Even before Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour announces whether he intends to run for president, he's facing a run of press scandals just like most confirmed candidates endure on the campaign trail. First there was the flap over the Mississippi-approved vanity license plate heralding a leader of the Ku Klux Klan--and now comes a report that Barbour, in his earlier career as a D.C. power lobbyist, represented the Mexican government in a push to render U.S. immigration law more accommodating to Mexican residents who had entered the country illegally.
On Monday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called for Barbour to condemn a proposed state license plate honoring honoring Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard. As of mid-morning Tuesday, Barbour had not yet issued a public statement on the proposal, which is being pushed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
This controversy comes alongside a Time magazine report that Barbour and the lobbying shop he co-founded--BGR Group--were hired by Mexico in 2001 to work on legislation offering "a path to citizenship for foreigners living illegally in the United States—what opponents of immigration reform call 'amnesty,' " wrote Time's Michael Scherer.
Last night, Barbour issued a statement denying he supported amnesty--though neither he nor his firm denied working on the specific immigration provision outlined in the Time report.
These new controversies add to the potential challenges Barbour faces as a presidential candidate in 2012.
Barbour has had to answer repeated questions about his past as a lobbyist--while also addressing the fallout from remarks he'd made to the Weekly Standard about the benign character of life in civil-rights era Mississippi.
Just this past weekend, Barbour appeared on Fox News Sunday and defended himself on both fronts.
He argued that the president essentially is a lobbyist and must "sell what's good for America to others in the world as well as to America," so Barbour's lobbying history will be an asset. And in revisiting his earlier appraisal of the civil-rights era as "not that bad" in Mississippi, Barbour reiterated it was truthful to his own youthful experience: "I was asked about my childhood and I had a great childhood," Barbour said.
(Photo of Barbour: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)