By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY – According to campaign finance reports filed this week, Governor Bentley received – and then swiftly refunded – a donation from the Stop Common Core Political Action Committee, a so-called PAC whose purpose is supporting candidates opposed to the educational standards.
The filing records a campaign donation of $500 from Stop Common Core PAC to Bentley’s re-election effort, followed by a quick refund.
Though Bentley has yet to comment on the reason for refunding the money, many Republicans – usually those in the circles of Speaker Hubbard – have criticized the PAC’s founder, John Rice, a former Republican State lawmaker himself, for raising funds through a private foundation called Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, without disclosing donor identities.
In fact, Senator Marsh filed a complaint against the group with the Attorney General’s Office earlier this year, claiming that some of AFLG’s television advertisements are illegal electioneering.
The Alabama Foundation for Limited Government’s advertisements, one of which can be seen here, focused on alleged corruption in Montgomery, specifically naming Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, and Senator Scott Beason by name. The ads cite several news sources, including the Alabama Political Reporter imposing term limits and ending all fundraising during the legislative session.
Marsh also has such a nonprofit, commonly known as a “dark money” group called the Foundation for Accountability in Education. Marsh said the group has raised about $100,000, though he will not disclose donor names unless they all agree to do so. Marsh, an Anniston Republican, says that AFLG’s ads are likely funded by the Alabama Education Association, the State’s teachers’ professional association. This claim is also advanced elsewhere on websites and advertisements paid for by Marsh’s Foundation for Accountability in Education, though nowhere is any actual evidence offered to support the claim.
Former State legislator John Rice is the metaphorical “man behind the curtain” at AFLG, and is hardly an AEA liberal. Rice was elected to the Alabama House in 1982 (as a Republican), and won a seat in the State Senate in 1986. He unsuccessfully ran as the GOP nominee for US Senate against Democrat Glen Browder in 1990, and got campaign advice from the right wing hardliner Lee Atwater, a Nixon and Bush campaign consultant known for – effectively – the Southern Strategy.
Marsh’s groups seem to be more racially divisive at this point. Despite – to his point – Marsh’s ads not including any Alabama candidates, they all include President Obama, and the only people featured negatively on his “dark money” website, conservativesforalabama.org are, African-American: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the President. Stop Common Core PAC has indeed received nearly a million dollars in donations from Alabama Foundation from Limited Government, leaving the PAC’s donors virtually anonymous, but it cannot be said that the group is doing “liberal” work.
The PAC has donated significant amounts of money to conservative GOP campaigns – usually against the Hubbard establishment – including to Sandy Toomer, over $100,000, Stan Cooke, over $50,000, and Joshua Pipkin, over $25,000, all candidates widely known to be reliable conservatives.
One of the Hubbard – Marsh picks, though, incumbent legislator Tom Whatley could not say the same though, having personally donated money to Barack Obama’s election campaign.
The GOP primary election will be held on June 3, and the general election is this November.