Monday, February 13, 2012

House Democrats chime in on Speaker Gunn's self-dealing

During this afternoon's Judiciary A committee meeting, Rep. Bob Evans (D - Monticello) brought up the letter mentioned in this earlier post.  In spite of being faced with the obvious financial incentive of their Speaker in getting such legislation passed, the Republicans on Jud A voted in lockstep to pass the newest version of Speaker Gunn's "sunshine" legislation.  (The old version died last week because it was improperly before the House.)

In fact, Republican committee chairman Rep. Mark Baker (R - Brandon) refused to allow an amendment that would have prevented any active lawmakers from profiting from Gunn's bill.  The following is from a House Democratic Caucus press release:

“This letter corroborates our concern that this bill is and always has been about members of the legislature profiting off of the state,” said Rep. Bob Evans (D-Monticello). 
Judiciary A Committee Chairman Mark Baker (R-Brandon) refused to allow the committee to consider an amendment that would have prevented any active legislator from personally profiting from HB 211. 
Evans said, “If Republicans continue their efforts to personally profit from taxpayer funds, something is going to explode.  It will either be Republican incumbents or the state Treasury.”
This bill should hit the House floor sometime this week.

9 comments:

bill said...

Matt, you're so intent on bashing the Republicans in general and the Speaker in particular that you're leaving out some of the back story that your readers would like to know. Specifically, why did the Division of Medicaid feel like they needed separate counsel in 2010? If there was no reason for it other than to fill the till at Wells Marble then I'm with you. However, if they had a need for their own counsel and Hood refused so he could continue to channel money to his buddy Musgrove - how much of that $45 million is going to his firm, by the way, and how much did Musgrove and his partners contribute to Hood's campaign? - then I have to side with the legislators who would like to see the cronyism in the AG's office be brought under control.

I generally don't like it when legislators use their day jobs to make money from the state, whether they be lawyers or undertakers or druggists. However, if someone at Wells Marble is the best choice for the job, then should the state be penalized just because one of their partners is in the legislature? I think this is a job for the Ethics Commission, not the Democrats in the legislature. Bill Billingsley

Cottonmouth said...

Bill,

Dr. Robinson, former director of Medicaid (who is appointed by the Governor and not answerable to the people) wanted separate counsel for discovery issues, or so he claimed. Their supposed discovery issues never got in the way of Musgrove reclaiming money for the taxpayers. Meanwhile, Robinson criticized the lawsuit at every turn.

Musgrove's firm has received approximately $5M for their fee. Not a bad arrangement, considering that Musgrove has represented the state in numerous lawsuits against numerous defendants, tried several cases, handled somewhere over 600 depositions, dealt with over 300 lawyers for Big Pharma, and had to handle several appellate issues.

As for Copeland Cook's donations to the Attorney General, you can look those up on the Secretary of State's website. You should look at Republicans who got money from Copeland Cook as well, though, because they're an insurance defense firm.

As for the Ethics Commission, your beloved Republicans have been keeping them plenty busy lately. But remember, the Ethics Commission can only address a matter after the corruption has occurred. The Democrats are trying to stop this type of corruption before it starts.

bill said...

Except it's not corruption when it's an ex-governor, right? Especially a Democrat who is an admitted pal of the AG. If the AG is going to hire all the outside counsel then he needs to be responsive to the department heads as well and let some sun shine on the money his friends are making. At $300 an hour, CC could have Musgrove working on this full time for over eight years. Does CC normally work on contingency, or did they make an exception in this case? BB

James said...

Come-on Matt, you can only carry your bashing so far and even pretend like what you write here has any meaning. Besides the broadside against the Speaker because Medicaid tried to hire Wells Marble law firm (and during the committee hearing, the fact that Gunn is a lawyer with WM didn't come up, despite your implication in the headline) the other total misstatement is about Baker "not allowing".

The House Rules didn't allow the amendment that Evans tried to make. I know that you know nothing, or at least so it appears, about House and Senate Rules, but the amendment that Evans tried to introduce was not germaine to the bill and brought in another code section. Baker ruled it out of order. You kinda slid around that in your GOP bashing exercise.

This blog has become quite the joke lately with your trying to paint anything done by the House now as illegitamite. And the other day you made some statement about how other views had a 4 year 2 month view of things. I beg to differ - understand that you are still wet behind the ears and believe that all history can be viewed in this century. McCoy didn't invent the Democrat methodology of ignoring the minority (yes, he might have perfected it) and McCoy started it in his first termm (8 years ago.) But Speakers before have been guilty as well - its just that the minority party was so small they swatted at them like pesky flies and no one noticed.

Cottonmouth said...

James: Less drinking, more thinking. Rewrite that, and I'll try to respond.

Cottonmouth said...

Bill, I don't think Copeland Cook normally works on contingency. Which is an indication that the current system works quite well. Copeland Cook is a highly-respected law firm, and we're lucky to have them representing us in the lawsuits against Big Pharma.

mississippi citizen said...

Has anyone heard of Section 109 of the Constitution? That little provision prohibits this sort of self dealing:

SECTION 109.
No public officer or member of the legislature shall be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state, or any district, county, city, or town thereof, authorized by any law passed or order made by any board of which he may be or may have been a member, during the term for which he shall have been chosen, or within one year after the expiration of such term.

bill said...

I don't have a problem with CC. I have friends there and think they do a good job. Same with Wells Marble. The key to this issue is why? Your suggestion that the director at DOM might have been less than honest about why he needed outside counsel is out of line. Why don't you pull the complaint and see what it says? There needs to be a mechanism for separate counsel if it's needed. BB

DVDJ Commish said...

“This letter corroborates our concern that this bill is and always has been about members of the legislature profiting off of the state,” said Rep. Bob Evans (D-Monticello).

Evans said, “If Republicans continue their efforts to personally profit from taxpayer funds, something is going to explode. It will either be Republican incumbents or the state Treasury.”

As long as the democrats keep issuing press releases like this, they will continue to lose.

The response, of course, goes something like this: "Hood crony and convicted felon Joey Langston gave democrat Jim Hood $(insert figure) in dirty campaign money, and Hood rewarded him with a state contract that put $(insert millions) in Langston's pocket. Jim Hood might as well be putting state legal contracts on Ebay."

It's hard to believe Evans is that politically tone deaf. "Personal profit" is not a battle the democrats can win, as there is too much history with Hood contributors getting millions of dollars in state contracts. Evans needs to stick to the merits of the bill, and stop trying to make this seem underhanded.

Note: I mention Langston only because this is the most notable example of how the leadership could shove this down the democrats' throats. I do not believe or mean to imply that Hood traded or sold contracts for contributions, or that Langston did anything illegal in his representation of the state. However, it could easily be "spun" that way.