolving lobbyist door back to a seat in Congress where he can steer more money through federal contracts.

Lastly among the potential criminal coverups, there's Quentin Whitwell. This guy raised more than six figures for his congressional campaign, just like Adcock. And like Ross, he has also been in government as a Jackson City Council member less than a year ago. Both his sophisticated level of fundraising and his previous political experience imply malfeasance in his failure to file Financial Disclosure Statements as opposed to nonfeasance.

Of the five who failed to file their financial disclosure statements, Quentin Whitwell (as a candidate with upper tier fundraising and previous government experience) is the "Keyser Soze" (the guilty guy, e.g., Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects) among these five candidates.

Whitwell claims to be a top tier candidate. Well he should act like one. Mike Tagert, Trent Kelly, Boyce Adams, Starner Jones, Nancy Collins, Greg Pirkle, and Walter Zinn (all potential frontrunners tomorrow to a greater or lesser degree, according to most #MS01 prognosticators) remembered to file their Financial Disclosure Statements. Why did Whitwell fail to do so? I refuse to believe he didn't know. His dad was US Attorney under President Reagan for crying out loud.

Making Big Bucks

According to Greg Pirkle's Financial Disclosure Statement, which you can search for at this link by first clicking on "Search for Candidate" at this link and choosing Mississippi/2015, the dark horse candidate who raised a ton of money in #MS01 (almost half of a million dollars) is also a very wealthy man.

My eyes started to glaze over after reading the list of Pirkle's investment accounts (he is an estate and tax lawyer after all and should know a thing or two about complex financial instruments), but one particular figure stands out. On top of all of his capital gains, which you can review yourself at the aforementioned link, Pirkle makes about a half million dollars per year as a law partner at Phelps Dunbar, as the embedded image below shows.

I actually think Pirkle's ability to make big bucks weighs in his favor. He clearly knows how to handle his business, and that suggests that he would be competent at handling the financial business of #MS01. I still think his candidacy lacks a sufficient policy platform though. You can't run a winning campaign based on charming ads about your weird name and your nebulous outsider status.

Not much else is interesting among the candidates who filed their Financial Disclosure Statements from what I can tell, although I haven't had much time to scour them. Here's a rough summary:

Boyce Adams made hundreds of thousands of dollars through bonuses and income in his father's BankTEL business. No surprise there.

Likewise, Nancy Collins is already wealthy -- not through her paltry state salary as a state senator but through a bunch of family assets (a bunch of accounts that make my eyes glaze over as was the case with Pirkle).

Starner Jones is surprisingly not as rich as his obscene level of campaign spending suggests.

Surprisingly, the two frontrunners Mike Tagert and Trent Kelly both have modest incomes and assets.

Walter Zinn, if elected, would probably have the best paying job he's ever had. He seems to have no income at all at the moment, except as a "consultant."

And Chip Mills is no millionaire, but he has the comfortable assets and good income of any competent small-town lawyer after their fifth or sixth year.