First the news and then the backstory.
While Mississippi’s political press establishment remains woefully (and/or blissfully) asleep at the wheel, Democratic US Senate candidate Travis Childers posted an anemic $51K in campaign funds in his Q1 FEC report. The effort was as lackluster in results as it was disturbing in methodology.
Now one of the darker incidents in Mississippi political history was the conviction of Dickie Scruggs, Joey Langston and former State Auditor Steve Patterson involving bribery schemes of two sitting Mississippi court judges. I seem to remember at least one great book written about that story.
Though most in the Mississippi media tried to obfuscate it, one of the most offensive parts of that story was a then sitting US Congressman, Travis Childers, writing a letter of leniency to a federal judge for his bestest pal Joey Langston after his plea for his role in federal charges of bribing Judge Bobby DeLaughter who is now on his own image rehabilitation tour.
Childers waxed . . .
“This is not a man who has lost his way. He may have gotten sidetracked, but he hasn’t lost his way. I only wish that every town and county in America had someone like Joey Langston.”
“If losing his license to practice law isn’t severe enough punishment, then certainly the embarrassment from the local and regional news is. Joey understands consequences and will accept your sentence as he has agreed.”
“…I know his heart and it is good. I wish I could fix this situation. I would take his punishment if I could.”
So on to the FEC report. Joey Langston’s name is not on the Childers report, but his fingerprints are all over it. Joey’s wife Tracie along with their three children all “maxed out” for Childers giving $5,200 each. That’s $2600 for the primary and $2600 for the general up front. In addition, Booneville lawyer Casey Lott (relatives to Langston via marriage), of the law firm Langston and Lott, and his wife also individually “maxed out” for Childers. That’s a cool $31,200 of the $51,600 haul. More disturbingly, the Langston orbit money came all on deadline day to report to the FEC (3/31/14). Oxford tobacco lawyer Mike Lewis also chipped in $2600 and out of state PACs kicked in another $10K or so.
None of this is to say that the Langstons are bad people, though Joey did something reprehensible and paid a real price for it. The canaries in the coal mine with Scruggs and Langston all had to do with campaign finance. There were dead canaries everywhere. Having Langston at the center of Childers political orbit (as this report seems to do) is disconcerting to say the least. Truthfully, the way the report is laid out, Joey Langston should probably have gone ahead and donated in his own name because it couldn’t look any more like he orchestrated it. This is about politics, and the politics of this FEC report are bad.
This whole incident reinforces several disturbing things about Childers that those who’ve followed him closely over the years already know. First, his political reflexes are awful. Second, he will literally say or do anything. He is a totally “ends justify the means” sort of guy and the folks he associates with are as well. Third, the state Democratic party has sold him a bill of goods, but his ego couldn’t pass up the ride. It is quite evident that they have absolutely no ability or intention to raise him any money whatsoever. To let someone who is running statewide stumble out of the gates this poorly just shows the continued disarray that the state Democratic party finds itself with the absence of any control or standards whatsoever.
I’ve been writing and following the Mississippi media for a lot of years now. The Daily Journal in particular will be giving Childers a pass (as they were and remain at the editorial level huge Childers cheerleaders), but the optics of this look pretty bad and it’s not the way that someone who promised to run a real campaign should have come out of the chute.
But again, I’ve watched Travis Childers for a long time and I’m not one bit surprised.
The YallPolitics Memory Division is alive and well and will be at it all summer and fall.
As disclosed on numerous occasions, the author of this story has made a reportable contribution in this race. Please factor that into your reading of this article.