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Tuscaloosa millionaire developer files Ethics Complaint against Luther Strange

Chip Brownlee



By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

Millionaire Tuscaloosa real-estate developer Stan Pate has filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Luther Strange alleging his acceptance of an appointment to the US Senate was improper and violated the State’s ethics laws, APR has confirmed.

The ethics complaint, filed Wednesday with the Alabama Ethics Commission, alleges that Strange violated state ethics laws in three different instances: by announcing his desire to be appointed to the Senate, by accepting an interview with former Gov. Robert Bentley during an active criminal investigation his office was overseeing, and by suspending the House’s impeachment investigation into Bentley.

“Common sense is that a deal was agreed upon by then-Governor Bentley and then-Attorney General Strange — an unethical and illegal act by the two parties,” the complaint reads. “Luther Strange violated the public trust and the sworn duties of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Alabama.”

Stan Pate, president of Pate Companies based out of Tuscaloosa, has been a vocal critic of Luther Strange since the start of the campaign, financing thousands of dollars in ads against the now-incumbent Senator purchased by his PAC, Swamp Drainers Foundation. The ads have gotten nearly a million views so far on social media.


The ads — like the ethics complaint — accuse Bentley and Strange of making a deal to get Bentley off the hook in an ongoing criminal investigation. In return, Strange would be appointed as US Senator after Jeff Sessions was selected as President Trump’s attorney general, Pate has said.

Strange’s campaign has not returned any requests for comment to APR for several weeks and did not return any comment on this story. They have said to other outlets that Pate’s ads are baseless and politically motivated.

Bentley resigned from office in April after a spiraling sex scandal ended with an impeachment investigation and several criminal investigations. He resigned as part of plea deal with prosecutors that got him 100 hours of community service and not much else. He won’t serve any time for the two misdemeanor campaign finance violations he pled guilty to.

The investigations began after former ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier accused the Governor of maintaining an affair with Mason. Bentley denied any legal wrongdoing and denied a physical affair.

Strange’s Special Prosecutions Division, since early last year, was thought to be conducting a criminal investigation into Bentley for possible abuse of power and misuse of state funds. In April of 2016, the House also began an impeachment investigation into the same matters, which revolved around an alleged affair with a former top political aide, Rebekah Mason.

The House’s investigation began to heat up as the Judiciary Committee began sending subpoenas in September to Bentley, Mason and others involved in the alleged illegal activity. The House Judiciary Committee later suspended impeachment proceedings after Strange sent the committee a letter on Nov. 3 informing them of necessary “related work” that his office was conducting. Strange, at the time, said he was concerned that the House’s investigation could have overlapped with one in his office.

In February, Bentley appointed Strange to the US Senate amid questions that Strange was trying to cover that investigation up. When Strange moved to Washington, Bentley would get to appoint his own attorney general.

After interviewing 20 candidates and narrowing down his choices to six top contenders, Bentley settled on Strange, a man who ran against and later campaigned with Bentley during the 2010 elections and has been in State politics for years.

The ethics complaint, which is likely motivated by Pate’s disdain for Strange, may go nowhere. Strange’s new position as a US senator is out of the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission. But Pate has said he and his attorneys believe Strange could still be held accountable for his actions while he was still Alabama’s attorney general.

The complaints likely won’t be taken up by the commission for months, meaning that its filing on the eve of the election is probably politically motivated. But it wouldn’t be the first time that a political rival’s complaints — no matter how based in politics — spelled the end to someone’s political career. After all, State Auditor Jim Zeigler’s ethics complaints against Bentley were the ones that resulted in his resignation.

The complaint isn’t the first to be filed against Strange, either. In late spring, Secretary of State John Merrill forwarded an Ethics Complaint against Strange to the Commission asking the commission to review a financial disclosure from Strange that might have contained improper activity between Strange’s Senate and Attorney General campaign committees.

APR first reported that Strange transferred more than $1,000 between his attorney general campaign account and his US senate campaign account outside of the window allowed by Alabama law. The two separate instances of $606 and $454 occurred in December, outside of the 120-rule established by Alabama’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.

The total of $1,060 also exceeds the $1,000 limit imposed even during the legal window, which could amount to two separate violations, Merrill said at the time, quoted in APR’s article.

The Ethics Commission has said they would take up that complaint after the election.

Chip Brownlee is a political reporter and content manager at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.

The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”

Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.


The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.

Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.

Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.

The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.

Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.

The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.

Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.

In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.

SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.

Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”

State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”

The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.

The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.

The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.

The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.

Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.

SB185 passed 101-0.

Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.

Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1  for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.

SB215 passed the House 87-0.

The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.

SB231 passed 87-2.

The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.

The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.

The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.

Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.

Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.

Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.


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Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

Sam Mattison



By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.

Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.

Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.

The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.


Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.

Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.

Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.

Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.

Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.

Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.

The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.

Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.

It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.

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Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison



By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.

The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.

Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.

Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.


Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.

Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.

The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.

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Tuscaloosa millionaire developer files Ethics Complaint against Luther Strange

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 4 min