BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
A group of eleven state senators announced on Tuesday the formation of the Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition (MSCC). The group will assist conservatives in parsing through the details of approximately 3,000 bills filed each year at the state capitol with the hope of getting good conservative legislation in the spotlight and discussed at the capitol and across the state.

A similar organization has existed for years in the Mississippi House.

According to MSCC organizers there are already plans to take the show on the road and begin talking directly with the public about what Mississippians hope elected officials will accomplish.

Letters of invitation went out to every Senator and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves inviting them to be a part of the group.

The initial coalition members are:

Senator Chris McDaniel, Senator Tony Smith, Senator Melanie Sojourner, Senator Michael Watson, Senator Perry Lee, Senator Angela Hill, Senator Philip Gandy, Senator Josh Harkins, Senator Will Longwitz, Senator Chris Massey, and Senator David Parker.

A press release issued following the announcement said the intent of the group is to work together with Senate leadership, with respect for the present system, to research, develop and adopt policies that support conservative principles. As a purpose-driven group, the coalition’s guiding philosophy will revolve around liberty-centered traditional conservative thought, including: fiscal responsibility, low taxes, job creation and economic opportunity, traditional federalism designed to empower the state, free-market principles and traditional social values.

“The present disagreement over Medicaid expansion serves as a perfect catalyst for the formation of this group of conservatives. Medicaid is in serious need of reform, not expansion,” stated Sen. Chris McDaniel, (R–Ellisville) and Coalition chairman in the statement. “We will therefore work together to fight expansion while fashioning a Medicaid solution, in addition to providing additional policy reforms that will further our conservative message and build a stronger Mississippi.”

The Political Class Comes Gunning

The media, always ready to turn on any serious effort to discuss application and study of conservative policy, readied stories with a focus on forcing a political rift. At least one Senator slinking around immediately after the press conference at the capitol was ready to oblige.

Senator Terry Burton made sure his comments were included in one of the articles written by AP reporter Emily Pettus:

“Republican Sen. Terry Burton, of Newton, says he won’t join the coalition because he doesn’t like it when lawmakers break into cliques. Burton is in his sixth term and is an ally of Reeves.”

Whether Burton came at the behest of the Lt. Governor wasn’t fully clear. However, what is clear is that of all Senators that might complain about cliques, Senator Burton isn’t the best choice.

A brief look at Burton’s history shows he is most fond of cliques if they can give him money or power, and that his brand of conservatism is a key reason something like the coalition is a good idea.

The first half of Burton’s twenty year career as a state senator was spent as a Democrat, a clique he was most fond of being in, taking money from virtually every conceivable lobbying association pushing for more government spending or special favors. Those campaign contributions, many of which have continued, also give insight in to why Burton would be against the MSCC’s desire to look closer at Medicaid reform.

Burton’s biggest donors over the years have been big pharmaceutical companies and the Mississippi Hospital Association. What the Senator has reported as his take from the healthcare industry alone since 1999 is close to $62,000 dollars. Both hospital administrators and the pharmaceutical groups have lobbied hard for the expansion of the Medicaid program. Any discussion of reform is likely to target inefficiencies hospital administrators and pharmaceutical companies now take advantage of to increase profits; profits that allow them to spend big bucks on campaign donations to Burton and others.

Ah! The circle of political life. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Then there is the idea of a conservative focus group itself that might worry the Senator from Newton. Burton’s votes on eminent domain are less than stellar when it comes to protecting private property rights. His push against conservatives in his own party to go along, get along with the House Democrats redistricting plan in 2010 was a key reason he drew a more conservative opponent in the Republican primary in 2011.

In the 2011 senate election, Burton–a 19 year veteran incumbent–saw nearly 40% of his own base GOP voters leave him in the primary for one-term former House Republican Tad Campbell.

Senator Burton isn’t a conservative, which is why he would be against a conservative coalition. Senator Burton doesn’t want discussion about Medicaid because he wants to protect his sugar daddy’s, which is why he would be against any discussion of Medicaid reform.

Conservatives across Mississippi should look past the petty politics of Burton, and the media who would push story angles to promote an inner-party squabble.

Senator Burton barked loudly following the press conference that “we’re all conservatives.”

Sorry, Senator. The evidence suggests otherwise. You have to do more than say it, you have to show it.

Time To Show It

As to the coalition, if nothing else were to come of it than just being sure each member read and understood the bills they were voting on then it would be a huge victory. What Mississippian wants a representative to be misinformed? The added bonus of having Senators from a cross-section of the state actually discussing conservative policy with the people in a give and take format is exciting to hear.

As a communications guy, I have always been a big proponent of engagement. Not only is it how good ideas permeate throughout the public, but it is also how good ideas permeate up from the public to leadership. It’s good to hear we have some of those leaders prepared to engage and listen.

About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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2 thoughts on “PLUNKETT: Political response to Senate Conservative Coalition proves why it is needed.

  1. SUCH an ELOQUENT explanation of the workings of those office holders who are STRONGLY POLITICALLY CONNECTED AND SUCCESSFUL! THIS is the schoolboy’s primer lesson in how to become a long term highly regarded elected official.
    What it also explains is that the people (grassroots) must continue to participate in elections STRENUOUSLY in order to have Senators and Representatives who meet the criteria of their own political views. Otherwise we are all subject to the well placed and highly fiscally supported individuals running for office!

  2. they learned nothing in 2012, did they? passing a lot of right wing nut job legislation will help liberal democrats regain power. duh.

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