Reeves campaign says it still plans to give away donations tied to welfare scandal
Gov. Tate Reeves speaks to supporters at Stribling Equipment in Richland, Wednesday, May 3, 2023. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today
The Tate Reeves campaign says the governor still intends to give away political contributions he has received from those involved in the state’s welfare scandal, though at this point those funds remain in his campaign coffers.
“The political donations from anyone who is connected to the TANF scandal will be donated to a worthy cause at the ultimate conclusion of the legal proceedings. Those cases are ongoing,” said Elliott Husbands, Reeves’ campaign manager, referring to the continuing investigation of the misspending of $77 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare funds.
In a February 2020 press conference, Reeves acknowledged receiving campaign contributions from people associated with the scandal and ongoing investigation, such as Nancy New and her son Zach, both of whom have pleaded guilty to state and federal charges related to the misspending of funds that were designed to provide assistance to the state’s poorest citizens.
“I can tell you right now, anything they gave to the campaign is going to be moved to a separate bank account,” Reeves said in 2020. “… Anything they gave the campaign will be there waiting to be returned to the taxpayers and help the people it was intended for. If that doesn’t happen, the money will go to a deserving charity.”
There is no indication that the funds have been transferred to a separate bank account based on a review of Reeves’ multiple campaign finance accounts. The Reeves campaign gave no indication that a separate bank account had been established.
Records indicated that the News contributed at least $6,000 to Reeves’ election efforts.
In Reeves’ 2019 gubernatorial campaign, he also filmed public education commercials touting his public school teacher pay plan at the News’ now shuttered private New Summit School in Jackson. Private school students and teachers were used for the commercial. Video from the 2019 New Summit advertisement has been used again this campaign cycle by Reeves in two commercials.
In addition to other charges and guilty pleas related to the welfare funds, federal prosecutors have alleged that Nancy New used at least $76,889 in public funds that were supposed to go to the New Summit School to purchase a house.
The governor also is close to other people who have been caught up in the welfare scandal. Fitness trainer Paul Lacoste, who received $1.3 million in welfare funds that the state is now trying to recoup, cut a campaign commercial on social media endorsing Reeves and touting himself as the governor’s personal coach.
And Reeves received a campaign contribution from members of Brett Favre’s family, including his wife Deanna.
Favre was able to secure $5 million in welfare funds to build a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi. Favre had pledged to USM that he would raise funds for the volleyball center, and he has said he did not know the money he secured for the center was supposed to go to help poor people.
Referring to the inquiries from Mississippi Today, Husbands called Mississippi Today “a liberal Democrat SuperPAC” and mentioned an unnamed donor who has given money to both the nonprofit newsroom and to Brandon Presley, Reeves’ Democratic challenger for governor later this year.
Mississippi Today shares numerous contributors to both the Reeves and Presley campaigns, and no Mississippi Today donor has been convicted of misspending public funds.