18 Dec 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, December 11, Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Mike Rogers (R-Saks) both voted “No” on passage of H.R. 83, a $1.013 trillion, 1,600-page Continuing Resolution/Omnibus spending bill (nicknamed “CROmnibus”) that funds the government to the next fiscal year which begin on October 1.
Representative Brooks said that the Continuing Resolution funds what he calls the, “President’s lawless executive amnesty and further damages America’s perilous long-term financial stability. “
The House passed the CROmnibus on a narrow 219-206 vote.
Rep. Brooks said in a written statement, “My vote on the CROmnibus was a difficult one. Anytime the government spends more than $1 trillion, there are a lot of good things that will be funded. Notwithstanding those good things, I voted “No” on the CROmnibus because of the cumulative effect of these and other reasons.”
Congressman Mike Rogers said in a statement on Facebook, “President Obama has vastly overstepped his Executive Authority by unilaterally acting on immigration. While I support many of the bill's important government funding features, it does not take a strong enough stand now to stop his illegal actions.”
Rep. Brooks said that “The CROmnibus spends more than $1 trillion, almost half of which America does not have, must borrow to get, and cannot afford to pay back. America recently blew through the $18 trillion debt mark. The CROmnibus spending exceeds previous spending caps, is financially irresponsible, and is not up to the financial challenges America faces. As such, the CROmnibus worsens the risk of a debilitating American insolvency and bankruptcy. I cannot endorse a spending bill that sends us further down a perilous path of financial ruin.”
Brooks also city the CROmnibus’s 1,600 pages length. Brooks said that it was revealed just two days prior to the vote, “And has not been read and fully understood by a single Senator or Congressman. The CROmnibus has thousands of line-items and hundreds of policy riders that require more deliberation and consideration than afforded by the process used by the Senate and House leaderships. Further, the CROmnibus procedure denies American citizens the opportunity to examine the legislation and participate in our democratic process by sharing their insight with their elected representatives in Washington. Congress should never be put in the position of having to pass legislation to find out what is in it. I decline to support this flawed process with my vote.”
Brooks also complained that, “The Senate and House Leadership barred Congressmen and Senators from offering amendments to the CROmnibus, thus making it a “take it or leave it” bill that undermines the democratic process and stifles the voices of Senators and Congressmen who have good ideas on how to improve the CROmnibus via the amendment process.”
Brooks also stated that, “A vote for the CROmnibus is a vote supporting President Obama’s unconstitutional Executive amnesty. President Obama has unilaterally and unconstitutionally ordered the granting of quasi-legal status, work permits and Social Security numbers to illegal aliens. In a Senate floor speech this week, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) revealed that the second phase of President Obama’s illegal alien amnesty plan involves giving illegal aliens a path to citizenship with accompanying voting rights, thereby diluting the voting power of American citizens while costing struggling American families jobs and lost wages. Not only does the CROmnibus fail to block President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty for illegal aliens, it affirmatively appropriates at least $948 million in support of illegal aliens. House leadership promises to ‘fight the President tooth and nail’ on his unconstitutional executive amnesty, stating that 'this is the wrong way to govern.' However, the CROmnibus is a tacit surrender to the President’s unilateral action and a missed opportunity to stop it.”
The Conservative Congressman from Huntsville said, “The separation of powers set forth in the Constitution between the Executive and Legislative branches is made more porous by the CROmnibus. America’s Founders knew firsthand the dangers of centralized government power. In Federalist #51, James Madison wrote that the best security against a gradual accumulation of powers by the executive branch is to give each branch of government the ‘necessary constitutional means . . . to resist encroachments of the others.’ The Legislature, with its power of the purse, has not only the ability, but the duty under our Constitution to resist encroachment of the Executive. By not acting today to defund executive overreach, the House committed a disservice not only to the American people, but to the Constitution itself.”
Brooks said that there are necessary NASA and defense programs that I support and which are included in this bill. However Brooks said, “We must remember what Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated numerous times: the greatest threat to our national security is our National debt. Congress has the power of the purse. We not only have the ability to rein in America’s disastrous spending habits, we have the duty to. Yet, once again, instead of acting in the best interests of the American people, the House failed to be financially responsible concerning America’s out-of-control national debt.”
The omnibus spending bill was passed in the House on Thursday and in the Senate on Saturday unchanged.
The National Debt is $18,014.5 billion according to USDebtclock.org. Total federal spending is over $3.5 trillion per year. Most of this spending is on entitlements including: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. rather than in discretionary spending like roads, defense, government agencies like NASA, EPA, Homeland Security, etc. Discretionary Spending has actually decreased over the last four years however the deficit is still $480 billion a year because of automatic increases in “non-discretionary spending”.
Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.
Congressman Mike Rogers represents Alabama’s Third Congressional District.
18 Dec 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, December 16 U.S. Representative Terri A Sewell (D from Selma) released a written statement to explain the reasons why she supported the Continuing Resolution (C.R.). H.R. 83 avoids a government shutdown and keeps the government funded until the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
Both many conservatives and liberals opposed the omnibus C.R., nicknamed the “CROmnibus.” Conservatives objected to the fact that it funded President Obama’s controversial healthcare reform plan popularly known as Obamacare through next year as well as the President’s executive orders on immigration. Conservatives, including Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions (R) and Richard Shelby (R) favored a short term C.R. that funded the government only until February when Senate Republicans would be reinforced with new GOP Senators who just won elections in November.
Liberals, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) objected to many conservative provisions in the over 1,700 page bill including: a provision increasing the amount of money that wealthy individuals can donate to political parties, a loosening of some new investment banking regulations, and a perceived weakening of some environmental regulations.
Rep. Sewell said in a written statement, “After much consideration, I voted in favor of the 2015 funding bill notwithstanding my serious objections to several provisions in the bill. Ultimately, my vote for this bill was a vote to keep the federal government operating. While flawed, this bipartisan bill avoids another government shutdown at the hands of political brinkmanship and reflects a compromise between Democrats and Republicans. The bill provides increased funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, support for needed infrastructure projects, expands funding for childcare and special education grants, and ensures emergency funding to combat Ebola. Alabamians deserve the certainty that comes with federal funding of the programs and services they depend upon.”
The CROmnibus is the result of a compromise between Speaker of the House John Boehner (R), Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D from Nevada), President Barack H. Obama (D) as well as moderates from both political parties. Rep. Sewell was one of 57 House Democrats who joined 162 Republicans to pass the legislation 219 to 206.
President Barack H. Obama (D) voiced disappointment with some of the spending priorities in the CROmnibus; but still signed the bill into law to avoid another government shutdown.
The C.R. did not fund the Department of Homeland Security past the end of February, setting up another battle over President Barack H. Obama’s controversial executive amnesty in February when the Repulicans will control the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2006.
Congresswoman Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. Rep. Sewell is the only Democrat in the Alabama Congressional Delegation. Sewell is the first Black Woman to represent Alabama in the Congress.
17 Dec 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Auburn Police report contradicts Sen. Tom Whatley's statement about his domestic violence arrest on December 9.
According to the official police filings, Whatley “grabbed the female [his fiancée] by the arm and forcefully shoved her down on the brick steps and concrete porch.” Whatley was then told by officers to drop to the ground and he complied with their demand.
Whatley issued a statement the day after his arrest saying, “I would like to assure the citizens of Senate District 27 that I was not violent with my fiancée.” However, a man “forcefully”shoving a female down on to “brick steps and [a] concrete porch,” would be considered by any reasonable person as an act of violence.
Whatley was charged by the officers at the scene with Domestic violence in the third degree.
According to Alabama code, Domestic violence in the third degree occurs, “when the defendant commits the crimes of third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment, criminal coercion, harassment, criminal surveillance, harassing communications, third-degree criminal trespass, second or third-degree criminal mischief, or third-degree arson.”
Domestic violence in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail.
The police report says that they were investigating a report of a homeless person in the neighborhood when they heard shouting and went to investigate. The report says that when they arrived on the scene, the woman was between Whatley and the car and appeared to be motioning for Whatley to go back into the house.
Police then observed Whatley coming back toward the woman and at that time order him to drop to the ground, which he did.
Recently, Governor Bentley, along with most of the State’s congressional delegation called for Federal Judge Mark Fuller to step down from the bench, after he was arrested on Domestic violence charges in an Atlanta hotel.
Also, Alabama’s First Lady, Dianne Bentley, has been, for the last several months, crusading for greater awareness of the domestic violence in the State.
This issue, together with the police report, does not bode well for the sitting Senator from Auburn.
17 Dec 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—As reported previously in the Alabama Political Reporter, 501 (c) 4 chair for Citizens for a Better Alabama (CBA) A. Eric Johnston has acknowledged allowing then-Governor Bob Riley and Alabama GOP chairman Mike Hubbard to direct political PAC money through his nonprofit charity to Mike Hubbard’s business interests.
In 2010, over $1 million was raised – almost in its entirety – by Hubbard and Riley and then – again, almost in its entirety – paid to Hubbard-controlled businesses by CBA.
Many in Montgomery have wondered why Johnston would allow his nonprofit charity to be used in, what certainly appears to be, a questionable fashion. Some have speculated that Johnston’s anti-gambling zealotry may have influenced his decision.
A close examination of Johnston’s unsuccessful campaign for Alabama Supreme Court in 2010 (against Roy Moore ally and one-time frequent Riley critic, Tom Parker) raises interesting questions, that fit a well-known pattern and practice among certain politicos.
On April 1, 2010, FBI agents visited the home of lobbyist Jarrod Massey in Montgomery. Later that same day, the FBI revealed to Alabama governmental figures that an FBI investigation into State House corruption centering on bingo legislation was ongoing, effectively killing the bingo legislation for 2010 and eliminating the need for further anti-bingo activity by Bob Riley’s PACs and by CBA.
Again – on that same day, April 1, 2010 – Eric Johnston qualified to run for Alabama Supreme Court against incumbent Justice Tom Parker – a jurist known to be friendly with Roy Moore and seen as an opponent by pro-Riley loyalists on the court.
Within days, Johnston – who prior to 2010 had never managed to raise more than $40,000 in a year for his nonprofit – had raised a staggering $194,000 for his Supreme Court contest. And, overwhelmingly, that money appears to have been directed to Johnston specifically from three corporate donors aligned with Bob Riley.
And, overwhelmingly, that money appears to have been directed to Johnston specifically from three corporate donors aligned with Bob Riley.
The synchronicity between the arrest of Massey and the collapse of the bingo effort with the budding, well-heeled candidacy of formerly penniless Eric Johnston for the Alabama Supreme Court begs the question:
Did Bob Riley and Mike Hubbard promise to finance a Supreme Court run for CBA head Eric Johnston in return for his aid in illegally laundering political money through a non-traceable non-profit to companies owned by Mike Hubbard?
Of the $194,350 raised and reported by Johnston on his 10-day 2010 pre-election FCPA reports, precisely $170,000 (87.5 percent of his total) came from one PAC – the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee PAC (ACJRC).
The ACJRC is controlled by Larry Vinson of Montgomery.
In the 10-day pre-election report detailing the $170,000 in contributions from ACJRC to Eric Johnston, precisely $171,000 in contributions to ACJRC came from 5 PACs, all controlled by Larry Vinson, just like the ACJRC.
No other donors to the ACJRC PAC contributed anything resembling a $170,000 total, with the $94,000 contributed by PACs associated with Montgomery lobbyist Clark Richardson running a distant second.
The FCPA reports for the year 2009, filed by January 31, 2010, for the 5 PACs controlled by Vinson that contributed to ACJRC shows that they raised $201,500 for the year, with all money being raised in the final months of 2009.
Of that amount, $183,500 came from just three (3) donors – ALFA, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Compass bank (routed through Sound Economy PAC, all of the money originating with Compass). All three are longtime financial supporters of Bob Riley.
Notably, $65,000 of the money raised into Vinson’s 5 PACs all came on the same day, December 9, 2009, and all came from a single donor (Compass Bank through Sound Economy PAC).
Riley had formed his own anti-bingo PAC, one that was used to send money to Johnston’s nonprofit and on to Hubbard’s businesses, within days of the big money dump into Vinson’s PACs (GOV Pac, chaired by Rob Riley, was formed on December 1, 2009).
The 5 Vinson-controlled PACs did not raise one penny of money between the close of 2009 and May 17, 2010 – and Johnston’s FCPA reports show that he had received all of his $170,000 from ACJRC by May 20, with $110,000 in hand before ACJRC reported raising any money at all in 2010.
Additionally, one of Vinson’s PACs, Equal Justice PAC, shows a $3500 contribution to Johnston on the day he qualified to run for the Supreme Court (April 1, 2010). This closely aligns with the qualifying fee to run for Supreme Court in 2010 suggesting strongly that Vinson’s PAC (and its donors) paid Johnston’s qualifying fee.
It appears Johnston failed to list the $3500 contribution from Equal Justice PAC, as required by law.
When the $3500 contribution from Equal Justice PAC is added to the $170,000 directed from ACJRC to Johnston, the total of $173,500 from the Larry Vinson-chaired (and three Bob Riley-aligned corporate donor financed) PACs meshes to a high degree with the $183,500 contributed by corporate donors to Larry Vinson’s PACS in calendar 2009 – and the money was not spent by those PACs until Johnston entered the Alabama supreme court race.
Here are the facts:
• $183,500 in contributions from three major Bob Riley/Mike Hubbard donors to PACS controlled by one man.
• $173,500 in contributions out with checks written by that same man to a candidate who had cooperated, perhaps at legal and professional risk, with Bob Riley and Mike Hubbard.
• The contributions followed immediately upon a favorable result for Bob Riley and Mike Hubbard.
• The candidate receiving major donations, infinitely greater than he could ever attain by his own efforts, had placed himself at legal peril for Bob Riley and Mike Hubbard.
This possible conclusion is supported by the evidence submitted:
It appears that Bob Riley, using money he raised from friendly donors and “stashed” in friendly PACS, financed a Supreme Court campaign for Eric Johnston, in exchange for Johnston allowing his nonprofit charity being used to hide the movement of political money to businesses owned and/or controlled by Mike Hubbard.
Is this evidence of a criminal conspiracy?
That is not for media to decide.
But, it may very well demand the scrutiny of public authorities.
17 Dec 2014
By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Many states known for producing high quantities of methamphetamines have recently been successful in drastically reducing the drug’s production; but that does not mean its use has been diminished. Users are merely turning to a cheaper form of the drug that is being made in Mexico and shipped to the United States.
Law enforcement and strong state laws have contributed to the decline in domestic production, but the porous US southern border still allows for an abundant supply.
State Senator Cam Ward (Alabaster) recently wrote an editorial in response to our current problems associated with methamphetamines. Ward said, “it’s critical to point out that our law enforcement community has taken a number of significant steps to crack down on meth criminals. For instance, our police force use real-time tracking of pseudoephedrine purchases, while our pharmacists use a system—called a meth offender block list—that prohibits meth offenders from buying those cold and allergy products.”
Ward further stated that “as lawmakers consider ways to step up the battle against meth, they should focus on the real sources of the problem: Mexican meth and addiction.”
The type of methamphetamine being made in Mexico is stronger than that typically made in the U.S. as the drug is generally made with an organic compound named phenylacetone. This compound was banned in the United States in 1980 but is still available in Mexico. The Mexican chemists do not face the harsh drug laws that exist in the US which allowed the process to become refined to the point of producing a nearly pure methamphetamine. Further, Mexico is producing quantities so large that the price of a pure gram of methamphetamine has fallen from $290 a gram to $100 per gram here in the US.
Other politicians need to address Senator Ward’s concerns sooner rather than later.
Marshall County law enforcement officers recently made two separate arrests involving liquid methamphetamine. It is generally uncommon across the US but it has been seized by officials as it was smuggled across the US-Mexican border.
Officials believe the liquid form of meth is even stronger than the crystal compound coming across the border.
This relatively new form of the methamphetamine is difficult to detect as it can be hidden in a variety of ways so the progress that has been made in limiting domestic meth production is going to be lessened if this new problem is not addressed.
However, as Alabama’s domestic meth production continues to decline, our State law enforcement officials may divert resources to further reduce methamphetamine consumption.