By Bill Minor
JACKSON – Like the old TV series, “All in the Family” the Barbours – Haley and Henry – seem to operate as a team with a Midas touch to get bankrollers to whip out their checkbook and shell out big bucks for Republican causes.
Haley is the uncle, and out front as the current governor of Mississippi, widely recognized as the nation’s poorest state.
Henry is the 46-year-old nephew who travels below the radar while doing what he does best: cultivating corporate brass to part with chunks of their money either to elect designated GOP candidates or to gain influence with uncle Haley for his political agenda.
The Barbour and Barbour cash cow milking team goes back to when Haley was chairman of the Republican National Committee in the latter 1990s and Henry, as a mere 26 year-old was put in charge of raking in $100,000 or more in contributions from captains of capitalism.
When Haley took a pay cut to run for Mississippi governor in 2003, naturally Henry wasn’t far behind, serving as Haley’s campaign manager.
It was Henry, The New York Times says in a lengthy piece last week, who put his uncle up to crucifying Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for attempting to remove the Rebel battle flag from the canton of the Mississippi flag. The campaign trick was believed to have been worth at least 50,000 votes.
Ironically, when Haley recently stuck his foot in his mouth in an interview with the conservative Weekly Standard by praising the segregationist white Citizens Councils, The Times says it was Henry who put Haley up to pledging $15 million in state money in his recent State of the State address for a Mississippi civil rights museum. He previously opposed the state funding the museum.
The Times had a big spread on Henry, extensively interviewing him outside his mansion near Yazoo City. It narrowly escaped the series of tornadoes last April which had cut a swath across mid-Mississippi, but the storm wiped out the woods that surrounded his home. Interestingly, the Times was given an interview by Henry, but Haley refused a similar request.
The story’s main thrust was the role Henry (with Haley’s backing) was playing in the campaign to oust bumbling Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, the first black to head the RNC.
Significantly, Reince Priebus, the relatively young chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, whom the Barbours were backing, won the national post.
It became known after Henry’s handling his uncle’s campaign in 2003, he went to work for Capitol Resources, Mississippi’s biggest lobbying firm, (with offices in Washington, DC and Alabama).
He brought to the firm a number of the big corporate clients such as health care, tobacco and oil who were represented by Haley’s DC lobby shop.
Obviously, Henry is well-paid for his work (influence?) at Capitol Resources.
The Times says Henry earned $750,000 in lobbying fees in 2009, even thought he is rarely seen around the halls of the state Capitol. What has never been disclosed is how much Capitol Resources in the post-Katrina days milked from contracts out of the $5.4 billion (yes, billion) that Mississippi got from Congress for recovery.
Haley has personally handled spending of the Katrina money sent down by the feds, even though the Democratic-controlled Mississippi House twice passed bills to create a legislative watchdog committee to oversee Katrina spending. Haley Barbour had the bills killed in the GOP-controlled Senate. John Lundy, a founding member of Capitol Resources told The Times his group had done nothing unethical in getting contracts filtered through the Barbour administration.
Henry told The Times he has no plans to run for public office and would serve as a presidential campaign aide for no one except his uncle.
But is Haley running? Henry isn’t saying.
Columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at email@example.com.