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Who Will Be McCutcheon’s Wise Counsel?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Last week, intense debate over the lottery bill roiled the Senate Chamber. The State House, especially on the fifth floor, seemed to exude a new confidence; a possibility of change.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon set the tone when he said, “the days of the Imperial Speakership are over” and pledged to reclaim the House of Representatives as the people’s House.

One long-serving staffer observed, “I haven’t seen it this way in years, it’s like it was before people were afraid. People are laughing and enjoying being here again.”

After taking the oath of office, McCutcheon sent a clear message that he is the people’s speaker, and not the agent of special interests: “I am not beholden to any special interests, but to the people of Alabama.”

The initial challenge ahead for the Speaker is to form a government that works effectually, which requires a team of advisors and lieutenants. Not constructed as a triumvirate, as it was under convicted felon and former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, BCA’s Billy Canary, and Riley Inc., etc., but a small band of individuals committed to good government.

Politics is basically understood as “who gets what.” McCutcheon’s principle of helping others, as good stewards of God, is a noble goal that necessitates assembling a team of planners, negotiators, peacemakers, and enforcers.

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Politics is also chaos, so there must be those who can organize the swarm of interest into coherent policies.

Lobbyists, associations and powerbrokers are not inherently evil, but are certainly prone to corruption. However, influence peddling minus corruption is an active part of the process.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s fatal mistakes as a leader are his failures to heed sound advice, while allowing arrogance, a love affair and the need for secrecy to dominate his administration. This trap is not likely to effect McCutcheon… but there are others.

Many fear the former triumvirate of former Gov. Bob Riley, Canary and convicted felon Mike Hubbard is suffering a mere flesh wound and that the amputation of its weakest member is not fatal. It is doubtful Speaker McCutcheon is seeking or even willing to make alliances with the former troika, but McCutcheon must distance himself from their corrupting influence.

As is often expressed lately at the State House, there will be no meaningful elimination of corruption without purging the last vestiges of the Riley/Canary/Hubbard machine.

It is a sad commentary on those who fund BCA that Canary still sits atop the most powerful lobbying interest in the State. It is astonishing that big business hasn’t canned Canary, if only for self-interest following his testimony at Hubbard’s felony trial. McCutcheon is surely not ignorant of the now two-headed monster’s feeding habits.

Unlike his predecessor, thinking at least some of the press cannot be co-opted with praise or discouraged by threat. A free press is not the enemy of good government, but it must always be the watchdog and, if necessary, an attack dog. Reward or punishment doesn’t enter into the equation for some of us.

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The scriptures teach, “Where no wise guidance is, the people falleth; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”

So, who will be McCutcheon’s wise counselors?

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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