by Wade Rathke
Greenville, Mississippi In the ongoing conservative war against the poor, welfare or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) spending was converted to a block grant program, allowing states, purportedly, to design their own best practices and programs. In many ideologically based, conservative dominated southern and up-north states, block grants allowed them to reduce or curtail welfare programs designed for families to make the benefits more miserly and access to the programs virtually impossible. Worse than that, welfare designed for the poor has now been found to be a slush fund for politicians, the powerful, and the well-connected.
The Mississippi state auditor released a 100-page report this week questioning $94 million in expenditures largely on questionable pass throughs to two play-pretend nonprofits, Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC). All of this was facilitated by the state director of the Department of Human Services and enabled by palms greased all over the Magnolia State.
According to the Jackson, Mississippi based, Clarion Herald,
“Among the audit’s “questioned” spending:
- The two nonprofits used welfare money to hire lobbyists, often without paperwork describing the work they were supposed to do.
- MCEC gave contracts to, and hired, family members of Davis, sometimes making lump sum payments. The payments and salaries to his nephew and brother-in-law totaled more than $1 million over the last several years, auditors said.
- Brett Favre’s company, Favre Enterprises, was paid $1.1 million by MCEC over two installments for appearances, promotions, autographs and speaking engagements by the former star quarterback from Mississippi. Auditors said after reviewing dates and other details they determined Favre “did not speak nor was he present for those events.” They wrote the amount Favre made in the deal was “unreasonable.” The Clarion Ledger has reached out to the Favre’s agent for comment on this story and several related DH stories and has not received a response. He faces no criminal charges.
- Both nonprofits gave welfare money to a trio of wrestlers, Ted DiBiase, Ted DiBiase, Jr., and Brett DiBiase — some of it for work never performed, some for “unreasonable” travel costs.
- MCEC paid Victory Sports Foundation with welfare money to run fitness programs. Mississippi legislators and other officials or staffers participated in some of them, free of charge. The trainer who runs Victory, Paul Lacoste, has said he did not know he was receiving welfare money from the nonprofit.
- MCEC bought three cars with welfare money, each worth more than $50,000, for New and two sons. Salaries, cellphones and other expenses were also paid using welfare money. The vehicles included a 2018 Nissan Armada, a Chevrolet Silverado and a Ford F-250. In each case, the vehicle was registered to MCEC, but auditors said the vehicles were for personal use.
- The report highlighted many questionable advertising, promotional and branding expenses paid using welfare money. As previously reported, they included payments to a number of media outlets — including the Clarion Ledger for digital ads, TeleSouth Communications, which owns SuperTalk, and to WAPT-TV.
- MCEC used welfare money for sports-related purposes, including sponsoring a college baseball tournament and other NCAA events.
- MCEC cut a $3,000 check to a bookkeeper at the organization, though a handwritten note said that “$3,000 cash was given to” Davis, the DHS executive director.
- MCEC moved $6 million in welfare money to a private school and organization run by New, and bought supplies for the school.
- The audit confirmed Clarion Ledger reporting that New and her son had invested welfare money in a Florida medical company, Prevacus, in exchange for the company conducting “clinical trials of the new medicine on children in Mississippi.” Several TANF payments were made to the company, but after auditors first began asking about use of TANF funds in July 2019, the payment description was changed to “Bingo” in accounting software used by the nonprofit, auditors wrote.”
My hair is on fire! Mississippi has some of the hardest and lowest welfare benefits in the country, long victimizing minorities and the poor. Some of these folks are under indictment and may go to jail, but what about all of the people behind the outstretched hand for perks and favors while Mississippi mothers and children were going hungry?
The poor have already been penalized on a daily basis. Will those responsible all up and down the line face any penalty? Who in their right mind believes this is a Mississippi-only problem and not repeated in states throughout the country?
Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International