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Riley Alabama Figure Head for Florida-Owned SGO

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Federal filings show that an Alabama scholarship granting organization (SGO) is actually a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida nonprofit.

Former Gov. Bob Riley has promoted his Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund (AOSF) as if it were the soul of the State’s Accountability Act. Yet, it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida-based Step Up For Students, Inc. (SUFS) headed by John T. Kirtley, the godfather of the Sunshine State’s massive and only SGO.

In April 2014, Lesley Searcy, Executive Director of AOSF, told al.com that the organization’s Federal tax filings, referred to as 990s, would show that no board members received salaries.

A search for AOSF doesn’t return a 990 filing, however, Guidestar lists AOSF under the filings by Kirtley’s Step Up For Students, Inc. In the 2013 filings, Riley is listed as Chairman of AOSF, while Marquita Davis, John H. Cooper and Ann Mackey are named as directors.

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In his welcoming letter on AOSF’s website, Riley’s says, “When I was in office I woke up every day thinking about how to make Alabama the best state in the country to do business.”

And here, Riley has joined forces with a Florida company which allocates Alabama tax dollars to our State’s children.

The 2013 filings show that SUFS, which includes AOSF took in over $330 million. After total expenses the SGO netted almost $48 million, combined with the prior years revenue less expenses the group netted almost $146 million.

Almost $500,000 was paid in compensation for current officers, directors, trustees, and key employees.

Searcy had promised that AOSF’s 990 would reveal salaries of the companies principles however, there is no mention of compensation for Searcy, Riley, Davis or Cooper,

However, the filings do show over $3.7 million in “other” salaries and wages was paid.

The fund also list over $350,000 in travel expenses.

The group spent $600,000 for advertising, $200,000 for lobbying and $200,000 for printing.

For years, SUFS operated a for-profit LC3, The Scholarship Organization Network which processed K-12 scholarship applications, this for-profit company within the non-profit was shuttered in June 2014.

Sercy, writing on AOSF website, states, “Alabama has thousands of bright, curious children from Florence to Fairhope, from urban centers to family farms. These children possess so much ability and promise but desperately need the opportunity to reach their full potential. Today, through the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, we are able to provide that hope for qualifying children throughout our state.”

She fails to mention that the scholarship operation just so happens to be in Florida, not our State.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Bill Britt

Analysis | Republican brand still strong despite corruption, convictions and copying their Democrat predecessors

Bill Britt

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According to Real Clear Politics, Democrats in Alabama have little chance of making progress in November’s general election because the Republican brand is so strong.

RCP polling shows Gov. Kay Ivey is a hands-down favorite to win against Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in November’s general election even though she has only been governor for just over a year.

The GOP brand is king in the Heart of Dixie despite nearly a dozen Republican politicos being indicted, convicted or tied to sordid affairs over the last eight years. But it’s not really the state’s elected officials that define the GOP image, rather it’s the National Party and Fox News that keeps the shine from being tarnished by the likes of convicts like Mike Hubbard and friends.

To say that the state’s Republicans are less corrupt than the Democrats they replaced is a debatable argument but not a rigorous one. When it comes to dishonest, unscrupulous and unprincipled behavior, some Republicans are outpacing the Dems by miles.

In his book, “Storming the State House,” then-House Speaker Mike Hubbard wrote, “Democrats have held the majority in Montgomery for 136 years, and during that time, they created an atmosphere that breeds corruption and encourages graft. The recent criminal convictions of numerous Democratic legislators and other Democratic officials provide ample evidence of that fact.”

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Replace the number 136 years with eight, substitute Republican for Democrat in the line, “recent criminal convictions,” and Hubbard’s words are as real today as they were when he wrote them, the only difference is who’s in charge.

It is painful to admit, but many of those who championed strong ethics law, transparency in elections and accountability from all office holders have utterly abandoned those principles.

Currently, the ethics laws are being rewritten in secret by lobbyists because Republican lawmakers want to break the rules they voted for in 2010.

The Republican nominee for Attorney General accepted nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in illegal campaign contributions, but he says there’s a loophole, and not one Republican office holder has challenged him.

The FCPA is being treated as if it a mere suggestion when it applies to certain Republicans who can’t file their paperwork on time.

So, how does a party that promised all these reforms go from champion to cheaters?

It would be easy to say they were crooked to begin with, and like their leader, convicted felon Hubbard, they were always corrupt.

But that simple answer is wrong.

Any honest outside observer has seen the gradual change that has taken place over the last seven-plus years.

When most women and men enter public service they want to do good, and for the most part, they do.

In political office as in all of life, laws are made to constrain the worst impulses on human nature – only in public office, elected lawmakers can change the rules. Generally, they do not hastily change laws to favor themselves for fear of alienating voters. However, once a party realizes they have an iron lock on the electorate, that fear subsides and they are encouraged to do as they please.

This is the inherent danger of a one-party state.

Also in his book, Hubbard wrote, “Republicans understand that we must limit the influence of special interests and other lobbyists who control much of what happens in Montgomery.”

He was right that special interests and lobbyists control much of what happens in Montgomery, but he was wrong because many Republicans didn’t understand, including Hubbard, that the influence of special interests and lobbyists needed to be sharply limited. Instead, many of the same lawmakers who came to do good found it easier to do what most have always done, enjoy the spoils of power.

So, Republicans seem to have a hold on the November elections according to Pollsters, but of course, if all votes were based on polls, President Hillary Clinton would be in the White House, Senator Roy Moore would be making new headlines every day from Washington D.C. and appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall would be packing for Buck’s Pocket.

If politics were based on polling numbers, then Gov. Robert Bentley would soon retire as the state’s most popular governor. (Hint: He thinks he still is.) and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey would be saying farewell to a storied career as a public servant.

But like life, politics is often subject to the fickle fates who from time-to-time don’t read the polls, rather choosing to lay waste to the best plans of we mere mortals.

And sometimes the partisan scales fall from peoples’ eyes and honesty, integrity and principle, not party, matters.

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Ivey establishes statewide group to prepare Alabama for maximum Census participation

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed an executive order establishing a state-level committee designed to prepare Alabama for maximum participation in the 2020 U.S. Census.

“The stakes are high for Alabama in the 2020 U.S. Census, and our success depends greatly on our ability to help Alabamians understand the importance of completing and submitting their census forms,” Governor Ivey said. “For that reason, I am forming this committee a full 20 months before the April 1, 2020 census count to bring leaders of many statewide public and private groups together to ensure every Alabamian knows the importance of doing their part and participating in the census. When we all do our duty, we ensure that the state gets our fair share of funding for dozens of critical programs and ensure we maintain fair representation in Congress.”

The Alabama Counts! 2020 Census Committee will serve as an advisory group made up of public and private statewide organizations to recommend and implement strategies for raising awareness of the 2020 census. As mandated by the Constitution, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a count of the United States population every 10 years.
Starting on April 1, 2020, each Alabama household should receive a postcard from the Census Bureau encouraging them to complete their census form online or by phone or to call a number to request a paper form.

A recent study by George Washington University indicates that the U.S. government returned more than $1,567 to the state in 2015 for every Alabamian counted in the census. More than 100 federal programs use data collected during census counts as part of their formulas to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding to the states. Those programs include Medicaid, Medicare Part B, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Highway Planning and Construction, and Title 1 Grants to Local Education Agencies. Census-derived data also is used to allocate seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and in legislative redistricting.

April 2020 is still twenty months away, but some sources are telling the Alabama Political Reporter that Alabama will lose a congressional district after this next census and congressional reapportionment. That would mean one less Alabamian in Congress and that seat would go to another state that has had more robust growth. That makes getting an accurate count all the more important.

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There have been questions about the accuracy of some of the past censuses. If residents don’t participate or give misinformation to the census that can result in an under reporting.

For example in 2009 the Census Bureau estimated that 14,090 people lived in Moody, Alabama; but when the actual count came in in 2010 the count was just 11,774. Today the estimated Moody population is 12,823. Similarly in 1999 the Census Bureau estimated that the Moody population was 10,067; but in 2010 the actual count was only 8,280. There are three possibilities here: the first is that the numbers are all accurate and Moody experienced a 16.4 percent and 17.7 percent population decline in the months prior to the last two censuses. The second possibility is that the census estimates are badly off. The third possibility is that people in Moody did not fully cooperate with the censuses and that Moody was undercounted in both of the last two official censuses. That third possibility is what concerns state and local officials. Federal programs, congressional reapportionment, new school construction, new business site selectors all use the federal census in their decision making and if a town, county, or the entire state is undercounted there will be real world repercussions from that. 5664 ballots were cast in the two Moody polling places during the 2016 presidential election.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) serves as the state’s liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau. Governor Ivey named ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell as chair of the Alabama Counts! 2020 Census Committee. The committee will be divided into subcommittees designed to reach all areas of Alabama. Those subcommittees are: Government, Education, Faith-based Groups, Community-based Groups, Economic Development/Industry, Health Care, Rural and Outreach.

“Governor Ivey and I understand how critical it is that we do everything in our power to ensure Alabamians are ready to be counted in the 2020 Census,” Director Boswell said. “This committee and its subcommittees will bring some of the best and brightest from all sectors of Alabama together to help the state over the next year and a half.”

The Ivey Administration said that the subcommittee chairs will serve as the group’s executive committee and will work with ADECA and the Governor’s Office over the next several weeks to form membership of their subcommittees. The executive committee and its subcommittees will meet regularly in the coming months to develop and implement outreach and education plans targeted to all aspects of Alabama. The committee and ADECA also will work closely with Alabama’s two partnership specialists from the Census Bureau.

The following people will serve as subcommittee chairs:

  • Government – U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt/Paul Housel, District Director for Rep. Aderholt
  • Education – Eric Mackey, Superintendent of Alabama Department of Education and Jimmy Baker, Chancellor of Alabama Community College System
  • Faith-based Groups – Bishop Kyle Searcy, Lead Pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery and Rev. Jay Wolf, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Montgomery
  • Community-based Groups – Ron Gilbert, Executive Director of Community Action Association of Alabama
  • Economic Development/Industry – Steve Spencer, President of Economic Development Partnership of Alabama
  • Health Care – Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer at Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Rural – Paul Pinyan, Executive Director of Alabama Farmers Federation
  • Outreach – Kenneth Boswell, ADECA Director and Chair of the Alabama Counts 2020 Census Committee

ADECA has worked for the past year to help Alabama’s counties and municipalities update the address lists that will be used by the Census Bureau in 2020 to account for new development and other changes.

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Political pollster predicts Brooks will easily best Joffrion

Brandon Moseley

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Nate Silver’s political forecasting site FiveThirtyEight.com recently reviewed all six contested Alabama Congressional races and has determined that all of the Alabama Republican incumbents are virtually certain to be re-elected.

Silver analyzed Alabama’ Fifth Congressional District race and gave retired Huntsville attorney Peter Joffrion only a two-tenths of a one percent chance of actually beating incumbent Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) in the general election.

According to Silver, Congressman Mo Brooks has a 99.8 percent chance of winning the election. The site is predicting that Congressman Brooks will win with 63.5 percent of the vote over Peter Joffrion’s 36.5 percent.
FiveThirtyEight’s analysis is consistent with general election results in 2010, 2012, and 2016, wherein Congressman Brooks defeated Democrat challengers with an average of 63.3 percent of the vote. The Democrats did not even field a candidate in 2014.

Rep. Brooks’ campaign said in a statement that, past presidential election results portray the 5th Congressional District as a deeply conservative district that keeps getting redder and redder. John McCain received 61 percent of the vote in the 5th District in 2008, Mitt Romney received 64 percent in 2012, and Donald J. Trump received 65 percent in 2016.

“In effect, Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight.com give Socialist Peter Joffrion only a two-tenths of 1% chance of being able to persuade 5th District voters that Socialism, open borders, illegal alien amnesty, national defense cuts, higher taxes, more welfare, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are good for America and the Tennessee Valley,” Congressman Brooks said. “Peter Joffrion is by far the most extreme candidate Democrats have offered in Alabama’s 5th District. If less extreme Democrats can’t come close to winning, what chance does Socialist Peter Joffrion have? The answer: 2 tenths of 1% according to highly-respected political forecasting site FiveThirtyEight.com.”

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It is similar in the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Congressional Districts where Silver predicts that Congress members: Bradley Byrne, Martha Roby, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, and Gary Palmer will all easily trounce their Democratic challengers.

According to Silver’s analysis, Tabitha Isner (D) has the best chance of scoring the upset with a one in sixty chance of defeating incumbent Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in the general election. That is the closest race in the state according to Silver and that is still less than a two percent chance of victory.  National resources from both political parties appear to be going to states where there are competitive races.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) has no general election opponent.

Similarly, the Real Clear Politics website ranks all the congressional districts in the country. According to their analysis all six GOP House seats are ranked as “Strong GOP” even in a year where Democrats have a strong chance of taking the U.S. House of Representatives back after eight years of Republican control.

The options are safe Dem, likely Dem, leans Dem, tossup, leans GOP, likely GOP, and Safe GOP. They have essentially called these six races as over.

Real Clear Politics has also analyzed the governor’s race and ranked it as basically over, with a “Safe GOP” rating. Incumbent Governor Kay Ivey (R) is presiding over one of the strongest economies the state has ever experienced and she is one of the most personally popular governors in the country. The Alabama Democratic Party candidate, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox, has never run a statewide campaign before and lacks statewide name recognition. The 2018 election appears to be closely paralleling the 2014 election which was an across the board sweep for the Alabama Republican Party.

“With the exception of Democrats’ 2017 Senate win in a low voter turnout special election shortly before the Christmas and New Years holidays, over the last eight years Tennessee Valley voters have rejected 5th District-wide Democrat candidates by large, double digit margins,” Congressman Brooks said. “Now Democrats offer up Socialist Peter Joffrion, who was motivated to run to ‘Stop Donald Trump.’ Quite frankly, Tennessee Valley voters do not want the next two years to be all about gridlock and unfounded, partisan efforts to impeach President Donald Trump. With such an extremist candidate, the so-called Alabama ‘Blue Wave’ won’t amount to more than a ripple in the Tennessee Valley in November. As long as Republicans turn out in November, we will keep this seat, continue to implement America First policies, and reap the benefit of the explosive economic growth, higher wages, lower taxes, and more jobs America has enjoyed since the 2016 elections!”

While Republicans like the polls at this point, the only poll that really matters is what the voters who actually show up do on election day.

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Alabama Children First to host bourbon, BBQ tasting fundraiser in Montgomery

Chip Brownlee

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A fundraiser this week will be raising money to better the well-being of Alabama’s children.

Alabama Children First, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on improving children’s lives by impacting public policy, will be hosting a fundraiser this Friday, Aug. 24, at Wind Creek Casino in Montgomery.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to ACF. The organization works with state officials, politicians and leaders to change policies dealing with serious issues facing children including child abuse, teen driving and juvenile justice reform.

The first annual Bourbon, Blue & BBQ will feature more than 20 varieties of bourbon, BBQ samplings and live music from the JoeJack Band.

Alabama Children First say they hope the event will become the premiere bourbon tasting event in Montgomery in its first year. The event is aimed at both sipping novices and for experienced bourbon connoisseurs.

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Three different levels of bourbon will be available for attendees to try. Featured bourbons include Knob Creek, Eagle Rare, Elijah Craig and Old Forester 1897.

ACF says the event will be laidback with good music, great food and a chance to expand your palate with different bourbon choices. Tickets are available only on their website at bourbonbluesbbq.com.

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Riley Alabama Figure Head for Florida-Owned SGO

by Bill Britt Read Time: 2 min
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