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Nine campaign committees, PACs still have not filed 2016 Annual Reports




By Staff
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office published a list of principal campaign committees and political action committees that have yet to file their 2016 Annual Report. This report documents all money raised or spent by a candidate or committee each year.

The Secretary of State’s Office says that it made numerous attempts to notify each committee member listed in the FCPA system starting May 1, 2017. Notice was delivered to each committee by phone, mail and email.

This is the first time since the Alabama Legislature created the Fair Campaign Practices Act that the SOS has published a list of law violators.


Since the initial contact was sent out, nearly all 92 of the initial delinquent filers have reconciled the issue by completing and filing a 2016 Annual Report. At the time of this release, only nine principal campaign committees and political action committees remain overdue in their report. Those nine remaining violators are being reported to Attorney General Steve Marshall’s team and the appropriate local district attorney’s office, with a copy to be delivered to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

The penalty for failing to file an FCPA Annual Report is a Class A misdemeanor. More than 1,039 committees are required to file annually, and to date, 1,030 have filed reports.

The nine delinquent funds are William Barnes from Birmingham, James Graham from Phenix City, Jim Green from Scottsboro, Handley Hardy from Ragland, Randy Hester from Vina, Move Birmingham Forward PAC, Steve Small from Birmingham, Orlando Whitehead from Tuskegee and Future Montgomery.

Secretary of State John Merrill is reportedly running for another term in 2018.

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Billing records show Balch attorneys played substantial role in state superintendent search, alleged smear campaign

Josh Moon



Stock Photo

Billing records obtained by the Alabama Political Reporter show that attorneys from the law firm Balch & Bingham were heavily involved in the Alabama State Department’s flawed superintendent search that landed Michael Sentance and was paid thousands of dollars to counsel and coach department lawyers and a state school board member.

Those records, provided to APR by a source who agreed to share them on the condition of anonymity, show that three attorneys from Balch & Bingham — Dorman Walker, Lane Knight and John Naramore — charged ALSDE thousands to handle numerous tasks relating to the search, including establishing a search process and developing a “script” for ALSDE attorney Juliana Dean to use when she spoke to school board members about the search.

Balch & Bingham attorneys, the records show, also drove to Montgomery and to “coach” both Dean and school board member Mary Scott Hunter before they answered questions from a legislative committee that was investigating the superintendent search process.

Asked about the use of Balch & Bingham attorneys for tasks that appear to be either so mundane that the ALSDE counsel should handle them or that are of a personal nature and outside of the scope of their daily job duties, an ALSDE spokesman declined to answer the specific questions and instead focused on the fact that the information had become public.


“As I’m sure you know, although information related to a public entity’s attorney identity, rate/cost and time are public, details of the work performed by attorneys for their clients are not,” director of communications Michael Sibley wrote in an email response. “If you received an invoice detailing that work, that information is protected by attorney-client privilege. Because your questions encroach on that privilege, we will not be able to answer your specific questions, but in general, any work performed by Balch & Bingham for the State Board or its members or the State Department or its employees or officials would relate to their official duties.

APR asked Sibley why such billing information, when covered by taxpayer dollars, wouldn’t be considered public information, but that question did not receive a response.

ALSDE is still being hampered by the flawed search, even two years later.

Jefferson County superintendent Craig Pouncey, who was considered the frontrunner for the job, has filed a lawsuit against Hunter and others at the state department for concocting and carrying out a scheme to prevent him from landing the job. A Montgomery judge last month dismissed all but Hunter and another ALSDE lawyer from the suit, including Dean.

Pouncey filed his lawsuit in Feb. 2016 and it was announced after that date that because of the legal action, ALSDE would be on the hook for private attorneys to represent Dean, Hunter and two other ALSDE attorneys, James Ward and Susan Crowther.

But the records obtained by APR show that Balch & Bingham attorneys had long been providing legal guidance to the four.

The detailed bills from Balch & Bingham include charges for things such as reviewing a WSFA news story about Pouncey’s “planned lawsuit,” reviewing emails that were requested from Dean by state school board members and planning for ways to combat an effort from an education advocacy group led by Larry Lee to rescind the superintendent selection.

The bills also include several charges related to legal guidance for Hunter, which is, at best, a gray area. School board members clamored for months about hiring an attorney that would represent the board, and ultimately last year moved forward with hiring Lewis Gillis. Prior to that hire, however, it was the policy of the board that it was represented in all legal matters, unless the board took specific action otherwise, by Dean.

But on Nov. 1, 2016, the billing records show a $146.25 charge for a “talk” between Dorman Walker and Hunter about “her prospective testimony before the (legislative) committee.” There was another talk with Hunter on Nov. 8., and a conference on Nov. 9. The related charges totaled $1,170.

The records also show that Balch & Bingham attorneys coached Ward and Crowther prior to their appearances before the legislative committee and that the firm reviewed Open Records Act requests from media outlets and determined which documents should be turned over and redacted.


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Gov. Ivey asks Pro Tem Marsh to press forward with controversial bill

Bill Britt



Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh listens as a bill's proponent makes his case at a committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Last week, economic development proposal, HB317, was left hanging while Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh met with Gov. Kay Ivey to discuss the bill’s future.

Bogged down in controversy, HB317 seeks to create a new class of individuals called economic development professionals who are exempt from state ethics laws. Currently, those who engage in such activities are held accountable to follow the rules as set under the Alabama Ethics Act.

On Monday, spokesmen for the governor’s office, Daniel Sparkman — responding to a request for comment from APR, said that Gov. Ivey remains committed to the passage of HB317, and that she made her wishes known to Marsh during their meeting last week. According to Ivey’s office, Marsh will, “keep working to get it [HB317] passed.”

Opinion | AG, commerce secretary hide real problem with economic development bill


It remains unclear if Ivey’s staff or her commerce secretary, Greg Canfield, has informed the governor of the disturbing section in HB317 which fashions a way around the revolving door act, or provided for “less than full time,” economic development professionals.

Those close to the process, given anonymity to speak on background, freely say Marsh became the bill’s champion when it failed to attract a Senate sponsor. APR learned that Marsh’s meeting with Ivey was due to questions surrounding the bill. “To punt on the bill by going to the governor is a strong indication that Marsh has problems with the proposed law,” said a source on the seventh floor of the State House.

At an irregular meeting of the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee, State Senator Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, said that the Ethics Commission staff had the opinion that economic developers met the definition of lobbyists, as reported by APR’s Brandon Moseley last week. “I have tremendous concerns about parts of this,” Pittman said. “If you engage people for money, you are lobbying.”

Marsh to meet with Gov. Ivey to decide fate of economic developer bill

Pittman also exposed the revolving door problem by asking, “If someone were to leave the legislature, would they be able to immediately go into the field of economic development?” Alabama Law Institute Director Othni J. Lathram answered replying, “You would be right.” But he added that some tweaks to the legislation could close that loophole.

No one has yet offered a reasonable explanation as to why the legislature should carve out a special exception for part-timers. What is known is that Canfield and Attorney General Steve Marshall planted the exception in HB317 and then denied there was a part-time exception by calling it less than full time.

Because the legislature will meet three days this week, it is uncertain when the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee will meet again to deliberate on HB317.

When pressed on the bill’s necessity during the committee meeting, not one of the proponents could name a single economic development project that was lost because of existing ethics laws.

Ivey’s office’s persistence may see the bill come out of committee –  there are precious few hours left in the 2018 session for a floor fight over HB317. “That’s a silly hill to die on,” said a seventh-floor insider.

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Sen. Richard Shelby honored with state Senate joint resolution

Bill Britt



A Senate Joint Resolution honoring Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby was adopted last week in recognition of his many years of public service.

The resolution offers the state’s “highest commendations…to the Honorable Richard Shelby for 50 years of leadership and support of the State of Alabama.”

Beginning in 1963, as a city prosecutor in Tuscaloosa, Shelby’s commitment to his home state is one of, “immeasurable service” according to the Resolution sponsored by Republican State Senator Gerald Dial.

“I am honored to have served with Senator Shelby in the Alabama Legislature and to know that he is always available to discuss issues important to our state and it’s citizens,” said Dial.


Before his election in the U.S. Senate, Shelby served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years in the Alabama legislature, according to his official bio.

Born in Birmingham on May 6, 1934, he was the seventh of eight children and the only son of Ozie Houston Shelby and Alice L. Skinner Shelby. While attending Hueytown High School, he played football and starred as a defensive end, as noted in the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Shelby also started for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, but a knee injury in his freshman year permanently sidelined his football aspirations.

“Throughout his tenure in Congress, Shelby has successfully directed hundreds of millions of dollars to Alabama in the form of buildings and research centers, as well as through federal programs,” according to C. J. Schexnayder’s writings.

His wife, Kinston native, Dr. Annette Nevin Shelby, is a legend in her own right being the first woman to become a tenured full professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Upon receiving the Senate Joint Resolution, Sen. Shelby said, “Gerald Dial is a good friend and an excellent Senator. I am grateful to him for his efforts to honor my service to our state.” He further commented, “The image of Alabama is important, and it closely correlates with the state’s success. It is clear that Gerald joins me in wanting to protect the future of Alabama and ensure its potential for continued economic growth and opportunity for our citizens.”

Sen. Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. He also serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.


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Nine campaign committees, PACs still have not filed 2016 Annual Reports

by Staff Read Time: 1 min