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Misuse of Federal Funds Not a New Boondoggle in Mississippi. It’s Time to Notice.

Since the state auditor and the Hinds district attorney broke the news of their TANF-fund investigation in February 2020, Mississippians and Americans have had a lot to say about the redirection of $77 million in federal welfare dollars in our state from those who need it the most to those who, well, need it the least. The outrage is deserved and appropriate, as are the efforts by multiple news outlets since the news broke to figure out exactly who did what when—and, vitally, what laws they broke, especially those not arrested or who have pleaded guilty to date. Or, if needed laws even exist in a state where channeling funds away from the poor isn’t exactly a new thing.

The TANF story, that is, has the ability to be relegated to only a sensational whodunit—thus setting it up to happen again due to ignoring the systems and the long history in our state of federal dollars going to pet projects in recent decades. Put simply, the corruption, cronyism and misuse of federal grants in our state is about much, much more than the cast of characters who did the latest dirty deed since 2017. They’re just the latest cast.

Those of us willing to report on the powerful’s shenanigans in Mississippi for a long time, and eager to report the truth no matter who it is, know well that federal dollars being taken away from helping the state’s neediest and being directed to questionable “economic development” projects did not start with a volleyball stadium or a concussion drug. Using a vague promise of “creating jobs” or something shiny has always been a way for the influential to get their own hands, or that of their supporters or perhaps clients, on dollars from a federal government many of them otherwise claim to despise.

Haley Barbour and His $570-Million Port

Freelance journalist (and MFP Advisory Board member) Ellen Ann Fentress detailed one of the most expensive boondoggles in Mississippi’s history in an in-depth essay last week: then-Gov. Haley Barbour’s channeling of $570 million in federal dollars supposed to help rebuild low- and

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