Andy Taggart: Time for an AG who puts Mississippi first

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Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether Democrat Jim Hood should continue as Mississippi’s Attorney General. This time Hood’s re-election is not a foregone conclusion. Far from it. The latest polling trend indicates the race has become a toss-up. A recent non-partisan poll has Hood’s lead over federal prosecutor and Hickory native, Mike Hurst, shrinking to 6%, indicating the results could be very close on election night.

What’s driving voters’ concerns about our AG? The most likely explanation is that Mississippians have begun to catch on to the fact that Hood’s record doesn’t live up to his rhetoric. Contrary to his frequent claim that his office is focused on our interests, Hood spends an awful lot of time and an awful lot of our tax dollars on schemes he’s cooked up with special interests from outside the state.

Hood declared in a recent public appearance, “I’ve had the opportunity to do what Jesus taught us to do – fight for widows, orphans and the elderly.” His pious proclamation aside, the AG also seems to have found religion working with lawyers for Hollywood filmmakers intent on suing Google for millions of dollars.

How does investigating Google on the dubious charge of facilitating online piracy help widows, orphans and the elderly in Mississippi? Good question. It doesn’t. Recent emails that have come to light reveal the investigation, dubbed “Project Goliath,” is part of a plan that Jenner & Block, the law firm representing Hollywood’s lobbying arm, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), devised to serve its proprietary interests by convincing Hood and other state attorneys general to help the MPAA go after Google.

The scheme assumed Google would agree to settle to avoid extended, costly litigation. That assumption was wrong. Google didn’t settle, and to date, Project Goliath hasn’t produced any benefits for the people of Mississippi or any other state. It has, however, benefited Jim Hood.

Campaign finance reports expose the Hood campaign’s reliance on out-of-state financial support. Only 20% of contributions to his campaign are from Mississippians. The rest has come from outside interests, including many thousands of dollars from the MPAA and its allies in Washington, D.C. and California.

After all the time and resources he’s already spent investigating Google, Hood has only his well-funded campaign coffers to show for the effort. And yet he insists he will continue to spend our tax dollars on an investigation that doesn’t concern our interests. Google hasn’t based any of its operations in our state. It doesn’t have an office here. Why should Mississippi’s Attorney General help content providers based in California litigate their issues with a search engine company also based in California?

Our attorney general should concentrate his attention on our problems – of which there are many he has refused to address – not Hollywood’s. A recent independent study disclosed that Mississippi, with a population of only three million, has suffered the most public corruption of any state in the country.

It’s time to put someone in the AG’s office who puts Mississippi first. Mike Hurst has a record of protecting Mississippians from those who steal from us and violate the public trust. He’ll fight for us — not for corporate special interests looking to pad a politician’s campaign coffers.

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Andy Taggart is a partner at Taggart, Rimes & Graham, PLLC and previously Chief of Staff to former Governor Kirk Fordice. He is also Mike Hurst’s campaign treasurer.