BAY ST. LOUIS — A political action committee that attacked state Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, has apologized.
The apology, signed by Advance Mississippi PAC executive director Steve Simmons and treasurer Randy Stephens, ran in the Sun Herald and Sea Coast Echo newspapers Saturday, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
Baria had sued the committee in October for defamation, saying it made false statements about his voting record and wrongly claimed he took money from his law clients.
The former state senator, who switched to the House in the 2011 elections, said he agreed to drop his lawsuit and accept the apology. He said he hopes the suit makes other groups or politicians think twice about making false claims.
“I hope so,” Baria said Friday. “I hope anybody involved in the political process will understand, you can talk about a person’s political record, but you have to tell the truth, even if you are a PAC and have no real identity.”
Simmons said the PAC made up mailers including the statements using research it believed to be correct.
“In 2011 Advance Mississippi PAC sent direct mail to voters in House District 122,” Simmons said in a statement. “We generated the mailers based on research from a reputable research firm. Two statements made were later found to be inaccurate. Had I known those statements were inaccurate, I would have never included them in the mailers. They were honest mistakes.”
Advance Mississippi spent nearly $300,000 statewide in the 2011 elections.
Many Democrats faced numerous mailers attacking their records in 2011, with members of the party continuing to claim that many fliers were unfair or inaccurate.
One mailer against Baria, for example, used an altered photo of him with an extremely long Pinocchio nose. Another took a photo of him and his son from Baria’s Facebook page and turned it into an attack piece.
Baria said what he sued over, though, were ads making claims about his voting record, including that he had voted to raise his salary and to raise taxes on groceries. Baria said he wasn’t even in the Legislature when the grocery tax was adopted, and that he was in the Senate when the House voted for a bill including a pay raise. The Senate did not vote on such a measure.