Sunday, September 14, 2014

This Government Brought To You By Rima Industrial and Mississippi Silicon, Part II

At a January ground-breaking for Mississippi Silicon’s new production facility, Ricardo Vicintin, President and CEO of Rima Industrial, said “Rima considered many locations around the world for the new facility and we greatly appreciate the support and enthusiasm shown by the citizens and government leaders in Mississippi.” In getting $25 million in exchange for creating 200 jobs, perhaps Vicintin should have been appreciative.

We know this to be true: Rima Industrial had already shopped numerous sites across the United States and elsewhere looking for the best deal they could get. Also known to be true is that Vicintin is an indicted felon in Brazil, has a racketeering charge pending in federal court, and has been sued for attempting to evade US anti-dumping laws by importing silicon metal from Brazil to the United States at unfairly low prices.

What was not known previously was that the entire deal seems to have come together all around a secretive junket to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. We cannot confirm whether Governor Phil Bryant enjoyed long strolls along Copacabana beach or with whom he met with on the trip. The Mississippi Development Authority, which paid for the trip with a combination of taxpayer money and corporate cash, refuses to release the details.

Not long after Phil Bryant returned tanned and rested last year, a bevy of corporate filings related to the new Tishomingo County industrial endeavor cropped up. Interestingly, Mississippi Silicon Holdings LLC, which is owned almost entirely by Rima Industrial, didn’t even exist until just weeks before the junket.

In fact, none of the company’s affiliated corporations came into existence until after the Mississippi trade delegation’s September 2013 trip to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. And the primary owner of the project, Rima Industrial S/A of Brazil, wasn’t announced until three months after the trip during a press conference headed by Phil Bryant.

Details of the Brazil trip, arranged by the Mississippi Development Authority, are a closely held secret. MDA officials said it was set up to bring together Mississippi companies wanting to expand trade and create new business relationships with their South American counterparts.

MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen, along with directors of the Gulfport and Pascagoula port authorities, accompanied Phil Bryant. The MDA’s website and newspaper accounts indicate Phil Bryant’s expenses were not paid by taxpayers but fail to identify who contributed the “private money” that paid for his trip.

Business representatives who participated in the trip – none were identified by the MDA – were offered financial incentives through the U.S. Small Business Administration-funded Mississippi State Trade Export Promotion program to offset costs of the trip, according to an MDA press release. Up to 50 percent of their travel expenses were paid by the program.

All of these points lead us to a few lingering questions such as who are these private business interests that paid for the trip and what did they get in return? Additionally, how did an entire corporation go from non-existent to getting $25 million in state funding in a few weeks?

The common denominator to these questions might be John Correnti.

According to public records, Mississippi Silicon is an 80-20 joint venture owned by Rima Holdings USA, a subsidiary of Rima Industrial, and Clean Tech I LLC, headed by Correnti.

Correnti is known in Mississippi for having a history of making promises he doesn’t tend to keep. This includes proposals – with offers of substantial government funding – to build steel and silicon plants in Amory and Lowndes County.

The MDA is currently on the hook to reimburse Lowndes County for expenses incurred in Corretti’s failed effort to build a plant there two year ago.

In addition to private funding, the Mississippi Silicon project is set to benefit from a $3.5 million MDA loan to Tishomingo County, plus another $21 million in MDA loans and grants for infrastructure improvements and job training. The Appalachian Development Authority has approved $300,000 for site improvements. The Tennessee Valley Authority is providing a $1.5 million loan and a $425,000 grant for the project.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Change in Command Coming to Mississippi GOP?

Sources within Republican ranks are reporting that Governor Phil Bryant is sending his former chief of staff and former Cochran campaign manager, Kirk Sims, to be the new executive director for the Mississippi Republican Party.

For those unfamiliar with Sims, he served as Governor Bryant's chief of staff before leading Cochran's 2014 Senate primary. After Cochran's near defeat in the June 3 Republican Primary, the decision was made to not keep Sims on Cochran's campaign staff. On top of that, he is the son-in-law of U.S. Senator Roger Wicker.

What should outrage Tea Party supporters is that Bryant's rumored handpicked executive director, along with Chairman Joe Nosef, have done everything they can to diminish and discredit the U.S. Senate campaign of Chris McDaniel.

Furthermore, the Haley Barbour establishment and their big-money donors should be frightened that Bryant is permitting the person who nearly lost Cochran his re-election to be the next executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party.

Stay tuned as rumored staffing hire develops.

More thoughts: I am puzzled why Phil Bryant is allegedly sending Kirk to work for the state party and rather than hiring Kirk to run his re-election campaign for governor. Perhaps Kirk did such a poor job that not even Bryant wants him on his own campaign staff.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Travis Childers and Mississippi are Looking for Thad Cochran

In the latest US Senate race news, Democratic nominee Travis Childers reminds voters that Republican nominee Thad Cochran continues to duck voters and refuses to face Childers for a debate.

Cochran refused to debate Chris McDaniel; Cochran doesn't look like he will debate Travis Childers. It seems that after serving 36 years in the country's greatest debating forum, Cochran has finally lost his ability to engage in a discussion over issues. At this stage in his long career, it is odd and disappointing that Cochran would shy away from running on his record.

Here is the ad, for your viewing pleasure:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nuclear Waste Storage Showing Up Again

Just when you thought the issue of nuclear waste storage in Mississippi had gone away (again), here we go once more!

Tomorrow in Atlanta, a panel discussion will be held to discuss the impacts of consolidated nuclear waste storage on communities. A representative on this panel is none other than Patrick Sullivan, President of the Mississippi Energy Institute. Let's not forget that Brent Christensen, Phil Bryant's right-hand man at the Mississippi Development Authority, is still on the Mississippi Energy Institute's Board of Directors.

When I hear "consolidated," I take that to mean they are not just planning on storing Mississippi's nuclear waste in southern Mississippi. It means that Mississippi could be the consolidated dump for nuclear waste from places like California, New York, and Florida.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission, in a bipartisan way, has gone on record to say that we do not want nuclear waste stored in Mississippi, especially around our neighborhoods, forests, and waterways. Even Republican U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo is opposed to nuclear waste storage in Mississippi.

Nearly a year has gone by with the public and regulators in opposition to this idea, yet Sullivan continues to advocate Mississippi as the best place to go for dumping nuclear waste.

Phil Bryant even went as far as to say concern over this issue is an "overreaction." Once again, Phil Bryant and his cronies continue to ignore the will of Mississippians while helping his friends make a buck at the expense of our state.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Phil Bryant's Position Is Getting Lonelier

In a radio interview yesterday morning, Governor Phil Bryant said that his fellow 29 Republican governors are standing strong in their efforts to fight Obamacare. A problem with Bryant's argument is that it is not true.

In recent months, Republican governors across the country have worked to offer health insurance options for thousands of working Americans. Most recently, Republican governors in Pennsylvania and Tennessee (who also have Republican-led legislatures) are laying the groundwork to broaden their states' Medicaid eligibility. Even Florida's Republican governor unsuccessfully tried to expand Medicaid in his state.

This now means that Republican governors in Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have agreed to provide additional health care options for their states. Republican governors in Indiana, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming are still ironing out the specifics on their own version of expansion.

The well-known Republican governor of New Jersey was quoted as saying “We expanded Medicaid, because we believe that folks are better off going to see physicians and having care than going to emergency rooms all the time." And this guy may want to run as a Republican for President of the United States?!

Phil Bryant can beat his chest and talk a big game on talk radio, but at the end of the day, his misguided position is still bad policy with life-threatening consequences. This is the Republican Party he's fighting for.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Republicans Offer More Empty Words on Labor Day

A tweet from the Mississippi Republican Party was a token gesture to those who are the backbone of our communities and economy: the labor force.

Consider, if you will, a few examples of what Mississippi Republicans have done to show their gratitude.
  • In 2012, the Republican legislature passed and Governor Phil Bryant signed a law to weaken worker's compensation rights in the state. Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) argued that the bill was the "biggest vote for business since tort reform."
  • This year, the Republicans passed a law that would handicap the ability of individuals wishing to organize or have a demonstration. Even Rep. Dennis DeBar (R-Leakesville), the manager of one of the bills being referenced, acknowledged that unions do not have much of a presence in Mississippi, but he wanted to "make a statement."
  • Under Phil Bryant's watch, Mississippi has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
  • Governor Bryant and the Republicans have done everything within their power to prevent hundreds of thousands of working Mississippians from obtaining health insurance coverage. 
  • Governor Bryant and the Republicans have done nothing to raise the state's minimum wage, provide paid sick leave for a worker's to tend to an ill relative or to take leave when she or he is sick, or to ensure that women earn the same salary as a man does for the same job.

It takes a lot of nerve for the Republicans to claim they are thankful and proud of our workers when Republicans do so much to make life difficult for the state's labor force and their families.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Update on the Pete Perry tax situation

I received word today that Pete Perry had cleared up his delinquent taxes referenced in one of Ryan's posts last week.  Mr. Perry's Neshoba County Fair cabin had been listed for tax sale in the local paper, and is currently listed as being up for tax sale on the Neshoba County website as well.

So I called the Neshoba County Tax Collector, Mike Lewis, and asked him if Mr. Perry had paid his delinquent taxes.  Mr. Lewis confirmed that Mr. Perry had, in fact, paid the 2012 taxes that were causing his property to be listed for sale.  However, Mr. Lewis stated that Mr. Perry had not paid his 2013 taxes, which were due February 1, 2014.  So if you're looking at buying a tax deed to Mr. Perry's Fair cabin, you're out of luck this year.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pete Perry's Courthouse Tour Continues

Hinds County Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry was in the paper for not paying property taxes on his Neshoba County Fairgrounds' cabin. We know Perry was paid a hefty sum by pro-Thad Cochran groups for his assistance during the Republican primary and runoff in June. It's odd that for someone paid so well suddenly does not have the money to pay his taxes.

Perry has had plenty of courthouse appearances this year; first for helping Tea Party intruders in the Hinds County Courthouse on June 4, then his speeding and DUI incident a few weeks later, and now this issue over his property taxes.

We know Perry isn't a lawyer, but he surely knows how to read the fine print.

UPDATE 8/22/14 - Mr. Perry has paid the taxes referenced above.  Click here for the details.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Another Report Confirms What We Already Know

Phil Bryant continues to let working Mississippians go without health care and cost the state money, and he knows it's all about politics.

A report from the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute once again shows that Phil Bryant and his Republican Party continue to refuse millions of dollars which would support health care access for working Mississippians.

The report highlights some important statistics:
  • Roughly 165,000 Mississippians would obtain health insurance coverage if Phil Bryant would open his heart to those without coverage.
  • For every dollar spent on expanding health care access for working people, states get a $13 return on the investment. 
  • Mississippi has lost nearly $14 million in Medicaid funding because of Bryant's refusal to help working people have health care access.
  • Hospitals across Mississippi are suffering under Bryant's watch as they continue to get shortchanged by about $5 million a year in lost reimbursements. 
  • Mississippi's private businesses stand to go without $97 million in grants and tax deductions.
  • Researchers from the Universities of Alabama and South Carolina found that from 2014-2020, Mississippi is likely to gain more general funds to help working people get health care than it will to cover the cost of increased access. In short: We will get more back in private investment than we spend on public investment.
  • If Mississippi were to expand access, our state's GDP would increase over $2.5 billion dollars from 2014-2017.
  • Thousands of Mississippians would also have a job. We already have the highest unemployment rate in the country; putting doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to work would help our standing tremendously.
There is still a great deal of work required to get Mississippi off of the bottom of so many bad lists when it comes to health care. Phil Bryant should realize our state - its citizens and its economy - is hurting. Bryant's political grandstanding has to stop.

Happy Birthday to our Editor!

Just a quick note from Ryan, Kate, and David that we are happy to wish a very happy birthday to Cottonmouth's fearless leader, Matt Eichelberger!

Hope it's a great one!