Miss. ethics panel hopes to find leak of Gov. Barbour's finances

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

of interest.

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.