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Gaming money and republican politics: Let the chips fail where they may

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—For years, it has been known that gambling money has flowed freely into the Alabama political process. There is nothing legally wrong with such high-stakes giving as long as all parties follow the rules.

For years the Alabama GOP has used the fact that Alabama Democrats have accepted gaming money as a way to point out the Republican’s moral superiority.

But it appears that some who claim the high ground, are little more than high rollers of a different kind. It appears that winning elections with gambling money while carrying the anti-gambling torch has a better payoff than the “Pick-Six.”

Writing in 2012 Gary Palmer, head of the conservative Alabama Policy Institute wrote, “While there were a number of issues and reasons why Alabama voters threw out the Democrat majority and replaced them with a Republican majority in 2010, the key reasons were that voters wanted to put a stop to gambling kingpins tying up the Legislature and they were tired of them making a mockery of our state laws.”

In Palmer’s article he also says, “But according to Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, the days of the legislative session being held hostage by gambling interests are over.”

So, according to Palmer, the people voted out those who took gambling money in return for legislative favor. He also seems to think that Hubbard and Marsh would not participate in such quid pro quo.

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But just last week, we learned of a money laundering scheme that would place some top republicans in the middle of piles of gambling cash. No one gives hundreds of thousands of dollars without a promise of something in return, that goes for Democrats and Republicans.

Perhaps, plausible deniability is enough for the most voters and politicos but I am not buying what is being sold. In responding to the recent revelations about $350,000 going from the Poarch Creek casino operators to the RSLC and $1,273,000 going from the RSLC to various Republican PACs in Alabama Hubbard said, “We were assured that none of our contributions came from gambling sources.”

Outside of organized crime and politics it is laughable to think that people accepts millions of dollars and don’t question the source.

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According to Al.com, “The RSLC pumped more than $1 million into Alabama campaigns in 2010, largely to the Alabama Republican Party and a political action committee aimed at helping Republicans take over the Alabama Legislature. It also gave to a group that opposed legislation aimed at allowing electronic bingo machines at non-Indian casinos.”

That money trail leads to the Citizens for a Better Alabama (CBA) headed by Birmingham lawyer named A. Eric Johnston.

Johnson has been a champion of the anti-gambling movement in Alabama. The CBA website says, “We engage the legal and political culture on a range of issues, including gambling, traditional marriage, and the sanctity of life.”

But it appears Johnson and the CBA received gaming money to fight gambling in Alabama. As the kids would say, “How cool is that?”

Not very cool in my book, it is a dangerous and dishonorable affair.

Recently, Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) established a commission on Alabama Values and States’ Rights, surely anti-gambling is a part of many Alabamian’s values. Will they support this type of action, taking gambling money to win elections, while lying about the source?

Can we win using vice and still preach our virtue? I am reminded of sins of omission and sins of commission, is this not a part of Alabama values?

To take money from gaming with one hand while saying with your lips that you are against gambling is that not dishonest?

In the 2010 election then chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, Mike Hubbard released a statement saying:”When you talk about deceptive practices to move campaign money around and look at what groups are driving the back room deals, Steve Raby and his political action committee will be at the top of every list.”

Is this a case of pointing one finger at someone else while pointing three back at yourself?

Current Chairman of the Alabama GOP Bill Armistead has said that he has ended the practice of taking money from the RSLC and from any gaming interest.

This is a good thing if the GOP wants to continue its stand against gambling.

However, this is America, in some places gambling is legal. Indian gaming is legal in Alabama, so if a politician takes money from them it is okay.

But, wait, if Democrats are corrupt for taking gambling money in the light of day, what do you call those who take it with a PAC-to-PAC transfer?

A recent editorial from the Dothan Eagle reads, “Now we learn that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operates gambling interests in Alabama, donated $100,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee on the same day that the RSLC gave the same amount to Citizens for a Better Alabama, an anti-gambling organization opposing legislation that would allow Alabama voters to consider making electronic bingo legal.

Incidentally, Gov. Riley’s son, Rob Riley, was raising funds for Citizens for a Better Alabama, which is a descendent of the anti-gambling group that earlier received covert Mississippi Indian casino money.

Rob Riley denies knowing about the Poarch donation to the Republican group, and, of course, the state’s loosey-goosey campaign fund transfer laws allow legal money laundering and give recipients plenty of plausible deniability.”

Of course none of these actions appear criminal, only hypocritical.

But hypocrisy in politics is no crime, for some it is just business as usual.

The Poarch Creek Band of Indians are treated like second class citizens or worse by some in the GOP leadership, yet, they happily take their money.

The Poarch Creek Band of Indians advertise on our site. They get nothing in return but a fair shake which they would receive from us anyway.

I don’t think some in the GOP would do the same.

These leaders should be ashamed and a full disclosure should be forthcoming.

I am ashamed that I voted for some of these people.

So, surprise, surprise, members of the GOP leadership are taking gaming money while preaching against it.

Like the scene from Casablanca when Captain Renault says, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” as a croupier hands Renault a pile of money. I am not shocked just disappointed.

I fear this latest revelation is just the tip of the iceberg, with more to be discovered.

One has to wonder what all those upright freshman Republicans are feeling today. Do they buy into the plausible deniability, the holier- than-thou sermons of their leaders or are they starting to see that the new bosses may be a lot like the old ones?

How much gambling money got those freshmen elected? If I were one of them I would want to know.

The freshman Republicans promised to root out corruption. It may not be illegal what was done by the GOP, but it breaks the spirit of what they told the voters.

Is there anyone brave enough to stand up for honor and integrity? 
I guess we will know in time but for now we have to let the chips fall where they may.

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.

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Economy

Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.

“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”

Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.

“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.

IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.

This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.

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IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.

“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”

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Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.

“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”

“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”

Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.

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National

AUM poll suggests Alabamians divided on prison reform proposals

90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on what efforts should be pursued.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Last week, a poll by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration found that approximately 90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on which reform efforts should be pursued.

  • 36.6 percent: “Reduce or eliminate criminal sentences for non-violent crimes.”
  • 30.3 percent: “Parole inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.”
  • 25.9 percent: “Increase funding to improve existing prison facilities.”
  • 21.4 percent: “Construct new prisons to be operated by the state.”
  • 14.5 percent: “Contract with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease to operate.”
  • 27.5 percent: “Increase funding for prison staff such as correctional officers, healthcare providers, educators, etc.”
  • 15.2 percent: “Increase funding for probation officers.”
  • 9.9 percent: “I support none of these options.”

The totals do not add up to 100 because it was a “select all that apply” poll.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan of signing a decades-long lease with private prison contractors was the least popular idea. Repairing the existing prisons 25.9 percent support while constructing new prisons had just 21.4 percent support.

The most popular prison reform measures, according to AUM poll director David Hughes, address prison overcrowding through criminal sentencing reforms.

“Approximately 37 percent of respondents support policies to reduce or eliminate sentences for non-violent offenders, and another 30 percent support paroling inmates convicted of non-violent crimes,” Hughes said.

The governor has included justice reform proposals in her all-encompassing plan. Those proposals were going to be considered by the Legislature in the 2020 legislative session but because of the coronavirus, the 2020 legislative session was cut short and the Legislature went home without addressing that or many other issues.

Much less popular is Ivey’s plan to build three new mega-prisons in Escambia, Elmore and Bibb counties.

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“Only 21 percent of respondents supported a proposal to build new prisons the state would then directly operate,” Hughes said. “The least popular proposal we polled involved the state contracting with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease. Only 14 percent of respondents approved of this reform measure.”

The state has grossly underfunded its prison system for decades and the Alabama Department of Corrections is still dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, despite recent efforts by the Legislature to deal with its chronic underfunding of the system.

A U.S. Justice Department investigation begun by the Obama administration and concluded by the Trump administration declared that the state has the most dangerous prison system in the country. The prisons are plagued by rampant drug use, extreme violence, and the prisons have not done a good job at preparing prisoners to return to society.

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The poor track record of rehabilitating prisoners means that inmates are released without job skills, education and still battling mental health issues and drug dependency. Too many inevitably reoffend and get sent back to prison exacerbating the overcrowding situation.

The U.S. Department of Justice warned the state in July that it was violating prisoners’ constitutional rights and that the attorney general may file or join lawsuits to intervene. A federal court has already found that the prisons were understaffed by a thousand guards and that inmates were not receiving necessary mental health care.

The AUM Poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3. It solicited online participation from 1,072 registered voters in Alabama. Respondents were weighted according demographic factors such as age, gender, race, education and income to produce a more representative sample of Alabama’s voting age population.

The survey has a 4-point margin of error.

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News

Federal assistance following Sally tops $100 million, one month remains to apply

The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

About a month after the federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Sally, over $100 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for survivors.

The funds include grants from FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program and low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help with uninsured or underinsured losses.

“Alabamians, particularly in our coastal communities are still working to get back on their feet following the impacts from Hurricane Sally. I remain grateful to the Trump Administration and the team at FEMA for helping provide this immediate relief for Alabamians,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I encourage folks in the eligible counties to take advantage of any of this assistance as we work to recover from Hurricane Sally.”

FEMA disaster assistance can help you start on your road to recovery. Alabama homeowners, renters and businesses who had property damage or loss related to Hurricane Sally have one month left to register and apply for federal disaster assistance.

The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.

“FEMA is here with our state and federal partners to help Alabama communities and survivors recover from the devastating storm and flooding,” said Allan Jarvis, federal coordinating officer for the Hurricane Sally disaster in Alabama. “Register for assistance if you have uninsured disaster losses.”

Survivors should register even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but eligible homeowners and renters may be able to receive FEMA grants or SBA low interest loans for losses not covered by insurance to help pay for basic home repairs, temporary rental assistance and other needs such as replacing personal property.

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Survivors in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties have until Thursday, Nov. 19, to apply for federal disaster help.

Register for assistance in one of three ways:

  • Online by logging onto DisasterAssistance.gov
  • The FEMA app: Visit fema.gov/mobile-app or your phone’s app store
  • Call 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Language translators also are available. Toll-free numbers are open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight CST, seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.

Survivors who have questions about SBA low-interest disaster loans may contact the Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339), email at [email protected] or visit SBA’s website at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov.

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Courts

Aderholt fully supports Barrett’s confirmation process

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, updated his constituents on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Aderholt said, “I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms.”

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

“Senate Democrats are not seriously questioning Judge Barrett on her credentials, instead they have decided to attack her character and her beliefs,” Aderholt said. “I am disappointed to see this unfold on the national stage, but I think Judge Barrett stood strong and did well during this first week of hearings.”

“While I do not have a vote in her confirmation process, I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms when she is officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Aderholt said.

Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate, has served on the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals and is a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

Barrett vowed to keep an open mind on any matter that comes before the court, though Democrats fear she is prepared to overturn Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

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That the Republican controlled committee will recommend that Barrett be confirmed appears certain. A vote to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court by the full Senate could occur just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

President Donald Trump has been the president of the United States for less than four years but if Barrett is confirmed, then he will have selected one third of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett fills a place created by the death of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.

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