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Legislative watchdogs propose ethics reform agenda

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

In 2010, then Republican Party Chairman State Representative Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) led a historic campaign for the Republican Party to take over the Alabama Legislature from 135 years of Democratic Party domination and clean up the corrupt Montgomery cesspool. Voters agreed and gave the Alabama Republican Party everything it asked for then and every election that has followed.

No Democrat has won a statewide race in this state since 2008 and the GOP super majorities in both Houses of the Legislature can cloture the outmanned Democratic caucuses at will. Ending corruption as we know it however has proven elusive for the GOP dominated State government.

In June Mike Hubbard, then the Speaker of the House, himself was convicted of 12 counts of violating his own ethics law. State Representative Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) had earlier pled guilty to using his office for personal gain. Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) survived a perjury trial.

On Tuesday, newly appointed Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) confirmed that there is an ongoing probe of Governor Robert Bentley (R) when he appointed a special prosecutor.

Articles of Impeachment were filed against Gov. Bentley 11 months ago in the GOP controlled Alabama House of Representatives and the House Judiciary Committee still has not even held the first hearing on the evidence against the Republican Governor.

On Wednesday, public reports surfaced of a criminal probe investigating House Majority Leader Mickey Hammon (R-Decatur) leading to an acrimonious effort to remove Hammon from his leadership position in the Alabama House Republican Caucus. Hammon survived but rumors of possible conflicts of interest remain.

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Unhappy with culture of corruption that permeates everything in Montgomery, the Alabama Legislative Watchdogs have unveiled an ambitious series of reforms that they claim would reform government in Alabama. Legislative Watchdogs Director Ann Eubank announced the agenda when the Legislative Session began.

First the conservative group proposed capping the Friendship Loophole at $500: The group said in a statement, “The original intent of this provision was for friendships that existed. However, no “friend” should be able to give without limit, especially $150,000.”

Second the group urged the Legislature to rewrite the financial disclosure statement: According to this proposal, if you are required to file, then you must disclose the names of all people and entities from which you are receiving money.

The Watchdogs also want the Legislature to pass term limit legislation. “Public service is not a career. Term limits make sense. Limit the terms of Committee chairmanship as well. The US House and Senate have limits on the time they can serve as chairman.”

To avoid a repeat of the awkward Hubbard trial where he remained in office for 20 months while under criminal indictment the Legislatuve Watchdogs are proposing that: “Any member of Leadership indicted of a crime should be immediately removed.” The group said in its release, “Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty. However, how can one properly prepare for their own issue and also handle the people’s business? If there are ethics questions there can be no trust in leadership.”

They also want limits on former legislators going into the lobbying business by imposing a four year ban on former legislators becoming lobbyists.

The group also wants to turn the Ethics Commission and its funding over to the Attorney General’s office. The group claimed that this was always a function of the AG. The group claims that, “Because the legislature appoints the Ethics Board and then the Ethics board has the ability to give “get out of jail free” cards.”

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Another option the group considers acceptable would be to make the Ethics commission an elected office, and make it illegal for anyone they regulate to give money to their campaigns. Similar to the PSC.

The group also proposes eliminating leftover campaign contributions by making candidates donate leftover campaign funds 90 days after an election cycle. The Alabama Legislative Watchdogs said, “Massive incumbent war chests discourage other candidates from running. We need more options not less. The Florida legislature currently has this same law.”

The Watchdogs also want to monitor Lobbyist Influence. “Certain lobbyists have accumulated too much power over the Alabama Legislature. When three board members of a group are named in corruption indictments, it certainly brings into question the ethical standards of its leadership.”

 

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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