Campaign update: Va.-based LEAA makes big anti-Phillips ad buy in region

By PATSY R. BRUMFIELD/Daily Journal

A Virginia-based group reportedly bought $300,000-plus TV time this week to bash Mississippi Supreme Court candidate Richard “Flip” Phillips of Batesville.
The ad claims Phillips’ election will ensure “a huge pay day” for Mississippi’s trial lawyers.
Phillips, 65, faces 39-year-old Josiah Coleman of Toccopola on Nov. 6 in the non-party contest to replace Justice George Carlson, who will retire at the end of 2012.
Until now, the North Mississippi race has been relatively tame, although Jackson-based Business and Industry Political Education Committee sporadically airs an anti-Phillips ad comparing him to a “shark” swimming in murky waters.
Phillips’ ads, until now, promote his 40-year career as a successful attorney and community leader.
Coleman denied any knowledge of the ad.
“I have not seen the commercial and have no knowledge of it,” he e-mailed the Daily Journal. “My campaign and I do not and may not coordinate with any third parties.”
A Phillips campaign spokesman did not respond yet to requests for comment.
New ad sponsor Law Enforcement Alliance of America Inc. is a non-profit but is not tax-exempt because of its extensive political activity.
LEAA, based in Springfield, Va., touts itself as pro-law enforcement, pro-gun and against “soft on crime judges and laws.”
Wednesday, the organization termed its anti-Phillips push its “newest public education ads in Mississippi,” which it hopes will “raise awareness and encourage the public to voice their feelings on the issues discussed.”
“LEAA values its role in helping keep Mississippians informed while strongly defending the Second Amendment and the rule of law,” said a news release from Ted Deeds, its chief operating officer.
Earlier this week, Phillips told the Daily Journal he was mystified at accusations he’s anti-gun.
“I’ve been a hunter all my life,” he said.
In 2008, LEAA dumped heavy TV ad spending into Mississippi’s Southern District campaign for the Supreme Court in which challenger Randy Pierce defeated incumbent Justice Oliver Diaz.
The high court’s Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention sent a letter to Pierce, the candidate LEAA promoted, to demand that he advise them whether he was responsible for a factually questionable ad, and if not, to ask LEAA to cease and desist.
In 2006, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office ordered LEAA to cease and desist from doing business in the state for failure to submit a complete registration, expired registration and for using unregistered professional fundraisers.
Hal Ferrell of Batesville, a longtime Phillips friend working with his campaign, said the negative ads have “fired up” voters across the district.
One of them, Oxford attorney Jack Dunbar, sent an e-mail earlier this week about why he supports Phillips.
“There are many other ‘defense’ lawyers like me, supporting his candidacy because we all agree that he is a lawyer of integrity who will ‘call it like it is’ as a judge on our Supreme Court,” Dunbar said.
• Read Thursday’s Daily Journal for more about this story.