By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—In a 2012 report by this publication, Robert McGhee, a member of the Poarch Creek Indian Tribal Council, confirmed that in 2010 Sen. Del Marsh, finance chair of the Alabama Republican Party, solicited at least $350,000 from his tribe. Of that amount, $200,000 appears to be the total budget the ALGOP allocated for State Senate races.
Marsh told McGhee that the money would be used to finance State Senate races. The Poarch Creek Indian Tribe (PCI) donated the $350,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), and the RSLC funneled the funds back to PACs controlled by then Chairman of the ALGOP Rep. Mike Hubbard.
Recently, a media firestorm has erupted around the publication of a leaked 2011 memo from the RSLC, concerning the “improper” money funneling scheme in 2010. But, who were the Senate candidates who received these “Toxic” funds that Marsh solicited and Hubbard controlled?
A careful investigation of State FCPA reports show that a little over $200,000 of the money laundered by Hubbard and Marsh helped propel the ALGOP candidates to victory in the Alabama Senate.
In 2012, the Alabama Political Reporter not only revealed that Marsh—on orders from Hubbard—personally solicited campaign contributions from the PCI, but also revealed which ALGOP candidates received the laundered PCI money.
In light of the research conducted by the Alabama Political Reporter, confidence is high that the identities of the individual candidates can be accurately established.
October 10, 2010 the RSLC received a $250,000 check from the PCI.
On October 14, 2010, the RSLC’s Alabama PAC sent a check for $200,000 to the Alabama Republican Party.
From that date – October 14, 2010 – until the end of the 2010 campaign, the Alabama GOP contributed almost $200,100.00 to 13 Alabama GOP State Senate candidates.
From the date that the RSLC contributed $200,000 to the Alabama GOP – immediately after receiving $250,000 from the PCI – the total amount budgeted and spent by the Hubbard-controlled party on Alabama Republican State Senate campaigns matched – by 99.95 percent – the amount of money the Alabama GOP received from the RSLC.
October 21, 2010, the other $50,000 of the PCI’s contribution to the RSLC was received by the Hubbard-controlled 136 Years PAC.
Alabama Secretary of State records indicate that after receiving the $50,000, the 136 Years PAC immediately spent approximately $49,000 –almost the exact amount contributed – with two companies: SRM Media, incorporated by longtime Hubbard ally Tim Howe (and a partner in Hubbard’s favored lobbying firm, Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross) and Hubbard’s own company, Craftmaster Printing. (10-day report, annual report)
The following is a complete list of contribution made by the Alabama Republican Party to Alabama Republican state senate candidates after the RSLC sent its check for $200,000 to the party on October 14, 2010:
October 20, 2010:
Gerald Allen – $500 See ARP 10-day Report, Page 7
Gerald Allen – $2500 See ARP 10-day Report, Page 7
Shadrack McGill – $9900 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Shadrack McGill – $5000 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Shadrack McGill – $2500 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Shadrack McGill – $500 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Ray Robbins – $5000 See 10-day Report, Page 36
Ray Robbins – $2500 See 10-day Report, Page 36
Bryan Taylor – $5000 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Bryan Taylor – $2500 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Bryan Taylor – $2500 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Bill Holtzclaw – $2500 See 10-day Report, Page 11
Arthur Orr – $1000 10-day Report, Page 35
Tom Whatley – $1000 10-day Report, Page 45
October 22, 2010:
Bryan Taylor – $8700 See 10-day Report, Page 39
October 29, 2010:
Gerald Allen – $2500 End of Year Report, Page 4
Ray Robbins – $2500 End of Year Report, Page 11
Bill Holtzclaw – $5000 End of Year Report, Page 6
Paul Bussman – $5000 End of Year Report, Page11
Gerald Dial – $5000 End of Year Report, Page 3
Paul Sanford – $2500 End of Year Report, Page 13
Clay Scofield – $2500 End of Year Report, Page 13
TOTAL contributions from the Alabama Republican Party to State Senate candidates after receipt of $200,000 from the RSLC: $200,100.
By following the timeline of money flowing from the PCI to the RSLC then to a Hubbard-controlled PAC, the money can be traced to 13 Senate races, of which, 11 won over democratic rivals.
The largest contribution of gaming money appears to have landed in the campaigns of Phil Williams, Shadrack McGill, Bryan Taylor, Gerald Allen, Danny Joyner and Ray Robbins.
It is easy to assume that Whatley, Scofield, Sanford, Dial, Bussman, Orr and Holtzclaw never knew the origins of the “toxic” funds they received because of the small amounts. However, it stretches imagination to believe that those who received large campaign contributions never knew the identity of their true benefactors.
It is also possible that Hubbard and Marsh conspired to lie to their candidates in the same way they intended to lie to the public.
Whatley, Scofield, Sanford, Dial, Bussman, Holtzclaw, Orr, Williams, McGill, Allen and Taylor all won their campaigns. Robbins lost to Democrat Senator Jerry Fielding and Joyner was defeated by Democrat Senator Marc Keahey.
Fielding switched to the Republican Party in 2013 at the urging of Marsh, only to lose his seat in 2014, to veteran Republican lawmaker, Rep. Jim McClendon.
In the case of Williams: This is particularly interesting to note that he unseated incumbent Sen. Larry Means by accusing him of being in the pocket of gaming interests. In October 2010, Means was arrested on corruption charges in a vote-buying scheme commonly referred to as the Alabama Bingo Trial. He was accused of voting for pro-gambling legislation in return for campaign contributions. He was cleared of all charges in two trials in 2011 and 2012. Williams, with the help of Hubbard and Marsh, managed to hide the fact that he was being funded in part by similar gaming interests.
Hubbard has recently denied any knowledge of events surrounding the laundering of PCI money to obscure its origins through the RSLC. However, the Alabama Political Reporter confirmed with the PCI in 2012, that not only had Hubbard known about the scheme, he was the one who approved it. This is now a fact confirmed by the RSLC report as well.
Marsh was the bag man, but it was Hubbard calling the shots.
While the RSLC concluded that Alabama law had most likely been violated by Hubbard and the RSLC, it is unknown if the Special Grand Jury in Lee County, which in investigating Hubbard, will try to prosecute these alleged crimes.
In 2010, Hubbard promised he would be “Ending Corruption in Montgomery” even saying, “Democrats have held the majority in Montgomery for 136 years, and during that time, they created an atmosphere that breeds corruption and encourages graft…. Republicans understand that we must limit the influence of special interests and other lobbyists who control much of what happens in Montgomery.”
The GOP has said repeatedly that they would clean up the influence of gambling money in State politics. However, when it came to winning control of the State House, Hubbard and Marsh, along with a few highly-financed Senate candidates, seemed to have no trouble using gambling money to win. As long as its true origins were obscured.
While nothing has been proven illegal so far, all of this certainly casts a long shadow over the promises made by Hubbard and the ALGOP.
USDA is seeking rural energy grant applications
The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.
United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand on Wednesday invited applications for loan guarantees and grants for renewable energy systems, and to make energy efficiency improvements, conduct energy audits and provide development assistance.
The funding is being provided through the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, which was created under the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized under the 2018 Farm Bill. This notice seeks applications for Fiscal Year 2021 funding.
The deadlines to apply for grants is Feb. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021. Applications for loan guarantees are accepted year-round.
REAP helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption by purchasing and installing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency improvements in their operations.
Eligible systems may derive energy from wind, solar, hydroelectric, ocean, hydrogen, geothermal or renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters).
USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to help improve life in rural America.
Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments.
Key strategies include achieving e-Connectivity for rural America, developing the rural economy, harnessing technological innovation, supporting a rural workforce and improving quality of life. For additional information, see the notice in the Federal Register.
Trump says that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin within two weeks
Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients.
President Donald Trump said Thursday that coronavirus vaccine deliveries will begin as early as next week.
“The whole world is suffering, and we are rounding the curve,” Trump said. “And the vaccines are being delivered next week or the week after.”
Trump made the announcement during a special Thanksgiving holiday message to U.S. troops overseas via teleconference. Trump said that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients. He also argued that his election opponent, President-elect Joe Biden, should not be given credit for the vaccines, which were developed during the Trump administration.
Trump referred to the vaccines, which were developed and tested in less than ten months as a “medical miracle.”
Regulators at the FDA will review Pfizer’s request for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine developed with BioNTech during a meeting on Dec. 10. The director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research says a decision is expected within weeks, possibly days after that key meeting.
The latest trial data for Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine showed that it was 90 percent effective.
The CDC plans to vote next week on where the distribution of approved vaccines will begin and who will be allowed to get the first vaccines when they become available.
Dr. Celene Gounder, a member of Biden’s COVID Advisory Board, warned against rushing a vaccine to market.
“The single biggest risk of rushing an approval would be Americans’ distrust the vaccine,” Grounder said. “It’s essential people feel confident this is a safe and effective vaccine.”
Moderna said that its vaccine is 94.5 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.
AstraZeneca says its preliminary results showed its vaccine ranged from 62 percent to 90 percent effective depending on the dosage amount given to participants. AstraZeneca is having to launch a second round of global trials to clear up the discrepancies.
Many Americans appear to have ignored CDC warnings to scale back Thanksgiving holiday plans. More than six million Americans flew over the holiday week, raising fears by public health officials that the surge in coronavirus cases we are experiencing now will be followed by a bigger surge in the next three weeks.
As of press time, there have been 62 million diagnosed cases of coronavirus cases in the world, including nearly 13.5 million in the United States, but many cases are mild and go undiagnosed.
A CDC researcher estimates that the real number of infections in the U.S. has topped 53 million since February. More than 1.4 million people have died around the world since the virus first appeared in China late last year. The death toll includes 271,029 Americans and 3,572 Alabamians.
The Iron Bowl is today
Alabama will have to play without head football coach Nick Saban who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Auburn University college football team will play the University of Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday with the game kicking off at 2:30 p.m. Attendance is strictly limited because of COVID-19 restrictions. The game will be televised on CBS stations.
Alabama will have to play without head football coach Nick Saban who has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will coach the Crimson Tide in Saban’s absence. He has a 46-35 record as a head coach at USC and Washington.
Auburn will be coached by Gus Malzahn, who has a 67-33 record as a head coach. He is the fifth winningest coach in Auburn history, trailing only Shug Jordan, Mike Donahue, Pat Dye and now-Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville.
Alabama has a 7-0 record and is currently the No. 1 team in the country in the college football rankings. Auburn is 5-2 but with a win could still win the SEC West with wins in its remaining two games, and if Alabama were to lose another game down the stretch. Alabama is just one game ahead of Texas A&M for first place in the SEC West, but the Tide has the tiebreaker by virtue of having defeated the Aggies in head-to-head competition.
In addition to team honors, there is a lot riding for individual players in today’s game. Alabama redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones has thrown for 2,426 yards and 18 touchdowns in Alabama’s first seven games. Jones’s strong performance has made him a Heisman contender and has earned him consideration as a possible first-round or high second-round draft pick by the NFL if he were to leave Alabama early.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has thrown for 1,627 yards and ten touchdowns over seven games.
Alabama and Auburn played their first football game against each other in Lakeview Park in Birmingham on Feb. 22, 1893. The game is called the Iron Bowl because historically the game was played on a neutral site: Birmingham’s historic Legion Field. Birmingham at the time was best known for the iron that was mined there and then made into steel and other metal products.
The game is now played as a home and home series, but the Iron Bowl name has stuck with the rivalry.
Alabama leads the series with 46 wins to Auburn’s 37. There has been one tie. Auburn defeated Alabama 48 to 45 in last year’s high scoring contest.
Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus
Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.
Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine.
Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said.
“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response.
The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval.
“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations, we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines.
In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain.
“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily.
While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.
“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.