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Dawson accuses Ivey of funding pro-LGBTQ group that “does not share Alabama values”

Brandon Moseley

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Birmingham evangelist Scott Dawson, left, and Gov. Kay Ivey, right, are seeking the GOP nomination for governor. (via respective campaigns)

Tuesday, Scott Dawson said that Kay Ivey gave a grant through ADECA to an LGBTQ-aligned group based in Huntsville. Dawson said that the group, Free2Be, does not share the values of most Alabamians.

Dawson made the remarks at a scheduled press conference in Mountain Brook.

“I am running because I am one of us the 98 percent of Alabamians who do not know what is going on in Montgomery,” Dawson said.

Dawson said that his investigation has discovered that the state has awarded $817,000 in grant money to a pro-LBGTQ activist group. Dawson said that the state has been funding the homosexual advocacy group, Free2Be.

“I am told how we are short of money,” Dawson said. “But we can still find $800,000 to fund an activist organization.

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The money was ostensibly to fight bullying. “As a child due to a weight issue I suffered bullying,” Dawson said but added, “We have placed one worldview over another worldview.”

“As Governor, if I gave Focus on the Family $800,000 there would be an uproar,” Dawson said.

Dawson said that Ivey, “Travels around the state passing out checks more than the Publishers Clearinghouse people,” and then promotes those activities with speeches, press releases, and on Twitter but there was none of that for this award.

Dawson accused Free2Be of promoting deviant lifestyle and transgenderism to children. “Only one state has a majority that opposes same-sex marriage and that is Alabama,” but the state government has been issuing grants to this organization since 2015.

Dawson said that Ivey says that she is cleaning up after the Bentley Administration; but “On this, she has failed miserably.”

Dawson said that Ivey is running as a defender of conservative values for us, but then, “Betrays our values. What else is being hidden from us? Her audio is not matching her video.”

“What else is there?” Dawson added. “No wonder she refused to debate she is not answering the hard questions.”

“I am calling on the Attorney General to start a full-scale investigation into this,” Dawson said. “I am asking you (the assembled press corps) and our state legislators to investigate. I am calling for a reformation in how these funds are disbursed.”

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Dawson: You said that these are ADECA funds, are these state general fund dollars or federal dollars disbursed back to the state?

Dawson said that he did not know, but said, “Either way, it is federal or state these are still taxpayer dollars.”

Alabama Political Reporter asked if the LGBTQ activists were given access to the school children?

Dawson said that he did not know but that he hoped they were not given one on one access. When we minister to school children in our ministry there is never one on one access with the children, or there is not supposed to be.

Dawson said that the group was getting over $300,000 from the Bentley Administration, but then in 2017, under the Ivey Administration, that number increased substantially to almost a $million. “With the increase of funds there should have been accountability.”

Dawson said that the Free2Be group shut down Friday after becoming aware of the Dawson campaign’s investigation. “They won’t answer our calls. They have shut their doors. Some of them appear to have fled the country.

Dawson said that we have teachers going to Wal-Mart for school supplies and we still have money to waste on something like this.

APR asked: former Governor Robert Bentley had cabinet-level position heading the Office of Faith based Initiatives that funded various projects with ministries across the state. Do you also object to how that money was spent?

Dawson said, “That position has been dissolved but maybe we should go back and look at is also.”
Reporters asked Dawson if Gov. Ivey knew anything about the grant.

“I have no knowledge of what she did and didn’t know,” Dawson answered.
Reporters asked Dawson what do you think that the Governor is hiding?

“I don’t want to fuel speculation or cause rumor,” Dawson answered. It started under the Bentley Administration dramatically increased in 2017. I think what the big problem is that we are using taxpayer funds. “I want to stay away from any and all of these rumors.”

“We turned down $tens of millions of Medicaid money because we did not want to do that,” Dawson said. If we can refuse medical dollars we can refuse this. Alabama is the one state that the majority would have a biblical world view.”

Reporters asked Dawson what are Alabama values?

“We believe in marriage between a man and a woman,” Dawson said. “I understand that we live in a nation where the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise. We still believe in faith and in family.”

Dawson said that there may be other troubling grants but “This one caught my attention because it was such an overwhelming amount of money. Hopefully you guys and gals will go and look at them.”

Dawson said that candidates should not run on one set of values and then g go into a backroom and have a different agenda.

Dawson said, “Look up James Robinson (the founder of Free2Be. Google his videos).”

Following the Dawson press conference, Governor Ivey’s office released a statement in response:

Since 2014, Free2Be (formally known as GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services) has received a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. As part of the grant process, the organization undergoes continual monitoring by ADECA in accordance with federal regulations. As a result of recent actions by the organization, Free2Be is currently being investigated and audited by ADECA. No grant dollars are currently being distributed to the organization and will not be, until the audit is completed.

The grant awarded to Free2Be is overseen by ADECA using funds given by and regulated by the federal government from criminal fines and forfeitures, not taxpayer dollars. In 2013, Alabama was notified that at least 10 percent of the grant dollars given to the state under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) must be given to agencies that provide services to underserved populations. Additionally, Alabama was notified that grants must be extended to organizations which seek to provide victim services to the LGBTQ population. Following federal direction, a grant was first awarded to Free2Be in 2014, which was the only organization seeking the grant.

All federal grant programs ADECA administers require ongoing monitoring for compliance. In March of this year, ADECA began planning an on-site compliance monitoring visit to the Huntsville office of Free2Be. During the desk review process that precedes routine monitoring, it was discovered that the organization has an outstanding federal debt with the IRS for payroll taxes. The agency was placed on high risk status on March 29, 2018, and the agency’s ability to draw grant funds was suspended. ADECA continues to monitor the agency and will be making a monitoring and financial audit visit on May 21, 2018.

The grant given to Free2Be was extended and monitored in compliance with federal law and in accordance with publicly available rules and regulations. The Free2Be grant, as required by the federal government, provides assistance for victims of domestic violence, bullying and other crimes of violence. Federal regulations require agencies receiving grant dollars to provide matching funds, a requirement which Free2Be has complied with.

Any suggestion that the Free2Be grant is an expense of state dollars which could have been used for any other purpose is simply wrong, and illustrates a lack of understanding of federal grant processes. Compliance with federal regulations is required to ensure that Alabama continues to receive federal grant dollars. In 2017, ADECA administered federal grants totaling approximately $168,665,540.

The views espoused by Free2Be, nor the extension of a grant to the program, do not represent Governor Ivey’s personal views and simply represent a requirement and demand from the federal government.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with six and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook.

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Ivey appoints Kelly Butler acting director of finance

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Governor Kay Ivey (R) announced that she has named Kelly Butler as Acting Director of the Alabama Department of Finance.

“Kelly Butler has more than two decades of experience working with the state’s budgets and more than three decades experience as a fiscal analyst,” Gov. Ivey said. “I know he will do an excellent job leading the Alabama Department of Finance during this interim period. I appreciate him stepping up as acting director and his commitment to my administration.”

Butler went to work with the Alabama Department of Revenue more than thirty years ago. He later worked for the Legislative Fiscal Office before joining the Alabama Department of Finance as Assistant State Budget Officer in 2012. Since that time, Butler most recently as Assistant Finance Director for Fiscal Operations.

As Assistant Finance Director, Butler oversees the State Comptroller’s Office, the State Purchasing Division, the State Debt Management Division, and the State Business Systems Division.

“I am honored that Governor Ivey has asked me to lead the Department of Finance,” Butler said. “The department has many talented employees who work hard to provide excellent services to other state agencies and to the people of Alabama. I look forward to working with them to continue those excellent services.”

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Butler’s appointment will be effective today, August 15, 2018. Former Director of Finance Clinton Carter has left to accept a position with the University of North Carolina system.

In addition to his new duties, Butler will continue his work on building the governor’s budget proposals leading up to the 2019 Legislative Session. Butler will serve in this position until a thorough search for a permanent Finance Director can be conducted.

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Ivey visits Mobile for opening of newest Walmart distribution center

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was in Mobile County for the opening of a new Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

“Excited to be in Mobile Co. for the grand opening of @Walmart’s newest distribution center,” Ivey said on Twitter. “Walmart invested $135 million to build this facility, creating 750 jobs! I know that these folks will play a major role in fulfilling Mr. Sam Walton’s vision to serve the customer.”

Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Distribution centers, one of the State of Alabama’s foundational business targets, provide products and services that support a myriad of industries within our state. The Walmart Distribution Center in Irvington, one of six distribution centers in the United States, will be a significant addition to the estimated $22.4 billion economic impact generated last year by the Alabama State Port Authority.”

Nicole Jones explained to APR, “At last week’s economic development conference hosted by the EDAA, Port Authority CEO Jimmy Lyons shared with us that empty shipping containers are a much-needed commodity in Alabama. When fully operational, Walmart will carry in approximately 50,000 containers per year, which will thus create a surplus of empty cargo containers that exporters can use (and therefore reduce their costs). As a result, Alabama’s port will retain business that would otherwise divert to alternate ports due to a lack of containers. Keeping more business at home – this great news for Mobile County, The Port, and our entire state.”

The new Distribution Center will be 60 acres under one roof.

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“Mobile’s Walmart Distribution Center is officially open for business!” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said on Facebook. “They have already hired 575 people with plans to be at 750 once fully operational. Fun fact: this 2.6 million square ft facility can fit 30 USS Alabama ships.”

“Walmart proves to be a great corporate partner to the state of Alabama, year after year, by investing in its stores, its employees and the surrounding community,” Gov. Ivey said. “Their commitment cannot be better proven than by the opening of this new Distribution Center, which, when fully operational, will provide approximately 750 quality jobs in the Mobile area. We are grateful to Walmart for supporting the economic health of the Port City, and for the large role they play in propelling our great state forward.”

The new distribution center will supply 700 Wal-Mart stores.

“We are excited about how this facility will help us better serve our customers across the South and beyond, while creating a positive economic impact locally through job creation and future development,” said Jeff Breazeale, Walmart Vice President, Direct Import Logistics. “We are grateful to the State of Alabama, Mobile County, the City of Mobile, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alabama State Port Authority for the warm welcome we have received here, and we look forward to a strong partnership with the community for years to come.”

Mobile is Alabama’s port city. It is also the oldest City in Alabama, having been founded as a French colony in 1702, 31 years before the English founded the Georgia colony.

Since rising to the office of Governor, Kay Ivey has presided over an unprecedented period of job market improvement. June unemployment was 3.9 percent and the state has seen its total workforce rise to pre-Great Recession levels.

Ivey is running for her own term as Governor in the general election on November 6. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox is her Democratic opponent.

(Original reporting by Berkshire Hathaway’s Business Wire contributed to this report.)

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

Brandon Moseley

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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.

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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.

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Secretary of State’s letter addressed out-of-state PACs meddling in Alabama elections

Bill Britt

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During the runoff in the recent Republican Attorney General’s race, the question of whether an out-of-state Political Action Committee can donate to a candidate without complying with Alabama’s Fair Campaign Practice Act was raised but never fully answered. The Ethics Commission Executive Director seemed to say it was unlawful while the Secretary of State’s Office appeared to say it was okay.

A 2015 letter from the Secretary of State’s Office may shed some heretofore unseen light on the matter.

At issue was whether or not the Washington-based Republican Attorneys General Association, a federally registered 527 PAC, could legally give money to candidate Steve Marshall.

The group eventually contributed over $700,000 to Marshall who won the Republican nomination and will face Democrat Attorney General candidate Joseph Siegelman in the fall general election.

A 527-organization or 527 PAC is a tax-exempt organization organized under Section 527 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 527). A 527 is created primarily to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates to federal, state or local public office.

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During the public debate over RAGA’s financial role in Marshall’s campaign, Alabama Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton said that he had advised other campaigns that they could not receive such contributions as Marshall was receiving from RAGA. He also told al.com’s Kyle Whitmire, “if an out-of-state PAC gives to an Alabama candidate, it is obligated to register and file reports just like Alabama PACs.”

RAGA is not registered with the state and doesn’t file reports in accordance with state law like other PACs who contributed to campaigns during this election cycle.

However, Secretary of State John Merrill’s offices was quoted as saying, “the [Ethics] [C]ommission has the final authority to ‘issue guidance’ on the matter and should do so.”

However, Merrill’s office was not so deferential in 2015, when Secretary Merrill wrote a letter to the Mississippi Secretary of State.

In a letter to the Mississippi Secretary of State on September 21, 2015, Alabama Secretary of State Merrill outlines how it is illegal for any out-of-state political action committee to give money to an Alabama candidate without following the strict letter of the law as described in the state’s Fair Campaign Practice Act.

In Merrill’s correspondence with Mississippi Secretary of State C. Delbert Hosemann Jr., he is unambiguous about what is an “illegal contribution of expenditure,” according to Alabama law.

“Dear Secretary Hosemann:

It has been brought to the attention of my office that a Political Action Committee (PAC) may be attempting to exploit Mississippi’s campaign finance laws to hide contributions or contributors in influencing Alabama elections.”

Here, Secretary Merrill not only raised the issue of illegal out-of-state contributions, he was pre-emptive in deterring out-of-state groups meddling unlawfully in Alabama’s elections.

He further writes Hosemann, “A contribution given in Mississippi with the intent of influencing Alabama elections would require disclosure under Alabama’s Fair Campaign Practice Act. Pursuant to Alabama Code section 17-5-2,” Merrill wrote to Hosemann, in 2015. He then quotes the code section adding emphasis to the, “whether in-state or out-of-state” section.

Merrill further states, “[A]n Alabama Political Action Committee is defined as, ‘Any committee, club, association, political party, or other group of one or more persons, whether in-state or out-of-state, (His emphasis) which receives or anticipates receiving contributions and makes or anticipates making expenditures to or on behalf of any Alabama state or local elected official, proposition, candidate, principal campaign committee or other political action committee. For the purposes of this chapter, a person who makes a political contribution shall not be considered a political action committee by virtue of making such contribution.'”

Secretary Merrill concludes his letter to the Mississippi Secretary of State by writing, “At this time, we do not have any further information regarding the specifics of any illegal contribution of expenditure.”

Here Merrill agains asserts out-of-state PAC contributions made to an Alabama candidate are illegal if the PAC is not fully compliant with Alabama laws which requires registration and full disclosure of its donors.

RAGA is not registered in Alabama and its individual donors are not immediately disclosed in accordance with Alabama law and not at all if the funds are received from another PAC in what is known as a PAC-toPAC transfer.

Much has been made about how RAGA accepts donations from other PACs and then passes that money on in PAC-toPAC transfers through its 527. These transfers are part of why 527s are often referred to as “dark money” because they hide the original sources of its contributions.

Not disclosing donors and PAC-to-PAC transfers are both illegal under Alabama law but also it is illegal for a PAC to make donations if it is not registered and reports according to all state laws.

As Secretary Merrill noted in his letter to the Mississippi Secretary of State, Alabama law hinges on the words, “any…whether in-state or out-of-state.”

Marshall’s campaign argues that because RAGA is a federal PAC, and state law doesn’t apply.

In September 2016, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in favor of the State in the case of The Alabama Democratic Conference v. Strange, finding that Alabama’s ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers was constitutional.

By upholding the decision of the lower court, the Court of Appeals agrees that Alabama’s ban of PAC-to-PAC transfers is necessary to prevent corruption, or the appearance of corruption, while not violating the First Amendment.

The court also agreed that the 2010 Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) made it “unlawful for any political action committee… to make a contribution, expenditure, or any other transfer of funds to any other political action committee.” The only exception to the rule is that a PAC can donate to a PAC set up by a candidate but full disclosure is required by both parties.

Again, Merrill’s reliance on the words “any” and “whether in-state or out-of-state” in his letter to Mississippi complies with the 11th Circuits findings making Marshall’s so-called loophole  even more suspicious.

During the July runoff, Marshall’s opponent, Troy King, filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to keep Marshall from spending RAGA money. Montgomery Circuit Judge James Anderson dismissed the case without weighing in on the merits, questioning his jurisdiction and King’s standing in the filing.

Republicans across the state are concerned that if outside groups like RAGA can contribute unlimited amounts of money without disclosing its donors or following state law, that Democrats might use Marshall’s loophole to target candidates like Justice Tom Parker or Gov. Kay Ivey.

Ethics Director Albritton says that the commission has yet to thoroughly weighed in on whether RAGA and Marshall violated state law.

The Ethics Commission doesn’t hold its next regularly scheduled meeting until October, just days before the general elections.

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Dawson accuses Ivey of funding pro-LGBTQ group that “does not share Alabama values”

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 7 min
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