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Hood questions opponent's new job

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Sep 19, 2011


JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) -- Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is questioning whether his Republican opponent should be working for a company he helped to award a nearly $6 million state contract.

"Steve Simpson being secretly hired by a company to which he awarded a state contract just days before he quit his job as commissioner of public safety is another example of how he used his position to line his own pockets at taxpayers' expense," Hood campaign manager Jonathan Compretta told the Clarion Ledger on Monday.

Scott Paradise, Simpson's campaign manager, told the newspaper that Hood, himself, has received more than $100,000 in contributions this year from lawyers who were awarded outside contracts.

The incumbent could be hitting back at claims made by Simpson's campaign last week that the attorney general "conveniently" waited to file a lawsuit against BP claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg until just before his reelection bid.

"Jim Hood is a political opportunist who saw the economic damage caused by BP as an opportunity to bankroll his re-election campaign," Simpson said in a statement.

"Jim Hood used Mississippi's misfortune for his own political gain, attempting to get some positive headlines before Election Day and fill his bank account with more than $125,000 in donations from lawyers looking to benefit from BP-related lawsuits."

An explosion and fire occurred on Transocean's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and resulting in the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

Hood, Simpson says, waited almost a year after Louisiana and Alabama took the fight against the oil giant to court before bringing any legal action on behalf of Mississippi.

Hood's opponent alleges that in the meantime the attorney general accepted more than $125,000 from attorneys and law firms with a significant financial stake in the outcome of BP litigation.

"Jim Hood should be representing only one client in court -- the hard-working Mississippians whose experienced financial hardship due to the spill," Simpson said.

Simpson goes on to allege that Hood accepted his first tainted donations -- $20,000 in checks from New York City law firm Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger & Grossman, which has a financial securities lawsuit filed against BP -- just seven days after the spill.

Simpson alleges that in the months following Hood accepted a total of at least $129,650 from BP-related attorneys.

"Jim Hood needs to immediately return these tainted contributions and focus on protecting the Coastal victims of the oil spill," he said.

This isn't the first heated exchange between the two campaigns.

Last month, Simpson reaffirmed his challenge to Hood to participate in a series of debates before the November election.

He already had invited his Democratic opponent to participate in four debates before Nov. 8 -- one each month in one of the state's four Congressional districts.

However, Hood responded that he could only participate in one debate because of his current duties as the state's top lawyer.

"If Jim Hood shares our belief that elected officials work for the voters and should be judged based on their records, we trust he will look forward to four opportunities to discuss his record and share his positions with Mississippi voters," Paradise said at the time.

Simpson announced in January his plan to run for attorney general. He resigned his position as commissioner the next month.

Hood is seeking his third term as attorney general.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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