Connect with us

News

Does Volkert chairman have millions of reasons to support Canary at BCA?

Bill Britt

Published

on

Perry Hand, the chairman of Mobile-based Volkert Inc., is standing behind the Business Council of Alabama’s besieged CEO Billy Canary, while his company has seen a dramatic rise in state business that roughly coincides with his tenure on the association’s board.

Could it be that Hand’s dogged support of Canary is tied to the engineering firm’s growing success in attracting tens of millions in taxpayer-funded building projects — with totals approaching $100 million since the Republican takeover in 2010?

A close look at Volkert’s state contracts finds, in just the last few years, payments have exponentially grown from $5 million in annual contracts to nearly $20 million in fiscal year 2017, with the lion’s share coming since Hand took control of BCA’s political arm, Progress PAC, which doles out campaign contributions.

Volkert is on track to break over $22 million for fiscal year 2018, a quick climb since a Volkert campaign contribution in 2013 made its way into Storming the State House PAC, controlled by then-Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, who was later convicted on felony ethics violations.

Hand almost single-handedly is working to save Canary after seven of the state’s most prestigious corporations called for his ouster on April 10 of this year. Not only is Hand defying some of BCA’s largest contributors, he is thumbing his nose at Alabama’s senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who serves as the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Advertisement

Billy Canary out at BCA, sort of 

Last week, Alabama Political Reporter published the inner workings of a BCA executive board meeting at which seven of the state’s largest business entities insisted that Canary be removed as head of the business group. After that meeting, the executive board voted to call for Canary to step down.

However, Hand is pushing to keep Canary on until the fall.

Opinion | The black hand behind Perry Hand

Hand refused to answer APR‘s comment about the meeting before we published. Instead, he sought out Todd Stacy, who runs the one-man operation aldailynews.com to call our report suspect.  Stacy, former communications director for Hubbard, is considered a friendly outlet for BCA-related news.

In 2016, Hand served as second vice chairman on BCA’s board. In 2017, he was elected first vice chair and head of BCA’s campaign funding group, Progress PAC, rising to chairman in 2018.

Upon accepting the position as BCA’s chair, Hand said, “We’ll have an aggressive agenda for 2018, which will include promoting infrastructure development, BCA membership, candidate selection and business support for education excellence to create an outstanding workforce for Alabama business.”

During his presentation, Hand didn’t reveal that “an aggressive agenda … promoting infrastructure development” could benefit Volkert and him personally as its state contracts are coming from transportation and the Port Authority.

With over $96 million since the Republican takeover in 2010, Hand’s ties to major Republicans, like former Gov. Bob Riley, have feathered Volkert’s nest. Not only does it seem Volkert’s fortunes are perhaps linked to BCA, the company is also passing out campaign contribution to key politicos.

In just the 2018 election cycle, Volkert has given $50,000.00 to Gov. Kay Ivey’s election, with tens of thousand spread out to others who can give them a leg up or a pass, including Attorney General Steve Marshall, an appointee of disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley.

Republican lawmakers have sought help, convincing Hand to abandon his support of Canary, and the seven corporations that have called for Canary are poised to take action should Hand persist.

These companies, which include AT&T, Alabama Power and Blue Cross Blue Shield to name a few, are growing tired of waiting according to inside sources. And within BCA, not only the rank-in-file but past leaders are ready to see Hand driven out, as well. One former BCA board member said, “I don’t know if Hand is a stubborn #@* or just stupid. Either way, he’s betting on the wrong horse.”

Several lawmakers, who asked not to be identified, said if Hand continues his quixotic mission, Volkert might face a less than hospitable Legislature.

 

Continue Reading

News

Motion seeks donors info from Bentley’s “girlfriend fund”

Bill Britt

Published

on

A motion to compel disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley to provide donors and contributions to the political nonprofit that paid his girlfriend was filed in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday in the wrongful termination suit brought by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier.

Collier is seeking information on donations to ACEGOV a 501(c)(4) set-up to promote Bentley’s political agenda by then-General Counsel Cooper Shattuck in February 2015.

One prominent question is whether donations to ACEGOV were intended to influence the state’s felony case against Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

Collier was fired from his position at ALEA after he refused to lie to prosecutors in the Hubbard case as Bentley had ordered him to do.

The germ of Collier’s firing grew out of actions taken by Hubbard’s attorney Lance Bell who  in January 2016 contacted ALEA to arrange for attorney and radio host Baron Coleman to issue a complaint accusing prosecutor Matt Hart of leaking grand jury information. Bell’s actions are recounted in an affidavit by Hall Taylor current ALEA Secretary. The matter was dismissed by Hubbard’s trial judge Jacob Walker III.

Advertisement

Among ACEGOV expenditures was a payment of  $2,500 per month plus expenses to Bentley’s paramour, Rebekah Caldwell Mason’s, company, RCM Communications, Inc., who is also a defendant in Collier’s lawsuit. Bentley testified that Mason was also being paid through his 2014 Campaign, even two years after the election.

In Montgomery, ACEGOV was widely known as the “girlfriend fund,” because it was used to pay Bentley’s former special advisor, Mason.

“The fact that a portion of these contributions were used by ACEGOV to pay Bentley’s girlfriend, a co-defendant in this case, is clearly relevant to this case,” states Collier’s motion. “The requested information goes directly to the pattern and practice claims, the potential bias between Bentley and Mason and punitive damages.”

Collier argues he is entitled to know if any money funneled to Mason through ACEGOV came from Hubbard supporters, which would go to Bentley’s motive to destroy him.

In essence, it’s believed that ACEGOV was a honey hole to curry favors with Bentley who then may have acted to benefit donors.

In a recent deposition, Bentley admitted that he solicited contributions to ACECOV from various people. However, other than Franklin Haney, “Bentley refused to identify any other donor or the amount of donations claiming the information was somehow privileged because ACEGOV is a 501(c)(4), according to Collier’s motion.

Haney reportedly contributed $300,000 to Bentley after the 2014 election. Bentley later encouraged the TVA and others to sell the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in northeast Alabama to Haney.

Collier is not asking for records from ACECOV; he is merely asking that Bentley be compelled to testify to his personal knowledge about donors and contributions he solicited for the non-profit.

“Bentley was not an incorporator of ACEGOV, was never on its Board and never represented the 501(c)(4) in an official capacity,” according to Collier’s motion.

This motion to compel is the latest in a round of legal wrangling where the state has paid upwards of $300,000 to defend Bentley.

Gov. Kay Ivey in campaign advertisements says she cleaned up Bentley’s mess. However, her administration has done nothing to end the lawsuits which resulted from Bentley’s failed tenure as governor.

 

Continue Reading

News

Ivey reports successful first year for “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Monday Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) reported progress on her Strong Start, Strong Finish (SSSF) education initiative that she announced on July 26, 2017.

Governor Ivey launched Strong Start, Strong Finish to integrate Alabama’s early childhood education, K-12 education and workforce development efforts into a seamless educational journey. SSSF is composed of three major strategies: Pre through Three; Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL); and Advanced Training, Better Jobs.

The Pre through Three initiative focuses on ensuring the Alabama First Class Pre-K program is available to all families who choose to participate and ensuring that all of Alabama’s third graders are proficient readers by 2022.

CS4AL will ensure that a computer science course is offered at all of Alabama’s middle and high schools by 2022.

Advanced Training, Better Jobs will prepare 500,000 more Alabamians to enter the workforce with high-quality postsecondary degrees, certificates or credentials by 2025.

Advertisement

Over the past year, Governor Ivey has secured progress toward each of her ambitious SSSF goals in the following ways.

Governor Ivey reports that under her leadership, investment in First Class Pre-K has grown in one year from $77.5 to $96 million. The $18.5 million increase in 2018 was the largest ever single-year increase in program funding approved by the Legislature.

Jn the 2018-2019 school year, First Class Pre-K will officially break the 1,000 classroom mark for the first time with 1,040 classrooms serving 18,720 four-year-olds, which will reach 35 percent of the eligible four-year-old population.

In December 2017, Governor Ivey announced that Alabama received a $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the launch of the Pre-K-3rd Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning pilot program (“P-3”), starting with 35 classrooms in 2017-2018. The program will grow to 75 classrooms in the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.

Gov. Ivey empaneled a diverse, 100-member Executive Team to assist in establishing 11 regional councils that will recruit a host of local campaigns for grade-level reading. The Executive Team met for the first time in June 2018, and the team will begin establishing the regional councils and recruiting local campaigns during the fall of 2018.

During the 2018 Legislative Session, Ivey secured a $4 million increase for the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI), which will be used to refocus ARI on grades K-3 and to reinforce the gains produced by the First Class Pre-K program.

During the summer of 2018, Ivey established the Alabama Summer Achievement Program (ASAP) for students who are reading below grade level proficiency in grades 1, 2, and 3. Governor Ivey created an ASAP pilot program at four elementary schools in Montgomery County, serving hundreds of children, with plans for expansion in the summer of 2019.

In 2016, only 86 schools in Alabama offered a high-quality computer science course. Today, more than 175 Alabama high schools offer such classes. In September 2017, Governor Ivey established the Governor’s Advisory Council for Computer Science Education.

In March 2018, Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Board of Education approved the Alabama Digital Literacy and Computer Science Course of Study and Standards. Currently, only 10 other states in the nation have computer science standards.

Gov. Ivey also worked to secure $300,000 for computer science professional development for middle and high school teachers, during the 2018 Legislative Session.

On April 2, 2018, Governor Ivey championed and signed legislation creating the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering.

Based in Huntsville and scheduled to open during the fall of 2020, the school will be a destination magnet school that will also serve as the hub for computer science professional development in Alabama.

On April 30, 2018, the Attainment Committee issued the Success Plus Plan for post-secondary attainment. Based on those recommendations, Governor Ivey set the statewide post-secondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly-skilled Alabamians to the workforce by 2025.
To achieve that goal, and in light of the recent reauthorization by Congress of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, Governor Ivey is working to increase the efficiency of our workforce development programs to meet Alabama’s growing economic demands and to incentivize more private-sector partners to offer apprenticeships.

The Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates (JAG) program has grown from 23 to 29 programs in 2018 alone. Ivey worked to secure a $250,000 increase in the state appropriation for JAG, which provided funds for four new programs in Tuscaloosa, Morgan County, Madison County and Wilcox County. Governor Ivey also utilized federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) monies to establish two additional JAG programs in Geneva County and Montgomery County.

Governor Ivey said that she is happy with the progress thus far, but plans to further work toward these goals and continue to strive for improvement in Alabama’s education system.

Gov. Ivey inherited one of the worst educational systems in the country. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) admitted to the state’s economic development association that: “Our schools suck.” But struggled to roll out a plan to change that. Ivey is a former educator who has worked in the classroom.

Upon being elevated to Governor on April 2017, Ivey has prioritized improving education in the state and upgrading the state’s workforce development.

Continue Reading

National

Kavanaugh decision dominates Doug Jones town hall

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) held his second town hall as a U.S. Senator at Birmingham’s historic Parker High School.

Jones was elected largely due to the enormous turnout among Black voters.

“It was because of the incredible work that you did that I am here as the first Democratic Senator to represent Alabama in 25 years,” Jones told the crowd.

“I want to be able to listen,” Jones said. “Some of you have questions and some of you have comments.”

Many of the comments and questions were about how Jones would vote on the confirmation of Donald J. Trump’s (R) U.S. Supreme Court appointee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Advertisement

Kavanaugh would fill the seat of Justice Anthony Kennedy who retired this summer. Kennedy was often the swing vote between the four strict constructionist Justices and the four liberal Justices.

“I am doing a lot of work on the Supreme Court nominee,” Jones said. “He will be there for life twenty, thirty years, maybe more, we do not know.”

Jones said that it is the job of the Senate to advise and consent on judicial appointments and that he takes that responsibility very seriously.

Jones said that the Judiciary should be independent of politics. “He (the President) is not supposed to have a team on the judiciary.”

Jones asked what was the vote when Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed. 98 to 0.

On Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, Jones said that the Senate is looking at all of his opinions, including his dissents as well as his work for the Bush presidency and his work with the Whitewater Investigation. The archives have said that even some of what Chairman Grassley (R-Iowa) has requested won’t be ready until October.

“Candidly I am disappointed that we are moving so quickly on a hearing,” Sen. Jones said. “Unfortunately the Democrats do not control the calendar.”

“I am going to do an independent review,” Jones said. “I thought I could get through 2018 without seeing another Doug Jones commercial.”
Jones said that the people who paid for the TV commercials to influence his vote have wasted their money.

A vocal Kavanaugh opponent holding a large heart shaped pillow interrupted the Senator.

“We love you, but you have enough information. Vote NO,” she screamed. After the woman would not calm down or stop repeating herself she was removed from the venue.

“I am going to look at all of the information so I will be able to justify my opinion,” Sen. Jones said. Jones acknowledged that a lot of people were going to be upset no matter how he decided.

One citizen asked Jones how he could consider confirming Kavanaugh after decisions he made against the Affordable Care Act.

“I will answer that question after I meet with him,” Sen. Jones said. “Everything about his record is fair game.”

“I have read a number of his opinions, not all of them yet,” Jones said. “I am not prepared to say what I am going to do on Kavanaugh or give any indication of what I am going to do. I have reached out to meet with him as soon as those hearings are done.”

One man said that the majority of Alabamians support the confirmation of Kavanaugh. How could you vote different that the majority of Alabamians?

“I am going to exercise an independent view,” Jones said. “Most of those constituent views are based on 30 second TV ads.” “My vote is going to be based on what I believe. I am going to be an independent voice for Alabama and that is what I intend to do come Hell or highwater.”

Doug Jones was elected in a special election on December 12. Jones is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. He has practiced law in Birmingham for 15 years after leaving the Justice Department.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding hearings on Kavanaugh’s confirmation in September.

Continue Reading

Elections

Sewell, Gowdy, others introduce bill to strengthen election infrastructure against cyberattacks

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Friday, four members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) introduced the Secure Elections Act, which would provide local communities and state governments with the resources needed to strengthen election systems against cyberattacks.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Tom Rooney (R-Florida), Terri Sewell (D-Selma), Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), and Jim Himes (D-Connecticut). All four of them have played a role in the HPSCI investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Our democracy is our nation’s greatest asset and it is our job to protect its integrity,” said Rep. Sewell. “We know from our Intelligence Community that Russian entities launched cyberattacks against our election infrastructure in 2016, exploiting at least 21 state election systems. As the 2018 elections approach, action is urgently needed to protect our democracy against another attack. Today’s bipartisan bill takes a huge step forward by providing election officials with the resources and information they need to keep our democracy safe.”

“Although the Russian government didn’t change the outcome of the 2016 election, they certainly interfered with the intention of sowing discord and undermining Americans’ faith in our democratic process,” Rep. Rooney said. “There’s no doubt in my mind they will continue to meddle in our elections this year and in the future.”

The sponsors say that the Secure Elections Act would allow states and local jurisdictions to voluntarily apply for grants to replace outdated voting machines and modernize their elections systems. The bill also streamlines the process the federal government uses to share relevant cybersecurity threat information with state and local governments.

Advertisement

The Senate version of the Secure Elections Act was introduced in March by Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota).

Sen. Lankford addressed the U.S. Senate on the Secure Elections Act.

“We have to be able to have better communication between the federal government and states, a better cybersecurity system, and the ability to be able to audit that,” Lankford said. “That is why Senator Klobuchar and I have worked for months on a piece of legislation called the Secure Elections Act. That piece of legislation has worked its way through every state looking at it and their election authorities. We’ve worked it through multiple committee hearings. In fact, recently just in the last month, two different hearings with the Rules Committee. It is now ready to be marked up and finalized to try to bring to this body.”

“I have zero doubt the Russians tried to destabilize our nation in 2016 by attacking the core of our democracy,” Lankford said. “Anyone who believes they will not do it again has missed the basic information that is how day, after day, after day, in our intelligence briefings. The Russians have done it the first time. They showed the rest of the world the lesson in what could be done. It could be the North Koreans next time. It could be the Iranians next time. It could be a domestic activist group next time. We should learn that lesson, close that vulnerability, and make sure that we protect our systems in the days ahead.”

Rep. Sewell is also the lead sponsor of the SHIELD Act and the E-Fellows Security Act, two bills which would strengthen cybersecurity on federal, state, and local campaigns.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell is serving her fourth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee of the Democratic Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition.

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

Does Volkert chairman have millions of reasons to support Canary at BCA?

by Bill Britt Read Time: 3 min
0