By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Just hours before the start of the Alabama GOP Summer dinner, members of the Party’s Executive Committee received an email alleging that Chairman Bill Armistead plotted to take money from the Alabama Education Association, (AEA) and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, (PCI), by funneling it through a third-party “company.”
The email also accuses Armistead of asking former Republican State Senator John Rice to recruit candidates for the ALGOP Executive Committee to run against candidates unfriendly to the Chairman.
Finally, the email says that Armistead asked that a check he had returned to the AEA not be cashed.
Armistead, who said he was on a family vacation, emailed the following comment about these statements: “ I am not going to give credence to these absurd allegations by discussing them further.”
However, Republican consultants, Baron Coleman and Jack Campbell, along with Rice, are more than willing to tell their side of the story.
According to the email, Armistead asked Coleman and Campbell to funnel AEA and PCI money through a third-party “company” and then back to the Republican party.
“He acknowledged this was a deceptive violation of the ALGOP ban on accepting AEA money [but] He said the steering committee would never know,” wrote Colman in the email.
Coleman and Campbell said they had two meetings with Armistead in February at the ALGOP headquarters in Birmingham. It was at these meetings that the topic of AEA and PCI money were discussed, and according to the pair, it was Armistead who first raised the issue.
“Yeah, Bill definitely wanted us to raise money for him, clandestinely, from the AEA. And he said the same thing about the Indians,” remembers Campbell.
According to Campbell it was Armistead who recommended that the pair should filter the money through “other means,” so as not to alert committee members on the ALGOP that unacceptable money was flowing in through the backdoor.
Some within the ALGOP have called this sour grapes on the part of Coleman and Campbell. The pair say, it’s time for people to wake-up to Armistead’s double dealing but that they didn’t want to raise the issue during the hotly contested primary.
Armistead has not denied the facts—point-by-point, which he received in an email from alreporter.com. He only called the statements made by Coleman and Campbell “absurd allegations.”
Harold Sacks, Chief of Staff for the ALGOP, said that he was aware of the meetings between Armistead, Coleman and Campbell, but said that although he entered the room on several occasions he, “…could not say what the conversations were about.”
According to Coleman and Campbell the meetings were held on Wednesday and Thursday. John Rice says he visited the ALGOP headquarters on February 5, 2014, which was a Wednesday.
John said that Armistead, Coleman and Campbell were meeting and they called him in for a chat. During that time, Armistead asked Rice if he could “help, recruit some candidates for the Executive Committee.” Rice responded by saying, “Yeah, that’s what I do…been doing it for 25-30 years.” Rice said he worked the phones and came up with some people that would run in the areas Armistead had identified.
Rice, who heads the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, found out later that Armistead turned on him with a vengeance, while returning to the side of Speaker Mike Hubbard and former Governor Bob Riley, who had tried to have Armistead ousted from the Chairmanship just a year ago.
Rice says he helped because he was interested in finding candidates who would return the party to its roots of limited government, transparency and accountability.
Rice said he did hear them talking about AEA money but said, “Armistead asked them about approaching AEA…about the union money and finding a way to get it back to the State party…I walked straight out of the room. I didn’t want to hear any more about that.”
Coleman and Campbell said they also helped Armistead find candidates to run against Armistead’s “unfriendlies,” but that it was the Chairman who asked for their help.
“Bill had a list in front of him of all the Executive Committee members and he was looking down the road to his reelection and he was looking at people he knew who would never support him and he was asking us do you know anybody in this county or that county,” said Coleman.
Campbell remembers Armistead was particularly interested in Dale, Coffee, Monroe and Lowndes Counties.
“I mean, if you want to prove this, go look at all those applications. They’ll all be the same handwriting signed by the same person….all paid with cash,” said Coleman.
An exasperated Campbell said, “The key is this: He (Armistead) brought this stuff up, not us. We didn’t go to him and saying, ‘can we spend three hours recruiting candidates to run against those not favorable to you.’ He brought it up to us. He wanted us to help him take care of ‘problems’ on the Executive Committee,” said Campbell, “That was the tone entirely.”
Coleman and Campbell also said that Armistead asked them to find a way to convince AEA chief Henry Mabry not to cash a $5000 donation the group had made for a table at the ALGOP Winter meeting. The Executive Committee had demanded that Armistead return the check. Armistead sent an Party check back to the AEA according to Coleman and Campbell, he asked them to try and have Mabry not cash it.
Later it was discovered that the AEA had already cashed the check.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who follows ALGOP politics that Armistead might want AEA or PCI money. The Party under Mike Hubbard took money from the PCI and members of the Party have always accepted money from the AEA. See attached letter below where Mike Hubbard thanks then head of the AEA, Paul Hubbert for his contributions.
Armistead has been called a diabolical politician who will do or say anything to stay in power. The conversations at the meetings between, Armistead, Rice, Coleman and Campbell might be determined if a neutral, third party could be found. However, in the face of two or three witnesses, these are the facts as they were told.
The ALGOP staff has been advised by legal counsel not to speak to the media about these matters.