Despite the devastating testimony of Mississippi State Auditor Shad White before the Congressional Ways and Means Committee and the Subcommittee on Work and Welfare in a July hearing on the theft and misuse of federal welfare funds, the Republican duo conducting the hearings have given the appearance of wanting to blame the Biden administration for the illicit spending rather than going after the real culprits in Mississippi who happen to be fellow pro-Trump Republicans.
White released a letter Monday, that was sent to Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro on September 20, requesting responses from the General Accounting Office regarding non-assistance spending in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. One of the questions asked concerns the state’s diversion of federal welfare money for non-welfare state programs. “What drives state decision to transfer TANF to other programs such as Child Care Development Block Grant and the Social Services Block Grant programs…versus spending on those activities directly?” In other words, why doesn’t the state support its own CDBG and Social Services programs.
Ways and Means chairman Jason Smith is the same Congressman who kept tripping over his own tongue a week ago when reporters asked him about the evidence he and his fellow Republicans could provide in their move to impeach President Joe Biden.
Smith seems more preoccupied with casting a dark shadow over the Biden administration than in determining who is really behind the biggest theft of public funds in Mississippi’s history.
White pointed out that at least $77 million was either stolen or misspent in one three-year period and perhaps as much as $2 billion or more since the inception of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program in 1996.
“There’s a lack of clarity about what the federal government is going to do about what happened in Mississippi,” White said after his appearance before Congress.
“We’re talking north of $100 million of misspending when you add the TANF misspending to the other misspending in programs that don’t include TANF, SNAP, and Child Care and Development Fund.”
“There was a reason these nonprofits were not being monitored. The head of the agency did not want them monitored because he was handing out large amounts of funds to the nonprofits. Then he and the nonprofit executives were discussing ways to spend those dollars in violation of the law.”
Tens of millions of dollars were spent illegally between 2016 and 2019. Six people have pled guilty to federal and state charges.
Gov. Tate Reeves, former Gov. Phil Bryant, and retired pro-football player Brett Favre reportedly are at the center of a number of incidents in which millions of dollars in state welfare funds were misspent or given to their friends and cronies. Yet, no criminal charges have been brought against these three men despite the arrest and confession of six of the principal thieves who alleged that these three were are their accomplices.
In July 2022, Second Congressional District Representative Bennie Thompson called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to open an investigation into the role of former governor Bryant in the TANF theft.
“The State of Mississippi has consistently misspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. Specifically, Governor Phil Bryant is alleged to have steered money toward individuals who did not meet the criteria for eligibility.
“In 2018, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) received $135 million in TANF dollars, yet $77 million of those dollars were misdirected due to the influence of the governor’s office. Governor Phil Bryant has clearly taken actions consistent with ensuring Mississippi’s poorest citizens are denied welfare funds meant to benefit their households.
“Mississippi State Auditor, Shad White, has identified numerous questionable and possibly illegal expenditures relative to the misspent TANF funds in a 2020 audit report. Bryant, who was state auditor, should have known better than to do what he did with this funding meant for families in need.”
DESIGNED TO FAIL
The Jackson Advocate reported, on August 29, 2022, that Bryant, who as State Auditor at the time, played a central role in setting up the designed-to-fail TANF program under white supremacist Governor Kirk Fordice in 1996.
“Since the TANF story broke in Jan. 2020, Phil Bryant and ex-football pro Brett Favre, both alumni of USM, have been linked to the nearly $100 million rip-off of the state’s welfare coffers,” the report read. “Favre was allegedly given $1.3 million as compensation for some never presented motivational speeches. Bryant, while still governor, allegedly leaned on John Davis, director of DHS, to also funnel unspecified millions through Nancy New’s Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) to various friends and associates. Some of this money was directed toward financing a company called Prevacus, for which Phil Bryant allegedly would be awarded a ‘package’ after his term of governor ended in January 2020. That project was brought to an abrupt end once the news about it was circulated almost daily in news media across the nation.”
More revelations of Phil Bryant’s involvement in the misuse of TANF money are found in the messages and interviews reported by Mississippi Today and other media.
WEB OF DECEPTION
Although both Tate Reeves and Phil Bryant deny any connection to or knowledge of the illegal use of TANF funds, a growing number of investigators are probing the reported web of deception, uncovering facts supporting assertions that the state’s chief executive knew about and participated in the misuse of funds intended for the poor.