Three On Your Side Investigates: 'Soft' Money Links Hood and Scruggs - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 02/07/08

Three On Your Side Investigates: 'Soft' Money Links Hood and Scruggs

By Marsha Thompson
marsha@wlbt.net

Tax records reveal huge sums of "soft" money flowing in and out of a national Democratic political group. The largest share goes toward the re-election of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. We found trial lawyers who worked closely with Hood donated tens of thousands to Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA), so we decided to take a closer look at this controversial style of fundraising.  

We tracked money transferred in and out of the DAGA, a political action group with the goal of getting Democratic attorneys general elected. Mississippians Dickie Scruggs and Joey Langston donated more to DAGA than any group in the country.

Scruggs, one of the nation's wealthiest trial lawyers, teamed up with Hood to sue insurers, specifically State Farm, after Hurricane Katrina. A July 16, 2007, letter has Hood identifying Scruggs "a confidential informant." Scruggs and others were recently indicted for conspiring to bribe a judge.

Tax records reveal Booneville trial lawyer Joey Langston has been a big contributor to DAGA. Mississippians for Economic Progress claims Langston sent $100,000 to the Washington political group in 2003. The next day, DAGA sent $100,000 to the Hood campaign. In a press release, MFEP director Lex Taylor suggested this could be an attempt to obscure the sources of contributions.

Langston was hired by Hood as outside counsel in the MCI case. He reportedly walked with part of $14 million in legal fees. More recently, Langston admitted to bribing a judge -- allegedly on Scruggs' behalf -- in an unrelated federal investigation.

Only recently sources of contributions were revealed in DAGA's tax filing for 2007:

  • October 2: Scruggs' firm donates $100,000 to DAGA.
  • October 3: Langston's firm gives $100,000 to DAGA.
  • October 17: Scruggs' firm gives $200,000 to DAGA.

In expenditures, DAGA sends huge sums of money to Hood's campaign.

  • September 28: DAGA gives $150,000 to Hood.
  • October 19: DAGA writes a check to Hood for another $150,000.
  • October 24: DAGA gives another $250,000.

Langston and Scruggs shelled out $400,000 to the Washington fundraising group. In expenditures, the DAGA sends $550,000 to Mississippi, earmarked for Attorney General Jim Hood.

Hood says it's all legal.

"It's soft money," Hood told WLBT on Thursday. "There is nothing illegal about it. What is illegal is a for a corporation to give it to a political action committee to circumvent the $1,000 cap in state law. It had nothing to do with the State Farm case."

Others argue it's soft money that is too far off the public's radar screen.

Campaign finance documents reveal Scruggs and Langston, who is his former lawyer, also contributed another $38,000 directly to Hood's campaign war chest in 2007.

Hood tells us he would never risk the integrity of the office or his reputation by allowing politics to get involved in how his office operates.

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