ATRA Urges Mississippi AG to Debate ‘Sunshine Bill’ Honestly
Having read what he felt was a misleading campaign email sent yesterday by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, ATRA’s communications director today emailed the AG, urging him to be more forthright in debating the merits of the so-called Sunshine Bill, recently passed in the Mississippi House.
As explained in the ATRA email below, the bill in question would make it harder for AG Hood to dole out no-bid contingency fee contracts for state legal work to private-sector plaintiffs lawyers who not coincidentally tend to be among some of his biggest campaign donors. Some folks call this “pay to play.”
From: Darren McKinney
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2012 3:15 PM
Subject: HB 211 Merits Honest Debate
Dear General Hood:
You should be more forthcoming with Mississippians. Your campaign email below is misleading with respect to your real fear of and resistance to HB 211, also known appropriately as the Sunshine Bill.
The simple fact is that if your sweeping authority over the hiring of outside counsel on behalf of the state were to be subjected to public scrutiny and otherwise shared more broadly with other state officials (as would be the case under HB 211), your capacity to curry campaign contributions and other political support from wealthy private-sector plaintiffs’ attorneys to whom you have in the past granted generous no-bid contingency fee contracts could well be lessened.
Leaving aside your incredible insinuation that former Gov. Barbour cares more about “murderers, rapists, and child molesters” than he cares about law-abiding, hard-working Mississippians, your attack on HB 211 suggests that it would somehow empower other state officials outside your office to run roughshod over the rights of Magnolia State citizens – as if those other officials aren’t directly or indirectly answerable to the voters just like you.
The Sunshine Bill is not sinister. By clearly setting conditions to be met before state officials can enter into contingency fee contracts for legal services, and by requiring public disclosure of such legal contracts and fees, the bill would promote greater accountability and transparency. And by placing incremental restrictions on the amount of contingency fees that can be paid to outside counsel, the bill would ensure that the state gets its fair share of awards from litigation while properly reducing the likelihood of self-interests trumping the public interest. No taxpayer could rationally oppose such good-government provisions.
So if you wish to argue that you’re the only state official qualified to hire private sector legal help, and that you’re the only one who truly cares about the welfare of fellow Mississippians, then by all means make that case on the merits to the extent possible. But you do neither Mississippians nor your own reputation any service by deliberately confusing the debate about HB 211 with references to gubernatorial pardons and unfounded aspersions about the motivations of equally dedicated state officials.
Director of Communications
American Tort Reform Association
1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW, #400
Washington, DC 20036
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From: Attorney General Jim Hood [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 8:08 AM
Subject: Urgent–Attorney General Jim Hood Needs Your Help
Thanks for your continued support of our efforts to fight crime, protect children and vulnerable adults, and go after those who commit domestic violence. Recently, we took on over 200 Haley Barbour pardons of some murderers, rapists, and child molesters. We took that fight to the Mississippi Supreme Court because we believe that many of these pardons were in violation of the state’s constitution. So many victims and their families were never consulted with regard to these pardons, and I, like you, felt for how these families were treated.
You’ve helped us get our message out successfully in the past, and now we need your help again. The Mississippi House of Representatives has passed HB 211 which severely limits our office’s ability to investigate and prosecute civil cases. This bill will allow each agency and board to hire their own attorney instead of having the AG’s office handle those issues. Imagine had we not been able to intervene in the pardon case on your behalf if this bill had been law?
Here’s what you can do. Please call your State Senator today and ask them not to strip the Attorney General’s office of its authority to represent you. If this bill or similar measures is allowed to become law, it could cost you, the taxpayer, an additional $11 million at a time when the state has no extra money to hire new law enforcement officers, adequately pay our prosecutors, or do many other things.
Please call your Senator today at 601.359.3770 and ask them NOT to support any bill that limits the power of the Attorney General! Call or email your Senator and tell him/her to vote NO on any bill that limits the authority of this office to protect the people. Here is a link to a legislative website that can help you find your legislator and their email address. To keep up with this issue, follow us by clicking here or the Facebook icon above and on our website. Nothing can replace the important role that an independent Attorney General plays in protecting Mississippi families.
Thanks for your support,
Paid for by Friends of Jim Hood