By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, June 25, 2014 U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama at a hearing on the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s annual report to Congress, stressed the need to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the growing IRS scandal. Sen Shelby’s comments were made after revelations that the IRS claims to have lost all of disgraced IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails from 2009 through mid-2011, the timeframe during which inappropriate targeting of conservative groups is alleged to have occurred.
Sen. Shelby asked, “Isn’t it time? Isn’t it past time for us to get past you looking at it internally, even by an Inspector General, and get a special prosecutor to restore the integrity of the IRS?”
The comments were made during Shelby’s questioning of U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
Sen. Shelby said, “Mr. Secretary, I have before me Treasury Order 10105, which breaks down the relationships and supervision of officials in the Department of Treasury. That is, you designate, under the order, the Deputy Secretary is authorized to work on your behalf. It’s got a list of the Undersecretaries. Number 11 is the Commissioner of Revenue. The IRS Commissioner, as I understand it according to your directive here, reports directly to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury which reports to you. Is that right?”
Secretary Lew answered, “That is right. It’s a bit more independent than other subunits, we should be clear.”
Sen. Shelby followed up, “But not totally independent.”
Lew answered, “No, no. I never said it was.”
Sen. Shelby asked, “Do you believe that the integrity of the IRS is of the utmost importance to the functioning of this government?”
Secretary Lew said, “I have said many times and I believe deeply…”
Sen. Shelby asked, “Yes or no.”
Sec. Lew answered, “…in a function democracy, the integrity of the IRS is critical.”
Sen. Shelby asked, “Do you realize, as the Secretary of Treasury, that the IRS’s integrity has been called into question all over America. In other words, what’s been going on at the IRS the last several years, people don’t trust the IRS, they don’t believe that those tapes, those hard drives just disappeared. You know all this. I think you’re an honorable man, I’ve known you a long time. Isn’t it time? Isn’t it past time for us to get past you looking at it internally, even by an Inspector General, and get a special prosecutor to restore the integrity of the IRS? Whatever the costs? Wherever it leads?”
Sec. Lew replied, “Senator, I believe that if you look at the amount of investigation that has been done that has produced no evidence of any political interference in this process, if one looks at the record, the record should actually be reassuring. Obviously, there’s a desire to keep asking questions. I understand that. But I don’t think it’s because the questions haven’t been thoroughly examined by committee after committee, by Congress independently looking at all of the evidence, interviewing people, going through millions of pages of documents, with no evidence of political interference and at some point the process has to recognize that.”
Sen. Shelby responded, “I think most people would think there’s been a lot of interference by the IRS.”
Sec. Lew said, “But there’s no evidence of it.”
Sen. Shelby replied, “Not just the disappearance of the tapes, but before when they were stonewalling different designations that should have been approved. The integrity of the IRS is what’s important. And the American people think that’s in question now. How do you restore it? I believe you get to the bottom of this. I don’t believe Treasury, the Inspector General, and others can do this. We need outside, special prosecutors to do it. Because it’s important, not only to this Administration but to the functioning of government, period. Thank you.”
Over a year ago a Gallup poll now showed that 74% of Americans believe the IRS scandal needs to be investigated. Even though an investigation about the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS led by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa has been going on for over a year, the IRS is claiming that they accidentally destroyed all their records including the hard drives applicable to this matter.
In 2010 conservative and libertarian Americans angered over passage of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) began organizing a political movement we now refer to as the: Tea Party. President Obama began his presidency with a overwhelming Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and 3/5s of the U.S. Senate. Fueled by Tea Party momentum, the Republicans won back control of the House and narrowly lost winning control of the Senate in the 2010 election.
It appeared at the time that President Obama would be a one term President and that the GOP would regain control of the U.S. Senate. Instead in 2012, the Democrats were able to contain the Tea Party’s momentum and successfully re-elected Barack H. Obama, while actually picking up seats in the Senate. Most of this was due to an incredible fund raising and get out the vote effort by the Obama campaign team and the Democratic National Committee. It may not have made any difference to the eventual outcome, but they did have help from an elite team of IRS (Internal Revenue Service) agents coordinated by agent Lois Lerner, who was the director of the IRS’s Exempt Organization Division.
In theory, laws including tax law applies to all Americans equally without regard to whether or not the IRS agrees with your political philosophy. Real life does not work that way and Tea Party organizers including Wetumpka’s Becky Gerritson found themselves targeted by the IRS for their political activities.
Lerner has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Congressional investigations of her taxpayer funded partisan activities. On Wednesday, May 7 Congress responded by making her only the fifth government official in American History to be found in Contempt of Congress by the full House of Representatives.
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery said in a written statement following the vote, “Every year ordinary Americans play by the rules when paying taxes and interacting with the IRS, and if we step out of line there are consequences. We should demand the same accountability from those serving in the IRS. Lois Lerner was trusted with immense responsibility to ensure the rule of law, and instead it appears she used her position of authority to project a political agenda. Even now she continues to stonewall Members of Congress who are simply seeking the truth.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R) from Montrose said, “In the United States of America, we have a democratic system based on the basic freedom of political expression. What transpired at the IRS on this Administration’s watch is simply un-American. I believe the Administration has lost sight of the fact that it is elected to serve the American people, and is entrusted with a responsibility to disclose the entire truth – not just what’s politically convenient.”
The House also passed a resolution calling on Attorney General Eric Holder (D) and the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting scandal. To date AG Holder has not appointed a special counsel and has not shown any willingness to cooperate with Congress in investigating this matter.
Rep. Roby said, “The Justice Department had a chance to prove it was truly committed to accountability by swiftly and aggressively investigating this issue, and prosecuting those who were responsible. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. It is that lack of accountability that has allowed Lois Lerner to think that she can ‘plead the Fifth’ to Congress without consequence. Today’s vote showed that isn’t the case. Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of the Executive Branch and to seek the truth on behalf of the American people. That is a responsibility I take very seriously.”
Congressman Byrne said, “Because the Administration continues to impede Congress from fulfilling its constitutional oversight responsibilities, I support these measures that will restore sanity to the process and allow these investigations to move forward. I will continue working with my colleagues to demand answers on this issue and ensure this blatant abuse of power will never occur again.”
Rep. Roby said that the vote to hold former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress is important towards holding the Executive Branch accountable for its actions.
Since May 2012, Congressional investigators have learned that the IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups applying for the normal tax-exempt status and that the IRS focused increased scrutiny on groups that “criticized how the country is being run” and expressed an interest in public awareness “on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” Despite this to date no one has gone to jail to this point for their involvement in the political persecution of American citizens using their powers at the IRS or for organizing this conspiracy against those American citizens.
The contempt resolution was referred to the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. To this point they have done nothing.
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is a senior member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
“We’re not going to get a do-over:” Alabama health officer on Thanksgiving and COVID-19
There were 1,427 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Monday, the most since Aug. 11.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Monday pleaded with the public to avoid gatherings over Thanksgiving as COVID-19 continues to surge in Alabama and hospitals statewide are filling with coronavirus patients.
“We don’t want this to be the last ever Thanksgiving for someone in your family, like your parents or your grandparents,” Harris said during a press conference Monday.
Harris said Alabama’s numbers aren’t headed in the right direction and more than 230,000 Alabamians — roughly 4 percent of the state’s population — have been infected by the coronavirus.
“We are adding a couple of thousand new cases a day, at least, that we are aware,” Harris said. “This is a time for people to be vigilant. This is a time to be careful and to think about what you’re going to be doing.”
Alabama added 1,574 new coronavirus cases on Monday, and the state’s 14-day average for new daily cases was at a record high 2,087. In the last two weeks, the state has added 29,223 cases, the most cases in any two week period since the pandemic arrived in Alabama in March.
There were 1,427 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Monday. The last time so many were hospitalized in the state was on Aug. 11, during Alabama’s summer surge.
Harris said that he and his wife will be staying home for Thanksgiving instead of having his family’s regular large, intergenerational gathering. What happens with Alabama’s COVID-19 numbers over Thanksgiving will impact what the state’s December holiday and Christmas season will look like, Harris said.
“Are we gonna be here a month from now trying to have the same conversation? I really, really hope not,” Harris said.
Dr. Mary McIntyre, the Alabama Department of Public Health’s chief medical officer, said during the briefing that her home usually sees between 15 and 20 family members arriving for Thanksgiving. They’ve limited this year’s Thanksgiving to three additional people from out of their household, for a total of seven people, she said.
Everyone must wear masks and have temperatures checked at the door, she said.
Everyone will be seated six feet from one another and a Zoom video conference will be set up for those family members who won’t be attending in person, McIntyre said. They’ll use disposable plates, cups and utensils and have the ability, weather permitting, to eat outdoors.
“If we want to live to see another Thanksgiving, and I do, that it may mean stepping back this Thanksgiving and really limiting the number of people, and some of the things that we do,” McIntyre said. “Now is not the time to get out to do Black Friday shopping.”
Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a separate press briefing Monday echoed concern over the possibility of spikes following Thanksgiving and Christmas if the public doesn’t do what’s needed to keep themselves and others safe.
“We are very much worried about the potential spike in numbers. We’ve also seen some of our own staff getting sick,” Kennedy said. “And unfortunately that’s not been at work. It’s been because we are just like you. We’re tired. We’re lonely. We want to try to socialize, and some of us have let our guards down and, as a result, have gotten sick.”
Kennedy said while there’s is concern over future spikes following the upcoming holidays “there is a way for all of us to help prevent that from happening.”
Kennedy said when Gov. Kay Ivey first issued her statewide mask order and social distancing requirements, the public masked up, businesses enforced the orders, and coronavirus numbers improved.
“It didn’t get nearly as bad as we thought, and we are really hopeful that the community is going to come together and do that again for us,” Kennedy said. “Because it’s more than just not having enough space for the COVID patients. It’s also those patients who do not have COVID that have other conditions. They rely on us for routine care, and we want to make sure that we’re available to provide that.”
Kenedy said UAB has an incredible group of staff members, who’ve proven themselves to be quite resilient, but that “the group is tired.”
“We’ve been doing this every single day since March, and so as you can imagine, people are very tired. It’s very emotional, especially as we see younger patients getting sick with this and getting sick in ways that we weren’t expecting,” she said.
Harris again urged the public to make smart decisions that will help slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re not going to get a do-over on this,” Harris said. “This is a big national holiday, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and our numbers are worse than they have ever been during this entire response. Please be careful. Please be safe. And please try to take care of those people who are most vulnerable.”
Governor allocates $3.6 million in CARES Act funds to food banks
The money is to go to the nonprofit Alabama Food Bank Association, which will administer the funds.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced that $3.6 million in federal CARES Act money will be used to reimburse food banks for COVID-19-related expenses.
“Alabama is a state where neighbors help neighbors, even in the most difficult times,” Ivey said in a statement. “The Coronavirus pandemic presented significant challenges around the world, as well as here at home in our own state. Food banks in communities across Alabama have been a lifeline for those in need, and I am proud to be able to put these funds toward the Alabama Feeding Initiative. I have told Alabamians that I remain committed to getting these CARES Act funds into the hands of those who need it.”
The funds are to go to the nonprofit Alabama Food Bank Association, according to the memorandum of understanding. The association will administer the funds to eight participating food banks across the state, which can be reimbursed for the following:
- The purchase of food, packaging and related supplies to meet increased demand.
- operational expenses, including fuel and maintenance, incurred due to handling a higher amount for food, as well as open-air distribution events.
- Rental costs of storage space and vehicles to handle increased volumes of food.
- To purchase PPE, screening equipment and decontamination services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Unless Congress extends the deadline, Alabama and other states have until Dec. 30 to spend CARES Act funds or the money reverts back to the federal government. Ivey has just under $1 billion left to spend before the deadline.
Alabama Education Association, Board of Medical Examiners meet over excuses to break COVID-19 quarantines
Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter.
Officials with the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners met on Thursday to discuss a concern the association has with doctors who write excuses to allow students to return to school before their mandated COVID-19 quarantine periods expire.
At the meeting between Theron Stokes, associate executive director of the Alabama Education Association, and William Perkins, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners, Stokes learned that the board wasn’t aware of the problem, the AEA said in a press release.
“Both groups agreed to set up a meeting with educational and medical organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama,” the AEA said in the release. “A meeting should be held before the end of the year and will allow the AEA and the Board of Medical Examiners, as well as other educational and medical organizations, to review existing guidelines issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and ensure conformity in following those guidelines.”
In a letter to Perkins on Thursday, Stokes wrote that it was AEA’s understanding that the board was aware of the problem, but he wrote that during their meeting he became aware that neither the board nor Perkins was aware of the problem.
“It was not the intent of AEA to cause any unnecessary problems for you, the doctors you represent, or your organization regarding this matter,” Stokes wrote.
Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter.
“It is our firm belief that there exists no medical scenario under which these students could be written out of quarantine and that to do so is violative of ADPH and CDC quarantine recommendations,” Stokes wrote in the Nov. 5 letter.
Stokes in his recent letter notes that both agreed in the meeting to bring together representatives of the other organizations to come up with a uniform procedure for following state and federal guidelines.
“I agree with your plan to conduct this meeting and finalize our goals before the holidays,” Stokes wrote.
Caravan to honor the life of longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes
The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.
There is a car ride caravan honoring the life and service of Rep. Alvin Holmes in Montgomery at 2 p.m. Monday. The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.
On Saturday, Holmes passed away at age 81. He was born in 1939 into a very segregated Montgomery and spent his life battling in favor of civil rights causes. He was one of the first Black state representatives to serve in the Alabama Legislature after implementation of the Voting Rights Act.
There had been Black legislators during Reconstruction in the 1870s, but Jim Crow segregation during much of the 20th Century had effectively disenfranchised millions of Black Alabamians for generations.
Holmes served in the Alabama House of Representatives, representing House District 78 from 1974 to 2018. Holmes participated in the civil rights movement. He was a professor and a real estate broker.
The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, released a statement mourning Holmes’s passing.
“Representative Alvin Holmes was a great Democrat and a fighter,” England said. “He stood on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights and was willing to sacrifice everything in his fight for justice for all. He not only had a long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader, but also as a member of the Legislature, serving his constituents faithfully and dutifully for 44 years. Alabama has lost a giant, whose wit, intelligence, fearlessness, selfless determination, and leadership will be sorely missed. My prayers are with his friends, family, and colleagues.”
State Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, fondly remembered Holmes, whom he defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary.
“Today we lost a dedicated warrior for social justice. Representative Alvin Holmes was a true public servant,” Hatcher said. “What an amazing legacy he has left us! He could always be seen waging the good fight for equality in all aspects of state government and beyond. His public service is legendary and without peer.”
“In recent years, I am profoundly grateful for the grace he showed me in his willingness to share with me his blueprint for effectively serving our people—and by extension the larger community,” Hatcher said. “Today, my fervent prayers are with his beloved daughter Veronica, her precious mom (and his best friend), as well as other cherished members of his family and friends as they mourn his passing. I humbly join the many voices who offer a sincere ‘Thank You’ to Mr. Alvin Holmes for his dedicated service to our Montgomery community and our state. ‘May angels sing thee to thy rest.’”
State Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, also fondly remembered Holmes.
“Sending Prayers to The Holmes family,” Morris said. “Alvin Holmes was the epitome of greatness working for his people!! May you Rest Well !!!”
Republican insider and former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. also served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Montgomery legislative delegation.
“I served with Alvin for 20 years in the Alabama Legislature,” Hooper said. “We often disagreed on the issues, but even after a heated floor debate, we could shake hands at the end of the day. I always considered him a friend. He loved Montgomery and he was a great representative of his district and its issues. He was always willing to go the extra mile for one of his constituents. When I served as Chairman of the Contract Review Committee, he was one of the committee’s most conscientious members. He was always questioning contracts so he could be assured that the contract represented a good use of taxpayer’s dollars which as Chairman I greatly appreciated. He was one of a kind pioneer in the Alabama Legislature and will be sorely missed.”
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives prior to his election as secretary of state.
“I just learned that former State Rep. Alvin Holmes passed away today,” Merrill said on social media. “I enjoyed the privilege of serving with him from 2010-14. There was never a dull moment whenever he was in the Chamber. I appreciated him for his candor & for his desire to work on behalf of his constituents!”
Holmes was a member of the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Montgomery Improvement Association, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Alabama Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He has one daughter, Veronica.