Mississippi Welfare Scandal Engulfs Balch Stooges and “The Million Dollar Man”

How much of Balch’s $27.8 million was obtained through cronyism and favoritism? Should there be a criminal forensic audit of Balch?

Walter H. Boone, a Balch & Bingham partner in Mississippi, obviously outraged, tweeted about the latest corruption scandal involving football great Brett Favre, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and millions diverted from feeding hungry children to fund Favre’s pet project: a state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter studies and plays…volleyball.

The “scheme to defraud the government” has rocked Mississippi and angered decent and professional people like Boone.

Texter Favre

Mississippi Today broke the story about texts between then-Governor Phil Bryant and Favre in the scheme that diverted and allegedly laundered millions for welfare nutritional program resources to a not-for-profit entity called the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC). MCEC then funneled the money illegally to pet projects, like Favre’s Volleyball Stadium.

The DiBiase Wrestling family is also engulfed in the scandal. Ted DiBiase, Sr. was known as “The Million Dollar Man” in his wrestling days

Last May, news outlets reported:

Ted DiBiase and his sons Ted Jr. and Brett DiBiase have been sued by the state of Mississippi as the state seeks to reclaim $24 million dollars of misused federal funds meant for welfare.

The lawsuit alleges that Nancy New and her son Zack New used their nonprofit [MCEC] to illegally funnel ‘tens of millions’ of dollars into other nonprofits. John Davis, who was then the director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, befriended Ted DiBiase Jr. and elevated him within the department to receive payment from two of the New nonprofits totaling over $3 million dollars in anti-poverty funds.

The funds were meant to “address the multiple needs of inner-city youth” despite DiBiase Jr. possessing no qualifications to provide those services in relation to the federal grant called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

Ted DiBiase Jr., the lawsuit alleges, later urged Davis to divert $1.7 million to Ted DiBiase Sr.’s ministry called Heart of David. However, DiBiase allegedly used some of the money for his own personal expenses.

The lawsuit lists Ted DiBiase Sr. owing $1,971,223, Ted DiBiase Jr. $2,897,487, and Brett DiBiase $824,258.

Although Balch’s Boone appears to be outraged, the reality appears to be the House of Balch is divided.

Working down the hall from Boone is Balch partner Lucien Smith, who was Governor Bryant’s former Chief of Staff and served as the Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party until he was ousted by current Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves.

Bryant was seen as a Balch stooge at the time he served as Governor.

Contractual Cronyism

Speaking of welfare, Balch & Bingham appears to live off of corporate welfare and contractual cronyism in Mississippi. According to the State of Mississippi, Balch has obtained over $27.8 million in 72 contracts.

Of that, $16.6 million has been obtained in the past 5 years, averaging more than $3.3 million a year.

How much of Balch’s $27.8 million was obtained through cronyism and favoritism? Should there be a criminal forensic audit of Balch?

Last year, Balch made national headlines.

Balch, which evicts renters and represents landlords, got a $3.8 million no-bid contract to run Mississippi’s rental assistance program while handing out 11 percent of the resources at hand. Balch partner Chris Wadell appears to have helped obtain the no-bid contract, serving as counsel to the agency that handed out the contract.

What a joke, we said at the time.

“The Pimps of Mississippi” had no business running a program to help people of color and the poor. Now the final numbers are in, and the inefficiency is real. The U.S. Department of Treasury reports that the State of Mississippi dispersed only 76 percent of the nearly $187 million allocation. Independent of Balch, Harrison County, Mississippi by comparison dispersed 98 percent of their resources.

Balch partner Boone has a right to be outraged at Favre for allegedly taking advantage of resources for poor, hungry children.

But Boone should also be outraged at his own firm, which targeted poor African American children in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal. He should be outraged that his firm refuses to apologize for former partner Joel I. Gilbert’s criminal misconduct. He should be outraged that Balch lost tens of millions in fees to win a $242,000 judgment in the Newsome Conspiracy Case. He should be outraged at the alleged criminal and unethical misconduct surrounding Balch and its sister-wife Alabama Power.

In the meantime, Favre should repay the State of Mississippi and make a heartfelt apology to the residents of the Magnolia State.