Ex-Mississippi governor knew about Favre’s welfare payout

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Newly leaked text messages show how involved a Mississippi governor was in the state’s payment of more than $1 million in welfare to Brett Favre to help fund one of the projects. favorites of the retired NFL quarterback.

Instead of the money going to help low-income families in one of the nation’s poorest states, as planned, it was funneled through a nonprofit group and spent on a new facility. $5 million college volleyball game that both the football star and the governor attended. .

One of the 2017 texts showed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who left office in 2020, “agreed” with the arrangement. The state is suing Favre and others, alleging they spent millions on welfare. The director of the nonprofit pleaded guilty to criminal charges in Mississippi’s biggest public corruption case in decades.

The texts were in documents filed Monday in state court by an attorney for the nonprofit, known as the Mississippi Community Education Center. Messages between Favre and the center’s executive director, Nancy New, included references to Bryant. The documents also included messages between Bryant and Favre and Bryant and New.

New pleaded guilty in April to charges of embezzling welfare money, as did his son Zachary New, who helped run the nonprofit. They are awaiting sentencing and have agreed to testify against others. Favre has not been charged with any criminal act.

“I just left Brett Farve,” Bryant emailed New on July 16, 2019, misspelling the athlete’s last name. “Can we help him with his project. We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your plans on track. »

New replied, “I would appreciate the opportunity to follow all the good things we are working on, especially projects like Brett’s.”

Later that day, New texted Favre to let her know she was meeting with the governor.

“I love John so much. And so do you,” Favre replied to New, referring to then-Mississippi Department of Social Services director John Davis.

The texts also showed a discussion between Favre and New about arranging for the Department of Social Services to be paid through the nonprofit to Favre for speaking engagements, with Favre saying he would direct the money to the University of Southern Mississippi Volleyball Center.

Favre played football in college, located in Hattiesburg, before going to the NFL in 1991. His daughter started playing on the school’s volleyball team in 2017.

According to court documents, Favre texted New on Aug. 3, 2017, “If you were to pay me, would the media anyway find out where it’s from and how much?”

New replied, “No, we never had that information made public. I understand, though, that you’re uncomfortable about it. Let’s see what happens on Monday with the conversation with some people from Southern. Maybe be that it will click with them. Hopefully.”

Favre replied, “Okay thank you.”

The next day, New texted Favre, “Wow, I just hung up on Phil Bryant! He’s on board with us! We’re gonna do it!”

Favre replied, “Great, I needed to hear that for sure.”

According to a previous court filing, New’s nonprofit made two welfare payments to Favre Enterprises, the athlete’s business: $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018.

On December 27, 2017, Favre texted New: “Nancy Santa came over today and dropped off some money (two smiley face emojis) thank god thank you.”

“Yeah, he did,” New replied. “He thought you had been pretty good this year!” »

Lawyers for Favre did not immediately respond to a telephone message Wednesday from The Associated Press.

In a July 11 court filing, New’s attorney wrote that Bryant ordered him to pay $1.1 million in welfare to Favre through the education center for “speaking at ‘events, keynote speeches, radio and promotional events and business partner development’.

In July, a spokesperson for Bryant said allegations that the governor had spent the money improperly were false and that Bryant had asked the state auditor to investigate possible aid fraud. social.

Billy Quinn, an attorney representing Bryant, told the AP on Wednesday that Bryant did not order New to make the $1.1 million payment to Favre. Quinn said a careful review of court records would show “there is no evidence that this happened. And that’s because it’s not.

Bryant served two terms as governor and was unable to run again in 2019 due to term limits. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.

In May, the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a civil lawsuit against Favre, three former professional wrestlers, and several other individuals and businesses in an attempt to recover millions of mis-spent welfare dollars. The lawsuit said the defendants had “wasted” more than $20 million from the anti-poverty program of temporary assistance to needy families.

About 1,800 Mississippi households received payments from the program in 2021, according to the Department of Human Services. A family of three must have a monthly income of less than $680 to qualify, and the current monthly benefit for that family is $260. Payments are allowed for up to five years.

In pleading guilty, Nancy and Zachary New admitted spending $4 million in welfare on the volleyball facility.

The mother and son also admitted to donating welfare funds to Prevacus Inc., a Florida-based company trying to develop a concussion drug. Favre has stated in interviews that he supports Prevacus.

Mississippi auditor Shad White said Favre was paid for speeches but did not show up. Favre repaid the money, but White said in October he still owed $228,000 in interest.

In a Facebook post when he repaid the first $500,000, Favre said he didn’t know the money came from social funds. He also said his charity has provided millions of dollars to poor children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.

Harry D. Gonzalez