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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 3: Solutions to Greed in Alabama Politics

Samuel McLure

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By Sam McLure
Alabama Political Report

“The greedy misuse the world by striving to acquire it; the monastics, by struggling to renounce it.” Carter Lindberg

The overall goal of restraining greed in politics should be aimed at making the political process more responsive to the “common community of voters” and less responsive to “business-conglomerate greed interests.” The irony of decreasing the influence of the business-greed party is that it actually promotes the prosperity of the community as a whole.  As discussed in Part 1 of our series, the mantles of Republican and Democrat mean nothing to the Greed Party which manipulates both for the enrichment of a select few business interests.

In our Introduction with Mr. Blue Suit, we explored a satirical analogy of greed in politics; and in Part 2, we explored poignant examples of greed at work in Alabama politics. This final installment of our series will focus on Jenga-Pin solutions to this most difficult political question: how to restrain the forces of greed in government.

As a boundary on the ideas presented, let me here say that I am not advocating for a complete eradication of the influence of the business community within politics.  The business community provides jobs, and jobs provide wealth to the common community.  What I am advocating for is a necessary shift in the paradigm of power.

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Five Failing Solutions to Restraining Greed in Government

I reference these topics as “five failing solutions,” because that is exactly what they are … without heeding the words that Michael Jackson so famously evoked – calling our attention to the Man in the Mirror:  “If you wanna make the world a better place / Take a look at yourself and then make the change.”  From beginning to end, this is where the change must occur.

Without further ado, our five solutions for consideration are as follows:

(1) mobilize grassroots activists to run for office; (2) restrict the prowess of the political action committee; (3) create pathways for third-party competition; (4) Attorney General should prioritize investigation and prosecution of “business-interest” lobbyists; and (5) implement a Pence-style federal money task force.

(1) Mobilize Grassroots Activists to Run For Office

When you see the world as Adam Smith did in 1776 and John Calhoun in 1830, you see that there are two great forces in opposition within any government.  It’s not Democrat v. Republican; the forces at odds are the greed-business interests and the interests of the common community.

Thus, there are two basic paths by which a political candidate finds themselves in the sphere of government influence. Political candidates are either thrust into service with responsiveness to the needs of the community or they are propelled into service by the covetousness of the business-greed party.

Alabama needs more concerned citizens engaged in politics.  Most people who are not consumed with greed have no desire to engage in political struggles. On the whole, the mass of the common community is content to eat, drink, and rise up to play. Truly, the greatest enemy for freedom is not tyranny, but apathy.

Alabamians are notorious for their love of football. We have to give up some other love in order to love doing justice, mercy, and humility … and their application to making our state a freer community.  It was the practice of ancient Rome to use the bloodbaths of the Coliseum to numb the citizenry to the awful tyranny of the ruling class.  We will never see different in our time. We will never see the government infringing on Alabama’s “right” to participate in sport.

It is incumbent upon the older generation to instill a passion in the younger generation to run for office and engage in our State’s political struggles. Many offices in the State of Alabama can be pursued at the age of 18 and many more at the age of 21. For example, a young man or woman can serve on the Public Service Commission or State Board of Education at the age of 18; Mayor, City Counsel, Sheriff, and County Commission are also in play for the ambition 18 year old.

If we are troubled by the reality of greed’s stranglehold on Alabama’s mechanisms of government, we must mobilize to service those whose allegiance are tethered to the community, not greed.

(2) Restrict the Prowess of the Political Action Committee.

The purpose of a political action committee (PAC), in federal elections, is to circumvent the $2,700 individual giving limit.  If you are a wealthy business owner of a coal company and want to donate $2,000,000 to a candidate that you think will protect the coal industry, you form a “super” PAC and put $2,000,000 in it. Then, you convince a couple other Coal CEOs to donate their money too. Before you know it, your Coal PAC has $10,000,000 to get the right candidates elected to Federal office.

State and local election (non-federal elections) are governed by state-law.  Shockingly, Alabama is one of only six states which allow unlimited PAC and Corporate contributions to candidates. Most states put comparatively aggressive restrictions on PAC and Corporate contributions. For example, PACs in Kentucky are restricted by the same $1,000 limit as individuals; and total PAC contributions must be less than 50% of a candidates total contributions.  Furthermore, Corporate contributions are completely banned in Kentucky.

The affect of Kentucky’s restrictions on PAC and Corporate contributions is to encourage political candidates to be more responsive to the people – to the common community of voters – as opposed to the greed-business interests. For a candidate in Kentucky to raise enough money to win an election, the candidate has to be in front of, and in relationship with, actual people and is thus more responsive to the voice of the people. For a candidate in Alabama to win, and to raise enough money to win, the candidate only has to be in touch with the right few power players.

One of the top three PAC contributors in Alabama is Progress PAC, controlled by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA).  Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh both received over $100,000 from the BCA.  In order to get the same contribution level in Kentucky, Hubbard and Marsh would have had to shake hands with 100 actual people who gave the maximum.  In Alabama, Del Marsh only had to shake hands with Bill Canary.

Some politicos would argue that Americans spend more on Halloween candy than political campaigns, and thus the problem is really more linked to apathy.  This is a good point, and I do not deny its veracity. After all, it was Winston Churchill who noted that “The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.”

On the other hand, even well intending “grassroots” advocates find the idea of limiting PAC donations unpalatable.  Even noble-minded politicos know that a PAC concentrates the power of donation into their own hands, making their own agenda more potent. But, buyer beware – even these noble-PAC-ventures have the same consequence of distancing the average voter from the elected official. The noble-minded politico becomes the expert and representative of the people –  with the same potential for unresponsiveness-to-the-commnity as BCA’s Progress PAC.

A note to the libertarian reader

Some libertarian-leaning politicos might cry “foul” here at the prospect of limiting the free market.  I would draw the attention of such a reader to the arguments presented in Part 2, illustrated by the maxim, “Politics is no place for the invisible hand of capitalism.”

In the realm of stewarding environmental resources, history and experience show us that there are some assets which must be protected from the free market.  There is no short-term financial incentive for Acme Corp to not dump its industrial waste into the Alabama River. And, the long term negative effect of such pollution to the health and wellbeing of the State is unquantifiable. Thus, we permit government to intrude on the free market and regulate the disposal of industrial waste.

However, this is a dangerous power being wielded by government. As soon as the hand of government has been extended to meet a legitimate need through regulation, business-greed interests will try to extend that same hand for the establishment of a monopoly on the market.

That disclaimer aside, the point is clear:  if the free market must be protected from greed with the environment, how much more must the full force of greed-business interests be restrained in politics?

 (3) Create Pathways for Third-Party Competition

The stranglehold of the business-conglomerate-interests on the two-party adversarial system is so strong it is doubtful that either party can extricate itself from the coils of the anaconda’s grip.  Alabama’s path forward presents with the solution of opening up competition with the two party system.  A third party must arise which competes with both parties by specifically attacking the slithering greed party and its hold on Republicans and Democrats alike.

Unsurprisingly, the two-party system has, in fact, protected itself from competition by implementing entry barterers to the political process against third parties.  Lamentably, Alabama is one of the top-ten most restrictive states in the Union for third parties to compete in the political process.

In Alabama, candidates must acquire written petitions of Alabama citizens in an amount equal to 3% of the population of Alabama. That’s about 35,000 signatures.  Through the process of determining if these signatures are valid, the Secretary of State discards many “invalid” signatures.  Thus, conventional wisdom dictates that third party should acquire 50,000 signatures – just to be safe.

For experienced third party advocates, like former Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, Leigh Lachine, the prospects of gathering volunteers to acquire those signatures is just too daunting.  Lachine recommends hiring a professional firm; the cost is about $3.00 per signature.  Thus, for a third party to get on the ballot, they have to spend an initial $150,000.

According to FairVote.org, “No one has managed to complete this petition since it came into existence in 1997 except the Libertarians in 2000.  Furthermore, if a party does get on, it needs to poll 20% of the vote for any statewide office to stay on.”

There is a rational basis in this, however.  Printing ballots is expensive. This bar, at least, ensures that the particular third party represents a sufficiently numerical interest of the community to justify the expensive to the State of placing their candidate on the ballot.

While the ballot access numbers can and should be lower, what is completely unacceptable is the prohibition on third parties from raising money.  Republican and Democratic candidates are able to raise money for the November 2018 election in June of 2017, one year before the primary.  Third party candidates are prohibited from raising money until November 2017.  Thus, not only are third party candidates handicapped with a $150,000 ballot access tab, they can’t get out of the gate with fundraising until 5 months after the two major parties. It’s hard to fathom any rational basis for this 1st Amendment infringement.

Further impeding the access of third-parties to compete against the greed-business party, is Alabama’s unwavering adherence to straight ticket voting.  Alabama is one of only eight states which implements this restrictive voting process. Straight-ticket ballots contain the option for a voter to check a box that will allow them to vote for all candidates in either the Republican or Democratic parties – without having to check any boxes for individual candidates.

Thus, for the busy and uninformed voter, the option of checking one box instead of 14 is attractive. According to Josh Tuttle, current Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, an incredible 60% of voters choose to check the box indicating straight-ticket voting.

While this policy may save a few seconds for busy voters, the net effect is to encourage voters to ignore any option outside of the traditional two-party system … a net win for the greed-business community.

(4) Attorney General Should Prioritize Investigation and Prosecution of “Business-Interest” Lobbyists

Perhaps the most unpopular, but impactful, suggestion so far will be to prioritize prosecution of the tools of business-interest conglomerates; i.e., lobbyists.  Certainly, we need stricter ethics restrictions … I would personally like to see persons whose livelihood is linked to lobbying for business interests barred from the State House during the legislative session.  However, we must first ensure that the laws we do have are being rigorously enforced.  Given all the ground we’ve covered; given the great propensity for the party of greed to manipulate government to their own good and the detriment of the community, we must demand that our Attorney General prioritize the investigation and prosecution of greed-party lobbyists.

We’ve seen the need for this with former speaker Mike Hubbard.  He was prosecuted for criminal conduct, but what of the business-interest lobbyists paying him off?  Why aren’t the payers of bribes, the lobbyists, being prosecuted?

We’ve seen this with Oliver Robinson, who struck a plead deal for corruption – for taking bribes from business-interest lobbyists … but, wait … where are the lobbyists? Are the bribers themselves being investigated and prosecuted?

Lobbyist are the tools in the hands of the greed interests. Lobbyists working for greed-business interests work in opposition to “grassroots” activists.

This legislative session saw the unprecedented volunteer work of a group of concerned citizens to pass Alabama’s mid-wife decriminalization bill.  It was a show of force indeed with some unpaid supporter, usually pregnant with children in-tow, at the State House everyday of the session.  One of the lobbyists of the greed-class in question could be heard saying under her breath, “What are THEY doing here?!”

We expect our tax-payer funded prosecutors to aggressively pursue criminals who rob houses to pay for crack cocaine. We should also expect our Attorney General to aggressively pursue politico-criminals who rob the poor to line their own pockets through manipulation of government policies and regulations.  By prioritizing the investigation and prosecution of lobbyist misconduct, the Alabama’s Attorney General can reap untold rewards for the people of Alabama.

(5)  Governor Should Implement Pence-style Federal Money Task Force

Just this week, the Alabama Department of Labor was bribed into collecting data on Alabama citizens with a $1,000,000 carrot from the Federal Government.  Rep. Terri Collins, in collaboration with BCA, have been chasing this Orwellian Data Collection money for some time.

Does BCA stop to consider whether the money we are receiving is rightly obtained in the first place? Or, if the Federal Government is within the bounds of the Constitution to dispense it?  No, the greed party doesn’t ask those questions. The greed party simply asks, “Is it possible, and do the rewards for me outweighs the risks for me?” Gov. Kay Ivey needs to establish a mechanism to oversee this race-to-the-bottom pursuit of federal money.

Alabama Attorney General’s Chief Counsel, Katherine Robertson, explained that when VP Mike Pence was Governor of Indiana, he “created the ‘Office of State-Based Initiatives’ in an effort to impose additional oversight and accountability on agencies receiving federal funds.  The main goal of the office is to “contribute to Indiana’s continued fiscal health” by “working with agencies to push back against onerous regulations that often accompany the return of federal dollars to Indiana.”

Such a federal-money-oversight office in Alabama can be “charged with reviewing the state’s federal grant opportunities and giving approval for any agency to seek a federal grant.”  Gov. Pence used this office to “subject each grant to a cost-benefit analysis” that “measure[s] the grant’s fiscal and regulatory impact.”

Alabama’s version of a Pence-style task force could go a long way to curtailing the forces of greed in Alabama politics. Access to the federal government’s deep pockets is often the main ambition of the greed-business interests in Alabama. Far too often, we see state actors competing to see how much of Alabama’s sovereignty they can cede to the federal government for a few ill-gotten morsels.

Conclusion

This is greed in politics: (1) powerful businesses use government to protect their turf and dampen competition, (2) elite businesses gain access to the public coffers through contracts, grants, and handouts, and (3) elected officials leverage their fiduciary position for self-enrichment or promotion.  With greed driving the wheels of Alabama politics, all of this happens to the great detriment of the community.

Alabama can be free again. We can cast off the noose of slavery, slowly hung by the greed-business interests of our State. To do this, we must embrace our motto: We dare defend our rights.

 

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Opinion | Police are not above public scrutiny

Josh Moon

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Why are police above public scrutiny?

That seems to be a relatively new thing in this country, and it is a particular problem in Alabama — this notion that the general public has no right to even question a police officer’s actions.

We’re hiding body cam footage. There are very few regular citizens on cities’ police review boards. Some cities are hiding cops’ personnel files, despite that being one thing that Alabama Open Records Act laws specifically covers.

And if ever a cop is questioned … whoooo, boy! There will be shame and ridicule, and the full weight of city government will be brought down to protect the Brother in Blue.

It’s nonsense.

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And it’s happening every day in this state. There are, specifically, two egregious cases active now — one in Huntsville, one in Montgomery. In both instances, city cops have been indicted on murder charges.

In Montgomery, the victim was black and walking through his neighborhood late at night. In Huntsville, the victim was white and police were responding to a mental health call.

In both instance, the county district attorneys — who each have to work with the police departments in those cities — reviewed the evidence and determined that enough existed to seek indictments. And in both cases, a grand jury issued those indictments.

That would seem like enough reason for the mayors of the respective cities — Todd Strange in Montgomery and Tommy Battle in Huntsville — to back away and allow the justice system to work.

They have not.

Battle last week asked his city council to cover the legal expenses for William Darby, the cop accused of murder. The council agreed unanimously, although it did put a $75,000 cap on expenses — a cap Battle said he disagreed with.

In Montgomery last year, following officer A.C. Smith’s shooting of Greg Gunn, Strange implemented an unprecedented city-led review, and he promised to allow Smith to remain on the MPD payroll, receiving his full salary and benefits, as he awaits trial.

Seriously consider the facts of these two situations.

In Huntsville, the taxpayers are footing the bill for private attorneys, when they are already paying for court-appointed attorneys for anyone who can’t afford legal representation. Apparently, public defenders are good enough for poor, mostly minority regular folks — even when they are accused of murder — but not good enough for cops.

In Montgomery, even as other city employees have been immediately terminated after their arrests for various offenses — all of which fall well short on the moral scale of murder — Smith remains fully paid.

When questioned about this early in the case, Strange said he wanted to wait on more facts to come out at hearings before making a decision on terminating Smith. A couple of weeks later, at a hearing, a State Bureau of Investigations officer testified that Smith admitted in interviews that he had no probable cause to stop, pat down, chase, strike, Taser or shoot Gunn.

That was not enough for Strange.

Nor was it enough when a second Montgomery judge proclaimed after an immunity hearing last month that he didn’t find Smith to be credible during his testimony.

In Huntsville, Battle cited a clearance by the HPD Incident Review Board as his primary cause for supporting Darby so vigorously.

He should be careful, because I can’t find a single incident in which the HPD review board didn’t clear an officer in a shooting. That includes a number of shootings in which the suspect was unarmed, and several in which other law enforcement officers also engaged the suspect and didn’t fire a shot.

In 2015, for example, Orlondon “Dre” Driscoll was shot by HPD officers after he exited, unarmed, from a car he was accused of stealing. The review board cleared the officers, saying that while Driscoll was unarmed, his hand made a motion as though he was pulling a gun.

It’s absurd.

And here’s the thing: In most cases, there is body cam footage of the incident. There’s certainly footage of the Darby shooting. But these same mayors and city governments and police departments have fought like hell to hide those videos from the public — the same public that pays the salaries of the officers.

In Montgomery, while there is no video — because Smith “forgot” to turn on his body cam — Strange has refused to release the findings of the city-led investigation into the Gunn alleged murder.

His reasoning: he doesn’t want to taint the jury pool. Which is not, as far as the law goes, an accepted exception under the  

Look, cops have a tough job. Yes, they are mostly heroic individuals who deserve our praise and admiration.

But you know what, it’s not like the job’s a mystery at this point.

We’ve all seen “Cops” on Fox and watched a thousand cop shows and reality cop shows on TV. If you sign up to be a cop in 2018, you know what you’re getting into, and you know the pay.

So, let’s stop pretending that the cops who have committed horrible acts of aggression and assault — and even murder — against the citizens they’re supposed to protect are somehow overwhelmed by the toughness of the job. Because that’s insulting to the 99 percent of cops who manage to not do anything illegal or dumb every day.

 

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Opinion | A blue few days away, and a same-sex wedding

Joey Kennedy

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After another disappointing Alabama election where voters decided against their better interests, I was characteristically frustrated.

One of my friends, this one living in northern Virginia, wrote to me: “Joey, you and Veronica should move to a blue state just for a little while. It’ll add 10 years to your life.”

I chuckled. I can’t say how many times a reader, equally frustrated, no doubt, at what I’d just written, said to me: “If you hate Alabama so much, move somewhere else.”

I don’t write what I write about Alabama out of hate. I write out of love. I love Alabama.

My other career is as an educator. I try to educate. I welcome people to fact check my work. If I make a factual mistake, I’ll correct it. If you disagree with my informed opinions, then let’s disagree. But you need to be informed as well. Show me your evidence, and I’ll show you mine. Indeed, I most often include my evidence in my columns.

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Don’t tell me that Hillary Clinton is running a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor’s basement or that Sandy Hook is a hoax or that the Parkland survivors are “crisis” actors. None of that is true.

And don’t cite Breitbart or InfoWars or Judicial Watch as your sources. Keep Drudge and Rush Limbaugh and Dana Loesch out of it. If you cite Fox News, do it honestly, understanding that Fox has some credible news coverage, but then it has its idiots – the Hannitys and Ingrahams and Lahrens — who don’t give a whit about facts, only about slant, and who will twist their stories to “support” their latest right-wing conspiracy or left-wing outrage.

As a favor, I won’t cite MSNBC or the other “left” sources. I don’t watch MSNBC. CNN does generally good journalism, as does the three major networks. Mostly, I’m going to reference the Washington Post or The New York Times. But even more mostly, I’m going to do my own research and reporting. And thinking.

It’s not that difficult, as long as you don’t approach an issue with a preconceived idea. Keep your minds open, and do a little homework.

Thanks to the Internet, we have more information available to us today than ever before. Yet, we really seem a whole lot dumber. That’s because we only look for crap that validates our preconceived ideas, not the truth.

Find the truth, or at least get as close to the truth as you can get. Among my most difficult challenges as a writing teacher is to show students how important it is to approach issues with an open mind. If you can’t be persuaded by indisputable evidence, you’re not going to learn.

I’m going to California this week. I’m not moving there, so don’t get your hopes up. I’m going for a few days to participate in my “daughter’s” wedding. Nicole Bowland graduated from UAB, and adopted Veronica and me as her “parents” shortly after coming her from her home in California. She came on a volleyball scholarship, and her parents couldn’t attend volleyball events, so she adopted us. We’ve become very close over the past 15 years.

Nicole’s fiancé, Sara Kate Denton, has the full support of her family for the wedding. Nicole’s parents are not as supportive and won’t attend the wedding, so I’m filling in the “daddy” role at Nicole and Sara Kate’s ceremony.

I hope this brief trip to one of the bluest states may add at least a few days or hours to my life, but that’s not a real consideration. Dancing with my daughter at her wedding and toasting her marriage to Sara Kate are.

My friends in the blue states know they, too, have citizens who believe the conspiracy theories, who oppose same-sex marriage, who hate people different from them. They just don’t have them in as great of numbers (proportionately) as we do in Alabama.

We’re a herd state. We follow those deceitful politicians (and they’re a dime-a-dozen in Alabama, both Democrats and Republicans) who won’t tell us how to make education better or how to lower our prison population or what we need to do about gun violence, but would rather tell us why immigrants are evil, gay people are going to hell, black people are less than white, and women’s bodies should be controlled by men.

Right now, 63 percent of them support President Donald Trump, which makes us one of the Trumpiest states in the country.

Think for yourself. Question authority. If a politician or journalist tells you something, make him or her show you the evidence. Maybe it’s simply a good argument, based in fact, and it will get you thinking. Thinking critically. Thinking skeptically.

Don’t be in the herd.

I’ll be back soon.

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

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Opinion | Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS would assure Trump legacy

Steve Flowers

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The appointment of a United States Supreme Court Justice is one of the most profound legacies that a U. S. President can achieve. The opportunity that President Donald Trump was given to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the High Tribunal last year will be a monumental achievement of the Trump administration.

The chance to name a second Supreme Court appointment will be a colossal legacy for the Trump presidency. The appointment of two seats on the Supreme Court has given Trump an indelible place in U.S. presidential history.

The leftist detractors of the Trump presidency are moaning. However, the conservative base of American politics has got to be rejoicing with hallelujahs. The quiet, conservative Americans who voted for Trump probably never realized how impactful their vote for Trump was in November of 2016. For within less than two years after casting that vote they will have placed America on a more stable conservative path for not only the rest of their lives, but possibly for the next generation.

President Trump’s appointment and subsequent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia was a profound choice. However, his selection of Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring jurist Anthony Kennedy is equally brilliant. If Trump does nothing else during his tenure in the White House, if you are a conservative American, Trump’s presidency has been a rousing overwhelming success.

When the last votes were counted in November of 2016, and it became obvious that Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton, conservative Americans were exuberant. Many had turned out to vote for one reason. The possibility of naming a conservative to the Supreme Court was their primary reason for voting for Trump. The naming of two within two years was beyond their wildest dreams.

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With the conclusion of the eight-year reign of the liberal Obama era and Trump’s defeat of Clinton, President Obama made one last simple, profound statement, “Elections have consequences.” That epitaph has become prophetic.

The court had been drifting leftward out to sea with the two extremely liberal Obama appointees, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor coming on board. However, the Supreme Court Ship of State has taken a turn to the right under the helm of Captain Trump.

Brett Kavanaugh is an excellent selection. He has impeccable credentials. He is only 53 years old, which means that he will be a sensible mainstream conservative voice of the court for probably three decades.

Brett Kavanaugh’s resume reads like a profile of someone born to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Like most Supreme Court members, he graduated from a prestigious Ivy League Law school. He is a product of Yale undergraduate and Yale Law School.

Kavanaugh was the favorite for the appointment from the beginning. He was always on the top of Trump’s short list and the choice of the Republican legal establishment in Washington. He is a former law clerk of the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Although Kennedy had been appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan, he was considered the one moderate on the court. There are four bona fide liberal justices and four stalwart conservatives. Kennedy was the swing vote in the middle. Trump’s appointment of Kavanaugh will replace a swing vote on the nine-member court with a staunch conservative.

Kavanaugh served in George W. Bush’s administration and has been a distinguished jurist in the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit for over a decade and has written over 300 opinions. Therefore, his record as a jurist has been thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized. He is looked upon as a top legal scholar and strict constitutional adherent with a record of following judicial precedence.

Kavanaugh will be confirmed along pretty much the same partisan lines as Gorsuch. Trump is blessed with a Republican majority Senate. Leader Mitch McConnell will put the confirmation hearings on a fast track and have Kavanaugh approved by the end of October, prior to the mid-term elections. The Republicans have a thin 51 to 49 majority. All 51 Republican Senators appear to be on board for confirmation. Our Senator Richard Shelby has given a big thumbs up to Kavanaugh.

In addition to the 51 Republicans, Kavanaugh is expected to pick up four Democratic Senate votes of moderate Democrats from red states.

The big question is how does our new accidental anomaly, Democratic Senator Doug Jones vote. He is considered a longshot to win in 2020. However, a yes vote on confirmation could give him a glimmer of hope. A no vote would guarantee his not being elected to a full term. 

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

 

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Opinion | Republicans playing by different rules when it comes to state ethics laws

Josh Moon

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The law is simple: Candidates running for public office in Alabama must file a statement of economic interests when they qualify, and then must file an annual SEI by the yearly deadline.

That’s not hard, right?

File an SEI when you qualify. File again at the next year’s deadline.

Simple.

But then, following ethics laws is like Kryptonite to an Alabama politician. And so, quite a few candidates — some big name Republicans and a couple of Democrats — didn’t file on time.

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The consequences for this, according to the laws on the books, are also fairly simple and easy to read: You get booted off the ballot.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Here, read the law for yourself: “… if a candidate does not submit a statement of economic interests or when applicable, an amended statement of economic interests in accordance with the requirements of this chapter, the name of the person shall not appear on the ballot and the candidate shall be deemed not qualified as a candidate in that election.”

For future reference, that’s Section 36-25-15(c) of the Code of Alabama.

Would you care to guess what’s happening with these candidates who quite clearly violated this law?

Well, the two Democrats were determined by the Ethics Commission to have violated the law, so they were booted. Judicial candidate Pamela Cousins appealed that decision to a Montgomery Circuit Court, and a judge ruled in her favor, saying she had complied with the law by filing her paperwork with the Democratic Party but the SEI didn’t make it to the Ethics Commission on time.

For the Republicans, though, the story has been much different.

Sure, they violated the same laws in the same ways and had the same excuses as the Democrats. But the Republicans — four of them so far — haven’t been kicked off the ballot. And state lawmakers and party officials are on record saying those Republican candidates won’t be booted.  

Apparently, when there is an R beside your name on the ballot, the laws become a bit more ambiguous.

Republican Secretary of State John Merrill — the man at least partly responsible for enforcing the laws surrounding ballot access — found not only some exceptions for his party mates but also a makeshift fine: $5 per day.

I’ve read through the filing requirements, the Code of Alabama and the guidance documents presented on the Ethics Commission website, and I can’t find any mention of a $5 fine.

I do see where the Ethics Commission can impose a $10 fine per day on elected officials who miss the SEI filing deadlines. But that fine applies only to sitting officeholders.

The penalty for candidates missing the deadline is removal from the ballot. That simple.

As such, according to reporting from APR’s Brandon Moseley, Republican House District 30 candidate Brandon Craig Lipscomb, PSC commissioner Jeremy Oden, Montgomery state Rep. Dimitri Polizos and Guntersville state Sen. Clay Scofield should be removed.

Just as the Democrats were.

They all missed the deadlines. They all violated the laws. They’re all candidates for public office.

And there’s a reason why that last part matters, why the laws are different for sitting lawmakers than for an incumbent candidate for office. Because during campaigns is when money can flow the easiest. It’s when debts and personal financial obligations and business dealings and partnerships can be exploited easiest.

That’s why the laws of this state place such an importance on these SEI filings — because they’re that important to the integrity of our election process.

But who am I kidding?

There’s no integrity left.

 

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A Disquisition on Greed in Politics, Part 3: Solutions to Greed in Alabama Politics

by Samuel McLure Read Time: 14 min
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