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Presley pushes plan to limit campaign...

Presley pushes plan to limit campaign contributions, even as he reaps benefit of large PAC and corporate donations

By: Anne Summerhays - May 16, 2023

Democratic candidate for Governor Brandon Presley held a press conference at the Capitol, advocating for limits on campaign contributions from individuals and PACS, while proposing a ban on corporate contributions.

Brandon Presley’s campaign for governor has benefited from a $250,000 contribution from the Mississippi Hospital Association’s PAC. Presley’s also pulled in over 40 corporate contributions, as well as large contributions from notable figures like Jim Barksdale, who has given Presley $50,000 to date.

On Tuesday, Presley argued that much of these funds should be prohibited in future election cycles, suggesting that the current dynamic is unethical. Presley held a press conference at the state capitol to announce what his campaign called the first plank of his historic ethics plan.

“As governor, I will tell the special interests, lobbyists, and good ol’ boys that the party is over,” said Presley. “We’re going to make the big campaign check writers mad because you deserve a governor who will fight to put the government back on the side of working families, not the giant corporations – and that starts with declaring war on corruption.” 

When questioned by the media about the large contributions given to his own campaign, Presley said their proposal is “to ban direct corporate contributions, to limit PAC contributions, to limit individual contributions.” He stated that the current rules are “wrong” and they should be fixed.

“It probably doesn’t make a lot of people in my political circle happy that I’m going out talking about banning campaign contributions above a certain level,” Presley said. “The system today allows for unlimited individual contributions, unlimited PAC contributions, that system has got to be fixed. I’m proud to receive support from a lot of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, folks that have never given to campaigns. We broke the record in this first filing for below $200 contributions and I’m proud of that.”

Candidates for office in Mississippi’s 2023 elections were required to file campaign finance reports on May 10th reflecting contributions and expenditures between January 1st and April 30th.

The Presley campaign reported $1.4 million raised during the first fundraising period of the year. The campaign’s original filing showed nearly $400,000 in non-itemized contributions.

“Presley for Mississippi’s record-breaking haul was fueled by small-dollar donations, with 88 percent of contributions less than $200 and over 4,000 total donors,” a campaign press release said at the time.

However, Presley’s now amended report showed the campaign collected $147,000 in non-itemized contributions, or just over 10% of their total donations. The change came after it was determined that the $250,000 contribution from MHA’s PAC had been recorded as a small dollar, non-itemized gift in the first report instead of being itemized. Presley’s campaign attributed this error to a software problem.

READ MORE: Three things that stood out on Brandon Presley’s campaign finance report.

Presley said he wanted to “declare war on corruption,” and added that it all starts with “sanitizing a sick and infested system” in the state Capitol.

“As we declare war on corruption, I’ll call a special session within the regular session to put an ethics reform package on the table and we’re going to see where the House and the Senate members stand. We’re going to see where they stand when it comes to cleaning up this system,” Presley continued. “We’re going to make sure Mississippians come first.”

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate pointed to the need to stop the unlimited flow of special interest money to state officials and require weekly gift and lobbying disclosure forms. He also proposed:

  • Placing limits on the currently unlimited flow of campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees and banning direct contributions from corporations.
  • Banning state officeholders and candidates for state office from accepting contributions during any legislative session.
  • Stopping the revolving door from state government into lobbying firms by implementing a 1-year waiting period for former government officials to lobby the state legislature and for lobbyists to join the state government.
  • Increasing fines and penalties for politicians that violate ethics and campaign finance laws.

Presley said he supported expanding the Open Meetings law to include the Legislature and hold every state agency responsible for timely public records request responses while reauthorizing the Public Records Act permanently.

Handouts at the press conference went on the offensive against incumbent Republican Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, outlining some $22,000 Presley says Reeves received from lobbyist gifts.

Governor Reeves’ campaign manager, Elliott Husbands, dismissed the attack, calling Presley a “classic Democrat” who is a “product of the national liberal machine.”

“Brandon Presley is a classic Democrat – accusing every Republican of corruption while pocketing big money from liberal donors and hiding the ball on his leftwing positions,” Husbands, Reeves’ campaign manager, told Magnolia Tribune. “Why won’t he explain his views on crime measures his biggest supporters call racist, leftwing gender theory in schools, and eliminating the income tax? It’s because he is just a product of the national liberal machine using more of their pre-written talking points.”

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: