GOP hammers Espy on Clinton-era indictments despite not guilty verdict

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi TodayU.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy speaks to the media after giving his political speech during the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss. Thursday, August 2, 2018.
In early 1999, soon after Mike Espy was found not guilty by a federal jury on all 30 counts of accepting illegal gifts while agriculture secretary, he returned to his native Mississippi to hold a news conference where he released a poll showing he would be the favorite in the race for lieutenant governor later that year.
It was obvious that the then 45-year-old Espy, was trying to accomplish two goals—to make sure the people back home understood that he was no longer under a cloud of corruption and to reaffirm his bona fides as a viable Mississippi politician.
At that news conference, Espy made it clear he would not be a candidate that year, but left the door open to a run for political office at a later date.
Now, Espy, who in 1986 became the first African-American elected to the U.S. House from Mississippi in the modern era, is finally running again – in a special election to replace Thad Cochran in the U.S. Senate – and his opponents believe those charges from the 1990s make him unfit to again serve in Congress.
The Mississippi Republican Party recently released a 48-second video titled “Too corrupt for the Clintons” focusing on Espy’s resignation in 1994, which came in the midst of a federal investigation. That probe resulted Espy’s indictment for accepting gifts totaling $35,000 from businesses and lobbyists that his agency regulated.
Specifically, Espy was indicted for accepting gifts – such as tickets to sporting events, including the U.S. Open tennis tournament and the Super Bowl – from various groups, including poultry producer Tyson Foods. But the special counsel appointed at the time never could identify how Espy, the then-secretary of agriculture,