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

Samuel McLure



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.


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, “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.


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 | All you need is love

Joey Kennedy



Oh, Alabama, I cry for you. I cry for you, too, Birmingham.

We make progress, then we wipe it out. It’s the old cliché of two steps forward, one step back. Except during election years, it seems we take no steps forward and 100 years back.

What’s wrong with us? When will we stop hating?


State Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, was wrong to vaguely out Gov. Kay Ivey as gay in a tweet and on Facebook. Yeah, those rumors have circulated for awhile, but Todd’s tweet has a mean spirit to it, especially considering the state’s only openly gay legislator is leaving the State House and, presumably, the state, to take leadership of an LGBTQ organization in Florida.

This fire was ignited by Scott “I-Don’t-Stand-a-Snowball’s-Chance-in-Hell” Dawson, a Republican opponent of Ivey’s for governor. Dawson, in his self-righteous, white-Evangelical “superiority”, criticized Ivey for funding an LGBTQ anti-bullying organization. In Dawson’s world, it’d be OK to bully gay kids, or worse. In Dawson’s world, philanderer Donald Trump is a “Christian,” and monogamous Barack Obama is the anti-Christ. I’m glad I don’t live in Dawson’s screwed-up world, and I don’t want to go to his screwed-up heaven.

And sure, in the perfect world (not Dawson’s), we want all people, and especially our elected officials, to be who they are. Yet Ivey Wednesday directly denied the rumors, and that’s OK. She gets to decide who she is. We get to decide if that’s who we want to vote for.

But why does it matter if Ivey is gay? Think hard, Alabama. Why. Does. It. Matter? Your own homophobia? Your fear of somebody different? Your twisted Christianity where it’s OK to hate, despite the faith’s namesake demanding that we love?

It should not matter. Except that voters here (maybe everywhere?) respond to emotional, hot-button issues before thinking about whether they even matter. They don’t.

Meanwhile, here in Birmingham we have a controversy between new Mayor Randall Woodfin and a West End pastor known for using his church’s outdoor sign to deliver messages of hate.

New Era Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Michael R. Jordan is upset that the mega-Church of the Highlands may start a branch in his neighborhood. So he posted this on his church’s sign: “Black folks need to stay out of white churches.”

Woodfin responded appropriately: “There is a spirit of racism and division that is over this city. It must be brought down. We have to change the conversation to what we need it to evolve into. ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’”

So now Woodfin is taking heat from some in Birmingham and elsewhere. For wanting love, not hate, to guide our conversations.

The Rev. Jordan decries white flight, and rightly so. He calls Woodfin naïve. He says white people won’t live in his neighborhood, but they want to bring a white church next door.

I’ve written about Jordan’s hate before. In 2004, Jordan posted this on his church’s Hate Board: “AIDS is God’s curse on a homosexual life.”

Jordan’s “god” is much less perfect than mine. AIDS practically wiped out generations of hemophiliacs. It has devastated (and still is) heterosexual communities across the world, especially in Africa. If my God had it out for homosexuals, his aim would be much more precise.

Jordan rails against white Evangelicals who elected Donald Trump. But, you see, there’s not much difference between Jordan’s brand of religion and that of white Evangelicals.

There’s not much difference between Jordan and Dawson. Skin color, yes. Not much else.

Their unifying characteristic: Hate. Whether taught from the pulpit or from a church’s outdoor marquee, or from the campaign trail or in the “white” church, hate is the common denominator.

Woodfin is absolutely right. We must change the conversation.

That’ll be hard, though, because we’re mostly cowards, afraid of each other, of our immigrant neighbors, of the black man walking down the street and the white cop patrolling the streets. We’re afraid of gay people, of Muslims, of Asians, of Rednecks, of Jews, of Catholics. We’re afraid of independent women who want the right to choose, and who don’t want to be the targets of sexual harassment and rape. We live our lives in fear.

We’re even afraid of love.

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


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Opinion | Straight party? That’s lazy, or stupid

Joey Kennedy



A few years ago (more than a decade), a friend was running for circuit judge in Jefferson County. He is a Democrat. His opponent was, obviously, a Republican. An incumbent Republican.

My friend was much more qualified than the Republican incumbent, who had made a number of questionable decisions from the bench.

This Republican was terrible, on many levels.


I didn’t campaign for my friend; I’m a journalist, so I stay out of direct involvement in political campaigns. But I am a voter, and there’s no question I was going to support my friend at the polls. And, when anybody asked specifically about that particular race, I’d recommended him. As an editorial board member of what used to be the best newspaper in Alabama, we studied the candidates carefully; personally interviewed most of them. That newspaper recommended my friend.

Before we made our recommendations, however, another friend asked me about that judicial race. I laid out the qualifications of the two candidates, and made a good case for my friend.

And then: “Is he a Democrat or Republican?” my other friend asked. Democrat, I replied.

“Well, I can’t vote for a Democrat,” my other friend said.

That is absolutely a stupid response. She wouldn’t vote for the best qualified candidate because he was running as a Democrat? I shook my head and moved on.

I can’t figure out, or pretend to understand, how somebody can eliminate a candidate simply based on party.

I have never, in my 44 years of being a voter, voted straight-party, whether Democrat or Republican or whatever.

There are bad Democratic Party candidates. And bad Republican Party candidates. And, yes, there are good candidates in both parties. And good independents. And good third-party candidates, though you’ll rarely find them on Alabama’s selfishly closed ballot.

The last election that featured lots of state and local candidates, I voted for more Republicans than Democrats.

I know readers assume (wrongly) that I’m a Democrat, because I write, generally, from the left. I’m not. I’m a left-leaning independent. That’s one reason I hate Alabama’s closed primary elections. You have to choose, one or another.

And if you vote for one party in a primary, you can’t vote the other party in a runoff, if there is a runoff.

Maybe I could understand such a discouraging system more if the parties paid for their own primaries. But they don’t.

I do. And you do. The poor Alabama taxpayers do.

Voting straight-party is an indication of two things: You’re either too lazy to find out who you really are voting for, or you’re too ignorant to care. Not voting would be a better choice.

We’ve got primary elections coming up. I’m going to be on a panel for Democratic and Republican party gubernatorial debates later this month at Boys State on the University of Alabama campus.

I’ll ask tough questions of the candidates from both parties.

From what I’ve been told, every candidate for governor, from both parties, has accepted the invitation to participate in the debate.

Every candidate but one, that is: Republican Kay Ivey, the current sitting governor. Now remember, Ivey wasn’t elected governor. She took over for the disgraced, libido-enhanced Robert Bentley, who was tossed from office.

Kay Ivey will not have my vote. But she’s clearly the favorite, even though there are candidates in her party and candidates in the Democratic Party who are clearly more qualified.

I’m a geezer who turned 62 this year. And unless the choice and qualifications are clear otherwise, I’m not voting for another geezer. And I’m not going to vote for those candidates, like Republican Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh for lieutenant governor, who opportunistically run for whatever state office they think they can win.

I’m looking closely at the younger generation, Republican or Democrat, who appears to have the best qualifications for the office they seek.

We geezers have let Alabama down – America down. We often are more in it for us than what’s best for our state and country.

And if a candidate refuses to debate her opponents, or if a candidate is endorsed by a child molester like Roy Moore, or if a candidate is clearly only in it for herself or himself, I’m not voting for them. Forget it.

Oh, I expect many of the candidates (most) I support won’t win. I don’t vote for somebody just because they might have a chance at winning.

I study the candidates, and I vote for the candidate I determine is most qualified to hold the office they seek.

But I will never mark that bubble for straight party. From my perspective, that’s just lazy. Or stupid. It’s like eating mountain oysters and not knowing what they are.

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


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Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: Low voter turnout expected for primary

Steve Flowers



We are less than four weeks away from our June 5th primary. Those of us who follow Alabama politics have pointed to this year as being a very entertaining and interesting gubernatorial year. However, last year’s resignation by former Governor, Robert Bentley and the ascension of Kay Ivey from Lt. Governor to the Governor’s office has put a damper on the excitement we anticipated in the governor’s race.

Kay took over the reins of state government and her appearance as a seasoned veteran of state politics seems to resonate with voters. Polling indicates that the governor’s race is hers to lose. Therefore, the less she does may be the best course. Her support is a mile wide and an inch deep. A slip and fall could derail her train.

Her perch reminds me of a story surrounding the last truly colorful southern governor, Edwin Edwards of Louisiana. Ole Edwin had a wide lead like Kay’s in the polls a few weeks prior to his race for reelection as governor of the Pelican state. The press asked him about two weeks out about his significant lead in the polls. Edwin’s reply was, “Yeah, the only way that ole Edwin can lose this race is to get caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.”


Tommy Battle, the popular Mayor of Huntsville is poised to make a formidable run at Kay in the closing weeks. He has some money in the bank and will come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with a good friends and neighbors vote. The Evangelical Roy Moore voters appear to be coalescing around Evangelist Scott Dawson.

My guess is that Walt Maddox, the young 45-year old Mayor of Tuscaloosa is benefitting from a grass roots support among African American voters in the Democratic primary. If indeed this is the case, Maddox will be favored to capture the Democratic nomination.

Will Barfoot has emerged as the frontrunner in the closely watched open Montgomery/River Region Republican seat. Incumbent State Senator Paul Bussman is in a close contest with Cullman City Council President Garlan Grudger. Polling indicates that this one may be too close to call. Bussman’s departure from the GOP Senate Caucus has given his constituents the perception that he may be rendered ineffective. This district is politically savvy.

Veteran educator, Wayne Reynolds, may be poised to win the State Board of Education District 8 seat in the Huntsville-Tennessee Valley area being vacated by Mary Scott Hunter. Mary Scott and Sam Givhan are battling for an open state Senate seat in Huntsville. This race is one of the best Senate races in the state. Both Givhan and Hunter are heirs to great Alabama legacies. Givhan’s grandfather was legendary Black Belt State Senator Walter Givhan. Ms. Hunter’s daddy, Scott Hunter, is one of Bear Bryant’s famous quarterbacks.

Speaking of legends, Alabama political icon, Milton McGregor, was laid to rest a few weeks ago. He would have been 79 today. Montgomery’s Frazer Memorial Methodist Church was overflowing. A good many of the state’s past and present political powers were there, including several past governors and a sitting U.S. Senator.

One of the state’s most famous and personable preachers, John Ed Mathison, presented a masterful sermon. He is a great man. He and his wife were best friends with Milton and Pat.

It was actually a joyous political homecoming event. As folks were visiting and reminiscing, one of Alabama’s most prominent pulmonary physicians, Dr. David Thrasher, who has been a doctor to many famous Alabamians and was one of Milton’s pallbearers was visiting with me and said, “Steve, I was at Governor Wallace’s funeral when Franklin Graham spoke and it doesn’t compare to this.” Then he quipped, “Steve, I got a call from Billy Graham. He said that he had met a nice guy at breakfast by the name of Milton McGregor. Milton said to tell John Ed to remind the people down here that if they did good and believed in Jesus that they could be a winner too and join him.” That’s what John Ed said.

See you next week.


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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