Secretary Merrill: Ethics Commission undermined campaign finance law

December 6, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

The law doesn’t matter if you try harder not to break it the next time, according to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Earlier this week, the five-person commission voted 4-1 to dismiss fines levied by the Alabama Secretary of State’s office for the late filing of required campaign finance reports by six political action committees (PACs) and candidates.

In those cases, the fact that the reporting law had been violated was not in question — one had missed the deadline by more than a month, another took nearly a month. The PACs and candidates who appealed their fines to the Commission were clearly in violation of the reporting deadlines.

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Senator Dial’s Joint Legislative Committee sends report to the State Bar Association

July 26, 2017

By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

An internal Alabama State Department of Education report will now head to the Alabama State Bar Association following a Joint Legislative Committee meeting.

The committee, headed by State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) and Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), met Tuesday to review new materials in a report by ALSDE Attorney Michael Meyer regarding the state superintendent selection process last year.

Meyer’s report implicates ALSDE General Counsel Juliana Dean, Interim State Superintendent Phillip Cleveland, Board Member Mary Scott Hunter and two other staff attorneys in a scheme to undermine the candidacy of State Superintendent Candidate Dr. Craig Pouncey.
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State answer to Hubbard appeal leans on common sense

July 6, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

If Alabama’s ethics laws weren’t designed to prevent the actions of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, then they’re essentially useless.

That was the opening of the State of Alabama’s response to Hubbard’s filing last month in his appeal of 12 felony counts. The 138-page response from Attorney General Steve Marshall picked apart the arguments in Hubbard’s appeal, focusing on the basics of the law and grinding the allegedly complicated laws down to common sense right and wrong.
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Former Acting Finance Director wants an exception

June 8, 2017

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Former Acting Finance Director Bill Newton intends to open a consulting business. So, he asked the Alabama Ethics Commission to grant him permission to use his years in government service as leverage to provide professional services/advice, request information from public officials/employees, to aid his potential clients, all the while ignoring that there is a two-year ban on such activities.

Newton’s attorney Joel Dillard said to the commissioners, “I believe there’s no real disagreement between the commission staff and between Mr. Newton, on what the answers to all four questions are; which is ‘no.’ The only real problem is the final one, number 4.”
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Strange’s possible campaign violations referred to Ethics Commission

May 8, 2017

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

On May 2, APR reported that the recently appointed Senator Luther Strange may have committed two major campaign finance violations; this, according to Secretary of State John Merrill. Merrill’s office has handed over its records to the Alabama Ethics Commission for investigation. The Commission it is believed will also be looking into the legality of payments made by Strange to two campaign workers.
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The End of Robert Bentley: Part II

April 13, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

It is fairly obvious by now that Robert Bentley was awful at concealing an affair.

He accidentally sent an “I love you Rebekah” text to his wife, Diane. He got caught on a recording make a phone call to his mistress – twice. He didn’t know his iPad was connected to his iPhone.

Bentley was no Don Draper, to say the least.

But when it comes to keeping criminal investigations quiet, the man’s a regular CIA spook.
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Bentley’s biggest crime: stupidity

April 6, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

There I was, standing on the sidewalk along Monroe Street in downtown Montgomery, just outside of the nine-story RSA building where the Alabama Ethics Commission holds its regular meetings.

I was watching a loading dock where a black SUV – the kind government officials drive – was parked. Montgomery Police Department officers had shooed reporters away from the door leading out onto the loading dock, which raised suspicion, and we were pretty sure the car belonged to the Governor.
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Judging Bentley with apparent conflicts of interest

March 8, 2017

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The next hearing of the Alabama Ethics Commission could prove significant as sources close to the commission believe that some of the ethics complaints filed against Governor Robert Bentley will be presented.

If the evidence submitted at April 5 meeting shows probable cause, it would still require a vote by the Commission to forward the matter to the Attorney General’s office or the appropriate District Attorney for presentation to a grand jury.
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The suits pick up another ethics win

December 8, 2016

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

It’s funny how many laws you can violate if you’re wearing a suit and tie.

There were lots of suits and ties in attendance Wednesday morning at the Alabama Ethics Commission’s regular meeting, where the five-man board was set to hear complaints from numerous charities about one of the Commission’s recent opinions.

That opinion, made in regards to a question from the Friends of McCalla charity – which was set up to raise money for a youth sports complex in Birmingham – placed broad restrictions on who could provide things of value to a lawmaker.
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Political Deceit Laid Bare

November 11, 2016

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

The conversation in room 727 of the Alabama State House on Thursday afternoon had turned into something halfway between comedy and unchecked disbelief.

Standing before a Senate committee chaired by Sens. Gerald Dial and Quinton Ross, Hugh Evans, the longtime General Counsel for Alabama’s Ethics Commission, was attempting to explain why he and the Commission decided to publicly announce an investigation based solely on an anonymous complaint.
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