Mississippi Attorney General at February 5 Main Justice News Conference Announcing Standard & Poors Multi-state and Federal Settlement
As noted in my post about the history of Mississippi House Bill 1201, a Mississippi lawmaker in Mississippi’s House of Representatives decided to put to a vote whether Mississippi’s attorney general should have the ability to bring actions all by himself (and by extension, conduct investigations in order to determine whether an action is appropriate). In other words, to do what the people elect attorneys general to do in large part.
There is one particular investigation that is in the news in Mississippi right now–Attorney General Jim Hood’s investigation into Google’s business practices. I don’t know the history here, but I have to say that it is pretty dang coincidental that Hood is investigating Google and then up pops a bill in the Mississippi legislature that could stop Hood from bringing his case.
A bill that would take effect right away–July 1, 2015.
Particularly coincidental since Google is suing Hood in federal court to try to derail Hood’s investigation. This is what we call in the law a belt and suspenders–sue him to try to stop the investigation, but in case you can’t, quick change the law so that he can’t sue you.
So while all I can say is that it’s pretty dang coincidental, as a son of Texas who grew up in Southern politics, I long ago stopped believing in coincidences when it comes to moves like these.
As we previously noted, this bill had a strange structure. The Clarion-Ledger reported:
[The bill] would require the state attorney general to gain approval from an oversight committee of the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state to file any lawsuit on behalf of the state for more than $250,000.
Let me add an additional fact: The populist attorney general Jim Hood is a Democrat. The current occupants of the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state offices in Mississippi are Republicans. I wouldn’t presume to tell you what the implications of that are in Mississippi because I’m an outsider in that state, but I can tell you what it would mean in Texas.
According to other local press:
Hood and supporters say House Bill 1201 would put unconstitutional restrictions on the attorney general’s power….
“This may be the most rancid, politically motivated bill I’ve seen before this Legislature,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville.
So there you go. It does smell pretty rank. And, of course, when the bill was voted down, the bill’s sponsor took the unusual step of reintroducing the same bill for “reconsideration”. However rancid the bill is, it doesn’t mask the smell of Google’s lobbyists. Strangely enough, that revote comes up on Friday, the same day that Hood and Google (and by the looks of the docket sheet, a cast of thousands of lawyers on Google’s side) appear before U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate in Jackson.
Jeff Amy of the Associated Press wrote that while Bill 1201 passed in committee it failed 66-49 in the floor vote in the House–so the peoples representatives had a chance to vote on the idea knowing that the main beneficiary of the legislation would likely be Google–and they voted it down.
Said another way, the people of Mississippi had a chance to stop their scrappy attorney general from taking on Google and the special interests and they said, no, Jim you go ahead on. Get back to work.
Mississippi has a grand history of fearlessly tackling some of the biggest multinational corporations in the world. Hood’s predecessor, Mike Moore, took on the tobacco companies and beat the bejeesus out of them in one of the biggest multistate settlements of all time that has put over $4 billion in Mississippi’s treasury. (Now that’s what I call cy pres.) If you’ve ever seen The Insider with Russell Crowe that told the hair raising story of that massive litigation, you’ll know what it means to get into a slug fest with big multinationals on an existential issue–like the populist Hood’s investigation of the Internet monopolist.
Hood should take comfort in knowing that in a vote that was designed to humiliate and muzzle him, the people backed his play 100%.
Go get ’em.
Oh, and by the way–this might be a fine time to open a public integrity investigation into exactly how Bill 1201 came to be introduced when it did.
Unless you believe in coincidences.
UPDATE: Google’s tactics aren’t going over too well with some Mississippians. An op-ed in the Clarion-Ledger today by Reverend Greg Harris kind of sums it up:
[N]ot everything on the Internet is bad. The Internet is an invaluable resource but, like all resources, we must take some precautions.
That is why Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has begun an investigation to examine the possibility that California-based Google Inc. violated the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. It seems Google has chosen to put profits over the safety of our children and is making millions from ads and content that you and I and all the other parents I know would find deeply disturbing.
But instead of cooperating with Attorney General Hood, Google has reacted with cowardice and spite. Last month, they filed a counteraction to put a stop to Jim Hood’s investigation. And now, Mississippians have a choice: Stand with Hood and encourage Google to make our Internet safer or let a multibillion-dollar corporation control what your child can and cannot see on the Internet.
In Sunday school, we teach our children to love one another and to love the Lord. We teach them to walk in his ways, to be generous and kind. But it’s much harder to teach them to safely navigate an Internet so complicated that one stray click can lead to some pretty troubling websites.
Attorney General Hood is doing all he can to protect our children from the parts of the Internet we’d rather them not see. But instead of supporting him, some members of the state Legislature want to handicap Hood and limit the resources available to him to fight for the safety of our children.
We cannot raise our children in a bubble, but we can take smart steps to protect them from some of the evil in this world.
For these reasons, I have signed an email going this week to more than 800,000 Christians in Mississippi urging them to join me in standing up and telling California companies like Google that our children come before their multibillion-dollar profits.
I hope the Google lawyers enjoy their visit.