Last updateWed, 28 Jan 2015 6am

US Department of Justice Awards $21.6 Million Grant to Alabama

By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—US Middle District of Alabama Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. announced on Monday, that The US Department of Justice has awarded $21.6 million in grant money to Alabama agencies and municipalities.

“We must make sure our law enforcement officers and service providers have all the tool necessary to vigorously combat crime in this District,” stated U.S. Attorney Beck.  “These grants will allow law enforcement to purchase those tools necessary to protect the citizens as well as protect the law enforcement officers while fighting crime.  I am proud that the Department of Justice chose to allocate grant money to these cities and agencies to prevent crime and provide enhanced services in our community.”

Attorney General Luther Strange personally represented the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to receive $125,000.00 in order to assist in solving cold cases using DNA analysis.  Strange said “law enforcement is a team activity” and pointed to local law enforcement officers and their involvement in the 1,000-plus cases that have been revisited by three cold case detectives.  Due to the department’s three agents and resources provided by the Department of Justice, the office of Attorney General Office has been able to get convictions of 11 offenders who were charged with multiple crimes.  Some of those offenders were serial violent criminals who committed dozens of atrocious criminal acts.

In addition to the $125,000.00 awarded to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Law Enforcement and Traffic Safety Division obtained nine grants totaling $13,930,417.00.  ADECA will use this money to enhance the safety of women incarcerated in correction facilities; to enhance crime victim’s services; to support drug and violent crime tasks forces; to address violence against women; to improve the juvenile justice system; to provide substance abuse treatment in correction and detention facilities; and to improve forensic and medical examiner services.

The Department of Corrections was granted $499,166.00 to also be used to enhance the safety of women incarcerated in correction facilities.

The Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center received $1,940,629.00 to improve background checks and to better collect data on sex offenders.

The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences was awarded 1,263,414.00 in grants to be used to update equipment to process DNA samples.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles was granted $1,057.176.00 for reentry and supervision programs to reduce recidivism.

The Alabama Administrative Office of the Courts received $509,112.00 to implement the Alabama Family Drug Court Statewide System Reform.  It is hoped that this system will serve families n the child welfare system who have been affected by substance abuse and to better improve their family outcomes.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation was awarded $499,185.00 to improve data sharing among criminal justice and mental health/substance abuse agencies and their providers.

The Alabama Department of Public Health was obtained $400,000.00 to enhance prescription drug data collection in an effort to better address prescription drug abuse.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety was granted $326,989.00 to maintain and improve the Internet Crimes Against Children program.

The Alabama Office of Prosecution Services received a total of two grants for a total of $233,117.00.  The first grant will be used to improve programs that prosecute and track sex offenders.  The second grant will be for student loan repayment for eligible public defenders and prosecutors.

The Alabama Coalition Against Rape was awarded $126,045.00 to provide services to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence; while The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence was awarded $81,795.00 to offer services to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.

The Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission obtained $453,000.00 to improve victim compensation payments to eligible crime victims.

Additionally, the cities of Montgomery received $77,075.00; Dothan was awarded $35,479.00; Auburn was granted $27,940.00; Phoenix City was granted $20,462.00; and Enterprise was granted $11,771.00.

Liberals and conservatives can argue over the role that the executive branch plays in distributing federal dollars back to the states, but this grant money comes to Alabama during a time that many of these departments can least afford any cuts to needed services.


Huntsville Communications Firm Reed Awards Winner

By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY — Red Brick Strategies, a full-service communications firm based in Huntsville, Alabama, was awarded two 2015 Reed Awards for excellence in political work in Las Vegas last Friday.

Red Brick Strategies won top honors in the Best Newspaper Ad category for its advertising work with Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely and in the Best Web Video category for its digital work with Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough. 

“We’re grateful to Campaigns & Elections for the honor, and especially to our clients for supporting the work we do for them. Winning these awards is an incredible honor for our firm,” said Founder and Chief Executive Trent Willis.

“We tell our clients that winning campaigns are built with Red Brick. These awards show our creativity and effectiveness in those campaigns,” Willis added. “That’s what our clients want, that’s why they hire us, and that’s what we deliver.”

In addition to Willis, Red Brick Strategies consists of Will Breland and Dustin Timbrook.  The firm owns a 90% win rate in managed political campaigns, which most notably includes Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and freshman State House Member Ritchie Whorton (HD-22).

Elois Zeanah Has Died

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Conservative activist and past President of the Alabama Federation of Republican women, Elois Zeanah, has succumbed to her long struggle with lymphoma.

Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said on Facebook, “Alabama loses a fighting lady patriot. Our friend Elois Zeanah has finished her fight.”

Elois’s husband and the Chairman of the Tuscaloosa Republican Party, Jim Zeanah reported in a statement, “It is my sad duty to tell you my dear wife Elois passed away at home about 11:55 Friday evening, January 23. She collapsed in my arms about 11:30 and died peacefully surrounded by our son Derek, our daughter Kristen, and our daughter-in- law Michelle. She was able to see her beloved granddaughter Sagan one last time when she arrived from California this past evening.”

Mr. Zeanah said, “Elois battled advanced lymphoma for fourteen months with courage, grace, and optimism. In the end, it was overwhelming, and mercifully her suffering has ended.”

Jim Zeanah wrote, “During these months, she has received many treasured expressions of your encouragement and affection, and for which we have not been able to thank you properly. We have turned away many faithful friends who wanted to visit, because of the rigors of her treatments, her repeated infections, and her physical exhaustion. She wanted me to tell you she was sorry so much isolation was necessary. But in the end, she was happy that your last memory of her would be as she was in life and not in decline.”

The funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, January 27. More details to come when they are available.

The Alabama Republican Party said in a statement: “Elois, as many of you know, served as President of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women for several years and was a champion of conservative causes in our state and nation. Elois was a fighter in life and in death.”

ALGOP wrote, “Elois was an example for all of us to follow as she demonstrated with passion her love for our state, country and God. Our heart and prayers go out to Jim and their family on their loss. We will provide details of the funeral arrangements for Elois in our Monday newsletter.”


Auburn Board Member Asks Bentley To Kill Hubbard Investigation

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—It has been confirmed, that a powerful member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees approached Governor Robert Bentley to have the investigation of Speaker Mike Hubbard quashed. This on top of Hubbard’s own visit to the Governor asking him to kill the criminal investigation against him.

It is now known that a Hubbard ally, Auburn Trustee and Great Southern Wood CEO, Jimmy Rane – the well-known “Yella Fella,”—also approached the Governor to ask that the criminal investigation be spiked.

It is believed that Rane approached Governor Bentley in the fall of 2013, in an attempt to persuade the Governor to kill the on-going criminal investigation into the activities of the Speaker.

Specifically, Hubbard and his allies requested that the Governor fire acting Attorney General W. Van Davis, along with Deputy AG Matt Hart, and/or declare that the Grand Jury itself is unconstitutional, citing an Alabama Supreme Court ruling obtained by former Governor Bob Riley in his anti-bingo efforts.

Attorneys who spoke on background said this could amount to tampering with an ongoing investigation and has the potential of landing the University’s top trustee in big legal trouble.

Rane is mentioned in the 23 felony indictments against Hubbard as someone from whom Hubbard solicited and/or received a thing of value in direct violation of State ethics laws. Specifically, Hubbard solicited and received a $150,000 loan for his business interest, Craftmaster Printers, Inc.

Rane was elected to a second term as President Pro Tempore of the Auburn University Board of Trustees in 2014. He was was first appointed to the board in 1999 and reappointed to a second seven-year term in 2012. As President Pro Tempore, Rane is tasked with leading the board and working closely with University President Jay Gogue.

Rane has been a staunch vocal supporter of Hubbard. At the dedication of the Michael G. Hubbard Center for Advanced Science at Auburn, Rane said that he was ready to back Hubbard “if a fist-fight broke out” (a reference to the investigation being conducted by the State).

Rane has been a top donor to Hubbard and other Republicans through his company, Great Southern Wood (Rane may be the largest in-State donor to the Bentley campaign for the election cycle).

FCPA reports show that Great Southern Wood made no political contributions in 2013 until on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, when it made 11 identical $25,000 contributions to 11 PACs controlled by powerful longtime Montgomery lobbyist Bob Geddie (a total of $275,000).


This $275,000 – all deposited in these 11 PACs on the same day – represents over 70 percent of all contributions made by Great Southern Wood in the 2014 election cycle.

On the previous Friday, September 27, 2013, Bentley’s campaign received checks of $10,000 each from 9 of those very same 11 PACS for a total of $90,000.


Great Southern Wood made no further political contributions before July 2014, nine months later.

These donations made through the various PACs may have gone to Bentley from Rane's company. 

It may very well be that Rane made his requests for Bentley to terminate the investigation of Hubbard within a few days of these transfers of funds.

It is known that Bentley refused to intervene in the Hubbard investigation, and sources close to the Governor have stated that he notified Hubbard and others of his intentions to let the criminal justice system do its work unimpeded.

There are confirmed reports that Hubbard expressed displeasure with the Governor over his failure to intervene.

Did Rane direct $90,000 in political contributions to Bentley within days of asking for a big political favor?

Given the apparent linkage between Rane’s solicitation and the massive political contribution to Bentley from Rane’s allied PACs, it’s a question that must be asked.


Gay Rights Groups Disagree With Probate Judge

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Late on Friday, January 23, 2015, Federal District Court Judge Ginny Granade, ruled that Alabama’s marriage laws prohibiting marriage of same-sex couples. Judge Granade claimed that Alabama’s protection of marriage amendment in the State Constitution violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On Friday, most of us in the media thought that Judge Granade’s order was immediate and applied statewide in Alabama. Alabama Constitution Article I, 36.03 and Alabama Code 30-1-19, which prohibits same-sex marriage were both wiped away by one, lone unelected Federal judge on a whim.

Late on Saturday, January 24, we learned that the Alabama Probate Judges Association did not view this ruling that way. The Alabama Probate Judges Association announced in a statement that they were seeking to clear up some misconceptions regarding the effect that a Federal court ruling will have on Alabama marriage law.

The group wrote, “Many media outlets are reporting that the ruling, issued Friday by US District Judge Ginny Granade, will allow same sex couples to receive marriage licenses in Alabama beginning Monday morning. The Alabama Probate Judges Association wants to ensure that all Alabamians are clear that Friday's ruling does not open the door for the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses.”

The Judges continued, “Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand are the only plaintiffs in the case that was filed against Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. The Alabama Probate Judges Association says that is a key point in the effect that this ruling has on the duties of probate judges.”

Al Agricula who represents the Alabama Probate Judges Association said in a statement, “Judge Granade's ruling in this case only applies to the parties in the case and has no effect on anybody that is not a named party. The probate judges were not parties in this matter. The legal effect of this decision is to allow one person in one same sex marriage that was performed in another state to adopt their partner's child. There is nothing in the judge's order that requires probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.”

The President of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, Judge Greg Norris said that he hopes that misinterpretation of Friday's ruling will not cause confusion among the general public. Judge Norris said, “As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we can not legally issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The recent federal ruling does not change that.”

LGBT and Civil Rights groups strongly disagreed. The Alabama American Civil Rights Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) LGBT Project, Equality Alabama (EA) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a joint statement on Sunday.

They argued that the Probate Judges are wrong, “The Alabama Probate Judges Association is a private organization whose legal advice is non- binding. Simply put, the non-binding legal opinion of the Probate Association cannot and does not preempt a Federal Order. Probate judges should comply with their constitutional obligations as declared by a federal court rather than the desires of the leaders of a private professional organization.”

Judge Granade has put a two-week stay on her ruling to give the eleventh Court of Appeals time to decide whether or not to extend the stay. Whether Judge Granade's ruling applies to all Alabamians, or just the lesbian couple who were married in another state, is an issue that will likely be resolved in that period of time.



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