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

Bill Britt

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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.

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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.

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.

 

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

by Bill Britt Read Time: 3 min
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