TLP: Who's Afraid of Haley Barbour?
You wouldn't think Haley Barbour cuts a very intimidating figure among the potential Republican candidates for president in 2012. A long-time lobbyist, the two-term Mississippi governor has spent his time in office trying to help his state recover from Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. He's distinguished himself lately for remarks on racial issues that, to put it kindly, don't exhibit much in the way of an enlightened view.
Last spring, he was puzzled at criticism that Virginia's Confederate History Month omitted a mention of slavery, saying the controversy "doesn't amount to diddly". This month, he was 'splaining what he really meant to say about Citizens Councils in the South during the civil rights era.
And he's polling at 2 percent, behind Romney, Huckabee, another former governor whose name escapes me, Gingrich, Christie, Rubio, Paul, Jindal and Pawlenty, tying with Thune and Daniel for last.
So why did a fat file of flight logs suddenly land in the laps of Politico reporters?
The Mississippi state plane, a zippy Cessna Citation with a capacity of 12, is a model favored by corporate executives and the wealthy, and its principal passenger, Gov. Haley Barbour, might easily be mistaken for one of them when he arrives with a small entourage at airports in Washington, Las Vegas or New York, a car and driver waiting there at their disposal.This has vendetta written all over it. Barbour pissed off or pissed on somebody and that somebody (a Democrat!) wants to make sure whatever crazy scheme Barbour has in his head for 2012 goes nowhere.
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.
And we are just getting started.