Op-Ed from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Thomas Jackson: “Show. Me. The. Money.”
Money and power. How many times have we picked up a newspaper or turned on the evening news to see a story about the downfall of a person who became consumed with money and power. Too often, these stories are about politicians – the very people we put our trust in to handle our tax dollars and lead our government.
Over the past two weeks, there have been several reports in the news about some questionable financial dealings in the Alabama Republican Party during the 2010 election.
It began with the revelation that the Republican leadership solicited $300,000 from the Indian gaming interests to support the campaign of Attorney General Luther Strange (who has been a strong advocate for prosecuting gaming interests in Alabama) and several Republican state senate candidates.
Last week, it was reported that Speaker of the House and former Republican Party Chairman, Rep. Mike Hubbard, while serving as Party Chairman, contracted out some of the Republican Party’s printing needs to a company that, in turn, subcontracted out those services to a company that Speaker Hubbard owned.
This week, there have been reports that companies owned by Speaker Hubbard were paid over a million dollars from political action committees that were also controlled by Speaker Hubbard.
These shady financial dealings were not limited to the former Republican Party Chairman or the 2010 election cycle.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead hired his nephew to be the real estate agent for the Party on a deal for a new Party headquarters in Hoover. But nepotism was not the only shady part of this deal. The Party paid over $100,000 more than the appraised value of the property.
PAC-to-PAC transfers. Kickbacks. Quid pro quos. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. Is this the ethical government the Republicans promised in their “Handshake with Alabama”?
In February of 2010, Speaker Hubbard said, “PAC-to-PAC, that’s going to end. I’m not someone who wants to limit what people or groups can spend supporting the people who they want in office, but whatever anybody contributes should be known. I think we want transparency. I know the word gets used a lot. But that’s really what we’re talking about, pulling the curtain back and seeing where the money comes from and where it goes.”
But less than two years after the Republicans took control of the state legislature, a Grand Jury in Montgomery ruled that the ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers as passed by the Republican Supermajority was unenforceable because there is no way to determine who is responsible for violations. The Grand Jury also said that in this so-called ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers it was not a crime for a PAC to solicit or receive a contribution from another PAC.
Now we know why the Republican Supermajority in Montgomery has been unwilling to pass actual ethical reform or a ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers that has teeth. The Republicans are making too much money off of these PAC-to-PAC transfers and backroom deals to actually attempt to change things.
Rep. Thomas Jackson is a Democrat from Thomasville, AL. He is the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and has represented House District 68 in the Alabama House of Representatives since 1994. He is also an Associate Pastor for Church of God in Christ.