JACKSON Among the campaign-finance reports flooding into the Jackson Free Press office today are a number for political action committees representing large business interests that typically support Republican candidates. Most of the reported money, so far, has gone to mayoral candidate Jonathan Lee, adding to the more than $300,000 he reported this week that his campaign received from both donors and himself. He wrote his campaign a check for $140,000 in late March. He has spent most of the money his campaign has raised to date. PAC money could help fill that gap, however.
The transparency catch with PACs for citizens is that the reports that were due yesterday only have to include receipts and disbursements through last Saturday. Their next reporting deadline is May 14—a week after the primary determines who will either be in the run-off election or in the general election in June. That means that PACs can both collect contributions and distribute them to candidates right up until the primary next week with no legal obligation to report until May 14, leaving the public with an incomplete picture of just who is backing and funding the candidates until it is possibly too late.
This could explain why the Ergon State Political Action Committee report shows that the PAC raised $75,000 from the company Ergon, but has only spent $2,000 of it so far—in a donation to Jonathan Lee. Ergon is a Flowood-based petroleum refiner, processor and marketer run by Leslie Lampton, a prominent Republican whom Forbes has ranked as Mississippi's wealthiest person. The treasurer is Kathryn Stone of Ergon Inc.
The Homebuilders Association Build PAC filed a report yesterday, showing that it has collected $1,000 to date and has donated it to Lee. The treasurer is Mark F. Evans of Global Asset Consultants in Madison.
The Nucor Steel Recyclers of Mississippi Political Action Committee filed a report stating that it has raised $6,426.25 in 2013, clearly adding to cash it already had raised, and has given money this year to a variety of Republicans including Phil Bryant ($3,000), Lynn Fitch ($1,000) and Delbert Hosemann ($2,500). It also donated to Democrats including Chuck Espy ($250) and Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. of Jackson ($500). Johnson is the only Jackson candidate who has received Nucor PAC donations so far.
The JFP has not received the 2013 Jackson 20/20 PAC report so far and has requested it. We reported earlier this year that the PAC was established in early 2012 and only disbursed money in 2012 to the campaign staff of Jonathan Lee. Three days ago, on April 29, the PAC announced that it was endorsing three other candidates as well as Lee and holding a fund raiser later the same day. Because that event occurred after the April 27 PAC deadline, the PAC may not report money received and disbursed this week on behalf of those candidates until May 14, a week after the primary.
As more PAC reports come in, we will update this story.