In Bill Minor's syndicated column this week, he argues that Gov. Haley Barbour should be more accountable to the public:
ow come Gov. Haley Barbour has never made public his federal income tax return and an uncritical Mississippi news media have let him get away with it?
Barbour's non-disclosure sharply contrasts with Kirk Fordice, Barbour's Republican predecessor in the governor's office, whose 1992-2000 tenure he frequently invokes as a role model.
Fordice released his income tax return every year he was in office, and beat his 1995 Democratic opponent, Dick Molpus, over the head for not disclosing his. ...
Now, Barbour, arguably the richest governor in Mississippi history who built his wealth peddling influence on Capitol Hill, coasts along as governor of the nation's poorest state without revealing sources of his personal income.
His secrecy becomes a matter of public interest because among his clients were the nation's biggest cigarette makers.
His veto of the bill raising the state's pitifully low cigarette tax raises questions that at the same time Barbour shields tobacco from higher taxes, he may also still be benefiting financially from the industry.
Since he hasn't made his income tax return public, we do not know if, as Barbour had said was his intent when running for governor, that he has severed financial ties with his old firm. The firm (Barbour, Griffith, Rogers) still bears his name and still has the fattest tobacco company (P. Lorillard) among its most lucrative clients, worth $2.4 million the past five years.
Here's where the cheese gets more binding: A Washington business publication, O'Dwyers PR Daily, reported in 2004 when BG&R was undergoing restructuring that Barbour, by then Mississippi's governor, had put his share in the firm in a "blind trust."
If so, the "Haley R. Barbour blind trust" that Barbour lists in his state Ethics Commission disclosure form as a source of more than $2,500 private income, represents his stake in BG&R. The firm reported earnings of $18.3 million in 2005.
That could pose a problem for Barbour under Section 109 of the state constitution if an ethics complaint were filed regarding possible conflict of interest.