Accusations against Stanford Financial remind Mississippians of our scars from the World-Com fraud. More than 4,500 Mississippians had $391 million in assets with Stanford Financial. Just like World-Com, there are many employees of Stanford Financial that are honorable, honest people unaware of the alleged skullduggery perpetrated at the company's highest levels. Federal investigators have focused on Allen Stanford of Houston, Texas and Antigua; and James Davis and Laura Pendergest-Holt both of Baldwyn, Mississippi.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports Allen Stanford, his PAC and employees contributed $2.4 million to federal campaigns since 2000 with 65 percent going to Democrats. Stanford and his wife personally gave nearly a million dollars (78 percent to Democrats).

In Mississippi, both the PAC and employees gave mostly to Republicans. Roger Wicker received $8800 for his 2008 Senate campaign and Greg Davis received $8500 in his race against Democrat Travis Childers in the First Congressional District. Congressman Bennie Thompson led Democrats with $2500 from the PAC. Another Democrat, George Irving Sr., and Republicans Chip Pickering and Gregg Harper each received $250 from individual company employees. Nationwide the Stanford PAC gave $120,000 to candidates in 2008: half to Republicans and half to Democrats.

Allen Stanford, accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of engaging in an $8 billion fraud, maintained a fleet of jets, a yacht, and a mansion and properties in Antigua and the Caribbean, including his own personal island. The Antiguan government named him "Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation," but he preferred the title "Sir Allen." Sir Allen loved the Caribbean lifestyle and loved to entertain congressional leaders.

In 2005, Stanford sent two corporate jets to Washington Dulles International Airport to fly several members of Congress and staff to the Caribbean for a conference hosted by Inter-American Economic Council (IAEC).

The IAEC said in a recent statement that Stanford had "nothing to do with the establishment, administration or operations" of the group, but the IAEC president told the Dallas Morning News the organization raises no money except from sponsors for specific events and in 2005, Stanford provided 85 percent of the council's revenue.

Until recently, the IAEC posted pictures of the 2005 conference in the Caribbean, which included pictures of Mississippi's Bennie Thompson, and one of Thompson and Allen Stanford together.

For the next three years, New York Carib News funded trips for Thompson to Panama (2006), Antigua and Barbuda (2007), and St. Maarten (2008). According to Washington DC's The Hill newspaper, "The trip is closely associated with the [Congressional Black Caucus]; only CBC members are invited each year."

The Stanford Financial Group, as recently as 2008, was a supporting sponsor of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (giving between $15,000 and $30,000). The foundation sponsors trips including a 2003 trip to Puerto Rico for Thompson.

On the 2005 IAEC trip, Stanford hosted a reception for lawmakers on his yacht. He hosted another yacht reception for the 2007 trip that included an appearance by Bennie Thompson who "chatted" with Stanford "about a sailing event the billionaire sponsored." Thompson's chief-of-staff told the Politico newspaper he "was not sure whether Thompson flew on Stanford's jet for the 2007 trip."

The 2007 conference agenda scheduled Thompson to speak on "National Security: A Pre-Condition for Success" sponsored by the banking firm HSBC and "Port & Airport Security" sponsored by Macy's.

The 2008 conference at the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort & Casino on the island of St. Maarten occurred about a month after Congress approved the $700 billion financial bailout package. Citigroup (who would receive $45 billion from the bailout package) sponsored the event to the tune of $100,000. Other corporate contributors included AT&T, Verizon ($35,000), Pfizer, Macy's and American Airlines who donated travel. The National Legal and Policy Center has requested an investigation of the event by the special inspector general of the financial bailout package.

Both the 2007 and 2008 trips occurred after Democrats passed new Congressional ethics rules banning corporate sponsorship of conferences like these island trips.

In all these trips, nothing indicates Thompson ever did anything wrong. His disclosure reports seem correct. His office said he was "shocked" at the news regarding Stanford. It appears if rules were broken, they were broken by the event organizers.

My concern is Thompson has been burned before. Ten years ago the "National Security Caucus Foundation" invited him to the Northern Mariana Islands for a few days. It turns out the real financer of the trip was Jack Abramoff. Thompson denied any knowledge of Abramoff's funding and I'll take him at his word.

But Thompson is Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He saw corporate executives all around him and corporate sponsors on the program, but he apparently maintained naïve innocence that this free trip to a tropical paradise was nothing more than a fact-finding mission where he might just happen to rub shoulders with billionaire Allen Stanford on his yacht.

Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Contact him at