Ex-mississippi Governor Helped Brett Favre Get Welfare Funds For College Volleyball Stadium, Texts Show

Ex-Mississippi Governor Helped Brett Favre Get Welfare Funds For College Volleyball Stadium, Texts Show

A Mississippi Today investigative report revealed Tuesday that former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant helped former NFL quarterback Brett Favre secure welfare funds to help build a new volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The news organization reviewed text messages from 2017 to 2019 that were filed Monday in the state of Mississippi’s civil lawsuit over wasted welfare funds. The texts were filed by an attorney representing Nancy New, who has already pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts of bribery, fraud and extortion for her role in the welfare scheme. New was the founder of the Mississippi Community Education Center, which was responsible for spending tens of millions in federal welfare funds to help the state.

State auditors have found that nonprofit leaders squandered at least $77 million in welfare funds in the largest public fraud case in Mississippi history.

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The texts show Favre, New and Bryant discussing how to divert at least $5 million in welfare funds to build a volleyball stadium in Southern Miss. Favre played football at Southern Miss, and her daughter was a volleyball player there at the time some of the texts were sent.

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“If you were to pay me, is there a way the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre asked New in 2017.

After telling Favre that “we never publicize that information,” he returned to him the next day.

“Wow, I just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He agrees with us! We’ll make it!” New told Favre.

In another text message sent in July 2019, Bryant told New that he had just finished meeting with Favre and asked if they could help him with his project.

Favre’s attorney, Bud Holmes, denied to Mississippi Today that the former quarterback knew he received welfare funds.

“Brett Favre has been honorable throughout this whole thing,” Holmes told the news organization.

Favre had told the outlet in 2020 that he had not discussed the volleyball stadium project with Bryant.

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Bryant, who left office in January 2020, has long denied helping direct welfare funds to the stadium project, and did not address texts in a statement to Mississippi Today that accused New’s defense team of being “more concerned with pretrial publicity than civil justice.”

Mississippi Today reported that the volleyball stadium is not part of the state’s civil lawsuit. Favre and Bryant have not been criminally charged.

Last year, Favre returned $600,000 to the state of Mississippi, an amount he had been paid for speeches he never delivered. Favre was commissioned in 2017 and 2018 to promote a state anti-poverty initiative and received $1.1 million. The state auditor’s office reported that he initially repaid $500,000 of the amount, but earlier this month, Favre was asked in a letter to repay the rest plus interest.

Then in May, the Mississippi Department of Human Services filed a civil lawsuit against Favre because he had failed to pay interest on the $1.1 million, which totaled $228,000.

According to text messages in the filing obtained by Mississippi Today, the $1.1 million settlement with the state was another way to fund the volleyball stadium project.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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