Connect with us

Elections

Ethics Commission clears Luther Strange

Josh Moon

Published

on

Luther Strange is off the hook.

The executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission told APR on Wednesday that the commission determined a few sessions ago that allegations that Strange violated campaign finance laws were unfounded.

The two allegations, which were filed by Secretary of State John Merrill’s office during Strange’s special election campaign for U.S. Senate last year, were considered potential felonies and centered around Strange’s federal Senate campaign transferring funds to his state-level attorney general’s campaign account.

Ethics Commission executive director Tom Albritton said several factors went into determining that Strange had not violated the law. Most importantly: “The statute controlling the transfer from a federal campaign account to a state campaign account requires the candidate to be a state or local candidate. Luther Strange was not,” Albritton said.

Merrill disagreed with the commission’s decision, saying his staff’s understanding of the applicable laws forbids Strange from making the campaign account transfers in question.

Advertisement

“We understand that the Ethics Commission can do whatever they want with the things we send them,” Merrill said. “We do not agree with their finding, but it’s not our job to rule. It’s our job to pass along the violations. We did our job.”

While the laws governing the issue are complicated, the transfers at the center of the debate are fairly easy to understand. In December of 2016, Strange’s federal campaign account, in a series of transfers, sent a little over $1,400 to his state-level campaign account. The money was being used to pay for an already-purchased website domain.

The problem was the $1,400 exceeded the $1,000 threshold allowable for the transfers and also fell outside of the 120-day window. Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was forced to resign after accepting a donation outside of the 120-day window.

But according to Albritton, that’s where the mixing of federal and state laws make things murky. Because in addition to Strange, who was running for U.S. Senate, not being a state-level candidate, the law also requires the transfer to be a campaign contribution before it can be considered illegal.

“The transfer was made in order to reimburse the state campaign for an unintentional payment by the state campaign for the domain maintenance fee for the domain that the federal campaign had already purchased,” Albritton said. “It was not intended to influence the election of a state or local candidate.

“Federal law preempts state law in this circumstance. Federal campaign finance laws required the reimbursement for the state campaign. If they had not repaid it, it would have been a violation of federal campaign laws.”

Albritton said that Merrill and his office can forward their findings directly to the Alabama AG’s office if they feel a mistake has been made.

The Ethics Commission decision on the matter will likely add fuel to what is becoming a fiery feud between it and Merrill’s office. Just last week, Merrill was particularly critical of the Commission’s decision to pass on issuing fines to candidates, businesses and PACs that failed to file campaign finance reports on time.

During an interview with APR last week, Merrill was asked whether his allegations against Strange had been resolved by the Ethics Commission. At that time, he said he wasn’t sure, prompting APR to raise the question with Albritton. It doesn’t appear as if the decision on the Strange allegations has been previously reported in the media.

 

Continue Reading

Elections

Small business group endorses Kay Ivey for governor

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 the NFIB Alabama Political Action Committee has endorsed Kay Ivey for governor. The National Federation of Independent Businesses is the nation’s leading small-business association. NFIB State Director Rosemary Elebash announced the endorsement Monday at a news conference at Southern Distributor/Auto Electric and Carburetor Co., an NFIB member business in Birmingham.

The NFIB Alabama PAC’s endorsement is based on the candidate’s record and position on small-business issues.

“Kay Ivey is the clear choice for Alabama’s small businesses,” Elebash said. “Kay Ivey is a strong leader who understands the challenges facing Alabama’s job creators. She opposes higher taxes and burdensome rules and regulations that would make it harder for small businesses to succeed and create jobs. This spring, she signed legislation prohibiting cities from requiring companies to purchase a municipal business license before driving through their jurisdictions for work purposes.”

“As Governor, I have made it my job to create a strong environment for job creation,” Gov. Ivey said. “That’s why I’ve worked closely with the NFIB and the state Legislature, signing the largest tax cut in a decade and eliminating unnecessary regulations that make it more difficult and more expensive to do business. Being endorsed for Governor by Alabama’s small businesses is truly an honor. I am grateful for their trust, support and everything they do to keep Alabama working!”

“Since taking office a little over a year ago, Governor Ivey has announced more than 15,500 new jobs and more than $8 billion in capital investment, creating exciting new opportunities for all kinds of small businesses,” Elebash added. “Under her leadership, our pro-business climate has received national recognition from the likes of the influential Business Facilities magazine, and Alabama’s employment rate is the highest it’s ever been.”

Advertisement

The President of Southern Distributors Steve Kampwerth said, “I would lie to welcome our guests including our esteemed guest, Governor Kay Ivey.”

Kampwerth personally thanked Gov. Ivey for her support for Senate Bill 316 during the last legislative session. “This bill established a 10,000 maximum before they had to apply for a local delivery license. As an auto parts distributer, we had to apply for hundreds of these licenses annually. Thank you governor for supporting this bill.”

Director Elebash said that each election, “We send a ballot to each of our members statewide. For the very first time since I have been here, Governor Ivey received the endorsement of 98 percent of our members. That is a record.”

Gov. Ivey was elevated to the office in April of 2017 Elebash said. “The NFIB has passed more than 80 small business bills in that period of time.”

“It is my honor to be here and spend time to people like you that our devoted to keeping Alabama working,” Gov. Ivey said. “Job creators are important to keep Alabama working.”

“It is not enough for our business to survive but to thrive,” Ivey said.
Elebash promised that, We will be working each day to make sure that our member are out working to help turn out the powerful small-business voting bloc on Election Day.

Reporters asked Ivey about her school sentry program that allows schools to arm one administrator.

“It is up to each school system to make their own decision,” Ivey said on whether or not they participate in the program.

Ivey said that she was not surprised by the recent court decision against the Alabama prison system and said that the prison system was working on filling its staffing shortage.

“We are working best and fast as we can,” she said. “Just because you have to hire more folks, it doesn’t mean they are available.” The prisons, “Are an Alabama problem, it will be solved by Alabamians.”

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, a Jimmy Carter appointee, ordered the state to show why it should not be held in contempt of court for failing to meet his deadline for increasing the number of staff devoted to mental health in the prisons. The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing the state and the Alabama Department of Corrections on behalf of the convicts claiming that the lack of mental health staff amounts to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Director Elebash why they were not supporting Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) who has promised a lottery as a solution for some of the state’s revenue problems.

“We consider that as more of a social issue,” Elebash said. “None of my members have said that to me. My members have real world problems. They call me and say I have a problem,” with a regulation or something, such as like the issue here about the local delivery licenses. “Governor Ivey has been real good at working with us.”

“Gov. Ivey is all about action, not words,” Elebash said.

The NFIB said in a statement that “Today’s endorsement puts the considerable grassroots support of the state’s small businesses behind the governor’s campaign. Small-business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to vote. NFIB will encourage its Alabama members to help turn out the powerful small-business voting bloc on Election Day.”

For more than 75 years, NFIB has been the voice of small business, advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. The NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven. Since its founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses and remains so today.

Continue Reading

Elections

Maddox touts plans to expand Medicaid, launch education lottery at bus tour kick off

Chip Brownlee

Published

on

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox promoted his plans to establish a state education lottery and expand Medicaid at the kick off of his statewide bus tour in Tuscaloosa on Monday.

Maddox is attempting to make gains against sitting Gov. Kay Ivey by visiting 35 different stops on the tour. After the launch in Tuscaloosa, Maddox stopped at the Walker County Kiwanis in Jasper on Monday.

Later this week, he’ll visit the Shelby County Democrats in Pelham on Thursday and attend the Dr. Yvonne Kennedy Community Service Awards Banquet in Mobile on Friday.

The last stop of his tour will be at Magic City Classic football game between Alabama A&M and Alabama State University in Birmingham on Oct. 27 at Legion Field.

At the kick off event in Tuscaloosa Monday, Maddox said he was running for governor because of his two kids, Taylor and Eli, who joined him at the event along with his wife.

Advertisement

“Our state is not where it needs to be,” Maddox said. “We are at or near the bottom in everything that matters — everything. And they deserve to grow up in a state that can provide them the opportunities that I’ve had and that your families have had. And this is the pivotal moment.”

Maddox said he would continue to push hard for an education lottery and Medicaid, two issues he said would appeal to crossover and moderate voters.

“I’m willing to tell the truth to things that matter,” Maddox said when asked how he would appeal to Republicans in a deeply red state that hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1998.

“If you’re in Haleyville, Alabama, right now, you’ve had to experience an increase in taxes because your hospital is on the verge of closing,” Maddox said. “If you’re in Alex City right now, your hospital could close all because, whether you’re Haleyville or Alex City, because we didn’t expand Medicaid.”

Maddox said the state’s road and bridges are inadequate to handle 21st Century traffic, and the state’s schools are behind in offering a 21st Century education.

“Too many families woke up this morning and saw they were sending their children to schools that are not going to meet a technology-driven economy,” Maddox said.

And the Democrat said Ivey, who has so far refused to debate him ahead of the Nov. 6 election, is ducking those issues in favor of other, more controversial issues that will turn out her conservative base.

“How do you get moderates, moderate Republicans and independents to vote for you? You talk about more important things than monuments,” Maddox said.

Maddox also promised to address mental health issues and overcrowded prisons during a 10-minute question-and-answer session with reporters who attended the kick-off event.

“Those are things that people care about, not this nonsense of political rhetoric. They want results, and that’s what we are going to deliver as governor,” Maddox said.

When asked what he thinks about Ivey’s decision not to debate him, he said it wasn’t a slight against him, but a slight against the people of Alabama, who he said deserve a debate.

“It doesn’t hurt me that she doesn’t want to debate. It hurts the people of Alabama,” Maddox said. “Think how many schools today — nearly a hundred schools in our state are struggling  — doesn’t she owe the parents at those school a debate?”

The Democrat said Ivey should also answer pressing questions about prisons, infant mortality and access to health care before the election in 50 days.

,

Continue Reading

Elections

State Senate District 2 candidate refuses to debate his opponent

Staff

Published

on

By

State Senate candidate for District 2, Amy Wasyluka, D, and her campaign have made several attempts to contact her opposing candidate, Tom Butler, R, to organize a debate. Butler is currently refusing to debate Wasyluka.

On Sept. 10, Wasyluka sent the following email to Butler’s campaign:

“Dear Tom,

It was good to see you the other night at Sheriff Blakely’s Political Rally.

I would love to give the voters of District 2 the opportunity to hear from both of their state senate candidates prior to the election, and so I wanted to reach out to you to see if you would agree to a debate. If so, we would be happy to work with you to find a neutral third party to host it here in our district.

Advertisement

I hope that you are having a good week, & I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Amy Wasyluka”

Butler decided not to respond to the email, which prompted Wasyluka to make an in-person visit to Butler on Friday, Sept. 14. and ask him face-to-face for a debate. Butler indicated that he did not want to debate her because, “it would help Ms. Wasyluka’s campaign.”

The Wasyluka campaign released the following statement in response to Tom Butler’s lack of willingness to debate and the importance of electoral debates.

“The Wasyluka campaign believes debates are an essential part of our democracy and part of a candidate’s duty to the voters. We believe that party label alone shouldn’t earn a vote, but that passion, commitment to the issues, and a desire to serve the public should.

The Wasyluka campaign likewise believes debates are not tools to help a particular candidate or campaign, but rather they serve as an opportunity to demonstrate these qualities and to discuss the issues in order to provide the voters with the information they require to choose the candidate who they believe will best represent them in Montgomery.

The Wasyluka campaign remains open to participating in a neutral, public debate should Mr. Butler change his mind.”

Wasyluka and Butler will face each other in the fall general election.

 

Continue Reading

Elections

Republican donor calls AG Marshall a fraud, says he’s backing Siegelman

Bill Britt

Published

on

Alabama voters will soon choose between an attorney general candidate who owes his political career to former Gov. Don Siegelman or one who literally owes him his life.

In a political contest that pits current appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall against Democrat Joseph “Joe” Siegelman, Republican stalwart and financial donor, J. William “Billy” McFarland, thinks the choice is clear.

“If I’m going to be forced to vote for a Democrat in November for AG, I’m not voting for a political huckster, a RINO, and someone ignoring the clear meaning of the law,” said McFarland in a hotly worded press release. “I’m voting for and financially supporting the campaign of Joe Siegelman, an honest leader who will stand up for Alabama and what’s right.”

In breaking with his party’s establishment wing, McFarland could face severe backlash, but as Founding Chairman of the West Alabama Young Republicans, he thoroughly understands the consequences but says there are times when principle is more important than a label.

Marshall was first appointed Marshall County District Attorney by then-Gov. Siegelman and served as a Democrat in that district for nearly a decade before switching parties ahead of a run for AG in 2018.

Advertisement

“The facts are that Mr. Marshall was a Democrat up until the point he saw that he could advance his political career as a Republican and be appointed Attorney General by Gov. Robert Bentley,” McFarland said. “The whole thing just smells of politics at its worst.”

Marshall was appointed Attorney General after he promised Bentley and his paramour, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, that he would launch an investigation into Special Prosecutions Division Chief Matt Hart and Acting Attorney General Van Davis, who had successfully prosecuted Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

Hubbard, Bentley hoped to evade justice with Steve Marshall’s appointment as attorney general

McFarland also sees Marshall as a liability to the Republican brand because he is currently under investigation by the State’s Ethics Commission for possible campaign finance violations.

“Now, Marshall has an ethics complaint hanging over his head for taking over $730,000 from sources which are untraceable, unidentifiable and illegal under the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act,” said McFarland. “This is going to blow up in the face of the Republican Party of Alabama, a party that I love and have worked for and supported my entire life. The Ethics Commission must stand up to Marshall and stand up for the people of Alabama and the rule of law.”

McFarland, whose family’s Republican credentials go back a generation, says he is loath to vote for a Republican in name only.

“Marshall is a fraud. You can’t be a liberal Democrat one minute and a Trump Republican overnight,” McFarland said.

Marshall will face Siegelman in the November general election.

 

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

Ethics Commission clears Luther Strange

by Josh Moon Read Time: 3 min
0