The Mississippi Ethics Commission will
take on the task of trying to determine who leaked Gov. Haley
Barbour's financial information to the media, according to agency
executive director Tom Hood.
Public officials are required to report their sources of
personal income when it totals more than $2,500. The specifics of
disclosure are mostly left up to the politician.
Barbour's personal income shows up as a blind trust.
Ethics commissioners decided that satisfied state law. They
released their opinion after receiving written permission from
Barbour, the commission statement said Friday.
Mississippi law does not address blind trusts. Mostly federal
officials use such trusts. They are supposed to shield them from
knowing where their money comes from, thereby preventing conflicts
The public release of financial data filed with the Ethics
Commission is a misdemeanor.
In a series of articles, Bloomberg News Service has reported
that Barbour still had a stake worth $786,666 in the parent company
of his former lobbying firm when he formed a blind trust after
taking office in 2004. Barbour receives $25,000 a month, or
$300,000 a year, from the trust, the news service reported, citing
a document obtained through a source who requested anonymity.
The Ethics Commission "is concerned by the possibility that the
dissemination of this information could have resulted in a breach
of the confidentiality restrictions," Tom Hood said in a
Barbour has been mostly silent on his blind trust, but his
spokesman, Pete Smith, has maintained that revealing the contents
would destroy the intent of it.
Attorney General Jim Hood's office sent a letter to Barbour a
year ago saying he was in violation of state ethics law by not
reporting the sources of income in his blind trust. Jim Hood and
Tom Hood are brothers.
"I have been quietly trying for over a year through letters to
get them to do the right thing and follow the law," Jim Hood said.
"We are looking at having to take additional action, but we hope
it does not come to that."
In a letter to Hood, Jackson attorney Ed Brunini Jr., who
crafted the blind trust for the governor, wrote: "We drafted the
trust agreement in a way that we believe satisfied all of the
elements necessary to conform to our ethics statutes."
Brunini said opinions from the Ethics Commission were sought and
federal blind trust provisions were consulted.
According to a letter Brunini sent to the Ethics Commission this
year, Barbour receives no income from any source except for his
$122,000 salary as governor. But the letter says income from his
other sources of income go into a trust and Barbour and the first
lady draw from that as they deem appropriate.
Barbour was co-founder of the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm
Barbour, Griffith and Rogers.
Since Barbour has become governor, Barbour, Griffith & Rogers
has represented at least four businesses involved in the Katrina
recovery effort on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, according to
Bloomberg. The firm also has earned more than $2 million from
tobacco companies Brown & Williamson and Lorrillard, according to
lobbying reports filed online with the U.S. Senate.