PERRY/Jim Hood seeking re-election
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 1:00 AM
Attorney General Jim Hood told the Stennis Institute-Capitol Press Corps luncheon on Monday that at this point he plans to seek re-election in 2015.
Hood said life happens and he has decisions to make regarding his children and family, but re-election is "my plan at this point."
Hood addressed the two-dozen people crowd at the Capital Club in Jackson covering topics of cybercrime, Google and intellectual property theft, domestic violence, guns and America's future.
Hood said he wasn't sure about the transition from district attorney (where he could hug the neck of a victim) to attorney general, but the challenge brought to his office by internet related crimes has made it fun. The sole statewide elected Democrat said he likes to find ways "how the government can work to help people."
He said while "earmark" has become a dirty word, his cybercrime unit used to investigate and prosecute child pornographers got early funding through the work of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran as Appropriations Chairman and funding partnerships with Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi.
Those efforts, Hood said, have been successful and the media has been helpful in getting the word out that internet predators will be caught and go to prison.
Hood said "there is no one out there policing the Internet" but his office works closely with the FBI and the Postal Service to target suspects. Hood said a new concern is "sextortion" by hackers who take control of computer cameras to take pictures or videos of their users and threaten to release those images unless paid. Hood also worries about hackers infiltrating the electrical grid and causing shutdowns which, as we saw after Hurricane Katrina, can cause the breakdown of society within days.
Hood said he continues his fight with Google concerning counterfeit prescription drugs and other intellectual property concerns. Google entered into a non-prosecution agreement, but Hood says it is not working very well to assist law enforcement. He did note one positive change: Google changed it's auto-complete function that Hood said once assisted in purchasing illegal products online.
He said efforts at curbing domestic violence have been successful and noted some of the tools included changes in the state's stalking laws and the addition of anti-domestic violence segments in school curriculum. "You can change that behavior and keep those families together," Hood said.
Hood mentioned his office recently issued an opinion affirming the right to carry a gun on school property by those with enhanced concealed-carry permits. He said his office went back through history to gain a clear perspective on carrying guns and that in the "Old West" you were thought to be considered a coward for concealing a weapon and using a concealed weapon could get you a murder charge; while those who openly carried their weapons were not scrutinized because "it was a fair fight."
In Mississippi, the Constitution only allows the regulation of concealed weapons and although there are conflicting statutes, he believes a concealed carry permit holder may not take a gun onto public accessible school property, but an enhanced permit holder may do so. He said he thinks the Legislature should address the enhanced carry law in the next session to promote additional training and clear up conflicts in statute.
Hood said he has spoken with Gov. Phil Bryant on how to "try to do more for our money" in the Department of Corrections with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation. Hood advocated an increase in half-way houses where inmates would wear ankle bracelets, receive counseling, learn job skills and must maintain a job while incarcerated. He said we can't just turn people out of the penitentiary but the Legislature has created all these "open back doors" that essentially does that already. He said those policies weaken the public's confidence in the judicial system and prevents anyone from knowing how much time a convict actually will be required to spend in prison. He hopes this will be addressed in the next legislative session as well.
Hood believes the most dangerous thing our country faces is the political divide exemplified by the government shutdown. He says if you wonder where the moderate went, it was a process of redistricting that shifted competitive U.S. House seats from 135 in 1980 to fewer than 35 today.
The work to make more majority-black and minority districts created other districts that are "lily white." Hood complained that people get elected now by people who want them to yell at the other side. Hood warned a nation can fall before our eyes, like the former Soviet Union, and he worries about our own country. He said a country divided cannot stand and America is not as good as it once was, "I don't know if we can make it thirty years at this pace."
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at email@example.com or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.