By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, August 10, 2017, both State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) and his wife, State Board of Education member Jackie Zeigler (R), were excluded from the Annual Governmental Affairs Conference of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). The couple were the only two statewide elected officials excluded from the plush event at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear. 17 members of the State Legislature were also excluded this year.
This is the third year in a row that BCA has excluded Jim Zeigler.
BCA’s role in Alabama’s political landscape has come under increasing scrutiny after prosecutors with the Alabama Attorney General’s office indicted then Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) for receiving improper benefits from BCA’s controversial President and CEO Billy Canary. Canary was using his office and influence to help Mike Hubbard attempt to get jobs and contracts. In exchange for the help Canary and his friends and staff were given unprecedented access to the Speaker and his office. They even served as a kitchen cabinet that met with the Speaker and other invited Legislators every Monday during weeks that the Legislature was in session. The jury found Mike Hubbard not guilty for this count, accepting Hubbard and Canary’s argument that they were just really close personal friends who liked to go to concerts and events together. Many in the Legislature remain skeptical of Canary and his role in leading Hubbard astray (the Speaker was convicted of 12 of the 21 ethics violation counts he did receive).
BCA has lost a lot of influence since Hubbard was indicted. For the last two years they have advocated a massive increase in gas taxes in order to pay for an incredible $billion bond issue to fund road work. That bill was rejected by the Legislature two years in a row. In the last session, Canary and BCA opposed a bill that would have required that children with Autism be covered under their health insurance for life changing Autism treatments. Blue Cross Blue Shield opposed the bill and BCA dutifully fought to block the bill at every step. The angry parents of Autistic children demanded that the bill pass and the Legislature gave it to them, despite Canary’s protests. Several of the Legislators who advocated for the Autistic children were also not invited to this year’s conference/luxury party by the beach.
Alabama Power announced that they would not be supporting this year’s event and more and there are growing calls from people within the business community for new leadership at BCA.
Jackie Zeigler, Jim Zeigler’s wife of 25 years, was elected in 2016 to represents District one, which comprises seven counties of southwest Alabama. Mrs. Zeigler, a career educator and former principal, won 62 percent of the vote in the Republican Primary runoff over BCA supported, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appointee Matt Brown. BCA contributed $220,000 to Brown’s campaign.
Jim Zeigler jokingly said: “Maybe they were going in alphabetical order and ran out of invitations before they got to the Z’s.”
Auditor Zeigler said, “I wear it as a badge of honor when I am left out of things by Montgomery Insiders. I have been left out of meetings, polls, political analyses, and campaign contributions.”
Zeigler said he would like to go to the BCA conference as a speaker rather than as an attendee. “I could explain to them some things that are wrong in state government and how they need to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”
Mrs. Zeigler took her seat on the SBOE February 9. She was the long-time Principal of award-winning Mary B. Austin Elementary School in Mobile’s Spring Hill neighborhood. Her school won the National Blue Ribbon Award of Excellence. She had been teacher and Principal of Dauphin Island’s “Little Red School House” during the years the bridge to the island was out due to Hurricane Frederick.
Jim Zeigler is an attorney and was formerly a Public Service Commissioner. Since being elected Auditor, Zeigler had been sharply critical of Gov. Bentley and filed an ethics complaint against the Governor that ultimately led to Bentley resigning. Zeigler has also clashed with Luther Strange and has been highly critical of Strange’s handling of the Bentley investigation.
Zeigler said, “People need to know about the corrupt way Luther Strange got appointed by Bentley.”
The special primary election will be on Tuesday, August 15, 2017.
Jim Zeigler is currently exploring possibly running for Governor in 2018.
Booking dot com quotes three nights at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear at $827.