Lobbying past could complicate Barbour campaign

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

The projects included $850,000 for educational programs and the preservation of Rowan Oak, the Oxford, Miss., home of author William Faulkner; $500,000 to train workers on real-time captioning for the hearing-impaired; $350,000 to digitize accounting periodicals at a University of Mississippi library; and nearly $3 million to create an economic development center at the University of Southern Mississippi. The center, which was named after former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, opened in 2010.

Tea party activists, a key bloc in the GOP, have railed against using tax dollars for pork barrel projects. While the money was ultimately approved by Congress, Barbour could face questions over his commitment to cutting federal spending.

Other former clients could pose tripwires. Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove assailed Barbour's ties to the tobacco industry during their 2003 gubernatorial campaign. Barbour's firm received more than $2 million in fees from tobacco companies from 1999-2002, according to lobbying filings, but Barbour was able to overcome the criticism to win the 2003 race with 53 percent and cruise to re-election four years later. The tobacco connection probably would become fodder in the general election if Barbour wins the GOP nomination next year.

John Geer, a Vanderbilt University political scientist who has studied presidential politics, said that while Barbour's lobbying past might be a negative with some voters, he could use it as a way to show his understanding of policy and governing. "He can't hide from his record. He has to make it an asset."

Associated Press writer Jim Davenport in Roebuck, S.C., contributed to this report.

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