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Bill Britt

Editorial: Message to Republican Legislators: Big Donors Off Limits

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained an email from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sent to fellow republican senate members, telling them to “get started earlier as opposed to later” on their campaign fundraising; but only from local donors.

This letter, and similar communications, has senators privately grumbling over financial road-blocks, claiming that they are being set-up by Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

The rank-in-file members say they are being told to “stay out of Montgomery” when it comes to raising money for their campaigns. Marsh and Hubbard have made it clear that they will be handling the “Big Donors,” legislators complain.

While the letter is subtle, several senators have told APR they are not amused by the highhanded tactics.

In his email, sent July 2, Marsh says he will help “over the finish line” those who are in a “competitive race,” but more than a few senators are worried about their fate being in the hands of Marsh or Hubbard. Certain senators are worried that because they don’t always kowtow to the demands of leadership that they will be left out in the cold if they rely on Marsh and Hubbard for cash. Others know they are facing stiff opposition in their districts and worry that there will not be enough money to go around. As the old saying in politics goes, “There are two ways to run: scared or unopposed,” and many will not be unopposed and they are running scared.

One senior senator was so upset with Marsh that he said the Pro Tem “should go f#@$%…” but, we can’t say that in a family-friendly publication. He also told APR he would be making the rounds in Montgomery and reminding folks, “He delivered, not Marsh.”

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In the email, Marsh said, “I cannot stress enough the importance of lining up your local financial support early in the race.” This is sound advice but some see it as Marsh saying, “You are on your own, so get moving.”

No doubt Marsh and Hubbard want to control the flow of money—that is the reason they, along with former Gov. Bob Riley, established the ALABAMA 2014 PAC.

In 2010, the threesome raised over $5 million, giving them a warchest that enabled them to pick “their” candidates while pushing others to the side.

Many of those 2010 candidates owed their positions to Hubbard, Marsh and Riley. But after three years, there are many who now believe they should be the masters of their own destiny. They believe they are the ones who helped the fat cats and now they want to be the ones who go to the Montgomery Country Club and collect the big checks.

Senators who have been stalwarts of the chamber are growing restless and want out from under these self-proclaimed chieftains.

One senator put a more flowery spin on it saying,

“A man can only eat crap for so long before realizing he doesn’t like the taste.”

Marsh barely kept a handle on the senate chamber last session where republicans even filibustered their own members. Also the controversial Accountability Act cost many senators not only time, but passage of precious pet projects.

The bill remains unpopular and some legislators fear their vote on the Accountability Act will come back to haunt them in the upcoming election.

So far, ALABAMA 2014 PAC, along with Hubbard’s STORM PAC, has raised around $1.5 million. This is a far cry from the $10 million Hubbard was bragging about just last month. At a meeting of the Young Republicans in Birmingham, Hubbard stated he HAD $10 million dollars to protect incumbents but if he has it, he hasn’t reported it.

Riley’s PAC didn’t even break $100,000 in fundraising since January.

Perhaps the threesome thinks that once the unlimited corporate contributions kick in, that money will start rolling into their PACs’ coffers.

But maybe not.

Currently there is an Special Grand Jury impaneled to look into possible wrong doing by Hubbard and Marsh.

Do big players like Alabama Power or Protective Life want to be handing out big checks to men who are under the threat of a Grand Jury indictment?

What happens to all that cash if Hubbard and Marsh are arrested?

Smart money will take a wait-and-see approach and not rush to the front of the line carrying bags of money.

Marsh reminds senators that “support from industry associations will likely be an important part of your reelection effort, many of these associations traditionally wait until after the qualifying period ends before making a contribution.”

But, as for those sitting senators who have previously done the bidding of these associations, they want their payback now, not later.

For Hubbard and Marsh, this is not just about winning elections: it is about controlling the agenda for the next four years. Their goals are to help candidates who will obey and raise the big dollars to retain their power.

By keeping legislators off the Montgomery money train, Hubbard, Marsh and Riley guarantee they remain the masters of the political universe in Alabama.

An independent legislator is a “deadman walking” to these guys. It will be interesting to see how some of the senator react to the message,

“Montgomery gold for me but not for thee.”

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