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Stealing the Statehouse

Threats, Lies and bullying, the unfortunate blowback to a story

 

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—It would be nice to believe that the first amendment concerning freedom of the press was the founder’s denunciation of all double-speak, subterfuge, lies and cover-ups.

Freedom of the press encompasses many things, The right to report the truth without fear of reprisal should be one of them but it is not.

Of course there are those who want to suppress this freedom to retain power and to cover up bad deeds. There are some who will resort to threats, bullying and even violence against those who print the truth about them and their activities.

Recently, we published a story that said the Alabama’s Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh requested money from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians.

In requesting the money, Mr. Marsh did nothing wrong and in giving the money the PCI was blameless as well.

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Marsh’s office was contacted around 10am on Tuesday and given the details of the pending report so as to give the Senator time to respond.

Derek Trotter who serves as Marsh’s communication director text me at 11:16am  and said, “Del is tied up in meetings until shortly after lunch but as soon as he calls me back I’ll have him call you.” I never received a call from Marsh’s office until after the story was published and even then I received no offer to speak with Senator Marsh.

What I was offered were threats, bullying, insults and more from Mr. Trotter and Phillip Bryan, Chief of Staff for Senator Marsh.

I have known Del Marsh for around 5 years. I have broken bread with him. I have help to expose lies that were written about him. I have considered him one of the good guys.

He has always conducted himself with gentlemanly behavior in my presence and has always been courteous and even kind.

Many in the GOP have made a big deal out of being anti-gambling. I have never heard this from the Senator. Some take gaming money on a regular basis but hide the money they receive while wailing loudly against gambling.

This is something I have never heard from Marsh.

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This is why I was caught by surprise when Trotter called me yelling early last Tuesday morning.

I am a man who doesn’t respond well to yelling, much less at 8:10am. However, I tried to reason with Trotter who said I didn’t give Marsh time to respond. This is patently not true as they had from 10am on Tuesday until 6am on Wednesday to call or email me.

Trotter went on to call me unprofessional and more and even accused me of being on the payroll of the PCI.

The PCI are advertisers on our news site. I treat them with respect as I do all of our advertisers. But they are given no special favors other than the truth, which they would receive without advertising. The small amount of money the PCI spends with us would not be near enough to buy me or even my dog Lucy.

The howling like a petulant child or the false accusations did not bother me as much as the threats to deny our news organization access and more. Trotter in no uncertain words informed me I would have a difficult time at the Statehouse if I did not pull they story.

Needless to say our conversation did not end well.

At 8:44am, I received a call from Marsh’s Chief of Staff Phillip Bryan. Bryan got his start in government with Mike Hubbard’s campaign to take over the Statehouse according to Hubbard’s book.

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Bryan immediately launched into a diatribe about how unprofessional I was and so forth, at which time I said I would take the story down and look closely at the facts and give them time to think about a response.

I called later to check in with Bryan who had calmed down considerably. I told him I had not made up my mind what I was doing but wanted to let him know that I was still working on the story and said I would let him know my decision.

After prayerful consideration and a thorough inspection of the facts, I sent Bryan and email and then reposted the story.

I have yet to hear from Senator Marsh.

I have been assured that retaliation is in the future and that I should be aware that advertising dollar may be held back.

Of course this is standard fair for some in politics, to hold a news organization’s advertisers hostage because they dare print a story that is unflattering to a politician.

In my email to Bryan I said that I hoped the threats that were made were idle.

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My intention were to tell a story about how money from the PCI ended up in GOP coffers.

There is a lot more money from gambling that the GOP has taken and it goes back a good ways and to the top. These PAC-to-PAC transfers are full of GOP leadership taking gaming money.

Where are those who will stand up and say enough is enough?

Present ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead has said he has not taken gambling money. I know many who have not but it is not illegal to take it.

When will someone expose the lying and purge the GOP of this taint?

Is the money that Republicans received from their leadership so precious?

Del Marsh has a always conducted myself as a gentleman in my presence, however, it appears his staff hss not learned to imitate their leader.

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My wife and I started this news organization to do what is right. We don’t want to harm anyone, now we have been threatened with loss of access and even loss of income.

Is this what politics does to people?

God help us it seems that some in the GOP are just thugs and trailer park mafia.

You say the Democrats were bad?

I promise we will not be intimidated, we will persist, we are on a mission and will not stop.

We thank all of you who have treated us with kindness and fairness. We ask you help us fight the good fight for a better Alabama and not just a more powerful GOP leadership.

 

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Bill Britt
Written By

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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