Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley speaks during a forum concerning health at L.T. Ellis Community Center in Laurel, Miss., on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ campaign on Friday aired a new TV ad accusing Brandon Presley, his Democratic opponent, of illegally accepting money from leaders in solar energy companies. 

“Here’s Presley’s signature approving a solar energy plant,” a narrator on the Reeves ad says. “Here’s the solar businessman who funds Brandon’s campaign. Check after check, thousands of dollars, breaking the law.” 

Presley is currently north Mississippi’s representative on the three-member Public Service Commissioner, which is responsible for regulating public utilities in the state. 

The basis for Reeves’ allegations stems from a state law enacted to ensure ethical regulatory practices forbidding commissioners from accepting donations from public utilities they oversee.

Presley strongly denied the Reeves campaign’s accusation, telling Mississippi Today at an event in Jackson Friday morning that every campaign contribution his campaign has accepted has been “completely legal.”

“He’s the only candidate in this race that’s funding his campaign off of money from people that are going to jail for stealing dollars in the welfare scandal,” Presley said of Reeves. “This is typical for someone as corrupt as Tate Reeves.”

Presley is referring to Reeves accepting donations from Nancy and Zach New, two people who have pleaded guilty in connection to Mississippi’s welfare scandal where state officials have said millions of dollars meant for the state’s poorest citizens were unlawfully squandered. 

Reeves accepted the donations from the News before they were accused of a crime, but after the allegations against them surfaced, the first-term governor said he donate the contributions to a charity.

The Republican governor, however, did not give away the money and told media outlets earlier this year that he would donate them after the civil and criminal trials against them had concluded, a process which could take years. 

The Presley campaign in a press release also said that a document in the Friday ad that accused the Democratic candidate of wrongdoing was actually property code violation for a Florida address that’s been altered to appear as a campaign finance violation.

Voters will choose to vote for either Reeves or Presley in the general election on Nov. 7. 

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Taylor, a native of Grenada, covers state government and statewide elections. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Holmes Community College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Taylor reported on state and local government for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, where he received an award for his coverage of the federal government’s lawsuit against the state’s mental health system.