Text messages reveal that former Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant was "on board" with plans to use federal welfare funds to build a new volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi, according to texts filed by an attorney who represents Nancy New, a nonprofit founder who pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts earlier this year for her role in the scheme.
The text messages between New and football player Brett Favre, best known for his more than 20-season career playing for the Green Bay Packers, add another sordid dimension to a scandal that has rocked the state.
First reported by Mississippi Today journalist Anna Wolfe, the texts show that Bryant "guided" Favre on the funding proposal for the volleyball center.
The texts, sent on August 3, 2017, show that Favre expressed some concerns about the media uncovering where the money came from and "how much," but he was quickly reassured by New, who said that "we never have that information publicized" but noted that she understood "you being uneasy about that though."
Later, New responded that she'd spoken with Bryant, who was "on board with us."
You can read the exchange below.
The revelations prompted many to condemn Bryant's and Favre's involvement in corruption that appears to have run through the highest levels of government.
Earlier this month, news outlets reported that Favre was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after an audit in Mississippi alleged that state's Department of Human Services misspent $94 million intended for at-need residents, including $1.1 million paid out to Favre's company for two speaking appearances he did not make.
The Mississippi state auditor's office found federal grant funds diverted from Mississippi's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare funds (TANF), as well as tens of millions in public funds as an element of the scheme. Favre has repaid the fees, but not $228,000 in interest the auditor also demanded.
Favre has not been charged with a crime, or even accused of one, and has declined to speak with reporters. His attorney has said that he did nothing wrong and that he did not know he was paid with money intended to help poor children.
The scandal first gained attention in 2020, after Favre's involvement with the development and promotion of a concussion treatment drug, Prevasol, by the Prevacus corporation, came under scrutiny.
The nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) received $2.5 million in TANF funds, and a grand jury in Hinds County indicted MCEC founder New and her son Zach in the scheme. New and her son have pleaded guilty to state and federal charges and are cooperating with authorities.