By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Over the past 18 months, political upheaval in Alabama has ruined lives, shattered faith in our institutions and still the stench of corruption hangs around the neck of the body politic like a rotting corpse.
Russell Kirk, one of the founders of the traditional conservative movement in America in the late 20th Century believed, “A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society whatever political machinery it may utilize.” He also rightly surmised, “[A] society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society.”
After taking the oath of office, Governor Kay Ivey said, “I pledge to each of you that I will do my best. The Ivey Administration will be open, it will be transparent, and it will be honest.”
Since taking office, some of Ivey’s key appointments have cast doubt on those words. Ivey’s decision to embrace allies of former Gov. Bob Riley, former Speaker and convicted felon, Mike Hubbard, and Business Council of Alabama (BCA) Chief, Billy Canary is seen as a bad omen for the nascent administration. As one State Senator lamented, “I’m afraid we’re witnessing the beginning of Bob Riley’s third term.”
Days after promising to govern with openness, transparency, and honesty, Ivey held a “meet and greet” with the Capitol Press Corps where she confirmed her support ethics reform. Since the conviction of Hubbard on 12 counts of public corruption, the Attorney General’s Office has worked tirelessly to clarify and strengthen the State’s Ethics Laws. However, the same negative forces which now surrounds Gov. Ivey, namely Riley Inc, BCA, and the remnants of the Hubbardites, have fought in the shadows to hinder any effort to codify Ethics Reforms.
At Ivey’s presser, this reporter asked Gov. Ivey if she would support the ethics package prepared by the Attorney General’s Office. Ivey said, “I believe in ethics. I believe you do too, Bill.” Ivey said she had not read the bill, but, “Truly, I think there are some needs for clarity in the current Ethics Law. I will sure be supportive of clarity and making sure we’re all on the straight and narrow.”
It is believed that Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon agreed to bring the Ethics Package prepared by the Attorney General’s Office to a vote of the full body. But, that was a commitment made to Luther Strange before his appointment to the US Senate, and with six days left in the 2017 Legislative Session, there is little sign that the bill will see the light of day. Ivey accept at the presser has failed to weigh-in on the package painstakingly prepared by the Attorney General’s Office.
Perhaps being surround by those who claim ethical behavior but fail to live it has tainted Gov. Ivey’s perspective. The following acts would suggest that Ivey is either not vetting appointees, or has joined league with Riley, Inc.
Last week, Gov. Ivey appointed Hubbard ally Ken Boswell, the Mayor of Enterprise, to replace Jim Byard at ADECA. It was Boswell who helped hire Hubbard to represent Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) which fell under suspicion during the Hubbard criminal investigation. Hubbard was not convicted on charges related to SEAGD due to an informal opinion from the State’s Ethics Commission. However, Boswell was part of the group that approved paying Hubbard $12,000.00 a month (a total of $208,848.88) to work as an “economic development consultant” from March 2012 to August 2013 for the rural co-op.
Recently, Ivey appointed Justice Lyn Stuart to replace Chief Justice Moore, knowing full well that Stuart was part of the “gang of three” that denied Moore’s petition. Moore requested an examination of facts related to the action taken by the Judicial Inquire Commission, and members of the Supreme Court, prior to charges being filed against him. Stuart along with Justices Jim Main and Mike Bolin failed to recuse and Moore’s petition was never granted. Beyond being a darling of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Stuart’s failure to disclose her dealings the the Moore case leave her actions suspect.
“Chief” Legal Council Bryan Taylor, formerly one of Riley’s boys, serves as Ivey’s close confidant. Taylor’s wife runs a grant writing company and has worked on projects closely associated with Ivey as Lt. Governor. Recently, Mrs. Taylor landed a lucrative contract with Medicaid.
And it would be hard to ignore Ivey’s $6.5 million dollar giveaway to Riley’s lobbying client, Airbus. In a press release, Ivey claims the development of an aviation center is a partnership. But in this case, one partner (the State taxpayers) put in the money, and the other one receives the benefits.
While Gov. Ivey has acted honorably on several major issues, her reliance on those with long ties to Riley, Hubbard, and Canary raises the specter of corruptions past.
As for transparency, APR has made several requests to sit with the Governor, only to have our appeals to Administration officials ignored. Maybe there’s more to hide in the Capitol than just the gathering strength of Riley Inc., and BCA. What is evident is that some in this administration are morally adrift. Appointments and other decisions are being made out of political self-interest, and not with the honesty and integrity Ivey vowed.
Is Gov. Ivey complicit, or like Bentley, is she in a bubble of ignorance. If she is aware of the impact her alliance with dark forces is having on public confidence then it’s time she awakened to the truth of what people outside the insular North Wing of the Capitol are saying.
While it is too earlier to write the administration off as lost, it does appear that Ivey’s mission to “right the ship of State” has been commandeered by privateers and scalawags.