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Strange’s possible campaign violations referred to Ethics Commission

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

On May 2, APR reported that the recently appointed Senator Luther Strange may have committed two major campaign finance violations; this, according to Secretary of State John Merrill. Merrill’s office has handed over its records to the Alabama Ethics Commission for investigation. The Commission it is believed will also be looking into the legality of payments made by Strange to two campaign workers.

APR’s article drew a swift denial from Strange’s Senate Communications Director, Shanna Teehan, as well as a few high-powered Washington, DC lawyers. Teehan called APR on Wednesday demanding a retraction saying, that not only was our report wrong but that Secretary Merrill had admitted his statement to APR was in error.

As proof of APR’s “mistake” Teehan cited a report by Yellowhammer News, claiming it contained the facts and Merrill’s retraction. However, the written statement provided to Yellowhammer by Merrill’s office does not recant his previous statement but rather confirms it. And as for the DC lawyers’ explanation of Strange’s actions, it is their opinion, not fact.

During a testy phone conversation with Teehan on Wednesday, in which she claimed she tried to warn APR on Tuesday that the report we were about to publish was in error.

Teehan’s foreknowledge is incredibly uncanny, seeing that APR did not discuss any details of the report with anyone. We did, however, contact a few people to determine the background of the two staffers being paid by Strange’s campaign.

To combat APR’s report, Strange’s office is using two high-powered Washington DC attorneys, Megan Sowards Newton and Benjamin L. Ginsberg of Jones Day.

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Employing a silk-stocking law firm is no surprise given that elite Washington insiders have already determined that Luther Strange should remain the junior Senator from Alabama, despite his highly questionable appointment by the now disgraced former Governor Robert Bentley.

NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin said, “We have made it very clear from the beginning that Senator Luther Strange would be treated as an incumbent. It has also been a clear policy that we will not use vendors who work against our incumbents.”

In the 2016 Presidential Election, Alabamians overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump because of his promise to “drain the swamp.”

Strange’s Communications Director Teehan once held the same position with Bill Armistead, during his tenure as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

Armistead recently said of Washington insiders trying to blackball consulting firms who dare work for any candidate that opposes Strange: “Politics can sometimes be bare-knuckle, and that is what we are experiencing with the Washington establishment threatening vendors who might work with any candidate opposing Senator Strange. This type of hardball politics is what has disgusted much of the electorate and has caused the rise in ‘outside the beltway politicians like President Donald Trump.” Armistead further states, “I am certain that those who have threatened the vendors in this way believe that they are helping Senator Strange, but in reality, I believe it will have a negative impact on Senator Strange in his attempt to win voters support at the polls.”

Strange’s team is using the same tactics as former Speaker, and convicted felon Mike Hubbard used to deny reports from APR, threaten its owners, and cow other media outlets into remaining silent; a strategy that only served Hubbard for a short period.

Alabama’s US Senate Special Election Primary is about 90 days away, and three questions need to be answered:

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Will the Ethics Commission act in a timely fashion?

Will Attorney General Steve Marshall stand aside or stand up?

Will Luther Strange be held to the same standard as former Governor Bentley?


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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