GUIZERIX: Thompson doesn’t have to serve constituents, because they’re not funding him

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2022

In what’s become an almost-certainty over the last 30 years of elections, District 2 Congressional Rep. Bennie Thompson once again succeeded in holding onto his office during Tuesday’s election.

His district is larger than ever, spanning nearly the entire western half of the state, including the Mississippi River Delta and the Jackson Metro Area. And, District 2’s status as Mississippi’s only majority-Black district is firmly rooted.

Thompson is also the chairman of the United States House Committee on Homeland Security — no small feat, given the ongoing hearings after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and persistent international threats.

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On the surface, all of these are good, if not challenging, accomplishments and appointments. It would be difficult for anyone to adequately represent such a large swath of land, in terms of geographic, economic and cultural challenges presented.

And unfortunately, the sad truth is Thompson hasn’t risen to meet this challenge for many of his constituents.

I’ve spent the last 10 weeks speaking with a group of people who feel largely abandoned by their District 2 Representative. In the South Mississippi Delta, people aren’t just suffering because they’re waiting on the Yazoo Backwater Pumps to be completed — even though Thompson acted as the catalyst for the November 2021 veto of the project by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It goes much deeper than that. A sufficient portion of Thompson’s constituents in District 2 are minorities who are living at or below the poverty line. Even if the pumps had been built ahead of the 2019 flood, many of these people were already struggling to survive in homes with watermarks from the 1973 flood. They need a heck of a lot more than pumps to make things right.

Hearing these stories, as part of the “Faces of the Floods” series has taken a significant emotional toll on me, and I’m just a lowly journalist. That’s why, when my subjects tell me they’ve told their stories to Thompson years before speaking with me, I’m left wondering why their heartbreak isn’t enough to compel him or others in power to act.

So, I did a little digging and followed the money.

According to the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization OpenSecrets.org, the overwhelming majority of Thompson’s campaign donations in the last year alone have been from out-of-state donors.

The findings are based on contributions of more than $200 from individuals, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. PAC donations were not included in this set of data.

To put that into perspective, 27.7 percent of Thompson’s donations came from in-state donors, while 72.3 percent of donations were made by out-of-state donors.

The numbers are almost polar opposites for congressional representatives in Mississippi’s other three districts.

District 1 Rep. Trent Kelly received 78.1 percent of his campaign donations from in-state donors between 2021 and 2022. District 3 Rep. Michael Guest raked in the highest percentage of in-state donations, with 80.5 percent. District 4 Rep. Steven Palazzo rounds out the group with 63.4 percent of donations coming from in-state.

Mississippi still has the highest dollar amount of donations to Thompson out of any state, but donors from out-of-state are definitely footing the campaign bill.

Take Texas and Louisiana, for example; Thompson received more than $50,000 in donations from each state over the last year. He received $12,440 from donors in California; $30,190 from donors in Arkansas; $16,400 from Michigan donors; $20,480 from Florida donors; $23,740 from donors in Virginia and $37,980 from donors in Maryland, among others.

The other three representatives received paltry amounts from out-of-state donors by comparison. Granted, they are all Republicans and Thompson is the lone Democrat, but still — viewing these numbers makes one think.

Perhaps Thompson has lost sight of who it is he’s supposed to represent. When you get down to the dollars and cents of the issue, maybe it is that simple.

And who can blame him — when so many people outside of his district are funding his campaign, it’s got to be difficult to remember the little guys in places like Warren, Sharkey and Issaquena counties.

Simply put, Thompson doesn’t have to serve his constituents, because, at the end of the day, they’re not the ones lining his pockets.