If Jim Hood truly believes that Tate Reeves abused his office to try to get an access road built — at taxpayers’ expense — to the gated community where the Republican lieutenant governor lives, then Hood needs to distance himself from investigating the matter.
The attorney general, in fact, should have done so even before he won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to run against Reeves, the probable GOP nominee, or Bill Waller Jr., the runner-up whom Reeves will face in a primary runoff on Aug. 27.
Hood’s recusal has become even more imperative as the election clock winds down.
Otherwise, it will be Hood whom the public will believe is abusing his office by orchestrating an investigation and the release of its findings to serve his political purposes.
This past week, less than three months before the general election, Hood said he has decided to once again delay — and personally rewrite — a report examining the controversy over the $2 million frontage road that was in the works until coverage by the news media in 2018 caused the project to be put on hold.
Dragging it out as he has would suggest one of two things:
• The report exonerates Reeves, and Hood does not want to lift the cloud of suspicion over his political rival as long as Reeves remains a candidate in the governor’s race.
• The report accuses Reeves of wrongdoing, and Hood wants to time its release for maximum political effect, something that the attorney general pledged in June he would not do.
Whatever the findings might be, Hood’s involvement in them is tainted and he needs to bow out. Even though he talks as if no other investigative agency wanted to touch the matter and potentially get crosswise with Reeves, we don’t buy that excuse. There is no evidence provided that Hood actively tried to get anyone else to assume the investigation. The FBI won’t comment on whether Hood approached it. The one investigatory state agency to whom he talked, the State Auditor’s Office, says he didn’t ask it to get involved, a recollection that Hood does not dispute.
Hood is correct when he says the voters have a right to know what happened with the alleged strong-arming of the Mississippi Department of Transportation by the legislative branch. But that information needs to come from someone a lot less conflicted than Hood is.