Say one thing about the Mississippi meat plant scandal: In an era when it’s said that Democrats and Republicans just can’t get along, this affair has proven that a lot of bipartisan business still gets done at certain levels.

In Mississippi, the story of an economic development scheme gone badly wrong has been mostly a headache for Democrats. It has put a dark cloud over the head of former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, in a year when he’s challenging U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and hoping to catch the same fire which propelled Democrat Travis Childers to victory in a special congressional election earlier this year.

In Georgia, where the three businessmen who last week pleaded guilty to charges connected to the scandal reside, the story has more of a Republican tinge because of their connections back home. It isn’t clear that either party gets the rap for the fiasco, but it has left politicians and business people uneasy in both states.

There’s been no indication Musgrove is a target of federal prosecutors, although the three Georgia executives also have an incentive to cooperate with the feds, leaving the door open to possible future indictments – and certain speculation. Some in the state have questioned the timing of the plea deal, which gets the Facility Group execs off the hook on more serious charges.

After Moultrie pleaded last week, Musgrove issued a statement point out there was no indication of “any quid pro quo” in Moultrie’s plea agreement, and that in any case he wasn’t responsible as governor for the contracts with the Facility Group.

State Republican Party Chairman-elect Brad White issued a press release condemning Musgrove for accepting Moultrie’s “tainted check.” Back home, however, the bulk of Moultrie’s checks over the years have been written to Republicans. Georgia State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, the Republican House Rules chairman, was a marketing executive at the Facility Group until shortly after the indictments, when he resigned from the company.

Southern Political Report
8/18/8