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Editorial: Does the Alabama Democratic Party Still Have Any Relevance?

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Years ago the power brokers in the Alabama Democratic Party made the conscious decision to trade their independence and votes in the Alabama legislature for virtually unlimited money from the teacher’s union (Alabama Education Association) and from gambling magnates, the foremost of these being Milton McGregor.

While compliant Democratic legislators’ campaign coffers were filled with cash, the teacher’s union was allowed to write Alabama’s budgets and protect their membership from even minimal performance review with tenure rules.  Maximum class sizes were lowered in order to maximize the number of teachers’ jobs and even cafeteria workers, aides, secretaries, school bus drivers were given full membership benefits along with AEA membership of course.  Any kind of education reform efforts, especially charter schools were killed by Democratic Legislature committee chairmen operating on the orders of AEA Secretary Hubbert.  The state even put Teacher’s union boss Paul Hubbert on the board of the Retirement Systems of Alabama and gave him and his union’s employees state retirement benefits.  Hubbert himself benefitted from Alabama’s generous DROP program. Alabama’s budgets were put into a straightjacket where 80 percent of the state’s income is earmarked for certain purposes.  AEA membership and cash flows are of course protected under this system, while other state services like prisons, courts, state troopers, and Alabama Medicaid function on with minimal funding.

The gambling magnates opened up casinos in counties where local Democratic Party officials chose not to prosecute them under Alabama’s gambling laws, while other establishments were prevented from operating.  The gambling magnates made fortunes off of these de facto monopolies while competitors were routinely put out of business and national casinos were prevented from coming into Alabama.

The same Democratic Party legislators in Montgomery wrote campaign finance and ethics laws that allowed the money to flow and protected their own activities from state review.  Under control of the Democratic legislature PAC-to-PAC transfers were legal in Alabama, the state ethics commission had no subpoena power, lobbyists could (and did) legally gift $200 a day to state officials (especially state legislators) and sitting state legislators were commonly given fulltime state jobs……in some cases more than one.  Large salaries were paid to state legislators in Alabama’s community colleges for little or no actual work.

Meanwhile the national Democratic Party gradually drifted away from the moderate positions of Sen. Howell Heflin and Pres. Bill Clinton and began to openly advocate a much more extremist agenda where wealth redistribution, crippling environmental regulations, gay marriage, social engineering, and individual healthcare insurance mandates were embraced as Democratic party principles.

Corruption in Alabama government led to the state being inundated with federal investigations.  Alabama’s last Democratic Party governor was led away to prison as were two former Chairmen of the Alabama Democratic Party, and numerous state and local officials (from both parties).  The widespread culture of corruption tolerated corrupt bond deals and corrupt sewer contracts led Jefferson County into bankruptcy…the largest government bankruptcy in the history of the United States.

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The people of Alabama increasingly grew tired of the blatant corruption, the pathetic mediocrity of Alabama’s unionized schools, the embarrassment of never ending corruption trials, and a liberal anti-Christian, anti-family national agenda.  The Alabama Republican Party has been the beneficiary of the people’s disgust with the failures of the Alabama Democratic Party.  Republicans have won 6 of the last 7 governor’s races, 6 of 7 congressional seats are now held by Republicans, the Republicans won control of both Houses of the State Legislature in 2010, and a 74-year-old Lucy Baxley on the Public Service Commission is the last Alabama Democrat holding a statewide public office.

A few short years ago the Alabama Trial Lawyers funded Democratic campaigns all over the state, now Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy could only find one attorney who would even run statewide for a judgeship as a Democrat.  The Alabama Democrats are running candidates against all six Republican Congressional incumbents but most of those are long shots at best.

The Alabama Democratic Party is facing an identity crisis.  Are they going to remain the bought and paid for political arm of the Alabama teacher’s union or are they going to be a mainstream political party? and will the people of Alabama ever believe them again?

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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