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Three things that stood out on Brandon...

Three things that stood out on Brandon Presley’s campaign finance report

By: Frank Corder - May 16, 2023

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Absent from the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s original filing was the $250,000 donation from the MHA. It turns out it was included in the non-itemized list reserved for donations under $200. An amended report has since been filed.

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.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley’s campaign reported that they took in $1.4 million to open the year and sits on $1.6 million cash on hand. However, three things stood out on Presley’s report.

First, the initial report filed by May 10th showed nearly $400,000 in non-itemized contributions. “Non-itemized” contributions are donations under $200. They are often referred to as “small dollar” donations and are used as a sign of a candidate’s connection with “regular folks.”

Presley’s campaign initially touted that 88% of the Democrat’s contributions this period were less than $200 with over 4,000 total donors. However, Presley’s now amended report shows the campaign to have collected $147,000 in non-itemized contributions, or just over 10% of their total donations this reporting period.

Second, notably absent from the report was the $250,000 contribution from the Mississippi Hospital Association (MHA) among the itemized receipts, those donations of $200 or more.

Magnolia Tribune first reported that MHA made this contribution on April 28th. That report included confirmation from MHA President and CEO Tim Moore that the check had been cut within the latest campaign finance reporting period.

It turns out that the two items are connected. Included in Presley’s non-itemized tally of small dollar donors was the $250,000 contribution from MHA. Presley’s campaign has since filed an amended report, reducing the amount of non-itemized contributions by the same $250,000 as referenced above and itemizing the MHA contribution.

The campaign has indicated that the discrepancy was the result of a software error.

The MHA contribution is the largest received by Presley thus far in the election cycle, trumping other notable donations from Jim Barksdale ($50,000), Richard Schwartz ($15,000) and Dickie and Zach Scruggs ($15,000).

Third, as a sitting Public Service Commissioner, Presley remains one of three Commissioners who regulate telecommunications, electric, gas, water and sewer utilities in the Magnolia State. As such, Mississippi Code § 77-1-11 states that Presley as a sitting PSC Commissioner is prohibited from knowingly accepting:

…any gift, pass, money, campaign contribution or any emolument or other pecuniary benefit whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, from any person interested as owner, agent or representative, or from any person acting in any respect for such owner, agent or representative of any common or contract carrier by motor vehicle, telephone company, gas or electric utility company, or any other public utility that shall come under the jurisdiction or supervision of the Public Service Commission.

According to the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s website, there are three major local natural gas distribution companies in the state, one of those being CenterPoint Energy. The rates of these companies are regulated primarily through the use of formulary rate plans and special riders approved by the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

The Presley campaign for governor’s latest campaign finance report shows a $500 donation from CenterPoint Energy’s President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Wells made on April 22, 2023. Wells’ bio on CenterPoint Energy’s company website says in this role, he is responsible for the company utilities’ operations, including electric, natural gas and power generation.

The donation is reflected in the Presley campaign’s total funds received for the January to April 2023 reporting period.

Three days later, the Presley campaign refunded Wells’ contribution in full. That refund is shown in the campaign’s expenditures.

Magnolia Tribune sought comment from the Presley campaign, asking if Presley was concerned with any donations related to energy companies and energy interests based on the donations received during this latest reporting period. The campaign has not responded as of the time of publication of this article.

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. 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. Email Frank: