Hayes Dent served as the chief of staff for former Gov. Kirk Fordice, and he was the Republican nominee for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District in 1993, running against now-Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who won his first term that year. Dent's previous lobbying firm, also based in Jackson, was called Southern Strategies Group.
Photo by Trip Burns.
A major Republican power player who helped Mayor Tony Yarber win his current position is in line to be the City of Jackson's next lobbyist.
The Jackson City Council is scheduled to vote on a professional services contract with Hayes Dent Public Strategies at its regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 9.
Dent served as the chief of staff for former Gov. Kirk Fordice, and he was the Republican nominee for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District in 1993, running against now-Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who won his first term that year. Dent's previous lobbying firm, also based in Jackson, was called Southern Strategies Group.
Another principal in Dent's firm, Steve Browning, worked under both Gov. Haley Barbour and U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, and was a primary architect of tort reform in Mississippi. Tony Geiger, an officer of the Republic Group, is a member of the Mississippi Republican Party executive committee.
This morning, Dent told the Jackson Free Press that he has worked with the city since 2004 when he helped get legislation passed for the Jackson Convention Complex.
"We've been committed to trying to help the City of Jackson as it interacts with the state of Mississippi—clearly two separate groups of government that ought to be working together better than they are," Dent told the JFP.
Dent is also the principal owner of a firm that Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber hired during his mayoral campaign earlier this year. The Republic Group LLC, which Dent owns but is a separate business entity from the lobbying firm, was Yarber's media buyer during the campaign. Beyond one $4,400 payment to buy ads responding to anti-Yarber attack ads from a political-action committee the late Precious Martin establish, it's unclear how much Yarber's campaign paid the Republic Group. The next campaign-finance reporting deadline for this year's mayoral race is Oct. 28, 2014.
Early in the race, the Republic Group commissioned a poll that showed Yarber neck-and-neck with Chokwe A. Lumumba, the son of the late mayor. Yarber and Lumumba went on to compete in an April 22 runoff.
Hiring Dent's firm could be seen as a shrewd move for Jackson, a largely Democratic city whose relationship with the Republican-dominated Legislature has been tumultuous. Others might see it as a way to reward the firm for its help procuring the mayoral seat for Yarber. During the campaign, the firm was adamant that it did nothing to help raise funds for Yarber.
The firm's website states that Republic Group "works to create a uniquely integrated action plan for each of its clients that includes; general strategy development, image and brand building, financial solicitation, operational budgeting, creative direction, and the implementation of enterprise media marketing plans." And, it adds, the effort is often successful, even in districts where "pro-business" candidates don't always do well. "The Republic Group boasts a cumulative win average of over .700 and has gained an industry moniker for helping elect pro-business candidates in historically hostile districts as well as protecting valuable incumbents."
Also at tomorrow's meeting, the city council will consider an agreement with Cornerstone Government Affairs for unspecified lobbying services. Cornerstone is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has offices in Jackson and four other cities around the nation. The registered local agent for Cornerstone is Joseph K. Sims; the board of directors are Geoffrey J. Gonella and Beckie Feldman. It lists local lobbyists as Joe Sims, Susan Sweat and Camille Scales Young.
On Aug. 26, the city council voted to extend a contract approved earlier this year with John Waits of Chicago-based Winston & Strawn to lobby for Jackson on Capitol Hill. Waits has held the contract in recent years.
At press time, the city has not provided information on how much it would pay for each of the proposed contracts.
Trip Burns contributed to this story.