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December 27, 2010

Barbour in the News Again, Portrayed as a Fat-Cat Lobbyist

For the second week in a row, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is getting negative press and I can only assume these are the opening shots in the 2012 GOP presidential primary. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure it was Politico last week that kicked Barbour's racial comments onto the front page. If so, they've sure got a hard-on for one of his competitors because they're at it again:

Barbour has traveled extensively on the jet, brushing off suggestions from Mississippi Democrats that he give it up in favor of a more modest propeller plane for his travel. The trips, according to a POLITICO review of the Cessna’s flight manifest since 2007, have mixed state business with both pleasure and national politics.

Some of Barbour’s travel may well have been worth it to Mississippi, a state that is heavily dependent on federal funds. But much of the time, he has used the plane to go to fundraisers for himself and other Republican candidates and committees, to football games and to at least one boxing match — travel that has a less obvious connection to what Barbour, a former top lobbyist in Washington, has cast as his lobbying on behalf of his state.

The flight logs obtained by POLITICO indicate that Mississippi has spent more than $500,000 over the past three years on Barbour's air travel. That total does not include security and other logistical costs associated with his trips. And through a quirk in Mississippi law, whenever the governor is out of state, Mississippi must pay the lieutenant governor a salary differential as acting governor.

Barbour has reimbursed the state for a handful of flights, but he has more often scheduled obscure official business to coincide with the business of politics, according to the manifest and logs, which were obtained from the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration under a Mississippi Public Records Act request by a Democrat who has worked in the state, who provided them to POLITICO.

Barbour's spokesman responds by suggesting that Mississippi is more in need of national attention and federal largess and that the jet is an "an effective marketing tool in a state that really needs it." The Politico article goes on to detail some questionable flights that seem to have been solely to raise money for Barbour's campaign chest and that weren't reimbursed to Mississippi.

Who does this help the most? I'm gonna go with Sarah Palin, who most notably told the 2008 GOP Convention that she put Alaska's gubernatorial jet up for sale on eBay. (She managed to sell it through an aircraft broker.) However, other 2012 hopefuls are also demonstrating fiscal responsibility by curbing expensive flights, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 12:03 PM

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