Mississippi Inauguration

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, center, delivers an address after being sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in House chambers at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. A bill that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday would require Reeves and future governors to reveal the donors who paid inaugural events. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON • Legislation that would require Gov. Tate Reeves and future governors to publicly show who paid for their inauguration festivities easily passed the House on Wednesday.

Mississippi politicians and candidates are required to disclose with the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office who donates to their campaigns and how they spend that campaign money in the interest of public transparency and accountability.

House Bill 1019 would require governors to take those same steps when they fundraise for their inauguration events, such as the inaugural ball, ceremony and other parties or parades. Many other states have laws that require this transparency for inauguration funds. The bill passed the House 116-1 and heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Right now it’s not regulated at all," said Rep. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, of inauguration funds, noting the legislation was not requested by the governor's office.

The bill's passage follows reporting by the Daily Journal and Clarion Ledger showing how Mississippi does not regulate inauguration fundraising unlike other states and the federal government. Mississippi governors and other officials have instead set up nonprofits to fund their inaugurations. Donors to those organizations can legally stay secret.

The Daily Journal reported last month that Reeves raised $1.6 million for his inauguration last year, but the donations — some for $100,000 and more — could be kept secret because Mississippi does not have a law mandating their disclosure.

The bill includes language that would require Reeves to retroactively report donations and expenditures for his inauguration nonprofit, For All Mississippi, which dissolved last year.

Luke Ramseth is a Jackson-based reporter covering the 2021 session of the Mississippi Legislature for the Daily Journal. Email him at lramseth@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @lramseth.

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