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MS04: Ezell, Palazzo camps trade...

MS04: Ezell, Palazzo camps trade accusations over campaign finances

By: Frank Corder - February 16, 2022

After Ezell sends letter to House Ethics Committee, Palazzo’s campaign questions the Jackson County Sheriff’s “illegal campaign contributions.”

On Tuesday, 4th Congressional District candidate Mike Ezell sent a letter to the U.S. House Ethics Committee requesting an update on the ethics inquiry under consideration by its members related to incumbent Congressman Steven Palazzo’s use of campaign funds.

READ MORE: Congressional candidate Ezell seeks update on Congressman Palazzo’s ethics inquiry

The letter was signed by Ezell who identified himself on the letterhead and in the signature line as Sheriff of Jackson County.

Jonathan Bailey, Ezell’s campaign manager, told Y’all Politics on Wednesday that how the letter was signed is “completely irrelevant.”

“The questions posed to the Committee on Ethics are about the serious misconduct allegations against Congressman Palazzo, and the title of the person asking those questions is completely irrelevant,” Bailey said. “Sheriff Mike Ezell’s title is still the Sheriff of Jackson County while he’s running for Congress, just as Congressman Steven Palazzo’s title is Congressman while he’s running for Congress.”

For more than a year, Y’all Politics has reported on the ethics inquiry facing Palazzo that began as a result of a former opponent’s request in the 2020 election cycle that the Office of Congressional Ethics investigate the Congressman’s use of campaign funds.

It is that ethics inquiry over Palazzo’s campaign spending that has likely inspired nearly a dozen candidates who have announced their intent to run for the 4th Congressional District seat this election cycle.

Thus far, four challengers have officially qualified to face Palazzo in the Republican Primary. They are Ezell, State Senator Brice Wiggins, Raymond Brooks, and Clay Wagner. Democrats David Sellers and Johnny DuPree, the former Mayor of Hattiesburg, have also filed to run. Qualifying ends March 1st.

Palazzo’s campaign manager, Justin Brasell, did not mince words when asked for a response to Ezell’s letter.

“In the 2020 election, desperate political opponents of Congressman Palazzo generated false allegations purely for their own political gain. They have zero credibility,” Brasell said in a statement. “Our team has provided all the information requested of us and we look forward to resolving this matter in Congressman Palazzo’s favor as soon as possible.”

Brasell went on to question Ezell’s own campaign finance reporting.

“Mike Ezell bringing up ethics is ironic since he’s campaigning for a new job while being paid by county taxpayers and he will soon be answering questions from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about his illegal campaign contributions,” Palazzo’s campaign manager said.

Brasell noted that at least two impermissible corporate donations were reflected on Ezell’s end of year FEC filing along with questioning nearly a dozen donations from limited liability companies (LLCs) that did not indicate their filing status or which member the funds being donated were attributed to. At least seven of those LLCs appeared to be using a common address in Biloxi.

Y’all Politics sought further comment from the Ezell campaign following the response from Palazzo’s camp.

Bailey, Ezell’s campaign manager, said they were in the process of amending their FEC filing for “clerical clarification,” further alleging a “pattern of unethical conduct” by the Palazzo campaign.

“Campaigns frequently file amended reports for clerical clarification, and we are in the process of doing that, but it would be absurd to equate minor clerical adjustments to the pattern of unethical conduct for which Congressman Palazzo is under investigation,” Bailey said, adding, “Especially since he [Palazzo] has ‘declined to provide requested information’ during the investigation and ‘did not cooperate’ with the review by the Board of Congressional Ethics.”

Congressman Palazzo’s spokesperson says he has responded to the ethics inquiry, nothing that he and those in his camp have cooperated every step of the way.

Palazzo’s official response to the House Ethics Committee can be found here.

According to internal polling memo from the Palazzo campaign, Ezell is the only candidate among the challengers who has any significant name ID in the 4th District, pulling in 53% and gaining 17% favorability among respondents. That is compared to Palazzo’s name ID of 98% with a 67% favorability rating.

READ MORE: Internal poll shows Congressman Palazzo with sizeable lead in GOP primary

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications such as the Daily Caller. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father.