OPINION: Pickering’s affairs extend to held-over campaign cash

JACKSON – When the Louisiana Democratic chairman recently asked federal election authorities to rule on how $5,000 could be funneled from a dormant campaign PAC of ex-U.S Rep. Chip Pickering to Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, it immediately opened to question that nearly $500,000 is squirreled away in Pickering’s campaign coffers.
No way is Pickering, after suddenly dropping from Mississippi’s political stage, going to use it for an attempted political comeback. His political image as a paragon of virtue and family values was blown sky high by revelations that the he long carried on an assignation in the nation’s capital with an old girlfriend, a wireless heiress.
An explosive alienation of affections lawsuit filed by his estranged wife, Leisha, has revealed that while the philandering Pickering was getting perfect ratings from Focus on the Family and other Christian groups, he kept his wife and five sons home back in Mississippi during the week.
Meantime, though no longer in the state political lineup, Pickering has $412,653 in cash sitting in his campaign committee fund, according to the Federal Election Commission, as well as $11,300 in his CHIP PAC. What can he do with the idle dough? He can’t pocket it, as used to be the case for ex-congressman. He can return it to the givers, or to charity, or contribute to another bona fide political campaign.
The $5,000 Chipper donated to Vitter – another holier-than-thou Republican type caught last year on the client list of the “D.C. Madam” – is smelly, and possibly illegal. It came from CHIP PAC as a pass-through to Haley’s PAC, that of none-other than Gov. Barbour. “CQ Politics” the Congressional watchdog publication, had initially brought the transaction to light. The FEC is investigating the Louisiana Democrats’ complaint.
Ironically, two years ago, Barbour had objected to the Mississippi Legislature putting a provision in a state campaign finance reform bill that would prohibit one PAC from giving money to another PAC.
Gregg Harper, Pickering’s Republican successor in the 3rd District House seat last week in an interview with “Politico.com” revealed insensitivity to racial issues which have historically plagued the East-Central Mississippi area he represents. Asked what the “Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus” does, Harper flippantly answered: “We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it seems like a waste of good ammunition.”
As one network commentator pointed out, the word “trees” reflects the dark history of lynchings.
Pickering’s alleged Washington trysts with Elizabeth (Beth) Creekmore-Byrd took on national news value when Leisha Pickering’s lawsuit linked the affair to the notorious C Street house in D.C. The address, reputed to be a “Christian fellowship house,” was identified previously with extra-marital scandals of two other Republicans, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Two shoes are yet to drop in the Chip Pickering affair: One, the outcome of his divorce case against Leisha, which strangely has been covered up in Madison County Chancery Court since being filed in June 2008; two, opening of a diary Chip had kept for seven years which Leisha discovered and planned to use in her divorce case until the Madison County Chancery judge in the case ordered her to turn it over to Chip’s attorneys.
The diary is now in the hands of Special Hinds County Circuit Judge William Coleman before whom Leisha’s present attorneys filed the alienation lawsuit against Creekmore-Byrd. Creekmore (she divorced her former husband, Dr. J. Byrd, in 2007) has a large stake in family-owned Cellular South, now the largest privately-held wireless company in the nation. The company, significantly, had benefited handsomely from the 1996 Telecommunications Act which Pickering helped craft as staffer for then-Sen. Trent Lott.
Pickering is now employed by a Jackson-based lobbying firm that represents Cellular South. Ironically, Gov. Barbour’s two nephews also work for the lobbying firm.

Bill Minor, a nationally honored journalist, has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him at PO Box 1243, Jackson, MS 39215-1243, or e-mail at edinman@earthlink.net.

Bill Minor