Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Representative holds fund-raiser while Legislature still in session

State Representative Becky Currie held a fund-raiser at the home of a Brookhaven doctor on March 31. The invitation included twenty-six doctors as  host committee members.  The fund-raiser took place during the last week of the regular session of the Mississippi Legislature and the night before a vote on a crucial Medicaid bill. The invitation stated Speaker of the House Philip Gunn was the Special Guest, although he did not attend. 



Dr. David Braden hosted the fund-raiser. This correspondent attended and can verify more than a few doctors were in attendance, as were what seemed to be the creme de la creme of Brookhaven society. Cars lined the street as Brookhaven police officers handled traffic control and provided security for the event. Volunteers shuttled people back and forth in golf carts. Speaker Gunn did not attend, as the House of Representatives was still in session that night, but Representative Currie told the crowded room he “was sorry he could not make it but he sends his regards."

Photo of street in front of Dr. Braden's home. Taken from porch.
The House of Representatives took up debate on an omnibus Medicaid bill (HB #1275) the next day.  Representative Currie led the charge against the bill (Starts at 9:33).  A charge that saw only her and 10 other members vote against the bill. She said:

We have family practice physicians against it, internal medicine, all your specialists (listed specialties)... they're against it, your community mental health against it, your pharmacists against it, your dentists against it, and probably your nurses against it, your physical therapists against it, so there is still a lot of people who are not for managed care in the form that it's in....

I haven't gotten the truth (from Medicaid). They'll just kind of look at me and leave.... I don't have the faith in them that you do....




Representative Currie then took the floor (39:22)  and told personal anecdotes as she attacked the bill. (Her speech is worth watching if one is interested in the Medicaid program.) The bill passed on a 106-11 vote and was later signed by the Governor.

Attempts to obtain comment from Speaker of the House Philip Gunn were unsuccessful although he was in the field yesterday surveying storm damage.  

Kingfish note: That was the news, now for the opinion. This fund-raiser sets a very troubling precedent. I write this opinion as someone who has opposed the Mississippican program in the past. There are no laws or rulings that state members cannot hold fund-raisers during a legislative session.  However, there is an unspoken rule in the legislature that members should not raise money during the session.

There are several obvious reasons for such a tradition. Legislation can be held hostage to fund-raising. A good ole boy telling someone "now look'a here boy, you want that bill moved, you just gots to pay to play".  Nah, that wouldn't happen, would it?   There is that little matter of the appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether any actually takes place. Taking contributions from a bunch of doctors at the home of a doctor does not cast the Representative and the rest of the legislature in the most positive light, especially if the doctors are opposing a program she is voting on within a few days.

What is more troubling is the Speaker of the House giving his approval to such fund-raising by allowing his Representative to publish his name on the invitation as a "Special Guest" and send his "regards" when he was unable to appear. One can only wonder if the customs in the House concerning fund-raising during a legislative session are indeed changing- and not for the better.

Imagine the Republican shrieks and howls if Speaker Bobby Moak held fund-raisers the week before a key gaming bill appeared on the floor of the House.  Consider the reaction if Chairman Ed Blackmon decided to have a fund-raiser right while a bill erasing most tort reform measures sat in his judiciary committee.  Such is the problem with precedents. Once one side sets them, the other side can use them as well.  The Speaker of the House should make it clear members should not hold fund-raisers during a session.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

I see where the chairman of the State Board of Health was also on the list. I'm pretty sure that Health Dept receives funding from Medicaid.

Anonymous said...

Good post, KF. Legislators should not put themselves in a compromised position during session. If any member of the population or any group wants to voice their concerns or what they do/do not support, then do so, no problem.

Anonymous said...

Gunn is the weakest Speaker we have ever had. He knows very little about what should and needs to be done in the House. He takes custom suits from Rep. Smith, his Ways and Means Chairman, all the while Smith thumbs his nose at him and tells everyone he is an idiot. You have to be special kinda fool to take a gift from someone who undermines you at every turn. They need to do a re-vote for Speaker, esp. since 2 of the people that voted for him were kicked out of the House. Gunn had only the worst legislators vote for him. The other guy that came in second had the best members.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this sets a concerning precedent. I hope that they all refrain from holding fundraisers mid session in the future. That said, I'd have probably went to this myself. We needed more common sense criticism of broken big government programs.

Interesting comment above about Gunn. I think Friarson or Formby may have been better.

Anonymous said...

2:56
The other guy is a jerk !

Anonymous said...

3:14 Thanks Treasurers office for the comment...duly noted.

Anonymous said...

Apparently none of the previous individuals who made anti-Phillip statements work in or around the capitol. Day and night since he's been there. The ship runs smoothly and efficiently. Legislation goes where it's suppose to. His staff are consummate professionals and are responsive to requests.
As far as appearing on the invite, that is simply a precedent we do not want to set. Currie knew exactly what she was doing by using the fire to create some steam.

Blue Dog said...

Which House Democrat is @ 2:56?

Anonymous said...

Did you go down there KF to write this story or did you attend to support Currie? Quite a curious result of your attendance.

Anonymous said...

Who is the other guy that came in second to Gunn?

Anonymous said...

Were you there to support Currie KF or there undercover to write this? That is a fairly important piece of the story you've left out.

Anonymous said...

"I see where the chairman of the State Board of Health was also on the list. I'm pretty sure that Health Dept receives funding from Medicaid. "

Separate budgets.

I have consulted for the DOH on projects where it would be helpful to get data from Medicaid and DOH staffers told me on multiple occasions that the Medicaid office refuses to cooperate with DOH. This has gone on for a few years now.

Anonymous said...

Currie is an idiot. Anyone who has been around her knows that. Her worst enemy is her mouth. She opens it and removes all doubt. She runs her mouth non-stop, continuously mis-informs people, and has the like ability factor of Hitler. Certainly the citizens of Lincoln County can find better!!! While she tries to find fault in others, she drives around in a Gilbert's Home Health vehicle conducting legislative business. Am I the ONLY person who sees this as a conflict?!?!? She's conducting state business in a company vehicle for a company that collects federal dollars for services. Wake up Currie-you are wrong on so many levels.

Anonymous said...

Currie is an idiot. Anyone who has been around her knows that. Her worst enemy is her mouth. She opens it and removes all doubt. She runs her mouth non-stop, continuously mis-informs people, and has the like ability factor of Hitler. Certainly the citizens of Lincoln County can find better!!! While she tries to find fault in others, she drives around in a Gilbert's Home Health vehicle conducting legislative business. Am I the ONLY person who sees this as a conflict?!?!? She's conducting state business in a company vehicle for a company that collects federal dollars for services. Wake up Currie-you are wrong on so many levels.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows it is in poor taste to hold fundraisers during the legislative session. Which is why no one does it. Looks bad. She should give her suspicious money to tornado recovery efforts.

Anonymous said...

Kingfish usually posts something like "This post removed by an administrator", but not always. Apparently mine got in under the radar and pissed Kingfish off. Now it's gone.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if all these comments would be publically stated if the author was known....

Kingfish said...

Nope. I have one that is a double post but that's it. Let me look. I haven't deleted anything in this thread. Sorry.

Bull Dozier said...

You can find the answer to your question at Y'all Politics. Once Lang started requiring facebook identification of posters, the site went to shit. Does that help?

Anonymous said...

Glad to see a paid consultant (on the state tit) is weighing in to support the politicos that funnel state money to his coffers. No doubt his comments are independent.

Anonymous said...

You would think that politicians could hold back for 90 days from feeding at the trough. I don't care for the state of politics in our state and country but realize that it is the way the game is played. Fortunately until this folks have not played it while the session was going on. Does the MS House have an ethics committee that will investigate. Goodness...bring the checkbook to the gallery...is that what's next?

Anonymous said...

PEER (Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review) is always trying to investigate and criticize everyone else. Why don't these good 'ole boys look into this issue?!?!? Oh, wait, I know, because it's one of their own and their own couldn't/wouldn't possibly do wrong! Come on Max -get on the job and look into the ethical nature of Becky "I'm a fat cat, therefore rules don't apply to me" Currie. Or, if other "ethical" members of our state legislature care about the reputation of our legislative process, they'll ask Good Ole Boy Max to look into this and provide an objective review of Currie's actions. By the way-want to make sure everyone saw the other Lincoln County Fat Cat-former senator, now fat cat Ag Comm. Cindy Hyde-Smith was at the party. Comm Hyde-Smith, raising money for your partner in crime ain't what we elected you to do. If you had 1/2 a brain, you'd distance yourself from her and work on much-needed improvements for our agri business in our state. Stay off your horse at the rodeo, stay away from crazy Currie & get to work. Thanks for the blog post kingfish. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

This blog post is laughable and inaccurate. I attended the event as well and it seems that you twisted the truth conveniently as to have some sort of scandal when that couldn't be farther from the truth. As for the Medicaid bill, Currie has been vocal for 3 years about that fact that she is against Mississippi Can. So the fact that you elude to Currie holding her fund raiser over the heads of doctors is ridiculous. The fund raiser date was chosen because that is when Dr Braden and his wife offered to do it. Thad Cochran also had a fund raiser in Brookhaven about a month later so of course not taking away from that was a factor. Talking to Becky that night we realized that she had not had a fund raiser in 7 years. How many politicians do that? I also agree with previous commenters that it is interesting that you (or your source) went on some undercover mission while showing your support for Currie.

Anonymous said...

9:16 "Glad to see a paid consultant (on the state tit) is weighing in to support the politicos that funnel state money to his coffers. No doubt his comments are independent."

Listen, rectal aperture, (KF runs too classy a blog to let me use my initial choice of noun), I am an UNPAID, that is, VOLUNTEER, consultant for the DOH. Since you have a profound reading comprehension problem I will point out to you (and anyone else as stupid as you) that my point was that the Medicaid department is poorly run, and hoards resources that would be of great use to those entrusted with planning public health policy for the un-healthiest state in the union (data that has already been paid for by the taxpayer, BTW).

If you don't like my volunteering I'll gladly quit and use that time for profitable work. Since I am the only physician in MS (and LA, AR, TN, and probably AL) who does what I do I wish you luck in recruiting a replacement.

KF - Braden is a full-time employee of Baptist Hospital in Jackson now. Did they support this?

Anonymous said...

Good grief --- most of you 'unpaid consultants' and other whiners are missing the point --- it is highly inappropriate for a legislator to solicit donations or for those seeking to influence votes to participate in self serving fund-raising events during the legislative session. It should be illegal for elected officials and the special interests that seek to influence them to participate in these type of events.

Anonymous said...

Good grief --- most of you 'unpaid consultants' and other whiners are missing the point --- it is highly inappropriate for a legislator to solicit donations or for those seeking to influence votes to participate in self serving fund-raising events during the legislative session. It should be illegal for elected officials and the special interests that seek to influence them to participate in these type of events.

Anonymous said...

@2:56 said "Gunn had only the worst legislators vote for him. The other guy that came in second had the best members."  What is the name of the guy who came in second?

Anonymous said...

The post that was deleted, attempting to resurrect it from memory, was:

What's wrong with having a fundraiser mid session? Precedent? Who cares? You have fund raisers when those having funds are most likely to attend.

This is a non story. "This guy is better than that guy." "That guy is a bad speaker." "Somebody gives that one old suits." Bullshit. Whiners.

If Kingfish could afford to, he'd hang out at Ticos and watch *real* money changing hands. The difference is that fundraisers are 'on top of the table' and the others are under it.

Anonymous said...

4:47---Rep Currie is often seen at TICO's dining w lobbyists. Are you suggesting this is under the table activity, while her ill timed fund-raising event was on top of the table? Seems like Rep Currie is doing a lot of inappropriate table dancing!!!

Anonymous said...

The point that everyone on this thread is trying to spin away from is that Representative Currie was on the floor of the House of Representatives arguing against a bill then taking money the same night from the people that she was arguing for. She is bought and paid for just like so many other politicians this day in time. It's unethical for anyone to paid for their vote and that's what she was done paid very well for her vote and the Speaker of the House rubber stamped this unethical behavior by allowing his name on the invitation.

Didn't last year the Speaker get in trouble for having an unethical fundraiser at the Capitol? At least this one was in Brookhaven and not in the State Capitol. There is a pattern beginning to start though for unethical fundraisers for House members.

Anonymous said...

Were you there to support Currie KF or there undercover to write this? That is a fairly important piece of the story you've left out and are now avoiding.

bill said...

So, having a fund raiser a few days before the legislature adjourns is unethical? Wouldn't it be just as unethical for a doctor to give her a campaign contribution after the vote, after the session is over? What bunk. The First Amendment is still applicable whether the legislature is in session or not. Thankfully someone has already pointed out that Rep. Currie has long been an opponent of the very thing she voted against after the fundraiser, so this is really an academic discussion about ethics in general and a long time unwritten rule in the legislature.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm the one who bought her that company car, although the Gilbert's wrap has probably been replaced by now, and we had no problem whatsoever with her driving it wherever she needed to. I have known Rep. Currie since well before she became an elected official, and she is as honest and ethical as the day is long. She doesn't agree with you? Tough. Lots of elected officials don't agree with me. She has done an outstanding job representing the interests of the people in her district, and thankfully the courageous anonymous posters can only determine whether she should continue if they happen to be one of them. Bill Billingsley

Anonymous said...

Sounds like she has done an excellent job representing your interests, Mr Billingsley. Did she disclose all of your generosity on her years ethics form, or campaign finance reports? Do you report your generosity on a lobbyist or lobbyist client disclosure form?

Anonymous said...

I'm 4:47 ~ I don't know jack-shit about Currie or even who he/she is. So, in that regard, paint me neutral.

The point is that money changes hands, gets donated, if you will, moves from pocket to pocket above the table and below the table. Fund Raisers are arguably announced, recorded and above board. There's a helluva lot more going on at Tico's than 'picking up a steak tab'.

Find something worthwhile to whine about.

patiently awaits citation said...

Will someone please cite reference and location of admonition stating it is unethical for a legislator to hold a fund raiser at certain times of the year?

That some of you nervously infer impropriety, that's more a symptom of your desire to control people than it is a reflection of legislative rules of conduct.

Anonymous said...

This thread sure has taken several turns.

Don't know this particular legislator. Doesn't matter. It would be nice if the legislators would not conduct any fundraising during session. Period. Doesn't matter which party, who it is, or what the circumstances are. It looks bad and creates distrust from the people they are suppose to be representing.

And to the person who wanted a cite, consider this: If you walked up to a room at the capitol, opened the door, saw a representative bending over a chair with ass in the air, and another one on their knees under the table, I assume you would wonder what the hell was going on. They are both simply trying to pick up a pencil from the floor but the impression you got when you opened the door sure didn't take you to that conclusion.

There is nothing unethical about picking up a pencil off the floor but the impression you got was--WTF is going on?

Same impression here---in session, by the way here's a fundraiser for you, speaking and voting for/against a bill that relates to the fundraiser parties.

Go ahead, tell me you're just picking up a pencil off the floor.

Whose Ass Is In The Air? said...

While I appreciate the imagination 9:44 seems to have, one's ass in the air or position under a table has nothing to do with the question. More than a few have bitched about the impropriety of hosting a fund raiser during session, some calling for censure and rebuke. The question remains....Is there a rule addressing it? If not, quit bitching about it. What you or I 'think about it' is entirely irrelevant.

We'd be better served by carping about all the per diem paid to those who report to session daily directly from home, yet they're paid for overnighting and eating out.

The entire legislative system revolves around personal money-grabbing.

Kingfish said...

Some of this comments are funny and illustrative of why Mississippi leads the country in public corruption. I'm trying to figure which is offended more, your political virtue or your political virginity.

Anonymous said...

virtue or virginity--hahahahaha.

4:42, thanks, thought police ("What you or I 'think about it' is entirely irrelevant.") We sure didn't mean to step out of line.

Two Dollar A Plate said...

The only ones offended, including the blog owner, seem to be those who are aghast at the hosting of a fundraiser during the session, something which is neither illegal nor corrupt nor sanctionable.

As was pointed out already, fundraisers are held at such times as those having funds to donate are felt to be on the bubble.

That's the only rule of fundraising. A good comparitor would be Jesse or Al showing up to 'raise funds' at times of the heightened racial alarm they've managed to gin-up.

Kingfish said...

Keep it up. You are proving my point better than I ever could.

Anonymous said...

Comparitor???

Keep it up Kingfish, shining the light on stuff like this is never a bad thing!

Anonymous said...

You neglected to mention you contributed to the fundraiser.

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