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The circus begins, and it will leave a mess behind

Steve Flowers

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INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE
by Steve Flowers

As I have suggested to you, we are looking at one momentous 2018 election year, and it has begun. Get this folks, we have an open governor’s race. We have openings at Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Agriculture Commissioner, three seats on the Supreme Court including the Chief Justice position, all 35 state Senate seats, all 105 House seats, one hotly contested congressional seat, as well as 67 sheriffs. Folks, that’s the most political marquee year in my long political life. If media outlets do not make money next year, they ain’t ever gonna make any money.

As though the aforementioned cavalcade was not enough of a circus, we’ve got ourselves an open U.S. Senate seat. I believe that Ringling Brothers Circus closed in deference to us in the Heart of Dixie and our roadshow Vaudeville act called Alabama politics.

Our good “ole” Governor Robert Bentley has been a great ringleader. He is quite a show. Poor ole Bentley has relegated himself to not only being irrelevant, but is considered a clown.

I have been around the state on a speaking/book signing tour and everywhere I go they ask about “ole” Bentley. I have to deflect the questions about his personal advisor following him to Washington or sitting in the gallery for his speech to the Legislature.

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In fact, I try to put some levity to the situation by telling folks, “Well, you know my observation of Alabama politics over the past 50 years is that we really haven’t got to have a governor.”

Big Jim Folsom stayed drunk his whole second term, George Wallace was on pain pills his last term and did not know where he was, Fob James seemed disinterested and went duck hunting his second term, and they put poor ole Hunt and Siegelman in jail. At least Bentley shows up and does his duties to the best of his abilities. He just leans on one advisor, exclusively. They say she wrote his last State of the State speech. If she did, she ain’t much of a speechwriter.

Well, ole Bentley got himself a U.S. Senate seat appointment to grant. He milked it for what it was worth. He ultimately used it as a get out of jail free card. Even if his appointment of Luther Strange looks like chicanery and collusion, it was a shrewd political move by Bentley. It keeps him and his advisor out of the pokey.

The Luther Strange appointment looks brazen and audacious. The facts are clear, Strange as Attorney General of Alabama openly asked the House Judiciary Committee to cease their impeachment proceedings because he and his office were investigating the Governor and his advisor. Then all of a sudden, the Governor appoints him to a coveted senate seat. If that does not look like collusion, I do not know what does.
If given those facts the average fisherman in Mobile Bay would say that it looks fishy. A baker in Birmingham would conclude that it does not pass the smell test. As a political historian I will have to record these very facts for posterity. Folks can draw their own conclusion.

Luther Strange will probably go on to be a good U.S. Senator. He is imminently qualified for the role, and has planned meticulously for this seat for the last 20 years. However, the taint of Bentley will follow him to Washington and could come back to bite him in the June 2018 GOP primary, which is tantamount to election.

Big Luther is betting that as the incumbent senator for the next 15 months, he will be able to raise so much Washington campaign cash that he will be unbeatable. That is probably a good bet. However, Alabamians may have a longer memory than he thinks. Just ask Bill Baxley how getting the governor’s nomination from the Democratic hierarchy when Charlie Graddick got the most votes in 1986 turned out. Folks in Alabama do not like appointments, especially one that comes with a cloud that appears to be collusion.

We have a great 15 months of Alabama politics ahead of us, folks.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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Elections

Opinion | This is why Alabama’s government is broken

Josh Moon

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We don’t deserve nice things.

Not in this state. Not in a state where voters routinely reward the pandering foolishness of conmen.

Conmen like Steve Marshall.

Alabama’s attorney general — the man who appears to be leading in the race to retain that office — provided a master class last week in all that is wrong with Alabama politics.

Early last week, Marshall wrote in a letter to the chairman of the West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority promising to look into issues with pollution caused by a 3M plant in nearby Decatur.

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Marshall’s letter came in response to a letter from the WMEL, asking that Marshall, on behalf of the State of Alabama, join a lawsuit against the company. Marshall claimed that it was the first he had heard of the problems, and that the WMEL letter was the first time he had been asked about the pollution problem — a problem so dire that thousands of residents aren’t drinking their tap water.

Now, let us be clear about one thing: That is an absolute lie.

Steve Marshall was told of these problems months ago, and an attorney representing the water authority has the receipts to prove it.

But for a moment, let’s set that aside. I’ll get back to it later.

For now, let’s move on to later in the week.

On Friday, Marshall’s office sent out a press release announcing that Marshall was leading 13 states in filing a brief about a cross being removed from a park in Pensacola, Fla.

The release went into some detail about how this historic cross came to be, and it recounted the numerous events held by townspeople in Pensacola in front of that cross.

And this — this right here — is why we don’t deserve nice things.

Because the Alabama attorney general believes it to be more politically advantageous to educate himself and file briefs about a cross in another damn state than he does to insert himself in a problem that has led to thousands of his constituents being unable to drink their tap water.

How can that be?

How can it be that the majority voters of this state are more concerned about this pandering nonsense in another state than they are about one of this state’s major waterways and thousands of good people dealing with the effects of poison water?

And you know, don’t tell me that’s not true, that voters really do care. Because I know it’s true.

Year after year after year, the Tennessee River and other waters in this state become increasingly more polluted by the industries that dump their waste into them, and this state’s citizens — allegedly filled with avid and serious fishermen — continue to elect politicians who do absolutely nothing to stop it.

And even worse: They elect people who help facilitate the pollution.

Which brings me back to Marshall’s claims of being totally unaware of this problem that has been going on for three-plus years and affecting thousands of people and reported on extensively by pretty much every media outlet in this state.

He seems to be lying.

Carl Cole, an attorney for WMEL, posted on his Facebook page last week details of the ongoing case. In doing so, he revealed two key things: 1. That former AG Luther Strange and attorneys from his office had held numerous meetings with the parties involved and were actively engaged when Strange was appointed to the U.S. Senate, and 2. Cole personally informed Marshall of the case and asked the AG about his plans during one of Marshall’s trips to Decatur several weeks ago.

There is zero chance that no one at the AG’s office mentioned this ongoing case to the incoming AG. And even if that did happen, there was an attorney informing Marshall of the case this past summer.

And still, Marshall did nothing. Until a reporter showed up to ask questions about it, at which time Marshall’s office threatened the reporter and tried to have her removed from the story.  

This is the guy who is the frontrunner in the AG’s race.

And this is why we will never, ever have nice things.

 

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Opinion | Maddox accuses Ivey and staff of having used private email accounts

Brandon Moseley

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Walt Maddox (D) accused Kay Ivey and members of her Lieutenant Governor’s staff of having used private email accounts.

Maddox claimed that according to records currently housed in the state archives, then Lt. Governor Ivey and members of her staff were using private email accounts on a regular basis and, in some cases, using those unofficial accounts to conduct state business.

“The discovery that Kay Ivey’s staff used private email servers during a period of time when there are so many questions about what actually occurred in Colorado in 2015, is disturbing,” Maddox said. “These private email servers are not available to be searched when a public records request is made, and that should be very troubling to the every Alabamian who wants open, honest government. This continues an unacceptable pattern of secrecy and non disclosure by Kay Ivey. Accordingly, In addition to the questions I requested Governor Ivey answer regarding allegations of misuse of law enforcement and potential cover-up, she should immediately, in the interest of full disclosure, take immediate steps to release all email records for the following accounts: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and unidentified account ‘Susan Anthony’.”

While Ivey was Lt. Governor, the state implemented the failed STAARS software system that in many cases left systems virtually inoperable. Many people in state government were using private email accounts to avoid the troubled state system. STAARS has since been discontinued. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while U.S. Secretary of State was raised as a political issue by Republicans because they contend that she jeopardized American intelligence assets and special operations. The state of Alabama does not do special operations missions or have a spy network to protect.

At a news conference last week, Walt Maddox raised questions about a brief illness that Ivey had while she was traveling on state business in Colorado three years ago.

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Maddox is running for governor in one of the reddest states in the entire country. He is running against the third most popular governor in the entire country. On Friday, Ivey announced another record high employment report. Wages are soaring. Ivey has announced thousands of new jobs including: a new Mazda – Toyota assembly plant, a new Blue Origin rocket engine plant, and an Amazon distribution center. Maddox has been running on: expanding Medicaid, raising fuel taxes 12 cents a gallon, an agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians and a lottery while claiming to be a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat. It has not been working. Kay Ivey is up by as much as 20 points in recent polling and appears to be cruising to an easy victory, so the Maddox campaign is trying to go negative with allegations and speculation about conspiracy theories with just two weeks left to try to overtake the popular woman governor.

Maddox is the Mayor of Tuscaloosa. He is a former Alabama Education Association (AEA) Uniserve director.

The Ivey campaign has been emphasizing job growth, the economy and Ivey’s efforts to increase pre-K classrooms and computer science classes.

Ivey is a former treasurer, a former Lt. Gov, and was elevated to governor in April 2017.

The general election will be held on November 6.

Remember to bring a valid photo ID to the polls.

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Elections

Opinion | Collier’s allegations are not about Ivey’s health — they’re about retaliation

Josh Moon

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It’s not the (alleged) stroke, it’s the coverup.

That was the message from Walt Maddox and his campaign on Thursday, as they took shots at Gov. Kay Ivey for allegedly directing her security detail to cover up a health scare in 2015. She’s also alleged to have demoted a state trooper from her security team after he refused to conceal from his superiors a trip to the hospital Ivey was forced to take while attending a conference in Colorado.

And the story could use a little refocusing.

After APR’s Bill Britt wrote a story Monday that quoted former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier confirming the hospital trip for “stroke-like symptoms” and providing details of his conversations with Ivey about demoting the trooper, the story from state media outlets veered off course.

Instead of the focus landing on Ivey’s mistreatment of a law enforcement officer who was simply doing his job correctly, it became all about her health.

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Was she sick? Did she have a stroke? How’s her health these days?

Those are all fair questions.

They’re just not THE question that should have come from Collier’s revelations.

Because if Ivey did what Collier alleges, she possibly broke the law. And maybe, more importantly, she took money out of the pocket of a trooper who was trying to support a family simply because he refused to conceal her trip to the hospital.

That sort of behavior … well, we’ve seen that before in this state.

Mike Hubbard and Robert Bentley both went after law enforcement when they were initially caught in lies and illegalities.

Hubbard tried to defund the entire Alabama Attorney General’s Office and squeeze the prosecutors on his trail. He later launched public attacks against the lead prosecutor, Matt Hart, in a failed attempt to get out from under his misdeeds.

Bentley asked Collier, who was then head of ALEA, to lie to AG’s office investigators. And when Collier, after being terminated by Bentley for refusing to lie, told the world of the then-governor’s affair, Bentley set out to ruin the man.

Both Bentley and Hubbard wound up in jail for brief periods. And Alabamians wound up with more black eyes from the nation’s most corrupt state government.

That’s why this deal with the trooper matters so much.

Because it speaks to the character of Kay Ivey.

I mean, would she really demote this poor guy — the same trooper who sat by her hospital bed for three days — force him to uproot his family and go from the Montgomery area to Houston County, cut his pay and stifle his career because he followed trooper regulations instead of her improper/illegal directives?

Would she?

Because I think that’s something we should know.

Ivey, in response to Maddox’s comments on Thursday, told reporters that they should “check” the facts on the trooper, Drew Brooks.

I’ve done that.

I have copies from his personnel file showing where he lost pay and was sent from the governor’s security detail — a sought-after position — to giving out drivers licenses in Dothan — a very much not-sought-after position.



If Ivey has records indicating these things didn’t happen, I’d love to see them. And I’d also love to see records of her trip to Colorado in 2015.

Because right now, this is looking like a very familiar road.

A candidate who won’t debate. A politician who plays a little loose with the rules and law. A career politician who would do anything to stay in the game. A desperate politician who will stoop to any level to conceal their flaws and errors.

It all rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Mike Hubbard.

Robert Bentley.

Kay Ivey?

 

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Elections

Opinion | Kay Ivey’s official calendar is surprisingly empty

Josh Moon

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In late-August and early-September, there was one question dominating Alabama’s governor’s race.

Where is Kay Ivey?

The governor at that point had scarcely been seen in a few days. In one 10-day stretch, she held no public events and somehow managed to avoid even local ribbon cuttings and bridge openings. And her opponent’s campaign was raising questions about her lack of activity.

Walt Maddox, at that point, had already challenged Ivey to a series of debates. She declined, offering a number of excuses, including that she was “busy governing the state.” She had also told her Republican primary challengers that she was “too busy” to debate them.

So, I wanted to know: Who was telling the truth? Was it a big deal? Was Ivey too busy?

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There was only one way to find out: I filed an Alabama Open Records Act request for Ivey’s official calendar for a three-week span (Aug. 24 through Sept. 14).

That span, I figured, would provide a solid look into Ivey’s days and would cover all of the days that the Maddox campaign had questioned her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, after paying $17 and some change to a public entity to produce public records that the public had already paid to be produced once, APR was provided with copies of Ivey’s official calendar.

Counting every entry on the calendar for 21 days — including travel time to and from the governor’s mansion (which apparently takes 30 minutes) and air travel to a variety of meetings and ribbon cuttings — there are less than 60 hours accounted for.

That’s less than three hours per day.

But it’s actually worse than that, because most of that time is compacted into a handful of days, leaving large chunks of time — whole calendar pages — simply blank.

In total, seven days were blank. Three other days had just one entry.

In one calendar week — Sunday, Sept. 2, thru Saturday, Sept. 8 — Ivey’s calendar shows just three and a half hours of scheduled time.

That week, her days were completely blank on Sunday, Labor Day Monday and Tuesday. She had a single phone call on Wednesday and a single meeting on Thursday. She hosted the Alabama Association of Regional Councils on Friday morning and wrapped up the grueling week with a proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. that Friday.

I’ll remind you that this is the governor — a governor in the midst of a campaign.

You would think her calendar would be crammed with events and meetings and staff scrums and trips all over the place.

But … there’s just nothing.

And that’s not normal. I know that for a fact.

I’ve been to the Alabama Archives and sorted through the official calendars for the last three governors of this state. None of their calendars look like Ivey’s. Not even close.

I shared photos on Facebook Wednesday night of entries from random days on Robert Bentley’s calendar. In some instances, his days spilled over onto a second page.

The same was true with Bob Riley. His days, like Bentley’s, seemed to be planned from morning until night. Every day. Even on the weekends.

What’s happening with Kay Ivey should raise eyebrows and a ton of questions. Mainly: Can she actually do this job?

I think that’s a fair question at this point, after the public freeze-ups, the long disappearances, the managed time by her staff, the refusal to debate, and now these nearly blank calendar days.

And then there are two other questions:

Who is running this state?

And who are you voting for?

 

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The circus begins, and it will leave a mess behind

by Steve Flowers Read Time: 4 min
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