"Allow Me to Rant About This Campaign for a Minute ..." by Politics Blog | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Politics Blog

Allow Me to Rant About This Campaign for a Minute ...

The turn this mayoral campaign has taken is extremely frustrating, especially between the Harvey Johnson and Jonathan Lee campaigns. And from where we sit, trying to get out as much accurate information as possible, we see it all. It is one thing to get good, solid public information from a candidate, supporter or anyone as we did last week when we received an envelope of real information about Lee's business issues—which, in turn, a led to a very revealing interview with the candidate, in which we learned that he actually never has been a business owner. The public has the right to know about all of this, and then decide what they think.

But this week, both campaigns have frustrated us. First, the Lee campaign put out a press release (see below) listing several accusations of the Johnson campaign. When our reporter called them to get backup materials, they refused to give us any. I guess we're all supposed to believe it without proof. (See: lesson in that envelope of documents we got last week.)

We're also frustrated with the Johnson campaign over the same press release, though. They put out a press release in response (also quoted in below story) that referred to our story about Lee's business woes and used the fact that Lee is facing those troubles as a response to the allegations?

Huh?

That is not a response. A response would be actual information about the incidents referred to—on which both campaigns failed epicly. It's as if it is a push-and-shove game on a playground. "Oh, yeah?" "Oh, yeah!"

What the public needs is information: documents, links, sources, people will go on the records. It's what we're in the business of doing: gathering and disseminating facts. We cannot legally put out garbage on people and public officials, and the campaigns should not, either. Granted, the Johnson campaign was responding to Lee based on a factual story about his business problems, but a much better response would be information that refuted and/or gave context to the allegations in the email.

Not to mention how many half-baked accusations are flying around; Lee supporters have been especially fond of floating theories to us about the Johnson administration—which none of them bothered to pitch us over the last four years—but then not being able or willing to back them up with documents or people to talk to.

One case in point: a story someone mentioned to me last Sunday; he told us who to call to get details, which we did Monday; he wouldn't talk unless we knew exactly which questions to ask, which we didn't because it's their story tip; the original source then said he'd provide those Wednesday; we didn't hear from him; texted him last night; he texted back this morning with a 90-minute window we could talk to him in; we were on daily deadline and couldn't; now says he's too busy to talk. I told him to call me when he can so we can pursue his lead.

Meantime, Lee supporters claim that we're biased because we reported his legal issues (supported by DOCUMENTS, mind you), and none of them have given us something we can do much with, yet, although we are scrambling to pursue all the allegations below. (See what we know so far here about one part of it.)

We're also frustrated no end today over campaigns and PACs that thumb their noses at transparency and the public's right to know who is funding candidates, but I'll save that one for a different blog post.link text

Rant over.

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May 2, 2013 | 3 comments

Lee and Johnson At It Again

By Tyler Cleveland

You knew we weren't going to make it through two days in a row without more sniping between Jackson's incumbent mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr. and challenger Jonathan Lee.

On Wednesday, the Lee campaign circulated an e-mail declaring Jonathan the "hands-down winner" of Tuesday's night's debate, then made these charges against the Mayor:

  • During his first two terms The City of Jackson was investigated for mismanaging $519,000 worth of federally funded grants.

  • In 2008 The City of Jackson was forced to "repay more than $294,000 on a grant because the grant was not spent in the required time period. Another $29,412 had to be repaid for the same period." (Clarion Ledger, January 28, 2008) Again, an investigation that came as a result of the mismanagement of federally funded grants during Mayor Johnson's first two terms.

  • It's taken 10 years to even begin repairs on Fortification Street (the City received $6.3 million to make improvements to Fortification Street in 2002). The Fortification Street project began in July 2012--approximately 10 months before Election Day, May 7, 2013.

The second accusation against Johnson over the $294,000 left on the table is accurate, according to a story the Clarion Ledger's archive. The story is about the money mismanagement of the Frank Melton administration, but mentions that many of the problems that mayor had were systemic from the Johnson years. It was an error that happened under Johnson that cost the city the grant money.

The e-mail went on to say that Johnson received $13,750 in campaign contributions from a prominent law firm, which was in turn "awarded" $170,000 worth of work as a part of the Siemens deal with the city to repair water infrastructure and another, who gave $16,500 in 2009, was given $100,000 for work in the Siemens deal.

The JFP is in the process of trying to procure a copy of Johnson's campaign finance reports from 2009.

Johnson's campaign issued this response around 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon:

"It’s come to our attention that once again… Jonathan Lee is using deception and lies in an attempt to mislead the public. He recently released information about our record that is false and taken out of context.

"Instead of telling half truths about our campaign, Mr. Lee needs to focus on his own finances. The fact of the matter is Mr. Lee has had four default judgments entered against his business. And, he deliberately misled the public when he touted that he was a business owner. In fact, he mentioned it during his commercials, on his website, and through social media. The fact is, while he was in charge of his family business, Jonathan Lee ran it into the ground. Eventually, vendors had to file lawsuits, obtaining default judgments of more than $150,000, in order to recover the money that Mr. Lee’s company owed them. When the media found out about Mr. Lee’s mismanagement of his second generation company, Mr. Lee suddenly announced that he never ...

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