By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Once, the most powerful political entity in the state of Alabama, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) has had a string of defeats and down moments, since that fateful election of 2010, when then Alabama Republican Party Chairman State Representative Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) led a GOP tidal wave against 130 years of Democratic Party rule and 35+ years of AEA domination.
Wednesday’s ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals probably ended any hope that AEA had that they were going to continue to receive State payroll help in collecting union dues from their membership.
On Friday October 16, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) issued a statement on Wednesday’s ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the Payroll Deduction Lawsuit. Gov. Bentley said, “The Court’s ruling is a clear victory for the legislative process. This ruling supports the notion that special interest groups cannot use state or local government resources to arrange payroll deductions and collect money that, in part, may be used for explicit political purposes. Further, lawsuits inquiring into the motivation of legislators strikes at the heart of legislative privilege, and with this ruling the 11th Circuit has reaffirmed the long standing position that motivation behind legislation cannot be questioned.”
Ironically the AEA spent several million electing then State Representative Robert Bentley (R-Tuscaloosa) over rival former State Senator Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose–now a Congressman).
Bentley is not unique. Many officials that once were recipients of AEA contributions now are often opposed to AEA positions. Teachers and other education workers have seen one raise in eight years, the legislature has diverted millions to SGOs to give scholarships to private schools, education trust fund dollars were transferred to the state general fund (SGF).
Money was always the basis of AEA power. Education employees agreed to let AEA have a generous deduction from their checks in exchange for AEA representing their interests. That money gave AEA millions of dollars to spend on political contributions……by far more than any other special interest.
AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert grasped that Alabama was a conservative state, so didn’t get heavily involved in Presidential, Congressional, or State Supreme Court races; choosing instead to load up electing AEA’s allies to state office. Decades after Alabama was a solid red state in Presidential contests, Democrats maintained control of both Houses of the State legislature.
2010 changed all of that. The rise of the Tea Party motivated conservative grassroots turnout against the Party of Barack Obama. Meanwhile ALGOP Chairman Mike Hubbard had found common cause with the Billy Canary led Business Council of Alabama (BCA). BCA went from supporting who they thought would win to backing the Republican Revolution. The Republican ground team was much deeper and money was equal and Republicans were far more energized. The minority party of 130 years won super majorities in both houses and every statewide race on the ballot.
The first thing the new supermajority did was to call a special session to address ethics reform in the state of Alabama. Part of those reforms led to the ethics law that Mike Hubbard has now been indicted for breaking and part of those reforms included a provision that denied groups from being able to use payroll deductions to fund political activities. That law was aimed directly at AEA. Paul Hubbert and his successor Henry Mabry fought full implementation of the ruling in the courts; but the courts have ruled that the legislature was within its rights when it passed that prohibition.
Mabry’s efforts to elect a more AEA friendly legislature to overturn the act ended in failure which led to his removal as Executive Secretary by the National Education Association (NEA). NEA is now operating it’s state affiliate.
The 11th Circuit’s ruling only reaffirmed previous court decisions.