You won't believe the high-handed way in which Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood operates. Or maybe you will.
Hood recently announced settlements with three drug manufacturers charged with Medicaid fraud and violations of consumer protection laws. Hood says the settlements will add over $6 million to state coffers.
But there's a catch. Hood -– not the governor or the state Legislature -- decides how the money is spent.
Sound familiar? Yes, the ironically named Hood is the Darrell "Quick Draw" McGraw of Mississippi.
The only difference is, Mississippi's governor and many of its legislators are raising a ruckus over the delta don's inappropriate dispersal of those funds.
"The attorney general is the chief law enforcer of the state," comments state Rep. Philip Gunn. "He is not elected to decide how taxpayer money is to be spent."
Gunn concedes that state attorneys general across the country have "the legal right to negotiate settlements of this nature, and they have the sole authority to decide how it's going to be spent."
The problem, he explains, is that "AGs end up hiring their favorite firms or political supporters to handle these cases for the State and then pay them whatever they want -- giving them taxpayer dollars. Then, in turn, [those firms or supporters] make campaign contributions to the attorneys general when election time rolls around."
We know how it works. Quick Draw has played this game for years.
McGraw won million-dollar settlements with pharmaceutical companies for alleged overcharges and disbursed the funds as he saw fit. Denied its share of the rebates, the Feds withheld Medicaid payments to West Virginia.
In Mississippi, Gunn is promoting a sunshine law to get the attorney general's hands out of the public purse. Someone in our Legislature should follow his lead.
"It's taxpayer money," says Gunn, "and the taxpayers are represented by the legislature. They should decide how that money is spent and make sure it is spent wisely on behalf of the taxpayers."