By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Over the past decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) gave more than $1 million to Republicans currently serving in state government — including hundreds of thousands of dollars to GOP leaders who quietly took union money while publicly demonizing the organization.
PACs controlled by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard lined their bank accounts with more than $130.000 from the AEA over the past 10 years.
During this time frame, the ALGOP received $135,000 in contributions from the teacher’s organization. Yet today, it is an anathema for a republican to accept money from the AEA. Now, it’s also against ALGOP rules for the party to accept money from the the teachers’ union.
Senator Jimmy Holley (R-Elba) received the most – $75,000 – while State Senator Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) took the least money from the AEA with a contribution of $500. Indeed, from the halls of the statehouse to the office of the governor, campaign contributions flowed freely for years from the AEA to the GOP without much controversy.
That all changed in April 2013. The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee, while gathered in Birmingham, passed a rule that the ALGOP would not take money directly or indirectly from the AEA. It also stipulated that the Party would not accept money from the National Education Association (NEA) or any of its affiliates.
The rule was passed following a controversy after the Party’s summer meeting. Former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Winton Blount (now an AEA lobbyist) purchased a table at the summer meeting with AEA money. The controversy arose as part of a smear-campaign to oust ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead from the top spot at the party. Blogs closely affiliated with Speaker Hubbard hammered away at Armistead in the months before the election of a new chairman. Despite the propaganda, Armistead retained his chairmanship, easily defeating the Hubbard-backed candidate, Matt Fridy. However, AEA critics within the Republican Party objected to accepting money from the teachers’ organization. AEA money was formally banned.
The new rules do not specifically prevent individual republican candidates from taking money from the teachers’ union; but the rules formally request that GOP candidates not take AEA funds.
Plenty of Republican legislators enjoyed hefty contributions from the AEA over the years, but most have forgotten their former friend. Some have gone on to vilify their one-time ally. An example is Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla) who personally solicited help from the education association. The AEA gave Farley $10,000 money used to help him win his first-term in office in 2010.
Farley in a recent editorial on his blog post referred to the group as AEA Pharisee[s], comparing the teacher’s organization to the priest who persecuted Jesus. http://allenfarley.wordpress.com/page/3/
For Farley, the AEA turned from benefactor to malefactor in just three short years.
For several legislators, the last contributions they took from the AEA was in 2002, while others continued to accept contributions to this day.
Brandon Moseley contributed to this report.