Politicians for Sale? Manufacturers Association Wines, Dines and Takes Lawmakers on Quail Hunts | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Politicians for Sale? Manufacturers Association Wines, Dines and Takes Lawmakers on Quail Hunts

Former Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville, received $1,597 worth of luxury trips, meals and alcohol from the Mississippi Manufacturers Association in 2015 alone. Imani Khayyam/File Photo

Former Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville, received $1,597 worth of luxury trips, meals and alcohol from the Mississippi Manufacturers Association in 2015 alone. Imani Khayyam/File Photo

— As pure as the election process might be, democracy has the potential to break down with the influence of money. Associations and corporations can, and do, influence politicians through lobbying. Mississippi allows lobbyists to wine and dine politicians not only during the legislative session but throughout the year.

Thankfully, those reports are made public, so taxpayers can see which groups and organizations throughout the state have spent the most money on politicians and potentially see how these groups get laws and policies created in their favor because of it.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo once said, "Too often government responds to the whispers of lobbyists before the cries of the people."

The Jackson Free Press is combing through these lobbyist client reports to see who wined and dined which politicians and will continue to publish these reports in the coming weeks at jfp.ms/lobbyists.

The first lobbyist spotlight is the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, a major player in Mississippi politics, lobbying and funding conservative causes. Last year, it donated to the Improve Mississippi PIC, which helped fund efforts to defeat Initiative 42, the citizens' effort to force the Mississippi Legislature to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

Last week, its efforts behind the scenes helped justify passage of Senate Bill 2858 that would divert almost $600 million away from the state's general fund. The group sponsored the study by the Mississippi College of Business that legislators used to justify cutting the franchise tax in the bill (see page 13). The bill was held on a motion to reconsider and had not passed to the House by press time.

MMA's PAC spent $166,250 in 2015 on candidates and other political committees, including the anti-42 Improve Mississippi PIC. The MMA's PAC received several smaller donations from manufacturing companies as well as Koch Companies—a bi-product of Koch Industries—which donated $20,000 to the PAC on Oct. 19, right before the election. MMA's PAC spent the most on Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves' campaigns, giving each $10,000.

In 2015, MMA also spent a large amount of money in its lobbying efforts: $26,123 to be exact. That does not include the $34,729 reception it threw legislators in January 2015. Below are some of the heftiest lobbying expenses MMA incurred in 2015:

Beau Rivage Retreat, May 27-28, 2015

(included hotel, reception, fishing and golfing expenses)

Total Cost: $13,227.47

Representatives paid for:

Mark Formby, R-Picayune; Greg Snowden, R-Meridian; Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi; Casey Eure, R-Biloxi; C. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia; Jim Beckett, R-Bruce; John Moore, R-Brandon; Angela Cockerham, D-Magnolia; Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula; Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville

Senators paid for:

Lydia Chassaniol, R-Winona; Gray Tollison, R-Oxford; Videt Carmichael, R-Meridian; Giles Ward, R-Louisville*; Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg; Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport; Dean Kirby, R-Pearl

Quail Ridge Quail Hunt Trip, Dec. 1, 2015

Total Cost: $2,352

Representatives paid for:

C. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia; Jason White, R-West; Mark Formby, R-Picayune; Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton; Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula

Senators paid for:

Gray Tollison, R-Oxford; Dean Kirby, R-Pearl; Giles Ward, R-Louisville*

Dancing Rabbit Golf Trip, Oct. 14, 2015

Total Cost: $1,925

Representatives paid for:

Greg Haney, R-Gulfport; Mark Formby, R-Picayune; C. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia; Mark Baker, R-Brandon; Charles Busby, R-Pascagoula; Randall Patterson, R-Biloxi; William Shirley, R-Quitman; Michael Evans, R-Preston; Greg Snowden, R-Meridian; Brent Powell, R-Brandon; Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie

Highest Paid Lawmakers (in the form of meals, retreats, luxury trips) by MMA Lobby Dollars in 2015

Former Sen. Giles Ward*: $1,597.66; Rep. Charles Busby: $1,461.35; Sen. Lydia Chassaniol: $1,369.22; Rep. C. Scott Bounds: $1,285.78; Rep. Mark Formby: $1,237.81; Rep. Greg Snowden: $1,219.88; Sen. Gray Tollison: $727.08; Speaker Philip Gunn: $710.82

*no longer in Senate

All data from the Mississippi Manufacturers Association 2015 Lobbyist Client Annual Report. See jfp.ms/lobbyists for PDFs. Also visit jfp.ms/sunshine for more open-records investigations.

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