Monday, September 28, 2015

Phil Bryant Wants to Pick Your Legislator

The first round of General Election mail in this year's House races didn't come from a legislative campaign at all. Governor Phil Bryant has offered what appears to be a blanket endorsement of all Republicans running for the House.

Remarkably, these candidates from remote parts of the state all seem to have embraced the same education and business agendas.

Governor Bryant has a rocky history in the endorsement game. In 2013, Bryant endorsed Republican mayoral candidates in cities like Ocean Springs, Tupelo, Meridian, and Starkville; all of Bryant's candidates lost. Just this past summer, Bryant meddled in the special elections for mayor of Biloxi and the open First Congressional District seat. Once again, Bryant's preferred candidates were defeated. Yet, the copy and paste feature on the printing press at Republican headquarters seems to be operating as usual.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More Republican Campaign Emails to State Employees Come Forward

In emails obtained by Cottonmouth, it seems agencies beyond the Rankin County School District have received campaign emails from Republicans without the consent of the recipient. This time, employees of the Mississippi Development Authority have been put on the Republican Party's email list without them signing up for it. As a reminder from previous posts, employees of the Rankin County School District received emails from the Mississippi Republican Party and Governor Phil Bryant dating back to 2012.

Public emails sent in this manner are in likely violation of state law, and the Republicans know it. A major question to consider is whether Republican State Auditor Stacey Pickering will investigate this matter, as this is something his office has standing to review. Pickering has been notified of this situation, but public employees continue to receive emails to which they never subscribed. The public has been denied access to emails between legislative Republican leadership and the Legislative Budget Office regarding language for Initiative 42, while, at the same time, public employees get unsolicited fundraising emails from the Republicans.

Monday, September 21, 2015

UPDATE: Political Emails to State Employees Only Legal for Republicans

In re-reading the e-mails we discovered last week, one disclaimer stood out: PAID FOR BY FRIENDS OF PHIL BRYANT. 

Digging through Bryant's campaign finance reports, there is no reference to the Bryant campaign purchasing an email listserv for the Rankin County School District. To the best of our knowledge, public email lists are not available for purchase.

All this raises a question we failed to note in our earlier report: who or what entity gave the Bryant campaign school e-mail addresses for all of Rankin County's teachers?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Poachers for Mangold

Last week, federal prosecutors in Alaska charged a number of Mississippians with illegally hunting and killing animals in a federal preserve. Among those charged was Charles Dixon of Brookhaven. According to the District Attorney's press release
Charles W. Dixon... is charged with two counts of violating the Lacey Act and one count of criminal forfeiture which seeks forfeiture of a STOLQuest SQ-4 aircraft.  As a basis for forfeiture of the aircraft it is alleged that Charles W. Dixon used the aircraft in the illegal outfitting, guiding and transporting operation, in addition to using the aircraft to transport unlawfully taken game taken by Clark W. Dixon and others.
Who is Charles Dixon? When he is not using his plane to transport dead animals that may have been killed in violation of federal law, Dixon plays host to a revolving door of Republican officials and wannabes.

In June, Charles Dixon hosted a fundraiser for Republican House candidate Vince Mangold; Mangold is challenging House Democratic Leader Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto. At this fundraiser for Mangold were Governor Phil Bryant, House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, Sen. Sally Doty (R-Brookhaven), and Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven). 

A couple questions as we head into the week: How many Mississippi Republican elected officials joined Mr. Dixon on the alleged illegal hunt? Why are Rep. Becky Currie's eyes closed in roughly half the pictures taken of her?

Commissioner Hyde-Smith, Governor Bryant, Bette Dixon, and Charles Dixon
Vince Mangold is standing between Bryant and Secretary Hosemann

Friday, September 18, 2015

Political Emails to State Employees Only Legal for Republicans

What better way to remind our public school employees that they are underpaid than to receive constant email reminders from Mississippi Republicans?

Governor Phil Bryant, a native of Rankin County, and the Mississippi Republican Party have quite possibly violated state law by sending emails to public employees through a school district email server in Rankin County.

Mississippi Code Section 23-15-871 clearly states that
It shall be unlawful for any employer, or employee having the authority to employ or discharge other employees, to make any statement public or private, or to give out or circulate any report or statement, calculated to intimidate or coerce or otherwise influence any employee as to his vote, and when any such statement has obtained circulation, it shall be the duty of such employer to publicly repudiate it, in the absence of which repudiation the employer shall be deemed by way of ratification to have made it himself...
The prohibitions of this section shall apply to all state, state district, county and county district officers, and to any board or commission and the members thereof by whatever name designated and whether elective or appointive, and to each and every one of those employed by them or any of them. And no state, state district, county or county district officer, or any employee of any of them who directly or indirectly has the control, or in any way the power of control, or who asserts or pretends that he has such power, over the expenditure of any public funds in this state, whatever the purpose or object of said expenditure may be, shall state, suggest or intimate, publicly or privately, or in any manner or form, that any such expenditure shall in any wise depend upon or be influenced by the vote of any person, group of persons, or community or group of communities, whether for or against any candidate or group of candidates at any election.
To add insult to injury, Republicans have the nerve to ask for money from these hard working women and men even though Mississippi's public school employees are among the worst-paid in the country.

Interestingly, it was House Education Committee Chairman and Rankin County Republican John Moore who authored House Bill 449 this year which would have created criminal penalties for teachers and school personnel who engage in political activity while at work.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Republican Party Endorses Inadequate and Inefficient Public Education

It was bound to happen. For years, Mississippi Republicans have worked tirelessly to undermine public education in the state. Now, they have finally put their party's stamp of approval on it.

Early today, the Mississippi Republican Party Central Committee - not to be confused with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China - voted unanimously to endorse the Mississippi Republican Party's opposition to public education. Some familiar faces are on this committee: Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton), and House Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden (R-Meridian).

If you recall during this year's legislative session, Gunn and Reeves rushed alternative ballot language through the legislature without any hearings or public input while threatening their rank-and-file Republicans to vote for it. Their goal: confuse the voters. During this session, Gov. Bryant pushed his private school voucher bill which will pull resources away from public schools. At the same time, Speaker Gunn has been at the beck and call of the Bomgar Caucus, an association of deep-pocketed interests that spent tens of thousands of dollars to defeat pro-public education Republican legislators in the August primaries. Just last week, Bryant and Hosemann voted to put their political talking points on the November ballot by putting misleading language before the voters. This intentionally-confusing language, mind you, was pushed by Reeves and Snowden through the Legislative Budget Office. The public has been refused access to the communication between these offices because they chose to not be transparent. Let's not forget that time Rep. Herb Frierson (R-Poplarville) threw out his scare tactics of frightening state agencies that if the state fully support public education, their agencies would see massive budget cuts - possibly leading to huge layoffs.

All these political players and all these moves have been a part of the Republicans' masterful strategy of deliberately weakening Mississippi's public education system.

Republicans can talk about how proud they are about continuing to not fully support public education and that Mississippi still pays its public school teachers less than their counterparts across the South. The truth remains that you can either be a Republican or support public education, but you cannot do both. The Republican Party's vote today proves it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Who is (601) 324-5142?

An interesting development this weekend comes from some tips to Kudzu, suggesting that more than one community has received anonymous calls from a local number push-polling false narratives. Reports are that these calls relate to Democratic candidates across the state, unchecked by Delbert Hosemann, who apparently has things to do other than his job.

The caller does not identify themselves as a particular person or organization (a legal no-no).

The anonymous caller, whose voicemail sounds to be a young man in his 20's with no additional information about his whereabouts, seems to have perturbed a number of Mississippians in recent months. A quick google search shows that this Google Voice number has been active since at least 2014, and pesters folks a good bit.  Here are a few comments from

Caller ID shows it's from McComb, MS. Called 6 times today between noon & 3pm. Tried to call it back once & reached a male's voice message that didn't identify himself (or company); just said "Thank you for calling, please leave your name & number...", so I just hung up.
- April 9, 2014
I have received 6 calls in 3 days. Political survey. I told them on first call I was not interested and wished them a good day. Did not respond to call again until the fourth call and explained I had received 4 calls and she immediately became rude and said I had to be mistaken.  I assured her I was  DEFINITELY not mistaken as I was staring at my 4 mistakes on caller ID.  She loudly explained that wasn't possible and rudely hung up on me. Guess she has no sense of humor.
- July 18, 2015
 Had 16 calls from it hanging up within 5 minutes today. No one there when I call back
- September 4, 2015

In July, Secretary Hosemann called anonymous mailers directed at Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler "gutless."

We here at Cottonmouth are holding our breaths in regards to whether that applies to attacks on Democrats.

Any additional information or other tips to Cottonmouth/Kudzu can be emailed

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Modern Day Literacy Test?

You are looking at the recently-approved sample ballot of Initiative 42, the citizen lead effort to induce the Mississippi legislature to do what they are already required to do by law: fully fund public education. 

This is a sample literacy test from days of yore.

Back then, Mississippians needed to be manipulated in order for elected officials to hold onto their power. Roadblocks at every turn were created to halt progress and expose the status quo. Ballots were made to be confusing and exhausting, misleading, and arduous. 

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

When Initiative 42 started out, it was made to be as straightforward and literal as possible. Nobody but the hardworking volunteers who set out to gather signatures expected it to be as successful as it was. So when the Republican-controlled legislature was blindsided by the results, they were forced to show their true colors and it came at a cost.

In creating an unprecedented need for a supermajority of support for 42, they tasked public school supporters with what seemed to be an insurmountable goal. Except support for fully funding education keeps growing, and efforts to "educate the public" to support the alternate amendment keep falling short.

A brave Mississippi parent, Adrian Shipman, stepped up and filed a suit against 42A, arguing that the language was nothing more than an attempt at exhausting voters.  

And that at least educated voters on what can only be described as persistent dirty tricks from the Mississippi Republican legislators.

So Rep. Herb Frierson (R-Poplarville) tried to scare other department heads into believing that their own budgets were in jeopardy. 

But those scare tactics fell short.

And now we are here. Staring at a massive block of text insisting that a single different word between the legislature's alternative and the initial wording could result in a catastrophe for Mississippi's budget.

We know not to fall for it. But every. single. Republican. that voted for this initiative amendment must be held accountable for this blatant attempt at misleading voters, and more importantly, insisting at all costs that public schools don't receive the support they deserve. 

Remember on November 3rd, friends. Not only do Republicans want to kill public schools, they will break the democratic process to do so. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gunn, Reeves Hiding Emails

Reports out in recent days are shining light on the backroom deals Republican leaders are making in order to continue their attacks on public education while adding more evidence to the argument that Mississippi is cited as one of the most corrupt states in America. The problem involves Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) refusing to release emails over their involvement in crafting budget language that puts a blemish on public education funding.

While the Republican Party claims there are scandals over irregularities in Hillary Clinton's emails, the silence from Mississippi's Republican officials over this issue is deafening. It takes a certain amount of arrogance, hypocrisy, or both to suggest that Clinton's emails are fair game while theirs deserve to be concealed. Just another example of Mississippi's Republican leadership saying, "What's good for the goose is bad for the gander."

Even Marshall Ramsey gets in on the controversy.
Reeves had Sen. Giles Ward (R-Louisville) run interference for him by throwing up an ALL CAPS wall saying that Reeves's emails are not public records. It is likely that Speaker Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) will have House Management Committee Chairman Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) pull a similar move at their next committee meeting in two weeks. Snowden, mind you, has been the primary legislative advocate for ballot language that was intentionally meant to confuse voters when they head to the polls in November.

Opponents of public education have admitted that they are asserting their influence over non-partisan budget staff to frame funding public education in a negative light. In fact, the state's budget director said so herself that she is being contacted by anti-public education legislators.
“The Legislative Budget Office works for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. As I do with all major decisions, I consulted with the leaders of the committee in crafting the language.”
Only weeks ago, it was Tate Reeves who championed transparency with respect to state agencies submitting budget requests online to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Yet, when it comes to Reeves's office, he's off limits.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said the update to the website also reinforces legislative leaders' commitment to transparency for how tax dollars are spent. He said the proposal was met with some opposition throughout state government but that "told me it was more important that we get it done."
"If you post it for all to see, it will make agencies and agency directors think twice about spending taxpayers' money in an irresponsible manner," Reeves said in an interview. "No agency director or politician wants to be called out for irresponsible spending habits."
This obstruction of transparency should be alarming for the public because it highlights the legislative branch is holding itself to a different standard. This refusal by the Republicans to disclose their government emails cloaks any communication that could have occurred between the Republican legislature and anti-public education forces like Empower Mississippi while they passed policies to cripple public education.

What Gunn and Reeves expect is for voters to believe that they followed protocol by having their respective oversight bodies make the judgement on whether to release government emails from Gunn, Reeves, and their staff. Don't be fooled by this facade.

Rather than admit whether they had or had not sent emails on government servers and through government email accounts, Gunn and Reeves are choosing to hide their attacks on public education from public view, and the Republican drumbeat against public education gets louder.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Republicans Resort to Shouting

Republicans are working their hardest to undermine public education in the state of Mississippi. Sadly, this does not matter at all to the state's Republican leaders in the Capitol and governor's mansion.

At a recent public hearing on supporting public education, Rep. Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) shouted down a constituent of his who dared to speak out against the reckless anti-public education proposal of Snowden and his Republican colleagues. The response from Snowden's constituent is right on target. Check out the video below for the exchange.

What this young man reminds us is that you can either be a Republican or support public education, but you cannot do both. In the case of Snowden, you can still be a Republican hypocrite.