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Alabama campaign finance laws remain full of loopholes, Senator seeks reform

Bill Britt



By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—The advent of republican leadership has brought many changes to state government but the area of campaign finance reform is still sorely lacking.

“What we face is the cleaver mind of people trying to get around the law by exploiting loopholes, so we have to keep finding ways to plug the holes,” says Senator Arthur Orr (R-Madison).

Orr, who championed the laws concerning electronic campaign filings and the establishment of a searchable database for campaign contributions, still thinks there is more to be done, “It may be a never-ending process but that is the way it is, so we keep working.”

During the 2012 legislative session a commission was established to study campaign finance reform. The idea can be traced back to a letter that Montgomery District Attorney Ellen Brooks sent to Alabama’s top cop, Attorney General Luther Strange.

In the letter, Brooks outlines the many flaws in Alabama’s campaign laws that left a grand jury with more question than answers.

The grand jury, empaneled by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Johnny Hardwick, examined 12 complaints of PAC-to-PAC transfers or failure to filed reports in a timely manner.

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The grand jury received the results of an eight-month investigation by Brooks’ staff. The investigation resulted from complaints from Democrats that some Republican-operated political action committees violated the new state ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers. It also involved complaints from Republicans that some Democratic groups violated state law by failing to file campaign finance reports in a timely fashion or if at all.

The complaints were as follows:

We have reviewed complaints relating to alleged violations of the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act found in Sections 17-5-1 through 17-5-35 of the Code of Alabama. They include the following:

  1. Transfer of $50,000 from Alabama 2014 PAC to Republican State Leadership Committee–AL PAC on March 15, 2011 (PAC to PAC transfer)
  2. Transfer of $100,000 from Monica Cooper to 136 Years PAC on December 20, 2010 (contribution in another’s name and PAC to PAC transfer)
  3. Transfer of $100,000 from Republican State Leadership Committee–AL PAC to Senate Republican Caucus PAC (formerly New Alabama Leadership Committee PAC) on February 28, 2011 (PAC to PAC transfer)
  4. Transfer of $5000 from Network PAC to 136 Years PAC on December 20, 2010 (PAC to PAC transfer)
  5. Transfer of $1000 from Gulf PAC to New Alabama Leadership Committee PAC on December 21, 2010 (PAC to PAC transfer)
  6. Transfer of $1000 from SUN PAC to New Alabama Leadership Committee PAC on December 21, 2010 (PAC to PAC transfer)
  7. Transfer of $3000 from South AL PAC for Higher Education to New Alabama Leadership Committee PAC on December 23, 2010 (PAC to PAC transfer)
  8. Transfer of $2000 from Bachus Reelection to Friends to Elect Dickie Drake on October 28, 2011 (excess contribution from principal campaign committee of federal candidate)
  9. FCPA forms not timely filed by AL Democratic Conference PAC for 2009 through 2011 (report filing)
  10. FCPA forms not timely filed by AL New South Coalition PAC for 2009 through 2011 (report filing)
  11. Transfer of $30,000 from DST PAC to Network PAC on February 28, 2011 (PAC to PAC transfer)
  12. Transfer of $30,000 from DST PAC to New Alabama Leadership Committee PAC on February 22, 2011 (PAC to PAC transfer)

The high profile targets, then Governor Bob Riley and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, led to a momentary sensationalizing of the hearings, but no indictments were returned by the grand jury.

What should remain troubling is the vagaries of the law and in many places the complete absence of law, which leaves a wide open door for those who would subvert the law.

The following is what DA Brooks found that left the grand jury powerless and confused, “No individual is identified to be held responsible and prosecutable for any criminal violation pertaining to a political action committee (PAC) under the act.”

While each PAC listed with the Secretary of State has a named chairman and secretary the law does not allow for either of those individuals to be, “held responsible and [or]  prosecutable.” Even if a crime has been committed there is no one to find guilty.

It was also found that, “It is not a crime for a PAC to solicit or receive an illegal contribution, such as from another PAC.”

Therefore, the law enacted by the Republicans to ban PAC-to-PAC transfers left it so that a PAC can “solicit or receive an illegal contribution,” from anyone, even another PAC. In what appears to be a dizzying array of legislative hocus-pocus, the grand jury felt there was no way to determine what actually constituted a crime.

In her letter to Strange, DA Brooks further states, “Because venue lies in the county in which the alleged violator resides, the State of Alabama has no ability to prosecute an out-of-state PAC. See section 17-17-35(d) of the Code of Alabama. Moreover, it is unclear who the violator is–the PAC, the Chair, the Treasurer or the person who physically does the act,” adding, “While Attorney General Opinion 94-228 addresses how to deal with unwanted or unsolicited contributions, the Act does not address the issue; and neither provides any time limit for the return of contributions.”

Lastly Brooks writes, “There is no office or agency authorized to monitor and review the records required to be filed under the Act to ensure that they are timely filed and are complete and accurate. Some office or agency should have investigative and subpoena powers over elections laws and have the power to levy administrative fines where appropriate and the power to refer prosecution to the Attorney General of the State of Alabama or the District Attorney in the appropriate judicial circuit.”

Brook’s letter can be summarized as, no agency of oversight, no agency to investigate, no one to prosecute and no penalty for a PAC accepting illegal contribution.

Senator Orr, says that he is ready for the commission to begin its work so that there will be time for “the commission to prepare bills to address these issues in the 2013 session.” Orr thinks that there is a lot to be done but the laws must be “revamped and that there be transparent.”

The commission has yet to hold it first meeting and according to official records only the Senate and House have filed the appointments of their committee members.


Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.



Alabama’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients Sunday at highest number since Sept. 2.

It’s a trend that has public health officials and hospital staff concerned that the state may be headed for another surge.

Eddie Burkhalter




Alabama hospitals on Sunday were caring for 920 COVID-19 inpatients, the highest number of patients since Sept. 2 and a 23 percent increase from a month ago. 

It’s a trend that has public health officials and hospital staff concerned that the state may be headed for another  surge just as the regular flu season begins to fill up hospital beds. 

Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”

Alabama’s seven-day average of daily hospitalized COVID-19 patients was 864 on Sunday, the highest it’s been since Sept. 8. State hospitals saw a peak of COVID-19 inpatients on Aug. 6, when 1,613 patients were being cared for. 

The state added 1,079 new confirmed and probable cases on Sunday, and Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases hit 1,358 Sunday, the highest it’s been since Aug. 13. Two “data dumps” to the Alabama Department of Public Health of older confirmed cases Thursday and Friday elevated the daily counts on those days, but after weeks of daily cases hovering around 700 and 800, the state now regularly sees more than 1,000 cases a day. 

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The older test results skew the state’s percent positivity, but Alabama’s 14-day average of percent positivity on Sunday was 20 percent. Just prior to the addition of those older cases, the 14-day average was 15 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.

As cases continue to rise, the number of tests being performed statewide continue to decline, which is increasing Alabama’s percent positivity rate. The 14-day average of daily tests was 6,619 on Sunday — a 5 percent decrease from two weeks ago. 


There have been 2,866 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths statewide. The state’s 14-day average of daily confirmed deaths was 14 on Sunday, up from 12 two weeks ago. 

The United States on Saturday recorded its second highest day of new cases since the start of the pandemic, with 83,718 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Saturday’s peak was just 39 cases fewer than the country’s all-time daily high, set on Friday. As of Sunday, 225,061 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

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Trump Truck and boat parades this weekend

Brandon Moseley



Trump boat parade

As Election Day draws near, Alabama Republicans are excited about promoting the re-election of Donald J. Trump as President and the election of Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate. This weekend two pro-President Trump events are happening in the state. There will be a truck parade from Ashland to Phenix City on Saturday sponsored by the Clay County Republican Party, while there will also be a boat parade on Wilson Lake in the Shoals sponsored by the Colbert County Republican Party on Sunday.

The pickup trucks will assemble at the Ashland Industrial Park in Clay County, 8240 Hwy 9, Ashland. There is a pre-departure rally at 10:00 a.m. central standard time. The trucks will depart at 11:00 a.m. and then proceed on a parade route that will take them into the bitterly contested swing state of Georgia. The Trump Pickup Parade will wind through east Alabama and West Georgia traveling through LaGrange and Columbus before concluding near the Alabama/Georgia line in Phenix City, 332 Woodland Drive, Phenix City at approximately 2:00 p.m. central time. Speakers will begin at 3:00. Trump flags will be on sale at the event.

The Phenix Motorsports Park will be hosting what sponsor hope could possibly the world’s largest Pickup Tuck parade in U.S. history that is routing over 50 mile through Georgia in effort to “pickup” President Trump’s numbers in GA.

A number dignitaries have been invited to address the Phenix City rally, including Coach Tuberville. Former State Sen. Shadrack McGill, Trump Victory Finance Committee member former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., and Paul Wellborn, the President and CEO of the largest Family owned Kitchen Cabinet manufacture in the USA are among the featured speakers who have committed to speak at the event.

Entertainment will be provided by: Charity Bowden, an up and coming country music singer who was the runner up on “The Voice”. Charity will sing ‘I am Proud to be an American’ as well as songs from her Voice performances. The McGill Girls will also perform. The three beautiful and talented sisters will be singing patriotic songs in three part harmony. Geoff Carlisle, a professional DJ will be keeping the crowd pumped with music and entertainment.

Following the speakers and the entertainment there will Trump truck-vs- Joe Bidden truck races down the drag strip for the finale.

The Northwest Alabama boat parade will be on Sunday. The boats will gather at 2:00 p.m. near Turtle Point and then the flotilla will parade around the open waters of Wilson Lake til 3_00 p.m.. There will be a contest for best decorated Trump boats.

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Trump supporters have held a number of large boat parades across the state to show their support for the re-election of Pres. Trump.

Boat parade sponsors say that this parade will be: pro-American, pro-law enforcement, pro-military.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations, new cases continue to rise

Eddie Burkhalter



COVID-19 Corona Influenza Virus Molecules Image Stock Photo

The number of rising hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama is a concerning sign of a possible coming surge of the disease, state health experts said Friday. Alabama hospitals were caring for 888 coronavirus patients Friday, the highest number since Sept 9. 

UAB Hospital was caring for around 80 COVID-19 inpatients Friday afternoon, said Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, speaking to reporters Friday. UAB Hospital hasn’t had that many coronavirus inpatients since Aug. 18, when the disease was surging statewide.

“We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard,” Lee said. 

Alabama added 3,852 new coronavirus cases on Friday, but 1,287 of them were older positive antigen tests, conducted in June through October and submitted to ADPH by a facility in Mobile, according to the department. Still, Alabama’s daily case count has been increasing, concerning health officials already worried that as the weather turns colder and the flu season ramps up, Alabama could see a surge like the state had in July.

Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases was 1,247 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept 4. Over the last 14 days, Alabama has added 17,451 new COVID-19 cases.

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Friday’s inclusion of those older positive test results throws off the day’s percent positivity, by Thursday the state’s percent of tests that were positive was nearly 16 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.

The state added 16 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing to total confirmed deaths statewide to 2,859. Over the last two weeks, 206 deaths were reported in the state. Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily deaths on Friday was 15.


Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”

Harris noted the data dump of older confirmed cases in Friday’s data, but said “but nevertheless, I think it’s clear our numbers are going up.”

Harris said it’s not yet clear what’s causing the continued spread, but said it may be due at least in part to larger private gatherings. ADPH staff has mentioned a few outbreaks association with such gatherings, but Harris said it’s hard to know for certain if that’s the major driver in the state’s rising numbers.

“It’s football season and the holidays are coming up and school is back in session,” Harris said. “I think people are just not being as safe as they were.”

Harris noted that on ADPH’s color-coded, risk indicator dashboard, red counties, which denotes counties with rising cases and percent positivity, the 17 red counties on Friday were distributed across the state.

“So there’s not one event, or even a handful of events. It seems like there’s just a lot of things happening in a lot of places,” Harris said.

Alabama’s rising numbers are mirrored in many states. The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearing the country’s record highs, set in July.

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Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology

Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

John H. Glenn




The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.

Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”

The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.

Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.

“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”

Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.

“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.

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Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”

Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.


The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”

Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.

“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”

District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.

“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”

District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” 
Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”

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