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Rep. Jack Williams, former ALGOP Chairman arrested on federal public corruption charges

Brandon Moseley

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On Monday, state Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, and former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors were arrested along with a California healthcare industry executive on charges of public corruption.

United States Attorney Louis Franklin announced that Williams, 60, and Riley-era ALGOP Chairman Connors turned lobbyist Martin “Marty” Connors, 61, from Alabaster, Alabama, had been indicted along with G. Ford Gilbert, 70, of Carmichael, California.

According to the indictment, Gregory Gilbert is the owner of a California company that operates diabetes treatment centers throughout the world—Trina Health, LLC (Trina Health).

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In 2014 and 2015, Trina Health opened three clinics in Alabama. Soon thereafter, the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, informed Trina Health that it would not cover the treatments provided by them. Gilbert then schemed to force Blue Cross to change its position.

Federal authorities allege that Gilbert came up with a plan to push a bill through the Alabama Legislature’s 2016 session that would require Blue Cross to cover the treatments. Gilbert then made payments to House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, in exchange for his efforts on behalf of the bill.

Gilbert also hired Connors to act as a lobbyist on behalf of the bill. The indictment claims that Connors knew of Gilbert’s payments to Majority Leader Hammon.

Hammon and Connors then allegedly recruited Williams, then the chairman of the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. Williams then held a public hearing on the bill. The government alleges that Williams also knew of the payments to Hammon and acted in part to help Hammon, who, as everyone in the scheme knew, was experiencing grave financial problems.

Based on these events, the indictment charges all three defendants with conspiracy to commit bribery related to federal programs, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and honest services wire fraud. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Gilbert and Connors committed the substantive offense of bribery related to federal programs.

Gilbert alone is charged with wire fraud, health care fraud, and interstate travel in aid of racketeering. The indictment does not include charges against Hammon because Hammon has already been convicted in federal court of other offenses.

Sources tell the Alabama Political Reporter that Hammon is cooperating with federal authorities and likely is a key witness against his former friends and alleged co-conspirators.

If convicted of the most serious offenses, each defendant in this case faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, significant monetary penalties, asset forfeiture, and restitution.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The United States Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and Joshua Wendell are prosecuting the case.

Williams is best known in the legislature for his work against human trafficking with the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force which he heads. He is also UAB’s best-known athletics booster. He was instrumental in the effort to restore the football program to UAB and to get legislative approval for a bill to modernize the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center including a new football stadium adjacent to the BJCC complex. Williams manages a UAB athletics website. Williams is also a Republican candidate for the Jefferson County Commission replacing the retiring David Carrington.

Connors was the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party when Congressman Bob Riley, R-Ashland, was elected governor in 2002. Connors split with Riley over Amendment One which would have cost Alabama taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion a year. Connors has been a delegate to the national GOP convention multiple times.

If convicted, Connors would be the fourth former major party chairman in the state arrested in recent memory.  Mike Hubbard was Alabama Republican Party Chairman.  He was convicted on 12 counts of felony ethics violations.  Bill Blount and Al Lapierre were both Alabama Democratic Party Chairmen.  They pleaded guilty to corruption and bribery charges involving Jefferson County’s massive sewer debts.  Former Birmingham Mayor and Jefferson County Commission Chairman Larry Langford was found guilty of taking payments from Blount, then a noted bond writer.

Williams was a vociferous defender of Hubbard, then Speaker of the House, after Hubbard was indicted.  If found guilty, Williams would be the fourth member of the House convicted of major crimes in just the last three years, joining Hammon, Hubbard, and former state Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham.

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Elections

A case of mistaken candidate identity could embarrass the ALGOP

Josh Moon

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It’s one of the oddest, and most embarrassing, cases of mistaken identity in recent Alabama political history.

According to recent polling, James Bonner is leading Jeremy Oden in a race for a seat on the Alabama Public Service Commission.

No, not that James Bonner.

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It doesn’t matter which James Bonner you were thinking of, it’s a different guy.

This Bonner — the one who resides in Bear Creek and who has never held public office despite several attempts — is set to embarrass the ALGOP like few other candidates.

On Monday, APR editor in chief Bill Britt wrote about a number of highly offensive Facebook posts by Bonner, including posting a Valentine’s Day card that read: “My love for u burns like 6,000 Jews.” There are other posts about strippers and an old blog post that inexplicably uses a racist rhyme.

Yet, because voters — mainly voters in south Alabama — are confusing James Bonner with a longtime congressman, he’s running neck and neck in the GOP primary.

“What makes this particular race so interesting is that Jim Bonner is benefiting greatly from having the same last name as the former Congressman Jo Bonner and his well-known sister, former Judy Bonner,” noted pollster and Cygnal president Brent Buchanan told Britt. “This is borne out by the fact that in the Mobile media market Bonner leads Oden by 28 percent to 6 percent, a 4-to-1 ratio.”

Should James from Bear Creek manage to pull off this “Distinguished Gentleman,” it could be a disaster for the ALGOP. Because his problems go well beyond a few offensive Facebook posts.

Bonner has filed multiple bankruptcies, has been cited by the IRS for failing to pay his federal income taxes for several years and owes his ex-wife more than $40,000 in back alimony. He also claimed during his most recent bankruptcy proceedings in 2016 that he is too disabled to work, and thus avoid paying his full alimony payments, yet he’s been able-bodied enough to run for public office five times over the last eight years.

And it gets worse.

Bonner entered into a bankruptcy agreement to repay his debts, which totaled into the six figures, and then he failed to pay the agreed-upon bankruptcy payments. That failure resulted in his bankruptcy agreement being dismissed — an extremely rare action by the courts and one that could see him face criminal charges over his back taxes.

And that’s not the end of it.

His campaign finance reports are also a mess. Most of his forms have been filed hopelessly late and are filled with incorrect info. He also has failed to report a single donation — outside of a loan he made to his campaign fund — to any of his various campaigns.

Following APR’s initial report on Monday, Bonner began scrubbing his Facebook page clean of the offensive posts. In response to the story, which he linked, he claimed his various offensive posts were made “make liberals angry.” He did not deny making any of the posts.

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Elections

Poll shows Maddox pulling ahead in race for Democratic nomination

Chip Brownlee

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With endorsements from heavyweight Democratic groups like the New South Coalition’s campaign arm and the Alabama Democratic Conference, the Democratic party appears to be coalescing around Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ahead of the June 5 primary.

A new poll released by the Maddox campaign Tuesday backs up what the endorsements hint: Maddox appears to be pulling ahead of challengers Sue Bell Cobb, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and James Fields, a former state representative from Cullman County.

Former gubernatorial aide Doug “New Blue” Smith and Dothan activist Christopher Countryman are also seeking the nomination.

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The poll — conducted by Mississippi-based Chism Strategies for the Maddox campaign — shows Maddox capturing 68 percent of likely voters surveyed ahead of the Democratic primary election.

Cobb and Fields trail behind Maddox in the poll by a 5.6-to-1 and 11-to-1 advantage among those who expressed support for a candidate, respectively, according to the poll results provided.

“Numbers don’t lie — Walt is on a fast track to a substantial victory in the primary,” said Chip Hill, a spokesman for the Maddox campaign. “The people of Alabama, especially younger voters, are finding Walt and his message very attractive.  He will most definitely be a force to be reckoned with in November.”

From May 15 to May 17, 13,601 likely Democratic voters were interviewed by live callers, according to the Chism Strategies results released.

The Alabama Democratic Conference — long considered one of the main gatekeepers in Alabama Democratic politics and one of the most powerful and active black political groups in the state— officially threw their support behind Maddox on Saturday.

Maddox has received a number of endorsements in the race for governor including from Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin last week.

A number of key Democratic lawmakers in the state — from State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa — have also backed Maddox.

A Democrat hasn’t been elected governor in Alabama since former Gov. Don Siegelman’s victory in 1998. Democrats in Alabama are hoping that recent momentum from Sen. Doug Jones’ election last year could help a Democrat upend the GOP’s hold on most statewide elected positions.

While Maddox is a newcomer to state politics, Cobb has experience in statewide races. Her election as supreme court chief justice in 2006 cost millions and achieved national notoriety as a Democratic victory during a time of Republican takeovers in the South.

Cobb has had trouble getting traditional Democratic groups to back her campaign. Members of the Alabama New South Coalition and its political arm, the New South Alliance, expressed concern during their endorsement vote over Cobb’s resignation as chief justice and a letter she wrote backing President Donald Trump’s nomination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

When Cobb resigned in 2011, she was the top statewide elected Democrat left. Only Public Service Commission President Lucy Baxley remained after Cobb quit.

Both the Alabama Democratic Conference and the New South Coalition have strong voter outreach and get-out-the-vote operations that could work to Maddox’s advantage in the June 5 primary.

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Elections

Manufacture Alabama makes endorsements

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Manufacture Alabama announced several endorsements for the upcoming primaries.

“Alabama’s Primary Election is June 5. Many Manufacture Alabama endorsed candidates have tough primary elections. It is crucial that you get out and vote on June 5. There have been many significant races over the years that have been decided in close primaries or run-offs,” the group said in a statement.

Manufacture Alabama Endorsed Candidates include:

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Governor: Kay Ivey (R)
Lieutenant Governor: Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (R)
Attorney General: Steve Marshall (R)
Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries: Gerald Dial (R)
Treasurer: John McMillan (R)
Alabama Public Service Commission, Place 1: Jeremy Oden (R)
Alabama Public Service Commission, Place 2: Chris “Chip” Beeker Jr. (R)

State Senate Races
Senate District 2: Tom Butler, R-Madison.
Senate District 3: Mike Sparks (R)
Senate District 7: Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville.
Senate District 8: incumbent Steve Livingston , R-Scottsboro.
Senate District 12: incumbent Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Senate District 21: incumbent Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa.
Senate District 34: Jack W. Williams, R-Wilmer.

State House Races
House District 10: incumbent Mike Ball, R-Madison.
House District 12: incumbent Corey Harbison, R-Cullman.
House District 14: incumbent Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley.
House District 16: incumbent Kyle South, R-Fayette.
House District 22: incumbent Ritchie Whorton, R-Owens Crossroads.
House District 30: Rusty Jessup, R-Riverside.
House District 48: incumbent Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills.
House District 49: incumbent April Weaver, R-Alabaster.
House District 55: incumbent Rod Scott, D-Fairfield.
House District 64: incumbent Harry Shiver, R-Bay Minette.
House District 73: incumbent Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo.
House District 77: Malcolm Calhoun, D-Montgomery.
House District 102: Thomas Gray, R-Cintronelle.
House District 105: Chip Brown, R-Mobile.

Alabama Supreme Court
Chief Justice: Lyn Stuart (R)
Place 1: Brad Mendheim (R)
Place 4: Jay Mitchell (R)

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals:
Place 1: Christie Edwards (R)
Place 2: Terri Thomas (R)

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Place 1: Richard Minor (R)
Place 2: Chris McCool (R)
Place 3: Bill Cole (R)

State Board of Education
Place 8: Rich Adams (R)

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Rep. Jack Williams, former ALGOP Chairman arrested on federal public corruption charges

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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