Impeach. . .Haley Barbour [Steve Clemons]

Americans want a good impeachment, but the will is just not there yet to seriously go after the President or Vice President -- and I think these would be losing propositions in any case.

But what about Haley Barbour?

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour -- former Chairman of the Republican National Committee -- would be a great exercise in impeachment for the numerous Katrina-related ethics violations and beyond that he has been party to.   Here is the impeachment clause from the Constitution of the State of Mississippi.

Bloomberg's Timothy Burger deserves a Pulitzer for all that he is digging up in the muck of the Haley Barbour administration's contracting decisions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Burger writes on August 15th:

Many Mississippians have benefited from Governor Haley Barbour's efforts to rebuild the state's devastated Gulf Coast in the two years since Hurricane Katrina.

The $15 billion or more in federal aid the former Republican national chairman attracted has reopened casinos and helped residents move to new or repaired homes.

Among the beneficiaries are Barbour's own family and friends, who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane-related business. A nephew, one of two who are lobbyists, saw his fees more than double in the year after his uncle appointed him to a special reconstruction panel.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in June raided a company owned by the wife of a third nephew, which maintained federal emergency-management trailers.

Meanwhile, the governor's own former lobbying firm, which he says is still making payments to him, has represented at least four clients with business linked to the recovery.

To take Barbour's ethics blurriness a few notches further, it appears that Barbour has had a Bill Frist like problem of not being blind about what was inside his blind trust.

According to Burger in an article just out today:

When Haley Barbour was sworn in as governor of Mississippi in 2004, he set up a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest and said he had severed ties with the Washington lobbying firm he co-founded.

The blind trust document he signed about six weeks later says that on Jan. 13, 2004, the day he took office, Barbour still had a stake worth $786,666 in the publicly traded parent company of Barbour Griffith & Rogers Inc., as well as pension and profit-sharing plan benefits from the lobby firm.

A copy of the notarized trust agreement, obtained from an individual who requested anonymity, says Barbour receives $25,000 per month, or $300,000 a year, from it. He lists the trust in his annual Mississippi ethics filing as his only source of income outside his $122,160 salary as governor.

Barbour, 59, a former Republican National Committee chairman, has refused to discuss his personal finances. His attorney, Ed Brunini Jr., said in a statement yesterday that "the provisions of his blind trust are fully appropriate and legal under Mississippi law." Brunini alleged that the disclosure of the information was unlawful. Barbour spokesman Pete Smith said Brunini's statement would have the governor's approval.

It couldn't be learned what, if any, interest Barbour had in Barbour Griffith when the members of the firm lobbied the state last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina two years ago. The minimal disclosure required by Mississippi law contrasts with federal executive-branch rules that individuals who set up blind trusts report publicly their initial holdings and what they are worth, within ranges.

What we have here is that some times Barbour has made statements that he did hold an equity position in the parent company of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers -- now very much in the news for its representation of the Iraq political ambitions of former Iraq Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi -- and at other times he said he had severed all ties to the firm but was getting a "retirement payment."

As former head of the firm, he must have known that there was no retirement from BGR, but that he was receiving a kick-out, or dividend, of $25,000/month from his so-called blind trust that was coming out of the growth, gains and principal of whatever equity positions his trust held.

This is important because there is already enough in the public domain to show that Governor Barbour knew that he had an ongoing stake in the work of his former lobbying firm -- which "cleaned up" along with many of his family members in the Washington-provided recovery funds after Katrina.

Haley Barbour has flown over the public ethics line in the past as well.

The case I am most familiar with and which was investigated by Congressman Henry Waxman's Government Oversight committee involved Barbour setting up in 1993 a non-profit 501(c)3 organization called the National Policy Forum (NPF).

Barbour allegedly used NPF as a vehicle for funnelling $800,000 in foreign money into the 1996 election cycle after having used NPF as the same kind of vehicle in 1994 congressional races.

The Internal Revenue Service eventually ruled that the NPF was a subsidiary of the Republican National Committee and not entitled ot tax-exempt status.

Barbour's partner in this enterprise when Barbour was serving as Chairman was John Bolton who became president of NPF in 1995.

Barbour, whether as Chairman of the Republican National Committee; Chairman of the National Policy Forum; Chairman and Proprietor of the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers; or now Governor of Mississippi, has demonstrated obsessive disregard for the line between public ethics and private gain.

Mississippians should impeach him because he's undermined the interests of their state -- and many around the country should help.

Iraq is an ongoing tragedy -- but so is Katrina.  Impeaching Haley Barbour could start a healthy trend.