Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) is using an investigation he personally supervised to attack his opponent in November’s gubernatorial election, raising concerns among good government groups over the politicization of the state’s justice system.
Hood, one of the last remaining Democrats who hold statewide office in the Deep South, faces Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) in the battle to replace term-limited Gov. Phil Bryant (R). The campaign has been acrimonious, and closely fought since the beginning.
But Hood added a new wrinkle last week, when he released the results of a yearlong investigation into Reeves’s role in building a state-funded frontage road connecting Reeves’s Jackson-area neighborhood with a nearby shopping center.
The 43-page report is heavy on inference and light on conclusions. It suggests Reeves violated a provision of the state constitution meant to prevent conflicts of interests simply because, as lieutenant governor, he was a member of the state legislature at the time the road was built.
In a separate report issued last week and commissioned by Hood, former state Supreme Court Justice David Chandler said he did not see any evidence of wrongdoing.
Reeves’s campaign and government watchdogs cried foul over Hood’s report, which landed seven weeks before voters head to the polls. They accused Hood himself of a conflict of interest, pointing to comments Hood made as recently as two weeks ago detailing his own involvement in the report — and its importance to the coming election.
Hood’s campaign waited less than 36 hours to attack Reeves over the report their own candidate authored. In a statement issued in his official capacity as attorney general, he said he would leave the report for the next officeholder to handle.
Paul S. Ryan, the vice president for policy and litigation at Common Cause, said Hood should have recused himself from work involving a political opponent. He equated Hood’s involvement in the case to the federal Justice Department’s decision to shut down an investigation into Trump’s ties to hush money payments made to women with whom Trump allegedly had extramarital affairs.
“Hood’s involvement in the investigation into Lt. Gov. Reeves undoubtedly causes a big segment of the general public to question the integrity and impartiality of the attorney general office,” Ryan said.
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