“She gets everything she wants,” Jack Abramoff said in an email. He was referring to Ann Copland who spent 29 years working for Thad Cochran, working her way into the position of his Executive Assistant. An Abramoff associate was complaining that Ms. Copland wanted to see Paul McCartney, Green Day, and others. She was demanding. But she got everything she wanted because she delivered Thad Cochran’s support for tax payer dollars funneled to Abramoff clients.
My friend Charles Johnson has documented much of what Cochran did for Abramoff’s clients.
In 2001, Cochran wrote a letter on behalf of the Choctaw Indians to Interior Secretary Gale Norton. The Choctaw were then one of Abramoff’s biggest client. Cochran, for his troubles, “received about $82,500 from Abramoff, his lobbying partners and tribal clients between 2001 and 2004, including roughly $8,000 in the period around which the letter was sent.” (Associated Press, 11/17/05)
In 2006, Cochran did the tribes bidding once more and placed a hold on an Indian gaming bill that John McCain pushed in the wake of the Abramoff scandals to help the Choctaw.
Indeed Cochran’s much advertised beef with Senator John McCain wasn’t over anything principled at all. Cochran—the king of pork—objected to McCain’s opposition to earmarks.
Cochran has extremely cozy relationships with lobbyists, donors, and banks.
As I have already mentioned, Cochran lives in a multi-million dollar home on Capitol Hill shared with his current Executive Assistant Kay Webber. The home is in Ms. Webber’s name. There are questions grassroots activists are asking about the home that Democrats are going to keep asking through November.
The chief question is this one: how does an Executive Assistant making approximately $72,000.00 a year afford a house worth $1,000,000.00 at the time of purchase and now worth more than a million dollars?
There does not appear to be an apartment in the home according to District of Columbia records, though Cochran says he rents and Ms. Webber’s personal financial disclosure shows rental income.
According to individuals who have reviewed the transaction, when Webber purchased the house, she had a co-signor on the home who was a donor to Cochran and who listed her own occupation as homemaker. So a congressional staffer making $72,000.00 and a homemaker who donated to Cochran went in together and bought a million dollar home.
That homemaker’s husband, William Shows, was the head of the Pearl River Valley electric cooperative. Electric cooperatives have been the number one source of campaign contributions to Thad Cochran over the years. Sources tell me the homemaker’s husband also sat on the board of the bank that helped finance the transaction.
That would be Trustmark Bank, which is currently having FEC trouble over a campaign loan to benefit Cochran.
Likewise, Trustmark’s CEO’s Richard Hickson, contributed to Cochran’s campaign in 2000, 2001, and 2007. In 2008, Trustmark got $215 million in TARP funding from the federal government.
Now, here’s the real kicker. Ms. Webber and Mrs. Shows bought the house for $1 million with, it appears, $200,000.00 down and a $800,000.00 mortgage in 2001. At the time Ms. Webber’s congressional salary was less than $100,000.00 a year and Mrs. Shows, who only had a 1% interest in the home according to individuals who have seen the paperwork, listed her occupation as a homemaker. A year after the purchase, Mrs. Shows gave Ms. Webber her interest in the home making Ms. Webber the sole owner.
Surely there must be an innocent explanation to all this — how do a congressional staffer and homemaker get a loan for a million dollar home? How does a Senator rent an apartment when the District of Columbia seems to have no record of an apartment? Why did they open the home for a Sheila Jackson Lee fundraiser?
Surely there are innocent answers. But Democrats are going to keep asking these questions long after Republicans stop. And the specter of Thad Cochran’s relationship with Jack Abramoff will live on.