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Bill Britt

Government affairs or an orgy of greed and corruption?

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

How much food and booze does it take to wash away embarrassment and shame? Is money the seductive elixir that so easily chills honest introspection, that allows our State’s leaders to dine freely on the spoils of corruption?

In August, many of the State’s top leaders will embark on an annual pilgrimage to Point Clear for the Business Council of Alabama’s (BCA) Governmental Affairs Conference.

Even though several BCA board members and its CEO, Billy Canary, were deeply involved in some of the schemes related to former Speaker Mike Hubbard’s conviction on 12 felony counts of public corruption, many State lawmakers, Supreme Court Justices, and the current Attorney General will be on hand at the BCA affair to pay homage to the lords of business. It is surprising that so many so-called public servants willingly feast at a table set by Canary and paid for by those who hope to use the guests for political gains. But perhaps they see Canary as a kind of  King Ferrante I of Naples who kept his people in submission and many of his enemies killed and mummified so that he could dine with them in peace.

What does this say about the integrity of these so-called public servants? Can an elected official eat at a table provided by those who according to the Hubbard trial sought to “buy the Speaker of the House” and serve in the House at the same time?

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As scripture teaches, “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” — Book of Proverbs (KJV) 26:11.

Can the State Justices partake of the BCA’s riches and hospitality and remain impartial under the law?

Is the public to believe this is an educational experience and not merely a political buffet to fatten the bellies and egos of our State’s office holders? Isn’t it the wining and dining that leads to a roll in the sheets?

Canary, as head of BCA, has turned that once proud association into little more than a whorehouse for political elites and wannabes.

Canary and his kind put the “Affair” in government conferences. Psychology Today says, “an affair means you’re living a lie in some form… but if you fool yourself about the reasons for your affair and what it may set in motion, you can squander irreplaceable years, trapped within illusions and rationalizations.”

Sound familiar?

This passage is followed by the consequences: “When it all comes crashing down, loneliness and emptiness may be all that remains.”

Recently Canary had his underlings call several State lawmakers to uninvite them the summer gathering because they dared vote for the Autism bill that helps parents aid children with this debilitating malady.

After APR had reported on the uninvited, we received an email asking, “If you have to do something a certain way to get invited to the BCA conference, does conference attendance not then become a quid pro quo gratuity or thing of value?”

That would be a good question for Ethics Director Tom Albritton. Wonder if he’s invited?

BCA’s Senior Vice President for Communications, Nancy Hewston, recently told Yellowhammer News no one was uninvited calling our reports “Fake News.”

“The implication that our guest list was developed solely on one issue is false, and anyone who writes that is promoting fake news,” said Hewston.  “Let me be clear – no one was uninvited from this event.”

Hewston, it appears, like her boss Canary, has a rare relationship with the truth, in that it’s seldom used. Or perhaps she holds it in such high regard that she thinks it is too precious to be wasted on the public.

Hewston, also informed Yellowhammer—once Hubbard’s chosen forum for his news—”[W]e are proud that this annual event has such widespread interest and appeal.”

Former Attorney General Luther Strange was unwelcome at BCA events once his team began to investigate Hubbard. So what does it say about Strange’s replacement Steve Marshall who is not only a welcome guest he will also be a principal speaker at the BCA’s breakfast soiree, sponsored by Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure. And what is the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure? It’s sleekly designed website claims it is a non-profit, which is focused on developing the State’s infrastructure. Oddly, its board is comprised of several individuals who could potentially profit personally from legislation funding of infrastructure projects.

Its web address is alabamaroads.org, and there are plenty of road builders and their partner’s listed on the site. Wonder if any of them deal in Astro-turf? A search of the Secretary of State’s records doesn’t return an Alabama Roads or Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure. Perhaps it’s listed some other way. What is evident from the nonprofit’s website is that BCA is playing a prominent role in this alliance.

Canary was very cross with Speaker Mac McCutcheon for not pushing through a gas tax for infrastructure. Was the Speaker uninvited? I doubt it.

BCA is the 800-pound gorilla for now, but it is as stinky and unruly as any wild beast. But is there anyone willing to bring it to heel?

There are those honest souls in Montgomery and Washington DC that are fighting for a change of leadership at BCA. There are a few who have no appetite for Canary tainted delights.

Hubbard, Canary, and former Gov. Bob Riley have feasted at an orgy of greed and corruption for years; this Summer’s BCA affair is just the scraps from their table.

Perhaps it is they who should be seated around King Ferrante’s table.

APR hopes to obtain a list of attendees for publication.

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Bill Britt

A move to reunify BCA is underway

Bill Britt

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Reconciliation efforts are underway to salvage the Business Council of Alabama after a very public split with some of its most influential members.

Those close to the negotiations speaking on background say recent talks have been productive, but there are still many details that must be agreed upon before a reunification occurs.

The forced exit of President and CEO Billy Canary earlier this month was the first step toward restoring BCA’s reputation and mending fences.

Individuals who are negotiating rapprochement are looking to restructure BCA’s governance to ensure that any future leader will not exercise the unchecked authority wielded by Canary. They also want to make BCA more equitable, fair and balanced in its representation of its members.

Beyond the mechanics of structure is the need for a strong leader who can restore not only confidence in the once powerful organization but also one who can navigate the state’s political landscape while enduring the inevitable discord that comes with change.

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There is a level of hope that an improved structure and new leadership might be in place by BCA’s summer conference, which begins August 10 at Point Clear. But even those involved in the process know it’s a tall order to fill given the short window of opportunity.

Perhaps the most significant challenge is identifying an individual who can articulate a vision for BCA, inspire confidence in its members and ensure elected officials that they are dealing with an honest broker.

There is much at stake in the upcoming legislative session, not only because it is the first year of the quadrennium, when hard tasks are generally achieved, but the 2019 session will also welcome many new legislators not necessarily in step with BCA due to a bruising primary season.

People may forgive, but they often do not forget, and there are many bridges to build.

Lawmakers will be wise to remember the warning of President Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.”

For a revitalizing transition to occur, a clean sweep of BCA’s leadership team is imperative, as those who served the old guard must be replaced or else it’s a false start doomed to fail.

BCA would be wise to move away from the partisan approach taken over the last eight years and look to establish relationships that favor business-friendly legislation without bright lines of division.

In business as in life, sharp breaks are sometimes required and often are inevitable, but this doesn’t have to be one of those times.

Now is an hour for wise deliberation, difficult choices and bold resolve to strengthen the entire business community and not merely to fortify the narrow interests of a few.

Over the last year, good and honest leaders called for BCA to do what was right. That fight hopefully can be put aside to now do what is best.

 

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Bill Britt

The fix was in

Bill Britt

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Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson’s ruling to allow out-of-state political action committees to donate to in-state campaigns without disclosing its donors through PAC-to-PAC transfers may be the legal fulcrum Democrats need to target key Republican officeholders in the state.

On Wednesday, attorney general candidate Troy King filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court seeking a restraining order to prevent his opponent, appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall, and his campaign from using donations it received from the Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA) which doesn’t disclose some of its mega-donors by using PAC-to-PAC transfers.

Judge Anderson ruled against King and dismissed the lawsuit in Marshall’s favor.

Marshall, unlike an ordinary plaintiff, wasn’t present at the hearing before Judge Anderson, which should have alerted the public that the fix was already in.

The State’s Ethics Commission will likely weigh-in on King’s question soon— finding that RAGA’s actions were unlawful—but Thursday’s judgment holds for now, with no consequences for Marshall, win or lose.

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In 2010, the state’s newly minted Republican supermajority outlawed PAC-to-PAC transfers as part of its effort to show voters that there was a new day in Montgomery politics.

Since 2010, both Republicans and Democrats have found ways to circumvent FPCA restrictions, but until Thursday, there wasn’t a court ruling that opened a flooded-gate to renew PAC-to-PAC campaigns using outside interest groups.

Republican conservatives who believe that undisclosed donors shouldn’t control the state’s election process through hidden contributions should worry.

Is it now legal for pro-abortion groups to finance judicial races with stealth campaign donations to defeat pro-life candidates like Supreme Court Justices like Tom Parker?

What about Gov. Kay Ivey? Is it now legal for The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to upend her campaign with hidden contributions to her rival, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox?

Ethic Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton has all but definitively stated that RAGA’s contributions are illegal, but it’s too little too late for this election.

Perhaps none of this matters because it seems that many of the Republicans who passed these bans in 2010, don’t seem to honestly believe in them or any of the ethics reforms that they once championed.

So once again, it’s winning, not the law, that matters, or as a prominent Montgomery attorney said, “When you have a Democrat judge, a Democrat lawyer and a Democrat attorney general what else did you expect?”

More, I guess.

 

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Bill Britt

Opinion | BCA takes out the trash, finally

Bill Britt

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In a last-ditch effort to save the Business Council of Alabama from the dung heap of political obscurity, President and CEO Billy Canary was pushed out of the business association late last Friday after he waged an ugly and protracted battle to remain in power.

Canary’s fight to keep his job has left the once powerful business interests a hollow and factored alliance with an uncertain future. He didn’t care if he destroyed BCA; it was all about his ambitions.

For years, Canary, along with now-convicted felon former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and former Gov. Bob Riley, reigned over an unparalleled orgy of greed and corruption.

Canary, Hubbard and Riley’s perverse domination of the state’s political landscape was supreme, and even now, the tentacles of their profiteering are evident from the Capitol to the State House and beyond.

Even during this election cycle, Canary has used BCA’s political arm, Progress PAC, to back disreputable candidates who seek to overturn the state ethics laws that convicted Hubbard, advocate for so-called education reform that profits Riley’s business interests and to stall efforts to create a statewide lottery in favor of gambling concessions for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

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During Hubbard’s last years in office, PCI Vice Chair Robbie McGhee joined forces with Hubbard, in hopes of exercising more sway over Republican legislators. Over the previous year, he coupled the tribe to Canary with the same end in mind. McGhee, who faces a reelection challenge in August, casts himself as a Hubbard-Canary protege. Even now, he tells candidates who come calling for campaign contributions, “We are BCA,” meaning the tribe, under Canary, is controlling many decisions being made at the business association.

McGee, like Hubbard and Canary, is viewed by many as a pariah in the state capital where he still hopes to further the Tribe’s gambling operations by lavishing money and entertainment on Republican lawmakers. Twice now, McGhee has chosen poorly and tarnished the Tribe’s reputation in the bargain. With McGhee’s backing, Canary gave at least $250,000.00 to appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall so that he will continue Riley’s bingo wars.

Hubbard stands convicted on 12 felony counts of using his office for personal gain and other criminal violations of the state’s Ethics Act, yet he remains free because of the corrupting influence of Canary and others of his ilk.

During Hubbard’s trial, Canary said, “I love Mike Hubbard like a brother.” He even waxed poetic, saying his friendship with Hubbard, “Blossomed like any blessing in life.”

So infectious are the remnants of their power that even after two years Hubbard remains free because Court of Criminal Appeals Justices Samuel Henry Welch, J. Elizabeth Kellum, Liles C. Burke and J. Michael Joiner will not rule on his conviction.

Canary, in a face-saving announcement, says he is taking a position as a, “senior fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” which is a nothing job.

Canary, like Hubbard and Riley, pimped the state like a cheap whore, and now he’s busted for the user he is. He left BCA in shambles, and don’t think for a minute that the coalition that left BCA isn’t coming back just because the executive committee finally took out the trash.

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Government affairs or an orgy of greed and corruption?

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