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Opinion | Milton McGregor still on the scene

Steve Flowers

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By Steve Flowers
Inside the Statehouse

As the June primaries for our statewide races get closer, there is a lot of media attention and stories written about the power being wielded by special interests, PACs and big money. They focus on the large amount of cash and influence being bet on the horses for governor and the legislature.

The Business Council of Alabama and ALFA are getting prepared to protect their friends and allies and punish their enemies. These two powerful and money laden special interests will be players in the 2018 horse races. Surprisingly, these two pro-business organizations are not riding the same horses in a good many races, especially statewide.

Quietly behind the scenes is another power in Alabama politics, Milton McGregor.  You can bet he is playing ball. McGregor’s influence is felt in decision making races in the state from governor to every legislative race. McGregor is the E.F. Hutton of Alabama politics. When he speaks people listen, and more importantly when he speaks politicians listen. He also transcends party. He supports people who are his friends regardless of political party.

He epitomizes the golden rule of politics. He is loyal to his friends. In a day when some people’s word is no good, McGregor’s is solid as a rock. In politics and business, your word is your bond, and that is why McGregor is revered and respected by the majority of Alabama’s political folks.

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If McGregor tells someone he is their friend and will support them, they know they can take it to the bank. There is a political maxim used by longtime political veterans who have been in the Legislature for years and have fought major battles over controversial issues – the type of battles where you have to get a good toehold and stakeout your position and stay put.  Thus, the saying is analogous to being in a monumental battle where you get into a foxhole to survive.  Therefore, if a politician says about another that he is someone I would want in my foxhole in a war they are talking about someone they would trust with their life. That saying has been used to describe McGregor on more than one occasion.

Most people assume that Milton McGregor’s only interest is gaming. However, he is invested in the Nursing Home industry, the real estate business and farming. He has been successful in each of these endeavors.

McGregor grew up in the Wiregrass. His family was very politically connected, so he got his love for politics honestly. McGregor idolized his older brother, Tom, who was a political icon in the Wiregrass. Tom McGregor was instrumental in electing the legendary George Andrews to Congress. In fact, Tom McGregor got Andrews elected to Congress while he was still overseas in the Navy. Andrews was elected to Congress in the 1940’s and served in Congress more than 20 years, became a power and is the reason Fort Rucker is located in Ozark/Enterprise. The elder McGregor was Andrews’ right-hand man for more than 20 years.

Milton McGregor loves politics, but he loves his wife of over 50 years, Pat, more than life. He is considered one of the most loyal family men in the state. Unlike many of his so-called religious and pious detractors, there has never been a hint of personal scandal around Milton McGregor.

His generosity is unlimited.  There are stories about his allowing politicians to ride in his luxury airplanes, and they have. The truth is he is doing it more out of friendship rather than for personal gain or favoritism. There are ten times more occasions where he has given free use of his planes with his pilots to shuttle an indigent cancer patient to a hospital to save their life.

Milton reached the point financially, long ago, where he does not need any more money. He plays politics for the love of it. He has given more than $300 million to charities over the years.  That is 300 million dollars more than the Indian casinos have given Alabamians.

My mama always said that you can tell who a real gentleman is by the way he treats the person less fortunate. Milton McGregor epitomizes this quality. He treats the lowest janitor in his racetracks with the same sincerity, warmness and dignity that he does to the wealthiest people in America whom he rubs shoulders with every day.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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Bill Britt

Opinion | Three cheers for cheaters, conmen and crooks

Bill Britt

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Lobbyists and others representing special interests give millions to lawmakers in the form of campaign contributions, and it doesn’t even matter if they are legally or ethically right; they are a must.

Not only are these contributions acceptable and expected, in many cases, it is demanded with valued treats.

With millions in contributions, lobbyists and other entities with business before the state are, in fact, buying favors from an elected official and in turn, many of these so-called public servants reciprocate with favorable legislation and other goods not readily available to those who don’t pony up.

What is obvious is there is a pervasive give-to-get mentality that infects much of Montgomery.

A recent email sent by political consultant Brent Buchanan on behalf of Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed makes it clear leadership is watching who plays ball and who doesn’t.

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Fundraiser or shakedown?

Buchanan is not only a paid operative for state Senate Republicans, but he is also Gov. Kay Ivey’s campaign manager; therefore, his words matter because of who he represents.

Those close to Marsh and Reed think it’s doubtful they approved Buchanan’s indiscreet warning – that money is expected from lobbyists and other interests. But this attitude has become so common under Republican rule over the last eight years that it passes for normal behavior.

Pay-to-play or be sidelined is understood.

It’s tiresome to recall how in 2010, Republicans championed ethics and campaign finance reform only to now have abandoned any pretense of upholding them.

Under the guise of reform, they intend to gut current ethics statutes like a feral hog during the upcoming legislative session. Even now, holding the Republican-appointed Ethics Commission to the strict letter of campaign finance laws has become such a joke that Secretary of State John Merrill is publicly calling out the commission for not doing its job.

Opinion | Alabamians need an Ethics Commission that will enforce the laws

Amazingly, the state’s Republican Party continues to support it’s attorney general nominee, who has clearly violated the state campaign finance laws by blatantly accepting  $735,000 in contributions that are prohibited under the law.

Current Attorney General Steve Marshall, an appointee of disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley, accepted unlawful contributions from an out-of-state special interest and no one says a word – not the state’s Ethics Commission’s executive director, not the governor or the Republican Party chair.

Add these to what amounts to legal extortion and bribery and a vivid picture emerges of a Republican majority that doesn’t care about the rule of law or civil propriety.

What is the message here?

Shakedowns are fine as long as it’s for our team.

Cheating is okay as long as it’s our team that wins.

Moral character, honesty of purpose and humility of service be damned,

Those who revere power over principle may prosper but never for long where there are individuals who value integrity over gain.

The Republican Party in Alabama used to stand for something, now it seems to cheer for cheaters, conmen and crooks, but perhaps someday it will come back to its senses.

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Opinion | Why are white people so scared?

Josh Moon

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Several Saturdays each Fall, Auburn University students, faculty and alumni — thousands of them — roll into Jordan Hare Stadium on campus to cheer for the school’s football team.

The majority of the players are black.

The school’s basketball teams — both mens and womens — are made up primarily of black players.

The school’s most recognized alumni, who have giant banners and statues on campus, are mostly black former athletes.

The Auburn marching band is influenced by the bands at historically black colleges.

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The music played at most athletic and other campus events comes mostly from black artists.

And yet, last weekend, when Auburn officials decided to honor the impact and influence of diversity on its campus, many of the students and alums and sidewalk fans reacted like … backwoods rednecks who had to shrug off their klan hoods on their way into the stadium.

There were fights. There were racist banners hung up by over-privileged frat boys. There were racist comments on several different university-operated social media pages.

It was, to put it bluntly, an utter embarrassment.

To the state. To all Auburn people.

The diversity weekend sponsored by the university was a fantastic idea, and holding it on the same weekend that the football team played Alabama State University, a historically black college in Montgomery, was a nice touch.

I know a lot of the people at ASU, including president Quinton Ross and several people in the athletic administration. They were genuinely excited about going to Auburn, playing that game and enjoying the gameday experience in an SEC venue.

They had no expectations of winning. They just wanted to compete, pick up some much needed cash for their program, show off their band and then head back down I-85. Everyone happy. Everything good.

What they got instead was a clown show from a bunch of racist morons.

But then, why am I surprised?

On a certain cable “news” network over the past several weeks, there have been hosts of opinion shows openly questioning “the value of diversity.” On something called “NRA TV” recently, there was a segment that put a children’s cartoon character in a KKK hood because the NRA hosts were trying, without success, to make some derogatory point about diversity. On college campuses all around the country, and especially in the South, there has been an uptick in controversial, racist speakers.

So, it should come as no surprise, I guess, that one of the most conservative campuses in America — a campus where such programming is consumed and parroted and where there exists a “white student union” — would be so resistant to recognizing the positive impacts of different perspectives and backgrounds.

I don’t understand what’s happening in America now.

For decades, we seemed to acknowledge that our racist ways were wrong, and at the very least everyone pretended to be in favor of equality and inclusion. We seemed genuinely intent on correcting the sins of the past and moving towards a country that lived up to its promises of equality for all men.

Now, almost overnight, there seems to be a shift back to a time when ignorant ideas, grounded in fear and hatred, were prevalent. Ideas that have convinced privileged white kids they’re being held back. Ideas that have left many white people living in fear.

And look, I’d love to pretend that it isn’t so bad, that people are making more out of it than they should. But then … Nazi sympathizers have been marching in American streets and the U.S. president said some of them were probably “good people.”

That’s a bit of a problem.

And the results of the spread of this nonsense were on display last weekend in Auburn, when the simple act of playing a historically black college so incensed people that they were a few steps away from fire hoses and dogs.

Enough is enough. White people need to get their stuff together and stop falling for the same tired fear tactics that have been used for centuries. America, like all countries, is never stronger than when it truly works together, ensuring the equality of all citizens.

 

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Opinion | “Once in a lifetime” is happening far too often in our lives

Joey Kennedy

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Earlier this week, I listened to Dr. James B. McClintock speak to students in the University Honors Program at UAB.

McClintock, the renowned Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology at the university, once again showed, with ample evidence, what climate change is doing to polar ice in both the Arctic (Northern Hemisphere) and in Antarctica, where he does most of his research. The ice is melting, invasive species are encroaching in areas they’ve never been found before, and ocean acidification is causing untold damage.

Ocean levels are rising, and that’s not because big rocks are falling into the water, as Alabama U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks absurdly claims.

Climate change and warming are real. They’re happening as we speak. Yet, the Trump administration and Alabama leaders are gladly turning back environmental regulations that would at least slow this alarming trend. We have cast aside international climate treaties.

We can see the result of too little action too late this week, as Hurricane Florence closes in on the East Coast around Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This massive storm looks like none the Carolinas have ever seen.

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Alabama is sending emergency management officials to the area to help out, and that’s great. Our friends on the middle- to lower-Atlantic coasts will need it. Alabama Power, too, is sending teams to help in the coming recovery. They do a wonderful job post-disaster. No doubt, other first-responders from Alabama will follow or are on their way.

These are the appropriate reactions to a certain tragedy. It’s sad, though, that we don’t learn an important lesson: Being proactive before these deadly storms form and strike is smarter and cheaper. The low-information climate change deniers, however, are in control, and there is just no consistency on battling the greenhouse emissions that are causing the problems.

The United States was making progress under previous administrations, but President Donald Trump, who once called warming a “Chinese hoax,” has reversed many of the regulations that mattered.

Add to that the administration’s feeble response to previous hurricane disasters, especially in Puerto Rico last year, and Florence’s landfall and aftermath are likely to be much worse than they have to be.

This “Crazytown” administration, which has the full support of most Alabama Republicans on the state level and all of them in Congress, even shifted nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s hurricane response fund to Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this summer. That money was moved by the Trump administration so that ICE could afford to keep immigrant children in cages at ICE detention camps.

That’s a humane disaster on two levels. We’re warehousing children and families who only want to escape danger and death in their own countries, while making sure FEMA lacks the resources to adequately respond to a hurricane emergency like Florence.

Trump just called his administration’s efforts after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria last year “an unappreciated great job.” Trump was seen tossing paper towels to Puerto Ricans (U.S. citizens, by the way) in the wake of that storm, and much of the island was without power for more than 11 months. At least 3,000 people died. FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico was even worse than that after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

About Hurricane Florence, the vocabulary-challenged Trump said the storm is “tremendously big and tremendously wet.”

So now our friends on the East Coast have much more to worry about than just a deadly storm. FEMA on Wednesday said, “This is going to be a Mike Tyson punch to the Carolina coast.” The National Weather Service weighed in: “This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for the Carolina coast.”

Another storm of a “lifetime.” Another wildfire of a “lifetime.” Another flood of a “lifetime.”

How many times in our “lifetimes” are we going to see these once-in-a-lifetime catastrophes before we get smart?

Listen to McClintock and the overwhelming number of women and men of science on climate change and warming. They have the facts, and they’re not hiding them. They know of what they speak, and they’re speaking out.

We ignore these warnings at our peril, time and time again, but that’s exactly what Trump and most Republicans are doing.

We can’t stop hurricanes once they’ve formed, no matter how hard televangelist Pat Robertson prays. But with smart, science-based policies, we can begin to help the Earth heal from this onslaught we’ve created. Then maybe our children and their children won’t be faced with so many terrible, “once-in-a-lifetime” calamities.

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

 

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Opinion | Illegal immigrants and census

Steve Flowers

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Conservative Republicans, like Jeff Sessions, have been obsessed with illegal immigrants for years. Sessions is and has always been a stickler for obeying the laws of our land. He is the most honest, upright, squeaky clean, politician I have ever seen in my lifetime of observing politics in Alabama. He is like Dudley Do Right, only shorter and straighter. He was an Eagle Scout and you can tell he was not making it up on his resume. He epitomizes a grownup Eagle Scout. He has never outgrown the straight and narrow path. During his 20-year tenure in the U.S. Senate as our junior Senator, he was the ultimate ideologue and one of, if not the most, conservative members of the Senate. He did not just give lip service to his reactionary positions, He put leg service in to every right-wing cause and issue.

He was the Attorney General of Alabama before his election to the U.S. Senate. Prior to that he was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in Mobile. Being a prosecutor has always been his passion. Therefore, when Donald Trump offered him the U.S. Attorney General post that is why he took it.

Most U.S. Senators would have balked at abandoning a safe Senate seat they could stay in for life. Our Senior Senator, Richard Shelby, would have laughed in Trump’s face if he offered him a Cabinet position. Shelby would have told him, “Thanks but no thanks.” If Trump had offered him his job as president, Shelby would have considered it a demotion. Probably the only reason that Jeff Sessions has not be fired by the irrational Trump is that he knows that Shelby and Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate leadership would automatically dissolve any power that Trump has as President. He would be rendered irrelevant when it comes to how any federal dollars are appropriated. For you see, Chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee trumps the President every day of the week. There is an old adage that those that have the gold make the rules. Trump understands that rule.

Having said all that, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump are right. We have immigration laws in this country, the same way that we have bank robbery and mail fraud laws. Without these laws and the upholding and adherence to these laws, we would have complete anarchy in the United States. It is not right or lawful that Mexicans enter the country illegally while other people from Brazil, China or Europe are properly applying for citizenship. The law should be upheld.

States like California have been gleefully welcoming illegal immigrants for decades. It has basically ruined the once Golden State. They are now so deep in debt from giving free health care and school systems to illegals that they will never recover.

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My interest has been here at home in Alabama. It was not our problem. However, folks, it now is our problem; because California may steal one of our seven Congressional Districts by counting illegal, undocumented Mexicans in the 2020 census. Alabama is now at risk of losing a seat in the U.S. House and concurrently an electoral vote in the presidential elections because we have experienced slower growth than other states; especially those who count people who are here illegally. Conservative states like Alabama have filed suit in federal court to stop the count of illegals.

The census count is immensely important. It determines the number of seats that each state has in Washington, which also determines the number of electoral votes which ultimately decides the presidency. California wants to use these illegal residents to steal congressional representation from conservative states like us and even states like Ohio who have not harbored hordes of illegal immigrants.

This court battle will boil down to a simple question: Who should be counted? The biggest census battle to determine the answer to this question was started by the Trump administration and implemented by Attorney General Sessions. It is a mandate that the census questionnaire will ask: Are you a citizen?

Folks we have a lot at stake. To lose a congressman to a state like California due to the counting of illegal aliens, could mean not only less representation but billions of dollars in federal grants for Medicaid, Medicare, housing assistance and transportation.

You may have been ambivalent about illegal immigration, but it affects you and it could affect you very adversely if you reside in Alabama.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

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Opinion | Milton McGregor still on the scene

by Steve Flowers Read Time: 4 min
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