Chip Pickering (born August 10, 1963), has represented Mississippi's third Congressional district (map) as a Republican in the United States House of Representatives since being elected in 1996. The district is based in Meridian and stretches from the Alabama border to the Louisiana border, including areas such as Starkville, Natchez and part of Jackson.
Pickering was born in Laurel, Mississippi. His father is Charles Pickering, Sr., a Mississippi lawyer, former municipal judge and local Mississippi Republican politician. (In 2002 President Bush attempted to appoint Charles Pickering Sr. to the federal appeals court, but was filibustered by Democrats in the U.S. Senate.) Chip graduated from Baylor University in 1989. He then very briefly served as a Southern Baptist missionary to Hungary, after the end of Hungarian government persecution of religious believers. In the same year, 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed Pickering as a Department of Agriculture liaison to the former European Communist countries. This appointment provided Pickering with official diplomatic immunity against any possible danger of arrest by local Hungarian officials.
Pickering's 2004 campaign website represented this interlude as "before coming to Congress, Chip pioneered the first full-time presence by a Southern Baptist missionary behind the Iron Curtain in Budapest, the capital of then communist Hungary." After returning to the United States, he served Senator Trent Lott, a 33d Degree Freemason, from 1992 to 1996.
After a year as a government employee of the Senate Commerce Committee, Chip visited Mississippi long enough to run as the Republican candidate for the 3rd District. After the election he returned to his permanent home in metropolitan Washington, D.C. During this and following elections numerous questions have been persistently raised about whether Chip Pickering was even a legal resident of the 3d District and lawfully qualified to run for the office. Congressman Sonny Montgomery, a 30-year Democratic incumbent, was not running for reelection. The 3rd had always been a rather conservative district; it actually elected a Republican in the 1964 elections (in which Barry Goldwater won an unheard-of 87 percent of Mississippi's popular vote). He was unopposed for reelection in 1998 and defeated token Democratic opposition in 2000.
In 2002, Pickering was pitted against fellow Congressman Ronnie Shows, a Democrat from the neighboring 4th District, after Mississippi's sluggish population growth cost it a House seat. Shows' Jackson-based district was merged with Pickering's district in a way that strongly favored Pickering. Pickering defeated Shows by winning over 60f the vote in the new 3rd District, and some suggested that the race was over as soon as the new map was signed into law. In 2004 Pickering faced Independent candidate Jim Giles and several other minor candidates. This election was notable for Pickering's refusal to publicly debate any of the other legally qualified candidates on the public ballot. His campaign almost entirely consisted of television advertising purchased with money mainly raised from sources outside the 3d District.
Pickering is arguably one of the most conservative members of the House. He has risen rapidly through the chamber's ranks, and currently serves as vice-chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He has sometimes been mentioned as a candidate for the Senate seat of his former boss, Senator Trent Lott, should Lott retire in 2006. However, numerous critics have raised questions about Pickering's ethical fitness for any public office due to the controversial nature of several of his activities that became public knowledge.
Pickering considered leaving Congress in 2003 to take a million-dollar lobbying job.
Improper pressure on drug regulators.
In a letter written in the office of Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr. (R-Miss.), and with the assistance of a Bayer lobbyist who was a longtime Pickering friend, 26 House members argued that the poultry medicine was "absolutely necessary to protecting the health of birds." Donald Kennedy, a former FDA commissioner, said: "I never received any letters like that when I was in the position of making a quasi-judicial decision, and should not have. It is clearly improper."
The Federal Election Commission has revealed that Pickering receives most (two out of every three dollars) of his campaign donations and financing from Political Action Committees (PACs). A large part of the remaining monies are received from individuals outside the 3d District.