In a biting exchange during a legislative budget meeting last week, Attorney General Mike Moore exhibited his trademark arrogance once again.
On the surface, Moore and Senate Finance Committee chairman Hob Bryan`s disagreement was about $62 million from the tobacco industry and who had the authority to spend it. Moore explained that this money was a grant from big tobacco `to buy good will,` and it is not included in the potential billion-dollar settlement the state and tobacco companies agreed to last year.
The funds are being spent by Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, a non-profit group of doctors and health officials. Bryan was disturbed that a non-profit group was in charge of distributing the $62 million.
Bryan isn`t alone in his concern.
Perhaps this $62 million shouldn`t be in the state treasury, as Moore has implied, but clearly, it is here as a result of Mike Moore`s aggressive attack on big tobacco companies – an action Moore undertook as Mississippi`s Attorney General. A question that begs to be answered: Did the tobacco companies want to buy `good will` with this $62 million? Or did they want to get Mike Moore off their backs?
For whatever reason tobacco companies had for dropping $62 million into a Mississippi non-profit, one fact is certain: Moore is reaping the political benefits.
Well, he`s trying to at least. People like Hob Bryan aren`t letting him get away with it.
It may not be Moore`s intention, but the perception is that he`s trying to buy the 1999 governor`s election by passing out tobacco money.
We`re confident that Mississippi voters won`t fall for it. Mississippi business isn`t. Office scuttlebutt from around the state indicates that Moore is about as popular as an OSHA inspector or an IRS agent.
It is unfortunate that Moore is using a public pulpit to further his political aspirations. The money won from the tobacco industry can be put to good use in Mississippi, but Mike Moore should have nothing to do with it.