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ALGOP Factions Divided on Strategy as Election Looms

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Late on Monday night Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee members received a lengthy email from Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead in which the ALGOP Chairman accused members of the Party Steering Committee of attempting to sabotage the Alabama Republican Party’s election plans in favor of their own thinking.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “Several members of the ALGOP Steering Committee seem determined to sabotage ALGOP’s 2014 political plan to suit their own personal preferences.  They want to disregard the work that has been done, and is being done, by our political team who has worked for nearly two years developing our plan based on demographics, voting history, polling data and viability of candidate.”

The Alabama Political Reporter talked to Chairman Armistead about the situation in a phone interview. We asked the conservative party chairman if this sort of friction was normal in political parties at election time.  Chairman Armistead said that it is not, but here in Alabama there are some on the steering committee who opposed his candidacy for Chairman in 2011 and 2013 so strongly that it makes them crazy.

bill-armisteadChairman Armistead said that he was elected both times by over 60 percent of the voters on the Republican Party Executive Committee and they will just have to deal with it. Chairman Armistead told APR that if his opponents want to fight this out publicly in the press he is good with that.

Armistead told APR that ALGOP has been working on their election plan for two years and was critical of steering committee members who ignore the advice of professionals on the advice of self-professed political gurus.

Chairman Armistead said in the email, “The bottom line is there are certain members of the Steering Committee who want to remove funding from races that were determined as “targeted races” under a plan that our political team has developed under the direction of Chief of Staff Harold Sachs and me. The worst part of what they want to do is spend money on races where our contribution will not affect the outcome whatsoever. These Steering Committee members want to spend the money that we have raised over the last two years but they refuse to raise any money to assist us in winning these races.”

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The Alabama Political Reporter talked with Republican campaign consultant and former ALGOP steering committee member Chris Brown. Brown said that the narrow 11 to 10 decision by the current ALGOP Steering Committee to strip the ALGOP Chairman of his powers to decide how the money is spent in the last three weeks before the election and give that authority to a committee is “very ironic” because “I sided with Armistead four years ago on the ALGOP Steering Committee when he did the exact same thing to the previous Republican Party Chairman, Mike Hubbard (R from Auburn), four years ago, “Except we did it earlier…..in August.”

Chairman Armistead wrote in his email, “National Committeeman Paul Reynolds has demanded that we take $30,000 from candidates that we have been preparing for the November 4th election to give to his personal friend who is running for the State House from his hometown in Greenville, AL. The Secretary of State’s website shows that this candidate has $103,881.12 cash on hand, and polling shows that the candidate has an 18 point lead in the polls: 51.1% to 33.3%. In addition, Speaker Mike Hubbard has told me that he is providing the support this candidate needs including “fundraising, mail, consulting and on-the-ground field reps”.  Speaker Hubbard has made it clear to me that he is handling this race, and there is no reason for ALGOP to get involved.  I suggested to Mr. Reynolds that if he wants to help his friend, he should raise money for his campaign rather than take it from one of the candidates that really needs it, but he declined to assist his friend.”  Paul Reynolds represents the Alabama Republican Party on the Republican National Committee (RNC) and through that office holds a seat on the ALGOP state steering committee.

The candidate in Greenville, Chris Sells denied the statement that Speaker Hubbard is providing field reps and support for his campaign.

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The Alabama Political Reporter reached out to National Committeeman Paul Reynolds for his comments on the Chairman’s email.  Committeeman Reynolds said that when he saw the email, “It knocked my socks off.  I was floored.  I thought we left this in the Steering Committee.”  Reynolds said that he did not want to comment further on the situation before the election because he did not want to distract from Republican candidates.

Brown said that he and Armistead were together on one side of the vote four years ago, while Reynolds sided with then Chairman Hubbard. While the vote went against then Chairman Hubbard, Brown credited him with keeping the rift out of the press, unlike Chairman Armistead.

One of the key points of contention is how much support the Republican Party is giving Dr. Larry Stutts who was named the GOP Candidate for Senate District 6 against incumbent State Senator Roger Bedford (D) from Russellville.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “AFRW (Alabama Federation of Republican Women) Chairman Frances Taylor led the effort to de-fund the Republican Senate candidate that Governor Bentley, Senator Del Marsh and I recruited to run against Senator Roger Bedford. There was no basis for her efforts to remove and/or reduce the funding for our Republican Candidate.  When it was explained to Ms. Taylor that we had worked closely with Sen. Marsh to determine where we should place our resources, she responded that she would not be told by Senator Marsh who to support. The proposed support for our candidate is to mail four direct mail pieces in the district just as we are doing for other targeted races.”

District 6 includes Franklin County and portions of Colbert, Marion, Lauderdale and Lawrence Counties. Dr. Stutts is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Sheffield and lives in Tuscumbia.

Chairman Armistead also criticized Senior Vice Chairman George Williams and Minority GOP Chairman Phillip Brown for demanding that ALGOP provide funding for some minority candidates.  Armistead said those candidates were not funded because they, “Have no campaign plan, no campaign organization, no money raised, and no evidence they are campaigning.” Armistead wrote that he has recruited 13 minority candidates, “And I have hired a full time Minority Outreach Director to help with this effort since Phillip Brown has not done this as Chairman of the Minority GOP.”

Chairman Armistead was also critical in his email of Second District Chairman Sue Neuwien and Seventh District Chairman Pierce Boyd by name.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “The ALGOP 2014 political plan is based on winning every statewide and congressional race and targeting certain legislative and local races. One of our underlying goals is to strengthen the party at the local level in order to establish the Party as the majority party at every level. Further details of the plan are explained in the attached overview of the plan. What you need to know is there are some on the Steering Committee who have opposed me at every turn, and I have dealt with this continually since I was elected Chairman almost 4 years ago.  Now, they have taken their personal opposition to me to a new low, and their attempt to run our political operation threatens to seriously damage the Party’s success on November 4th.”

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Chairman Armistead if he wanted to make an announcement or whether or not he wanted to run for another term as Chairman next year.  Chairman Armistead said the only race he is focused on right now are the elections in November.

Chris Brown said, “I ran Armistead’s race for Chairman four years ago.  I supported (then Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Matt) Fridy two year ago.  A third Armistead term would be horrible for the Alabama Republican Party.”

Chairman Armistead wrote, “The ALGOP political team has worked diligently to develop our 2014 political plan for the last 18 months. This plan should not be thrown out by a few people to satisfy their personal preferences. The ALGOP political team is very competent and is composed of Political Director Britney Garner, Voter Engagement Director Zach Bowman, Chief of Staff Harold Sachs, and Joe Domnanovich.”

Chairman Armistead said that he and Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senator Del Marsh, ALGOP Chief of Staff Harold Sachs, ALGOP Political Director Britney Garner met right after the June primary and determined that they would handle the campaigns of the incumbent legislators, and ALGOP would handle targeted House and Senate districts where there are no GOP incumbents.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “I do not believe that a select few members of the Steering Committee should step into this process during the last three weeks to dictate how campaigns will be managed and funded.”

 

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Legislature

Bill unlocks the “revolving door” for public employees

Bill Britt

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After a brief introduction lasting approximately three minutes, SB177 passed out of the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee with a favorable report.

If the legislation sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, becomes law, it will radically alter the “revolving door” statute permitting any public employee to leave a government job and immediately return as a representative for that entity or another government agency.

Under existing law, former public officials and public employees are prohibited from serving as a lobbyist or otherwise representing clients before the governmental body for which he or she had served or worked for two years after leaving office or employment.

This legislation would open the door for all types of public employees to avoid the current law.

However, Gudger’s bill does away with the two-year prohibition on public employees, allowing them to freely serve as agents of their former boss or another government body.

Under state law, a public employee is defined in part as, “Any person employed at the state, county, or municipal level of government or their instrumentalities.”

“We see a distinction between public employees who move to other public employment and those who leave for jobs in private industry,” said Sonny Brasfield, Executive Director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. “The bill leaves in place the strong prohibition against shifting from public employment to private employment, but creates an exception that we feel is appropriate for public employees who want to continue to work in the public sector.”

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The proposed legislation was presented to the state’s attorney general’s office for analysis as well as ethics officials.

Gudger, who is vice-chair of the committee, did not explain why the legislation was needed and neither did any of the committee members ask for a reason for the drastic rewrite of the state’s ethics law.

Why it was passed out of the Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development committee rather than ethics or judiciary raises questions as well, as does the fact that there was no discussion.

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Republican lawmakers made ethics reform a centerpiece of their efforts to wrestle power from Democrats in 2010. Having succeeded in gaining control of the State House, Republican lawmakers passed what would be called the toughest ethics laws in the nation.

Legislation currently proposed by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, would render the existing State Ethics Act useless as an effective tool to regulate the behavior of public officials and employees.

Opinion | Deception, subtlety and the wholesale destruction of current ethics laws mark proposed rewrite

Since the indictment and conviction of Mike Hubbard—the former Speaker of the House who led the charge to swing the Legislature to Republican control, many of his former colleagues have sought to rewrite the ethics laws championed ten years ago. Gudger, a newcomer to the state Senate, was not a part of the class that passed the 2010 ethics laws.

Hubbard was sentenced to state prison nearly four years ago but currently remains free pending a ruling by the State Supreme Court.

The bill passed out of committee unanimously with both Democrats and Republicans supporting the measure.

Committee members are as follows:

  • Chair Steve Livingston
  • Vice-Chair Garlan Gudger
  • Will Barfoot
  • Tom Butler
  • Clyde Chambliss
  • Vivian Davis Figures
  • Arthur Orr
  • Dan Roberts
  • Malika Sanders-Fortier
  • Clay Scofield
  • Cam Ward

Article was updated for clarity.

 

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House

Opinion | Ethics are dying and you don’t care

Josh Moon

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Alabamians don’t care about ethics. 

Just admit it. Or, actually, don’t even bother admitting it, because the evidence is quite clear. 

You don’t really care that much. 

Oh, sure, you say you do. Each election, when the pollsters start making calls asking you to rank what’s most important to you, you list ethics right up at the top. In most cases, it’s the No. 1 issue for voters, according to the polls. 

But that’s BS.  

Your supposed love of ethics is a facade. It’s something you say because you think you’re supposed to say it. But deep down, it’s like bottom five on your list. 

And I know this because I see who you vote for. 

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I see how you fail to punish those who abuse ethics laws, who skirt the rules of campaign finance, who seek to constantly roll back the protections put in place to ensure your government operates fairly and plays favorites as little as possible. 

Not a single person who has attacked Alabama ethics laws or who has been accused of violating campaign finance laws or ethics laws has lost an election in this state in recent years. 

Some have gone to jail and been forced to resign, but conservative voters in Alabama have sent exactly zero bad actors packing. And if we’re honest, I think we all know that Mike Hubbard — the face of political corruption in this state — would likely win his old House seat back if he ran in the next election.

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Because you care more about the R beside the name of a candidate than you do about the quality of the candidate. 

Don’t dispute this. 

In 2018, when Republicans in the state legislature carved out massive loopholes in the ethics laws, despite corruption prosecutors raising red flags, not a single person who voted for that monstrosity paid a political price. In fact, Republicans who were thought to be vulnerable won easily, despite their support of a bill that went against what was allegedly voters’ top priority. 

In that same election cycle, Attorney General Steve Marshall, who clearly seemed to have accepted campaign funds that violated Alabama laws, won easily. In the primary, when GOP voters could have chosen another Republican — one with a history of fighting public corruption — they still chose the establishment Republican, and turned a blind eye to sketchy ethical behavior. 

The sketchy ethical behavior of the state’s top law enforcement officer.

If you don’t care about that, there’s not much left. 

And so, here we are now, with one GOP hack after another whittling away at the ethics laws each and every year. 

A couple of years ago, we made broad exceptions for “economic developers.” Even as the most sensible and independent members of the ALGOP screamed bloody murder over the extra large loopholes. 

Last year, Sen. Greg Albritton tried to essentially remove ethics altogether, with a rewrite bill that was so shockingly brazen that even the party leadership had to turn its back on it. 

And this year, there are two more attempts to weaken the laws. 

One is from Rep. Mike Ball, who is one of Hubbard’s oldest and bestest pals, and a guy who has wanted to rewrite the ethics laws ever since his good buddy was sent to rich-white-guy’s prison in Alabama. Which is to say Hubbard is out on bond on appeal forever. 

Ball’s latest bill might just challenge Albritton’s for the most shamefully obvious attempt to undermine ethics laws. Except, instead of rewriting the laws, he just removes the portions that allow district attorneys and the AG’s office to prosecute them. Unless the charges go through the Ethics Commission first. 

So, the commission that is appointed by the legislature would be the only group that could bring ethics charges against the legislature.

A fox appointed by other foxes to guard the hen house. 

But we don’t stop there. 

In addition to Ball’s bill, there’s also one from Sen. Garlan Gudger that would get the revolving door swinging again. 

As part of the 2010 ethics reform package, lawmakers were prohibited from leaving their elected positions and accepting lobbying work for a period of two years. Gudger’s bill would carve out an extensive exception, allowing for former public employees to return to their old job — or ANY OTHER public position — and immediately start lobbying. 

Because, you know, just the other day, I passed by a group of people talking on the street about the things that really need fixing around this state, and their top issue was how unfair it was that these folks couldn’t work as lobbyists immediately. 

This is pathetic. 

These are people carving out exceptions for themselves and their buddies — working to rig the game so they can keep sucking up public dollars and making sure hefty contracts go to their pals. It’s government handouts for the wealthy and crooked. 

And you’d be outraged about it. If you cared at all.

 

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House

McCutcheon says public opinion is driving gambling debate

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told reporters that public opinion is driving the debate on gambling.

Speaker McCutcheon praised Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s (R) working group on gambling and said that a lot of good people had been appointed to that group.

At Gov. Ivey’s State of the State address, she told the Legislature to wait on bringing any gaming bills until her working group could be appointed, study the issue, and issue a recommendation on what sort of gambling should be passed by the legislature, if any. Thus far the Legislature has complied with the governor’s request.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked McCutcheon, there are only 24 legislative days left in this session, wouldn’t it make more sense for the legislature to give the Governor’s working group six months or whatever time they need to formulate a recommendation. That would give legislators time to carefully study and understand this proposal and bring it in the 2021 legislative session, rather than trying to pass a bill in the next few weeks without legislators having time to fully understand what it is that they are voting on.

McCutcheon agreed that that would be smart, but that public demand is driving this debate.

“Legislators are hearing from constituents who are asking why all of our neighboring states have lotteries and other gaming and we don’t,” McCutcheon said.

APR asked: this would be a constitutional amendment so if anything is wrong at all in the bill that passes it is not so easy to go in and fix. Doing it in a special session would give legislators more time to analyze the legislation.

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“That’s a good option, but public opinion is driving this train and that is growing,” McCutcheon replied.

Reporters asked what committee would the gambling bill be assigned to. Last year it went to tourism.

McCutcheon said that he needed to see the bill to know what committee it would be assigned to. “It could be an education lottery,” in which case it would go to education. We have to wait and see.

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Last year, the Senate passed a simple paper lottery proposal that would have brought revenue to the state general fund (SGF). Some legislators in the House objected and argued that gambling funds should go to education. Others objected to the lottery bill because it did not have video lottery terminals (VLTs) at the existing dog tracks.

Before this legislative session began, the Poarch Creek band of Indians (PCI) which operate two large video bingo casinos in Wetumpka and Atmore, presented a proposal which would bring the state “a billion dollars” in exchange for a compact with the state. In exchange the state would fully legitimize their existing gaming facilities, allow them to expand those to full Class A gaming with table games, allow the tribe to build new casinos in Birmingham and Huntsville, and a sports book. There would also be a lottery. The existing dog track operators in Shorter, Birmingham, and Greene County object to this proposal because it would give PCI a de facto gaming monopoly.

Gambling opponents argue than any lottery or expansion of gambling proposal would prey on people who don’t understand math and would adversely affect the poorest among us.

 

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National

Byrne: People of Alabama “do not want the coronavirus brought here”

Brandon Moseley

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Sunday, Senate candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, expressed his opposition to a federal government plant to relocated coronavirus infected people in Anniston.

“The people of Alabama DO NOT want the coronavirus brought here,” Congressman Byrne said. “I’m fighting to bring this to a full stop. Leave these people in the place they came to, don’t spread them around the US, and keep them OUT of Alabama. The risk is much too high.”

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) also expressed concerns about the federal plan to relocate coronavirus exposed passengers to Anniston. Coronavirus infected persons could be in Alabama as early as Wednesday.

“Late Friday night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) informed me about their proposal to transport Americans who have tested positive with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to a FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston,” Ivey said. “Sensing the urgency, I quickly informed the offices of Senators Richard Shelby and Doug Jones and Congressman Mike Rogers, as well as Dr. Scott Harris with the Alabama Department of Public Health.”

“On Saturday, it appears that a press release from HHS was inadvertently, and perhaps prematurely, sent notifying the State of Alabama that these individuals were scheduled to begin transporting to Alabama as early as Wednesday,” Ivey continued.

“Obviously concerned, there were a number of conversations between HHS, the White House, my staff and me, as well as two rounds of conference calls including the senior staff of the Congressional Delegation to try to clarify HHS’ intent and reasoning for selecting Alabama,” Ivey continued. “On one of the calls, they informed us that the CDP in Anniston is only being considered as a “back-up” plan, in case they run out of alternative locations. They assured us on both calls that no decision had been made to send anyone to Anniston.”

“I made it abundantly clear that while the State of Alabama wants to work closely with the Trump Administration to assist fellow Americans who may have tested positive for the Coronavirus, there were some grave concerns about why the site in Anniston was chosen and how, logistically, this would play out in the event this back-up site were to be eventually activated,” Ivey said in a statement to the media. “First and foremost, my priority is to protect the people of Alabama. While locating these folks in Alabama is currently a backup plan, this is a serious issue and we need to be fully aware of the facts regarding the potential of housing them in Anniston.

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“I am grateful to Senator Shelby and his team for coordinating today’s effort to send officials from HHS to Alabama to provide further clarity to this situation,” Ivey said. “I also appreciate Congressman Rogers for speaking with the President and informing him of the concern of the people of Alabama. Through these coordinated efforts, we will begin a process that will be transparent, and hopefully find a solution of which we are united and comfortable with.”

Congressman Rogers expressed his concerns about the coronavirus infected persons being housed in the Third Congressional District.

“Earlier this evening, I spoke with President Trump,” Rogers said in a statement on Saturday. He agreed with me that the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to house those Americans exposed to Coronavirus at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston is the wrong decision. President Trump had no advanced notice and these individuals were brought to the continental United States without his consent. I will continue to work with President Trump and HHS to find the best facilities that meet the needs for those Americans that have been exposed to this dangerous virus. The CDP is not that place.”

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Byrne shared Rogers comments and added, “We’ve been tracking the issue and I’m glad to stand with Rep. Rogers and President Trump as we work to stop this ill advised plan.”

Coronaviruses are extremely common throughout the animal kingdom and are one of the causes of the “common cold.” This is novel (new) strain of the virus, that appears to have come from bats. Researchers are calling this disease COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.”

As of Sunday morning, there have been 78,966 diagnosed cases of COVID-19. 53,079 of these are still active. 23,418 people have recovered from their illness and been discharged. 2,469 have died. Most of these are in China, where the plague originated; but at this point the disease has spread to 32 countries.

 

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