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Horatio Bunce, GOP Freedom Caucus, and the Libertarian Cause

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Report

The political career of Tennessee militia colonel, David Crockett, has been ubiquitously overshadowed by his legendary defense of the Alamo in 1836. Before this heroic stand, Colonel Crockett was known as the “Lion of Washington,” serving three terms in the US House of Representatives between 1827 and 1835.

Halfway into Col. Crockett’s political career, he succumbed to a existential political conversion at the hands of a simple farmer named Horatio Bunce. Seeing the time of his re-election approaching, Col. Crockett took to riding through his district, mingling and speaking with his constituents, the way politicians still do today.

His trek through the towns and farming communities was going rather smoothly until he came across Horatio Bunch, quietly at his toil by the side of the road. Col. Crockett greeted Mr. Bunce and asked to speak with him. Much to Col. Crockett’s surprise, Mr. Bunce responded that he was busy and didn’t have much time for talk.

Col. Crockett was shocked by the cold greeting and introduced himself as US Representative David Crocket who was seeking re-election. Mr. Bunce conveyed to Col. Crockett that he knew who he was, that he voted for Col. Crockett in the last election, but that he would not be getting his vote again.

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When Col. Crockett pressed Mr. Bunce for an explanation, Mr. Bunce explained that Col. Crockett either lacked the “capacity to understand the Constitution, or that [he was] wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it.” The exact transgression to which Mr. Bunce directed Col. Crockett’s attention was a bill apportioning $20,000 to the victims of a fire in Georgetown that had destroyed several homes – a bill which Col. Crockett voted for in support and which passed.

Mr. Bunce explained to his soon-to-be-convert:

“The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man.”

“[Seeing that] the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper.”

“You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.”

“Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose.”

“[W]hen Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people.”

Mr. Horatio Bunce, a simple farmer from a rural province, made a true convert that day. The Lion of Washington, Col. David Crockett, made good on his conversion the very next Legislative Session as he single handily defeated a bill that would have dispensed charity from public funds to the widow of a renowned military officer.

The full account of Col. David Crockett’s transformation can be found here, and is well worth the 20 minute investment.

If we were to witness Col. Crockett’s transformation today, we might see him moving toward the GOP Freedom Caucus … or maybe abandoning the GOP all-together for the Libertarian Party. Both of these entities are fighting for the ideals espoused by Mr. Horatio Bunce in the current healthcare debate.

The Constitution does not grant the Federal Government the right to take money out of one man’s pocket to provide for the healthcare of another man. The goals and purposes of “healthcare for all” are noble, right, and good – no one should be left sick, destitute, and alone. However, to say that these ideals lead to an authorization for the Federal Government to act outside of the Constitution, is to open a wide door for “fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other.”

Not only does current government intrusion into the healthcare markets violate the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, it is the most ineffective and inefficient method possible of accomplishing the ideals of “health care for all.”

The false premise is often touted that, prior to government intrusion into the free-market of healthcare, the poor often went untreated:

“In the days before Medicare and Medicaid, the poor and elderly were admitted to hospitals at the same rate they are now, and received good care. Before those programs came into existence, every physician understood that he or she had a responsibility towards the less fortunate and free medical care was the norm. Hardly anyone is aware of this today, since it doesn’t fit into the typical, by the script story of government rescuing us from a predatory private sector.”

As Mr. Horatio Bunce explained, “Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose.” At a recent Birmingham Kiwanis meeting, the head coach of the UAB football program was the key note speaker. He explained that $40 million was being raised from the Birmingham community to resurrect his fledgling sports program.

$40,000,000 in charity from individuals for sport. Are we so jaded in our view of humanity that we think the purse strings cannot be equally pulled for much more noble goals? I for one am not. I am convinced, however, that if the Federal Government started using public funds to subsidize football, it would result in a drastic tightening of the individual charity towards it.

Mr. Horatio Bunce also explained that because the “Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper.” With the Federal Government’s intrusion into the healthcare market, it inherently determines what is health care and what is not. Just to mention one absurd example, under the last Presidential administration, infanticide was a government funded health care practice – the Federal Government dipped into the public funds to kill babies under the mantel of healthcare. Truly, Mr. Bunce’s words are true, “[t]he power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man.”

If our eulogy for Col. Crockett’s conversion were not complete, we could spend 10 times the ink on exploring the “fraud and corruption and favoritism” which result from the Federal Government’s unconstitutional intrusion into healthcare. For our purposes here, it will be sufficient to repeat the Libertarian Party’s position: “Currently, the healthcare industry is virtually monopolized by the government and a handful of insurance companies. They hold the checkbook and wield it for their own benefit.”

If Col. Crockett’s conversion sparks your interest, you can learn more about what our country may look like if the Federal Government stays within the bounds of the 10th Amendment here and here.

 

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Opinion | Alabama solicitor Brasher not fit to be a federal judge

Josh Moon

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One of the dumbest legal conversations I ever had with anyone in Alabama state government was with someone who is currently on the verge of landing a lifetime federal judgeship — one of the most coveted and important positions in the U.S. justice system.

The conversation, like most of my legal conversations, involved gambling. Two gambling proposals had been put forth by the Alabama Legislature, and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office had just issued a statement supporting one over the other. The statement was confusing and incorrect in its assessment of the applicable laws — specifically, the AG’s office had misinterpreted Indian gaming laws.

So, I called to ask about the statement and the mistakes.

On the other end of the phone was Alabama’s Solicitor General, Andrew Brasher — the same man the Trump administration has now nominated to serve as a federal judge in Alabama’s Middle District.

For the better part of 15 minutes, Brasher argued with me about the laws. I won’t get too deep into the weeds of it all, but the confusion on his part involved the requirements of states and tribes entering into Class III gaming compacts.

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Now, my legal expertise would typically fill a medicine cup. But inside that cup would be Alabama and tribal gaming laws. And I know those laws because some of the best legal minds in America have explained them to me during the course of writing numerous stories.

Brasher was wrong. But instead of admitting it, he challenged me to provide him the relevant statutes. I did. He was still wrong.

But instead of admitting the mistake and retracting the statement the AG’s office released, the response back was: “We believe it’s complicated.”

Quite the legal ruling.

To put that another way, the response was: We have a conclusion that we want to reach and we will twist the laws any way we have to in order to get there.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Andrew Brasher shouldn’t be anywhere near a federal bench.

Whether it’s defending bogus press statements or wasting taxpayer money on disgraced “expert” witnesses or utilizing junk science to push a political position, Brasher’s legal resume is chock full of examples of him choosing politics over law.

It’s so bad that on Friday the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee tasked with approving Brasher’s nomination urging it to oppose him. The lengthy letter cited numerous examples of Brasher submitting briefs or making arguments in court that were roundly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts.

Among other ludicrous arguments, Brasher has argued that … there was no racial gerrymandering in Alabama redistricting plan (the Supreme Court disagreed), demanding proof of citizenship on a voter registration card was legal (the Supreme Court disagreed), that only straight people should be allowed to adopt (the Supreme Court disagreed) and a fetus should granted an attorney.

There’s also this little nugget: During his confirmation hearing, Brasher refused to say that Brown v. Board of Ed. was correctly decided. Because, you know, who is he to say — a judge or something?

But probably the best summation of Brasher’s politically-driven career as an ideological prosecutor in Alabama came during a federal trial over Alabama’s restrictive laws on abortion clinics — laws that would have certainly forced most or all of the clinics to close. Unable to locate credible witnesses — medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. — who would speak on the state’s side, Brasher and the AG’s office trotted out the paid stooges.

Four “experts” were paid more than $300,000 to testify on the state’s behalf. They were so bad that the judge in the case all but openly mocked them, and things became so bad that at one point, while questioning his witnesses, Brasher began to bang his own head on the wooden lectern.

That’s what happens when you choose politics over law in the courtroom. The system isn’t built to handle it. Things go awry. Justice falters.

And that’s what you risk by approving Brasher.

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Opinion | The BCA mess isn’t difficult to unravel

Josh Moon

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It’s been a rough week for the Business Council of Alabama.

The top lobbyist group in the state has been decimated by big-name defections. It started with Alabama Power and PowerSouth. Then Regions Bank. Then Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. And now Protective Life Insurance. And there are strong rumors that Drummond Coal and Thompson Caterpillar are soon to follow.

All of those companies mentioned have expressed concerns — either while announcing their departure or while threatening to leave — over BCA CEO Bill Canary.

They felt Canary wasn’t getting the job done. They wanted him out. They wanted him out now.

The BCA board, led by Perry Hand, tried to block that. For reasons that are both dumb and seemingly personally beneficial to Hand and his company, Volkert Construction.

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And now there is debate in political circles over who’s right, who’s wrong and what it all means.

On the first two, there should be no debate. And anyone who is honest and who has spent an hour around the State House over the last two years knows it.

Alabama Power and these other major companies didn’t randomly decide one day that they didn’t like Canary’s suits and wanted him fired. They took a look at the scoreboard. And it clearly showed that Canary was getting killed.

And by that, I mean he had lost his influence in the State House. Most of it he squandered away by using too much stick and not enough carrot when dealing with lawmakers. He tried to bully his way around and such tactics quickly wear thin among grown people.

The companies contributing dues to the BCA do so for one purpose: for that organization to promote their best interest and help push business-friendly ideas in the state Legislature.

That’s the primary benefit of the BCA’s existence.

If the guy the BCA is paying big dollars to push that agenda is so disliked that state lawmakers are voting against BCA-backed legislation just to spite him, that’s what we call a gots-to-go situation.

That was 100-percent taking place with Canary in the State House.

Two years ago, the BCA was shut out on its top-priority bills. This past session, they got one — an unpopular weakening of state ethics laws that likely cost several lawmakers their seats — and lost their biggest.

Privately, Republican lawmakers, who once happily strolled into the building and voted for anything BCA sponsored, were so disenchanted with Canary and BCA that they told me they would vote against anything the organization backed. They were tired of being threatened, they said. And they were tired of Canary telling them what to do instead of working with them.

If you’re Alabama Power or Regions Bank or BCBS, and you’re dumping six figures annually into this association in order to promote your interests at the State House, you can’t have that.

And it’s that simple.

What’s hilarious to me is that there’s now this narrative being pushed on paid political blogs and in paid-for newspaper columns that somehow APCO and these other defecting businesses were too liberal and didn’t share the conservative, pro-business goals of Hand and the BCA.

Lord have mercy. I think I know liberal when I see it. And trust me, APCO, Regions and BCBS ain’t it.

Even if they pushed former Democratic House Speaker Seth Hammett to be the new BCA CEO. That decision, too, boiled down to simple business.

Hammett is the anti-Canary. He’s nice, well respected, well liked and doesn’t even own a stick. Basically, exactly the sort of change the organization needed.

But that’s a moot point now, I suppose. What’s left to consider is where things go from here, and it seems that other BCA defections offer some indication of the future plans.

In addition to top companies, board member Mike Kemp and legal counsel Fournier “Boots” Gale also resigned from BCA this week. Kemp was the chairperson of BCA’s political action committee, PROGRESSPAC.

If the departing companies intended to start a new lobbying group, or join an existing one, those specific members would be fairly important.

Whether that’s the case or not, certainly no one believes that APCO, Regions and BCBS are going to stop pushing their legislative agendas and backing bills that aid their companies and the state’s business climate.

Because just like with the push to remove Canary, the bottom line for them is money.

 

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Opinion | The most important election ever

Joey Kennedy

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Is this the country we want to be? Is this the state we love.

I truly wonder.

We always say there is never an election more important than the one at hand. It’s become a cliché.

But, folks, there’s never been a more important election than the mid-term election this  November. It may be cliché, but it’s absolutely true.

If you are eligible to vote but not registered, get registered now. Don’t keep putting it off.

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In the recent Republican and Democratic primaries in Alabama, only 26 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

That means 74 percent of registered voters stayed at home. Even that isn’t a true reflection of voter apathy in Alabama. Many more people in Alabama are eligible to vote, but simply don’t bother to register. Considering eligible voters, Alabama’s turnout is likely well below 25 percent.

Imagine fewer than 25 percent of eligible voters deciding who is going to head their parties’ tickets come November. In the few primary runoffs in July, the turnout likely will be single digits.

There’s no more crucial time for eligible voters to cast their ballots than this year.

Just look at the ongoing horror on our nation’s borders with Mexico. President Trump signed an executive order this week to prevent immigrant families from being split apart, but there’s debate over whether that means a whole lot. Trump only signed the order after tear-inducing descriptions and photos showed the terrible conditions that immigrant children were being housed in. So-called “tender age shelters,” little more than internment camps or prisons for toddlers and babies, was the last straw. Even tough-man Donald Trump couldn’t stand the backlash, so after saying he didn’t have the authority to keep families from being separated, he then signed an executive order ending his own policy of separating families.

Trump folded completely, but he folded on a terrible crisis of his own making.

Trump’s disgusting immigration decisions aren’t his only horrible policies. The assault on health insurance coverage, trade wars with our closest allies, destruction of the Environmental Protection Agency – the list goes on and on.

And on.

The bigger picture, though, is that voters allowed this to happen. More precisely, eligible voters who didn’t bother to register or vote allowed this to happen.

That’s why the cliché is true: There’s never been a more important election than this November’s midterms.

We’re not voting on a president, true, but we are selecting U.S. House members. Sure, Alabama polls overwhelmingly in support of Trump, but that’s not unusual in a state where voters so often go against their own interests.

Let’s not do that this time.

There are many more Democrats than usual running for office in Alabama this year. Get to know them. Learn what they stand for.

There are good Republicans, too, especially in local races.

On the statewide level, not so much, though, especially when compared to their Democratic Party opponents.

At the top, Tuscaloosa Mayor and Democrat Walt Maddox is eminently more qualified than Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who supported a child molester for the U.S. Senate simply because he was a Republican, and who has refused to debate her opponents.

Go down the list. Remember that the party in charge in Alabama (and in Congress) is a party that wants to keep voter turnout as low as possible. It’s the only way they stay in control.

But to vote, you must be registered. And if you’re registered, you must travel to a polling place to cast your ballot.

Never, ever vote straight ticket. Vote a smart ticket.

Especially this year.

Because there’s never been a more important election.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Horatio Bunce, GOP Freedom Caucus, and the Libertarian Cause

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 6 min
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