Probably one of the most interesting aspects of the fallout of the Scruggs/Balducci bribery case in Oxford Mississippi has been the absolute absense of the State’s top law enforcement officer in the potential for the biggest public corruption case since “Operation Pretense” in the 1980’s.
The office of the Mississippi Attorney General has a Public Integrity Division (PID), which is charged with “the prosecution of several types of criminal cases in the State Courts in Mississippi. As its primary mission, PID is charged with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting public corruption and white collar crime.”
So the question remains . . . Where is Jim Hood?
As we know, Tim Balducci was a Special Assistant Attorney General appointed by Jim Hood in the MCI case, a case in which Hood’s largest political contributors were given a case that netted them $14,000,000 in attorneys fees. And though Balducci was a Special Assistant Attorney General in the case, he joined Joey Langston in filing an action protecting the attorneys fees against State Auditor Phil Bryant. Jim Hood’s predecessor and political mentor, Former Attorney General Mike Moore, represented MCI in the case.
This investigation has been going on for about seven months by the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office. There are only one of two scenarios. First, Hood knew about the investigation of his large campaign contributors, and has remained silent just to help the Feds. That seems highly implausible. With the recent political cycle in which Scruggs and many of the lawyers in SKG donated tens of thousands of dollars to Hood, it just isn’t plausible that Hood knew of the investigation and would have kept the campaign money. The more likely scenario is that Hood’s office knew nothing about the investigation and were as shocked as the rest of the world was when the indictments came down.
Although former Special Assistant Attorney General has now pleaded guilty to federal charges for bribing a state judge, that does not absolve him from state criminal liability. Nor would the federal charges pending against the other accused (several of which were Hood’s political donors) preclude the PID from bringing state charges.
Normally, you would fear for the life of anyone standing between Jim Hood and a news camera for a public corruption investigation of this type. However, not one word has been uttered in the press and seemingly no investigation is pending by Jim Hood’s office. As for Dickie Scruggs, who Hood named a “confidential informant” in the Rigsby matter while providing safe harbor for one of his largest campaign donors to defy a direct court order to return documents, it is a test of “public integrity” indeed to see if Hood will join the investigation and bring charges on behalf of the people of Mississippi.
There is the potential that Hood may get caught in the net of this investigation. IF it comes out that Scruggs and Hood coordinated criminal charges against State Farm to exact leverage in Scruggs’ civil litigation and subsequent settlement, this could get sticky indeed. Obviously, the Feds will depose Scruggs in their case prep and may well depose Hood as well.
Folks, I am afraid we’re just getting started in this case.
As “Deep Throat” said in the Watergate scandal . . . follow the money.