The Portland blog that might know why Trent Lott really resigned.

TrentlottOn Monday, Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) announced his resignation, shocking the political world. After all, he'd just been re-elected last year - and he'd recently regained a leadership post.

Why did Lott resign? Was he bailing out, like so many Republicans, frustrated at their new minority status that doesn't show any sign of changing? Did he resign abruptly because of the impending arrival of new revolving-door regulations that would have delayed a career as a lobbyist?

Or was there a scandal about to break?

David Rossmiller is an attorney at Portland law firm Dunn, Carney, Allen, Higgins & Tongue. He also blogs professionally, writing the Insurance Coverage Law Blog.

Rossmiller has been aggressively covering the FBI investigation into a law firm headed up by Trent Lott's brother-in-law and next-door neighbor, Dickie Scruggs. It turns out that the day after Senator Lott resigned, the FBI raided his brother-in-law's law firm -- in an investigation that involves State Farm Insurance, the Mississippi Attorney General, and Katrina-related fraud. Earlier today, Scruggs and his son (Lott's nephew) were indicted for attempting to bribe a judge.

The questions: What did Trent Lott know? When did he know it? Did he do anything help Scruggs? And did he resign because he knew about the impending FBI raid and indictment of his brother-in-law and nephew?

The best summary of the speculative "Scandal Theory" comes from Timothy Noah at

Our story begins in August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina wreaked its vengeance on the Gulf Coast. In addition to depopulating New Orleans, this unwelcome weather event had the temerity to knock down Lott's 154-year-old beachfront home in Pascagoula, Miss., and also the home of Dickie Scruggs, who in addition to being Lott's brother-in-law was also Lott's neighbor. Lott filed a claim with his insurer, State Farm, but State Farm denied the claim, arguing that the culprit was not high winds, which the policy covered, but rather flooding, which the policy didn't cover. (Lott had separately purchased federal flood insurance, but that didn't come close to covering his losses.) Scruggs filed suit on Lott's behalf.

Scruggs also created a Scruggs Katrina Group to pursue similar lawsuits and very likely encouraged his friend [Attorney General Jim] Hood to do the same. ...

Lott, meanwhile, declared war not only on State Farm ... but on the entire insurance industry. He introduced legislation requiring homeowner insurers to clarify what their policies cover and what they don't; he co-sponsored legislation to eliminate the antitrust exemption for insurance companies; he brought Hood up to Washington to testify before the Senate commerce committee, of which he is a member; and he entered internal State Farm e-mails concerning Katrina coverage into the Senate hearing record.

According to Chuck Chamness, CEO of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Lott phoned him last year and threatened "bringing down State Farm and the industry." It was, complained Wall Street Journal editorialist Kimberley Strassel, "a ferocious campaign of political revenge that would make even Henry Waxman envious." Strassel even called it "extortion," noting that State Farm had quickly settled with Hood and Scruggs, and paid off Lott. (The settlement has since come unglued.)

Strassel probably didn't mean to be taken literally, but the question lingers: Did Lott's uncharacteristically liberal Senate crusade, or any support he gave Scruggs or Hood, include actions that were potentially illegal? ...

Now that you've got the summary, head to Rossmiller's blog for the latest blow-by-blow developments.


  • Lewis (unverified)

    Isn't is horrible that nothing surprises me any longer? Especially when "Conservative white Christian Republicans" are involved. Something's way out of whack here, folks. Put bluntly, "We're Fu_ed." Something is so wrong in Christendom these days.

  • Oregon Bill (unverified)

    Thankfully I don't live in Christendom - I live in the United States.

    Let's drop the religious tests for government office - loudly proclaimed "faith" is too often a clear indication of corruption. You know - they "doth protest too much..."

    Or, as one of our Founders wrote...

    "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."

    -Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

  • verasoie (unverified)

    There's also lots of speculation, mostly on, about a pending sex scandal that may have forced Lott out, either to be reported in Hustler and presumably involving the DC madam to whom Republican Sen. Vitter (LA) was connected, or something else of the Larry Craig variety.

    In any case, I'm sure the truth is much more salacious than what Lott is stating.

  • David (unverified)

    I'm in DC and the DC media has been reporting the following:

    Lott is out of money, as of January 1, he would have to sit out two years before becoming a lobbyist, instead of just one.

    The other theory may be valid but I haven't heard anything about it. Nothing would surprise me though.

  • cowboyneok (unverified)

    and if it hadn't PERSONALLY affected Lott he would have fully supported the outrageous behavior of the insurance companies and he would have blamed the victims by saying they must not have had a personal relationship with Jesus, like him.

    Like most Republicans, he only fights injustice if it personally affect him.

  • backbeat12 (unverified)

    Keep in mind here that this creep was going to do a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. It was hastily cancelled on Friday. Why does she lie down with dogs? ick

  • (Show?)

    Backbeat -- Fascinating tidbit. I thought you had to be mistaken, but Google to the rescue:

    A Dec. 15 fund-raising event for Hillary Clinton at the home of prominent Mississippi trial laywer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs is off, now that Scruggs has been indicted for bribery. Bill Clinton was set to be the star attraction at the event at Scruggs’s Oxford, Miss., home. Hillary Clinton wasn’t scheduled to attend. It was the first event that Scruggs, who made a fortune suing the tobacco industry in the 1990s, had offered to host for Clinton, a campaign spokesman said. It was canceled on Wednesday, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided his home and the federal indictment was announced. ... Over the years, Scruggs has been a generous donor to Democrats, but he’s also given money to Republican candidates. He gave $4,200 to Clinton’s Senate campaign in 2005 but hadn’t made a donation yet to her presidential bid. Scruggs’s brother-in-law is Sen. Trent Lott (R., Miss.), who just announced his intention to leave the Senate before the end of the year.
  • DanS (unverified)

    If you really follow the money (and the politics of power) you'll find much more of a connection between Scruggs and Democrats than Republicans. By the way, I've no doubt that Lott is dirty on this.

    You may want to scroll through the extensive reporting done by the WSJ documenting (not jus linking, but actually documenting judicial ruling and opinion) the connection between Scruggs and a Democratic shakedown of the insurance industry.

    <h2>Time for you Dems to jump off of the Holier-than-thou bandwagon on this one.</h2>
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