Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Delbert Hosemann's Blindspot: Missing & Incomplete Campaign Finance Reports Are Covering Up the Sale of Mississippi's Politicians

Since today is primary runoff Tuesday, we'll hear some high-minded pronouncements from Mississippi's election watchdog, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

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.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rules Chairman Breaking the Rules? Rep. Mark Formby is Corrupt from the Roof Over His Head to the Boots on His Feet, & Delbert Hosemann May Be the Racketeer Puppeteer of Corrupt Embezzlers, Double Billers, & Tax Evaders in Mississippi's Statehouse

Mississippi State Representative Mark Formby joins a growing lineup of statehouse politicians caught embezzling money from their own campaign accounts. A former legislative assistant to ex-United States Senator Trent Lott, Formby became a state legislator more than two decades ago in 1993.

While Formby's critics admit that he seems to be a nice guy, a nice guy is not the same thing as a good public servant. As the evidence will prove in Part I of this post, Representative Mark Formby is effectively selling his office by paying himself an under-the-table salary from the lobbyist donations in his campaign account. As the evidence will also suggest in Part II of this post, in at least one instance, Mr. Formby appears to have conspired with Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to skirt the most fundamental of campaign finance reporting requirements: submitting an annual report for the year 2012.

Representative Mark Formby: Even critics say he is a nice guy, but should the Rules Chairman be allowed to break campaign finance rules, fail to report contributions and expenses, and enrich himself from the roof over his head to the boots on his feet?

Plotting Representative Formby's corruption: This chart shows a correlation from 2009 to 2014 between aggregate annual contributions from one-day lobbyist fundraisers for Rep. Formby's campaign account (green line) and aggregate annual apartment expenses paid from Rep. Formby's campaign account (red line).

Part I: Statehouse Corruption from Roof to Boots

Since 2013, Representative Formby has spent at least a total of $22,035.00 from his campaign account on a Jackson-area apartment. The roof over Rep. Formby's head, according to his own campaign finance reports, leases for $705.00 per month, which makes it likely that Formby is leasing a 2-bedroom apartment listed for $705 per month, according to the property manager's website.

The property manager, Nejam Properties, is identified on Formby's campaign finance reports, which are listed in chronological order since 2009 in screenshot form below. Notice that Formby's campaign-paid apartment expenses remained relatively low at $2,675.61 in 2009 (through intermediary and fellow legislator Joey Fillingane) and at just below $4,000 in 2010 until the expenses mysteriously disappeared in 2011 and 2012.

Rep. Formby omitted any apartment expenses from his 2011 campaign finance reports--a curiosity considering that 2011 was an actual election year. If the apartment was so crucial for his campaign as to require Formby spending significant amounts of campaign funds on it in years before and after the 2011 campaign, why not list the apartment as a campaign expense for the actual campaign year? Perhaps more obviously damning for Formby, though, is the fact that he failed to file a valid campaign finance report at all for 2012, which is itself a criminal omission punishable as a misdemeanor, as I will explain below in more detail in Part II of this post.

Formby's apartment expenses suddenly shot up from the aforementioned $0 in 2011 and 2012 to more than $8,460 per year by 2013, 2014, and 2015, as screenshots below show. The 2015 data shows that Formby is on track to again spend more than $8,000 on his apartment this year, since he appears to be paying $705 or more for the apartment expense on a monthly basis at least through last month's most recent campaign finance report.

What changed? Why is Rep. Formby suddenly raiding his campaign account--essentially embezzling--to pay for a permanent Jackson-area apartment for the last three years when he has been in office for the last two decades representing his constituents just fine without embezzling out of a campaign account to pay for such living expenses?

As the following set of screenshots below shows, something has changed fundamentally since Formby was elevated to his current leadership position as Rules Chairman in the Mississippi House. Specifically, the evidence below shows that Formby has been a busy boy from 2013 to 2015, holding one-day fundraisers primarily attended by hordes of power-hungry lobbyists and influence peddlers (e.g., notice names like Austin Barbour and lesser known representatives of Koch Industries, Entergy, and AT&T, to name a few).

Certain industries and special interests seek influence among senior lawmakers in Jackson, so Formby's newfound ability to raise $16,434 in one day, as he was able to do on June 30, 2014, should not shock anyone. The purpose of this blog is not to impugn the integrity of all lobbyists; most lobbyists contribute money to politicians in good faith hoping that those allied politicians will use the money to get reelected, not so that those politicians feather their own personal nest with the contribution.

These one-day fundraiser-paloozas are conspicuously absent from Formby's campaign finance reports before 2013--and technically before 2011, the last year of valid campaign finance reports on record for Formby before 2013, since Secretary Hosemann gave Formby a pass on filing a valid report for 2012 (See Part II, below).

But based on Formby's ballooning campaign embezzlement during the same time period as his ballooning lobbyist contributions, it appears Formby decided to reward himself for his newfound outsized influence, rather than use the funds to secure his reelection as our current system intended. With so many campaign courtiers kissing the royal ring of this Rules Chairman, the evidence shows that Formby gave himself the royal treatment. Beyond leasing a Jackson apartment for the entire year from 2013 forward, Formby also spent $802.48 earlier this year using his campaign account at "Boots N More," a boots store in Jackson.

Giving Formby the benefit of the doubt, we may infer that the boots expense was for some legitimate campaign disbursement such as to pay for boots as prizes for a fundraiser or raffle. Even if this were true (who knows based on Formby's other embezzlement activity), there is the problem of using campaign funds to make repairs to Formby's Yukon vehicle about a month before what appears to be the boot purchase.

This ain't Corrupt Cowboy Formby's first rodeo. Evidence shows that Formby is corrupt from his roof to his boots. In fact, Formby appears to grow more corrupt in correlative proportion to the increased volume of lobbyist contributions since 2012--the contributions being themselves a byproduct of influence peddlers' legalized corruption as they seek to curry more favor from Formby in his wildly inappropriate committee assignment as Rules Chairman these last four years.

As the table above summarizes the evidence against Rules Chairman Formby thus far, it becomes apparent that it's not just recently convicted felon and former Mississippi Department of Corrections Chief Chris Epps that we needed to be concerned about, and it's not just the reported federal investigation into State Frauditor Stacey Pickering's campaign embezzlement we should view as the next piece of Mississippi's corrupt political infrastructure to collapse.

Across the board, and especially throughout Mississippi's key leadership posts in the statehouse (as this blog has especially pointed out in the last month), it seems the inmates are in charge of the dysfunctional state asylum that we call Mississippi.

No doubt, some are shaking their head, mumbling to themselves as they read this that Rules Chairman Formby was not breaking any laws. But Formby's Jackson-area apartment (an asset his campaign spent $28,518.00 on since 2009) especially raises thorny issues for the lawmaker, including some ethical problems and some legal problems.

First, residential apartments are not campaign expenses. They are living expenses. Apartments should never be listed as campaign expenses unless the apartment is a business office maintained solely for constituent outreach or other related campaign purposes, which is not likely when Formby's capital-area apartment is located more than two hours away from Formby's district in Picayune.

In other states and at the federal level, people go to prison for paying living expenses out of campaign accounts. In Mississippi, the state's prohibition on embezzling campaign funds for personal or living expenses is not as direct. But paying for living expenses out of a campaign account is in of itself a corrupt act--the equivalent of bribery or embezzlement depending on the circumstances--and I am convinced that the corrupt intent of this act, along with committing a fraud using the mail or telephone lines, may be prosecuted as a federal crime.

Even if campaign fund embezzlement is not illegal for Mississippians in state or local elections, the personal use of campaign funds raises the possibility of other crimes, including double-billing of taxpayers for expenses and tax evasion if taxes were not paid on what is effectively an extra income (that $28,518.00 benefit Formby has received from the Jackson apartment since 2009).

State law in Mississippi provides for legislators' remuneration in several ways, including taxpayer-funded salaries of $22,000 per year plus expenses. There must be some reason why taxpayers pay legislators. Oh yeah, they are elected to represent the public. If they are effectively paid by lobbyists such as Rules Chairman Formby has been the last few years, then that is an ethical problem of its own.

But in terms of legal problems, consider the pay package specifics. Legislators are paid a $10,000 base salary for the four months while in session, and they are provided another $1,500 per month allowance for the remaining months of the year for a total of $22,000 per year in salary. Legislators also receive a per diem stipend for other session-related expenses, including for special sessions, committee meetings, etc. Finally, legislators receive expense reimbursement for travel at a rate of more than 50 cents per mile, not to mention various fringe benefits and a separate but generous system of state retirement unique to lawmakers.

All of this should make a corrupt lawmakers' hair stand up on end, because even if taxes are being paid on the additional income from campaign fund embezzlement and the lawmaker has covered his tracks to avoid a tax evasion charge, the possibility that the lawmaker is still double billing taxpayers should make corrupt lawmakers lose sleep at night.

The total pay range for lawmakers in Mississippi's statehouse tends to range from about $30k to about $70k, depending on factors such as leadership roles and distance from Jackson, since travel is reimbursed based on total mileage. The mileage issue seems to be the most ripe area for potential double-billing by lawmakers. Double billing for mileage seems to be more of a potential problem for previously featured corrupt politicians on this blog such as Rep. John Moore (Education Chair), Senator Dean Kirby (Finance Vice Chair and Health and Public Welfare Chair), and Senator Joey Fillingane (Finance Chair). All three spent a lot of money on transportation costs using their campaign accounts, while they also accepted expense reimbursements for travel on the taxpayer's dime.

But that doesn't mean Rules Chairman Formby is off the hook. The question remains to be answered whether Formby paid taxes on the $28,518.00 benefit he received from his campaign account's disbursement for usage of a year-round apartment in the Jackson-area when his constituents lived more than two hours away.

The second question remains to be answered whether Formby was compensated in the form of a per diem or lodging reimbursement at any time while also embezzling duplicative living expense payments out of his campaign account. If so, Formby double billed taxpayers, and the State Auditor should do his job and demand Formby repay the taxpayers or face charges for his misconduct. But no one should hold their breath for Pickering's investigation into lawmakers' double billing based on campaign finance embezzlement given Stacey Pickering's own campaign fund embezzlement scandals and a reported FBI probe.

There is no question that Mississippians should pay legislators more to recruit better public servants and to encourage continual devotion to legislative duties. Pay raises for judges have been justified in recent years to help qualified judges avoid the temptation of leaving the bench for more lucrative private sector careers and to help less scrupulous judges avoid the temptation of outright bribery. If only our state legislators had the integrity to demand the same set of rules for themselves, they could approve a pay raise guaranteeing their own loyalty to taxpayers, rather than depending on lobbyists for legally dubious under-the-table salaries.

Then perhaps we would not have rules and finance chairmen breaking campaign finance rules in the Mississippi Statehouse. But then Kirby, Fillingane, Formby, and even Moore are a different type of lawmaker unique to Mississippi. All four vote against the poor in the poorest state in the nation. All four, for instance, voted to refuse expansion of Medicaid, and all four voted to thwart popular attempts to fully fund education while paying themselves generously out of campaign-donor slush funds of the sort that would make Nixon blush while giving his Checkers Speech.

Also, all four--Kirby, Formby, Moore, and Fillingane--have been in politics for decades and should know better. Instead all four seem to be getting worse in terms of their corruption. And most curiously, all four of these South Mississippi lawmakers personally appeared to speak before a blatantly white supremacist organization, the Council of Conservative Citizens.

While campaign finance violations are bipartisan and transcend racial lines as well, it takes a special kind of hypocrite to embezzle campaign funds while pretending to be financially responsible, tough on crime, and against government abuses. How long before the sound of cold steel slamming shut ends this practice of Mississippi politicians nibbling on their own cheese-baited traps?

Part II: The Racketeer Puppeteer, Delbert Hosemann, and the Conspiracy to Undermine Democracy

In dereliction of his duty as the official tasked with enforcing campaign finance laws in Mississippi, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann conspired with Representative Mark Formby to file a fraudulent campaign finance report on the Rules Chairman's behalf, and Hosemann has made no effort to correct the fraud upon Mississippi's democracy more than two years later.

Secretary of State Hosemann appears to be helping allied lawmakers violate campaign finance laws while politically crucifying his political enemies for similar violations. Is this not the very definition of corruption and racketeering by Hosemann? And by concealing the campaign finance purse strings that pull on various state government actors as well as helping lawmakers evade punishment for breaking the laws he is charged with enforcing, is Hosemann the one ultimately pulling all of the strings as the racketeer puppeteer for Mississippi's corrupt statehouse? 
As the screenshot below shows, Rules Chairman Formby's 2012 annual campaign finance report shows $0 raised, $0 spent, and the improbable balance of $0 cash on hand. There is simply no accounting from Formby at all for his campaign finance activities in 2012. Worst of all, the 2012 report shown immediately below is signed by Secretary Hosemann rather than by Formby, making this perhaps the most egregious example of a campaign finance violation on file with the Secretary of State.

The improbable balance of $0 cash on hand, as represented above in Hosemann's own handwriting, becomes an impossible balance of $0 cash on hand once one reviews the following two screen shots showing subsequent and previous reports filed for 2011 and 2013 that show more than fifty-thousand dollars cash on hand after and before the missing year of 2012.

As this blog has argued for the last month, a pattern of corruption emerges from a review of legislators' campaign finance reports in the form of hard evidence of wrongdoing in lawmakers' own handwriting. In some cases, the campaign finance reports submitted by legislators in Mississippi may as well be signed confessions to embezzlement, double-billing taxpayers, and income tax evasion. So what does it say when the official tasked with enforcing these laws also becomes a co-conspirator in the violation of these laws?

Something interesting happened as I scoured the archives of campaign finance reports and published what I considered evidence of potential corruption of one legislator a few weeks ago. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann reached out to me directly to support his political ally, Rep. John Moore, when this blog reported that Moore's 2012 campaign finance report was not available online and seemed to have never been filed.

I gather that part of why Hosemann contacted me was that I had raised the issue of inconsistency in enforcement by Hosemann's office, as he had politically crucified another lawmaker, an anti-establishment foe of Hosemann's, Senator Melanie Sojourner, by imposing a fine and initiating processes that led to that lawmaker forfeiting her salary because she was a few months late in turning in her campaign finance report.

That treatment of Hosemann's political enemy seemed incongruous to me when the establishment political ally of Hosemann, Rep. Moore, was apparently two and a half year's late but was allowed to continue receiving his check as a legislator and Education Chair without any consequences at all. The paper of record, as my blog pointed out, had even mentioned potential jail time and a misdemeanor charge as a potential next step in enforcement if Sorjourner's report was not turned in per Hosemann's demand.

That episode from 2014 was not the last time Hosemann threatened serious consequences for certain campaign finance violators. Just last month, the Clarion-Ledger again reported that Hosemann was on the hunt for violators of campaign finance laws--this time the sources of anonymous mailers attacking establishment politicians, because those campaigners never registered with the Secretary of State or adequately filled out mandatory campaign finance reports. I agree with Hosemann on enforcing these laws, but he shouldn't be allowed to pick and choose who is punished based on their political kinship with his establishment tribe.

In a series of direct messages to me on Twitter, Hosemann suggested that Moore's 2012 report was always available online since 2012. Hosemann denied that Moore's 2012 report was either filed or uploaded late, and while I appreciated his reaching out to me, I felt insulted in that he was insinuating that I either lied or made a mistake when I had not. Prior to Hosemann contacting me but after my blog post that had prompted Hosemann's contact, Moore's 2012 report magically appeared online.

I felt vindicated that I took screenshots accounting for the previous absence of Moore's report, and I was also relieved that I had contacted two reputable sources to confirm for me in writing that Moore's 2012 report was not available more than two and a half years past its deadline during the 2015 Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi.

In short, I am saying that based on his past communication with me and his uneven enforcement of campaign finance laws, I do not trust Delbert Hosemann. So again, I have contacted other reputable sources and will provide screen shots below showing that no amended 2012 report was ever filed by Rep. Formby, as had been the case with Rep. Moore when I first blogged about his omission of any 2012 report. The screenshots below show the exhaustive list of results when searching for Formby's reports on the Secretary of State's website. Notice only one report is filed in 2013, and that is the 2012 report with fraudulent information ($0 cash on hand) signed by Hosemann. That report was supposed to be subject to amendment, but the amendment to that report never happened. Or at least it was never filed and uploaded as required by law.

Therefore, Rules Chairman Formby is years late in filing his 2012 campaign finance report, and the Secretary of State has an affirmative duty to fine Formby, refer the matter to the Department of Finance and Administration to stop and possibly even claw back some of Formby's salary, and then thoroughly embarrass Formby in front of the media by threatening additional consequences such as jail time. But given that Hosemann actually conspired with Rules Chairman Formby to break the rules in this case, don't hold your breath waiting for any of that to happen.

So if you're keeping score in Mississippi, our chief of prisons, our chief auditor of public corruption, and our chief campaign finance enforcer have all compromised themselves legally, ethically, and politically. If Mississippi is to clean up corruption any time soon, it must do so with a personnel change. Given State Auditor Pickering's win in his primary, however, I don't have much faith in Mississippi's political process as a way to make that personnel change either.

Meanwhile, Mississippi's lawmakers feather their own nests using campaign funds in a variety of schemes, including a shell game using credit cards to mask personal expenses, reporting an excessive amount of unitemized disbursements that should be itemized, and blatant and open conversion of campaign contributions to personal use in what some have described as a system of legalized bribery.

But when public corruption reaches such a level of banality, I think it may be time to bring back the old-time religion practiced by some federal prosecutors: racketeering charges.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Is Sec. Hosemann Racketeering Now Too, Or Is His Office Just Incompetent? Rep. John Moore's Annual Campaign Finance Report For 2012 Magically Uploaded 30 Months Late But Backdated as "Filed" Feb. 2013

State Representative John Moore perhaps didn't forget his homework after all. Instead, it's possible that his dog ate it, if his dog is named Delbert Hosemann.

The prospect that the Mississippi Secretary of State's office somehow failed to upload Rep. Moore's campaign finance report has become more likely, after the report was finally uploaded to the state website more than two years late.

Compelling evidence that Rep. Moore's report was sent in approximately on time includes the facsimile report generated with an internal date stamp for 2013. Notice the bottom of each page, as demonstrated by the screenshots below, shows upside-down the facsimile number and the identity of the sender's machine next to a date: Jan. 31, 2013.

Notice, however, that I do not consider Secretary of State Hosemann's file stamp (screenshot immediately below) as authoritative proof that Moore's report was submitted on time. Why?

There are two reasons why Hosemann's stamp isn't worth the paper he prints it on: first, Hosemann's stamp represents his office as a poor factual witness; second, Hosemann's stamp represents his office as a poor character witness.

First, this report was entirely absent from the online database as late as July 30, 2015, even though the report should have been online more than two years before that if the Secretary of State's office actually filed it.

If Moore's 2012 annual report was really "filed" by Feb. 1, 2013, as Hosemann's stamp suggests, internal policy and the law dictates that the report should have been uploaded for public inspection for the last thirty months, but it was not.

And I confirmed the absence of that report as late as July 29, 2015 by my own witness and my own previous screenshots. More importantly, at least two disinterested parties confirmed in writing to me during the Neshoba County Fair last month that Moore's 2012 annual report was not publicly available. And both of these witnesses are credible professionals who know how to search campaign finance records. So, something is amiss. Could Secretary Hosemann fill in the gaps as to why the report was missing for the last thirty months perhaps? I tried.

But in addition to his file stamp running counter to the other evidence, Hosemann's office lacks credibility in explaining the inconsistency of this report being unavailable online while being marked filed, because Hosemann has refused for weeks now to answer straightforward my questions about why--if this report was filed and uploaded on time--that Moore's 2012 annual report was not available for public viewing until late this Summer.

Below are screenshots of the direct message conversation Secretary Hosemann initiated on Twitter. I gave him a few weeks to settle the questions I have, but since he has not followed up as of today (August 17th), I decided to post our conversation here in the hopes that Hosemann's office can answer for the inconsistencies now.

It would be a hell of a coincidence for several people to be unable to find a campaign finance report and then by some glitch for same report to be found with ease a day or two later after my blog post about the omission, unless the Secretary of State's office played a role in uploading the report in some untimely fashion. That directly contradicts Hosemann's statements in these direct message Tweets to me. He states plainly that his office uploaded the reports contemporaneous with its filing, which was Feb. 1, 2013, according to his stamp. And yet, Hosemann won't answer for why the report was unavailable in my searches and those of two other witnesses last month.

The only question for Rep. Moore and Secretary Hosemann now is: was this more evidence of corruption of the sort that includes what appears to be State Senator Kirby's scheme to buy a car with campaign funds? Or is this just incompetence on Secretary Hosemann's part along with minor league corruption of covering up Hosemann's own incompetence?

A compelling case may be made based on additional evidence from Moore's late-filed 2012 report that by failing to upload the report in a timely fashion, Secretary Hosemann effectively concealed for a period of thirty months some more of Moore's own corruption in terms of misspending campaign funds on personal expenses in non-election years.

Notice in the screenshot below that Moore's 2012 report fails to list any itemized or non-itemized expenses, yet somehow $6,100 was deducted from the campaign account. By law, Moore should have noted whether any of these expenses were under or over the $200.00 threshold in the aggregate, since law requires that the $200.00 threshold determines whether a campaign must report the recipient of the campaign disbursement. By failing to include this information at all, Moore is violating campaign finance laws and may be hiding embezzlement of campaign funds for personal expenses.

My last blog post investigates Moore's campaign finance reports generally, and that post showed how Moore spent $9,300 on transportation costs in a non-election year (2013) from his campaign account. Almost 10 Gs seems inordinate for transportation anyway, especially in a non-election year when Moore's district is right next to the state capital and when transportation costs for legislative duties are already reimbursed by taxpayers. Raiding the campaign account for such expenses raises the corrupt specters of embezzlement, double billing, and potential tax evasion by Moore.

That brings me back to the unaccounted for $6,100 for the year 2012, an amount that is not itemized or non-itemized. While listed as a deduction from the campaign account, the missing $6,100 could potentially be more evidence of Moore's corrupt embezzlement of campaign funds.

And because Secretary Hosemann failed to upload the 2012 report with the missing $6,100 for 30 months, and then Hosemann later denied that the report was uploaded late despite evidence to the contrary, one could deduce that Hosemann is complicit in Moore's corruption because he helped to cover up more evidence of it.

And such complicity in a coverup is the very essence of a racketeering scheme, especially when Secretary Hosemann has been inconsistent in these campaign finance reporting infractions for other lawmakers in Mississippi who are not part of the good old boys network. Recall from my last post that Hosemann (rightfully in my opinion) persecuted Senator Sojourner last year for failing to timely file her own campaign finance report; Sojourner was fined, forfeited her salary temporarily, and was threatened with jail time for not filing her campaign finance report, which was less than a year late.

In other words, Hosemann nearly followed the letter of the law against a political enemy in his own party. Meanwhile, as he was sharpening the knives for a Tea Party foe, evidence suggests Hosemann sat on his establishment ally Moore's report for thirty months--for more than triple the amount of time Sojourner was late.

Unless Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann made a mistake, which his office has not admitted to so far, the sudden appearance of this report may be considered evidence that Hosemann is complicit in an effort to conceal Rep. Moore's violation of campaign finance laws, including the missing $6,100 from 2012 that brings to mind the misspent $9,300 from 2013.

Embezzlement? Tax evasion? Double billing? Racketeering? If ever the FBI wanted to make an example out of a bunch of rotten politicians who take from the rich and withhold from the poor, many in the Mississippi legislature may be the perfect poster boys.

I don't have any faith that our own state or local prosecutors will take this on, since many of them have their own campaign slush funds as elected officials, and many are too tied into the political establishment to embarrass their party leaders, much less prosecute them.

If someone from the FBI or justice department happens to read this blog, they will know it's time to start taking on statehouse corruption in Mississippi. If something isn't done about this, the federal government will have lost its credibility as a force to take on public corruption. And that won't be good for anyone except that den of thieves in Jackson.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

State Representative John Moore: He's the Education Chairman, but the Dog Ate His Campaign Finance Report (EXHIBIT C of the Case Against Corruption, Racketeering, and Tax Evading in Mississippi's State Legislature)

Key questions for State Representative John Moore (Pictured): Where is Rep. Moore's mandatory annual campaign finance report for 2012? How many thousands of dollars in contributions did Moore fail to report? How many thousands of dollars in spending did Moore fail to report? Why did Moore fail to report for 2012? What could Moore be hiding? Why was Moore's failure to report in 2012 not published or punished in the last two years by the Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (whose responsibility it is to publish and refer for punishment such failures of campaign finance reporting)? Why was Moore not subject to the public censure and sanctions imposed on the similarly situated anti-establishment Senator Melanie Sojourner when she was only a few months late in filing her campaign finance report last year?

Despite serving as Education Committee Chairman, State Representative John Moore is more than two years late in turning in his homework.

Chairman Moore failed to file his mandatory annual campaign finance report for 2012. The report, which was due on January 31, 2013, would have shown all contributions and expenditures transacted by Moore's campaign account during the entire year of 2012. To place this missing information in context, it would not be unusual for a legislative chairman of a major committee to raise and spend twenty or thirty thousand dollars in non-election years in Mississippi.

But based upon thorough searches of public records on the Secretary of State's website, Dark Horse Mississippi has determined that Chairman Moore never filed his mandatory annual campaign finance report for 2012 and thus never reported any contributions to or expenditures from his campaign account for the entire year of 2012.

While many Mississippi politicians play fast and loose with campaign finance reporting, this failure to report campaign income and expenses for an entire year by Chairman Moore is illegal, and it is a big deal.

In 2014, when anti-establishment State Senator Melanie Sojourner was several months late in filing her campaign finance report for 2013, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann showed us all that campaign finance laws do have teeth for enforcement… at least if you are a lawmaker who has angered the establishment as Senator Sojourner has.

Sojourner's report was due January 31, 2014. By May of the same year, less than four months after the deadline, Secretary of State Hosemann fined Senator Sojourner $500. By July, less than six months after the deadline, Sojourner received notice from the Department of Finance and Administration that Sojourner's legislative pay would be withheld until she complied with her duty to file.

As the screenshot from an October 2014 story in The Clarion-Ledger embedded below shows, Senator Sojourner still had not filed 9 months after the deadline. In addition to cutting off her pay, Sojourner was lambasted in the media (including this blog) and was threatened with jail time for failing to report.    

Sojourner finally filed her report in late October of last year. Senator Sojourner's failure to file the campaign finance report for 9 months after the deadline is also inexcusable, but compared to Chairman John Moore's failure to file a campaign finance report for 30 months, Sojourner's treatment seems incongruous at best--corrupt at worst.

Where's my evidence of Chairman Moore's omission and Secretary Hosemann's dereliction of enforcement? As loyal readers of this blog know, evidence is always provided for reader confirmation, especially in the series of posts I have to date styled EXHIBITS A, B, and C of the Case Against Corruption, Racketeering, and Tax Evading in Mississippi's State Legislature.

(Those not in the loop should check out posts from earlier this week showing the following: Exhibit A--Finance Chairman and State Senator Joey Fillingane embezzled campaign funds to pay for thousands of dollars in clothing and other personal items; Exhibit B--Vice Finance Chairman and State Senator Dean Kirby embezzled campaign funds to pay for a vehicle and other personal items)

Some proof of my due diligence regarding Chairman Moore's criminal conduct is embedded in screenshots of search queries from the Secretary of State's website below. Notice that none of the report dates include a 2013 date in any of the sixteen search returns for my query "John Moore." I tried every possible search combination of the name, and yet these sixteen returns are all that appear on the post-2008 search interface. The missing year, 2013, was the year in which Moore should have reported the 2012 contributions and disbursements.

Closer inspection of the individual results--clicking on and reviewing each of the sixteen PDF documents shown above--reveals that Chairman Moore never reported any contributions or disbursements taking place during 2012, whether in 2012, in 2013, or in any of the subsequent years between then and now.

The Clarion Ledger story shown above with its headline ("Sojourner could face fine, jail for not filing report") caused readers to infer that Senator Sojourner was facing imminent jail time in addition to financial penalties already imposed for her failure to report her contributions and disbursements a mere 9 months after the deadline. According to the article penned by reporter Geoff Pender, Sojourner faced a potential of a misdemeanor charge punishable with a fine of up to $3,000 and up to six months in jail.

By contrast, a powerful establishment politician like Chairman Moore never faced any public shaming until now for his failure to file the campaign finance report on time, as it was never reported in the media. Presumably, Moore also never faced a fine for this violation of campaign finance laws. If Moore did face a fine like the $500 fine imposed on Sojourner, presumably Chairman Moore has not forfeited his legislative pay these last two and half years as Sojourner was forced to forfeit hers after violating the law for only six months.

Make no mistake. Chairman Moore's failure to timely file his campaign finance report is illegal, but this lack of transparency may also be blamed on Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. As noted in several published articles since 2012, Hosemann is "required by law to publish a list of candidates who fail to file their campaign finance reports on time." So if Hosemann fails to report such a list to the media, the public shaming, financial penalties, and threats of jail time presumably never even kick in. In other words, for some reason, Chairman Moore got a break when others didn't.

What are we so worried about anyway? What could possibly be on Chairman Moore's reports? Need I remind readers again that other lawmakers embezzled campaign funds and likely failed to pay taxes on that income when they purchased cars and clothes and other personal expenses not germane to campaigning using campaign accounts? And then of course there's State Frauditor Stacey Pickering's suspected embezzlement and potential tax evasion scheme involving two vehicles converted to personal use, which our esteemed paper of record is chronicling this month.

Like Frauditor Pickering's misdeeds profiled in the The Clarion Ledger and like both of the Senate Finance Chairmen's malfeasance unveiled on this blog, there seems to be a pattern emerging of corrupt political foxes watching the hen house of taxpayer money.

The pattern of corruption by political leaders goes something like this--i) politicians stealing money from campaign accounts, ii) politicians not reporting the income from personal conversion of these assets on their taxes, and iii) lawmakers then double-billing taxpayers for legislative session-related costs.

Do not be fooled; this is the very definition of fraud, it is the very definition of tax evasion, and depending upon whether others are involved and what others know about these crimes, our boys in Jackson may also be guilty of racketeering. This seems to be a cornucopia of federally prosecutable crimes, as today's bombshell federal indictment of Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah shows. Among other misdeeds, the federal indictment listed Congressman Fattah's misuse of campaign funds to pay off his son's student loans. Granted, laws differ by jurisdiction, but this sounds just like our boys in Jackson, right?

But before we stamp the missing 2012 report as the official Exhibit C of this suspected campaign finance fraud, tax evasion, and political racketeering scheme that seems to be taking form in Jackson, let's see if Education Chairman John Moore has given us any reason to believe he is different from corrupt State Senators Kirby and Fillingane.

First, all three of these lawmakers have been involved in establishment Mississippi politics for a long time. Kirby and Moore have spent two decades as lawmakers, while the younger Senator Fillingane has been in the legislature for nearly two decades himself.

Second, all three are chairmen of important committees: Education (Moore), Finance (Fillingane), and Public Health and Welfare (Kirby).

Third, all three have ties to the white supremacist organization, the Council for Conservative Citizens. Education Chairman Moore actually spoke to the group twice, and he is the only one of the three to defend the group on the record, even questioning why the Southern Poverty Law Center did not spend its time investigating the NAACP instead of the CCC.

(Chairman Moore's interests in racist shit also makes its way into official policy on occasion such as a bill he filed prior to taking over as Chair of the Education Committee in which Moore sought to keep Civil Rights from becoming a required course of study in Mississippi schools.)

Fourth, all three of these lawmakers voted against Medicaid Expansion in 2013, and all three voted effectively to distract the public into defeating a Constitutional Amendment fully funding schools this year. To take these stances against the poor is what places these three politicians in my crosshairs when all three are enriching themselves in unlawful ways by abusing their public office.

Fifth, Senator Kirby faced no general election or primary opponents in 2011 or 2015 (yet he still misspent money from his campaign account throughout those years in which there was no campaign to spend money on). Likewise, although he has faced primary challengers these last two election cycles, Chairman Moore has been blessed to face no general election opposition from the opposing party in 2011 or in 2015. Senator Fillingane has also had it relatively easy with no general or primary election opponents in 2011 and only a general election opponent this year.

The point here so far is that chairmanships, seniority, and ties to good old boys (and let's face it, racist and corrupt good old boys) make it more likely that these three lawmakers are able to violate the law with impunity in Mississippi.

Sixth, all three of these legislators represent districts that are southeast of but relatively close to the state capitol of Jackson. See the three maps embedded below.

Senator Kirby's district, southeast of but very close to the capitol of Jackson, making his fuel costs of more than $3,000.00 per year seem all the more exorbitant and raising red flags for corruption, including potential conversion of campaign fuel to personal use, potential double billing of taxpayers for the fuel reimbursements he receives during the legislative session, and potential tax evasion for failing to report income from free use of a gas card expensed to his campaign account when his elections are unopposed.

Representative John Moore's district, southeast of but very close to the capitol of Jackson, making his fuel costs of more than $7,000 in a single year (see campaign finance entries at the end of this post) also seem as exorbitant as Senator Kirby's and likewise raising red flags for corruption, including potential conversion of campaign fuel to personal use, potential double-billing of taxpayers for the fuel reimbursements he receives during the legislative session, and potential tax evasion for failing to report income from free use of a gas card expensed to his campaign account when these travel expenses are spent in non-election years.

Senator Fillingane's district, southeast of but fairly close to the capitol of Jackson, making his claimed campaign expense of legislative session-related fuel costs amounting to thousands of dollars seem like embezzlement of funds and raising red flags for corruption, including potential conversion of campaign fuel to personal use, potential double billing of taxpayers for the fuel reimbursements he receives during the legislative session, and potential tax evasion for failing to report income from free use of a gas card expensed to his campaign account when his elections are often unopposed.

The hallmarks of corruption for all three lawmakers and the similar maps only tell part of the story. I've proven the corruption of Public Health and Welfare Chairman Kirby and Finance Chairman Fillingane in the two previous posts on this blog.

Now it's time to consider the likely corruption of Chairman Moore--the man who failed to file his 2012 annual campaign finance report and the man who apparently dares to break this law with impunity. What was Moore hiding in that 2012 annual report? Well, there are clues in some of the later reports.

Recall that Moore represents a district close to Jackson, a perk for a lawmaker when others must travel hundreds of miles for legislative duties. Moore has also enjoyed the luxury of no general election competitors in the last two elections, despite facing primary elections in 2011 and 2015.

With not too far to travel and less campaigning to do than politicians with the extended campaigning calendar that lasts until November general elections, one would think Chairman Moore would not have high fuel expenses billed to his campaign. One would think that, but one would be wrong.

Gander at the following screenshots of travel-related campaign disbursements, which hint why it is important that John Moore never filed his 2012 annual campaign finance report.

Some of these campaign expenses may be legitimate, particularly those from the summer of 2011 and the summer of 2015 at the beginning and end of the next series of screenshots. Since Moore faced primary opponents in those years, it makes sense that Moore spent money on fuel in the summers of those two election years in 2011 and 2015.

The amounts are high (up to $1,000 per month), but many candidates employ additional canvassers to knock on doors in the summer prior to the primaries in August, so let's give Moore the benefit of the doubt for these summer primary expenses in 2011 and 2015. But don't let Moore off the hook just yet; keep reading and pay close attention to the entries from the year 2013 and the absence of 2012 and 2014 from these fuel-related entries.

We should not cut Chairman Moore any slack for the non-election year of 2013 during which he spent $9,300 on transportation-related costs--much more than Moore's election year itemization of fuel expenses in 2011. Moore disbursed $3,200 to Shell, $4,000 to Chevron, and $2,100 for auto repair in 2013--$9,300 for campaign travel in a non-election year.

The year 2013 in Mississippi was a regular legislative session year rather than an election year. And as I have said before, individual lawmakers are reimbursed by taxpayers up to tens of thousands of dollars per year for their legislative session-related travel expenses.  So any amount spent on travel in a non-election year is suspect and may be proof of double billing the taxpayer for what lawmaker's spent on travel using a campaign account.

The $7,200 in fuel for 2013 is a major red flag. How is Chairman Moore spending $600 per month in a non-election year on fuel when his legislative district is so close to the capitol where he performs his legislative duties? And if this is what shows up in the 2013 campaign finance report, what is Moore hiding in the 2012 campaign finance reports?

My theory? Moore and perhaps others in his household are using campaign-financed gas cards for personal use. There is no other reasonable explanation for a $600 per month gasoline bill in a non-election year when the lawmaker's district is next door to the capitol. This also, by the way, raises the question of whether Moore double billed taxpayers for this mileage and whether Moore paid income taxes on the nearly $10,000 benefit he received for transportation in 2013.

Notice that 2014 is skipped in the itemized travel entries. This is because in 2014--another non-election year--Moore did not itemize disbursements at all but rather listed a nice round $5,000 under non-itemized disbursements. Non-itemized disbursements are supposed to be expenses to various venders that in the aggregate do not amount to $200 for any particular vender.

Was Moore hiding more ill-gotten personal fuel payments in non-itemized disbursements in 2014? What else would Moore spend a nice round number like $5,000 on during a non-election year when the previous year he spent almost ten grand on transportation costs from his campaign account?

Moore's illegally omitted 2012 annual campaign finance report, his likely embezzlement of campaign funds for fuel, his possible tax evasion because of the likely failure to pay income taxes for these benefits, and his potential double billing of taxpayers for travel expenses--all of these things comprise only the tip of the iceberg of corruption that lays beneath the surface in the campaign finance reports of Mississippi lawmakers. But I think we can now officially refer to this as Exhibit C in the case against what more and more is starting to look like a crew of corrupt racketeers.

It's no wonder Mississippi is starting to get used to the big itchy sweater with the label of "Most Corrupt State," a monicker infamously worn by Mississippi since a 2014 article that appeared in Fortune Magazine. Still, one hopes there will be a reckoning of sorts soon, whether through the IRS, the FBI, or the ballot box.