By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
A few themes running through the news threads at The Alabama Political Reporter this week underscore one stark reality: Our public officials, elected and otherwise, are not honest with us.
OK, the cynic in us knows this already, but it’s worth emphasizing again.
First, APR’s Josh Moon pointed out Tuesday that our lawmakers don’t work for the people who elect them. They work for lobbyists who will likely take care of them when re-election time comes (meaning: themselves).
Second, as APR editor and chief Bill Britt noted on Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey refuses to fully answer questions, even in writing, from APR concerning her health issues.
Now the stark reality: Our elected and government officials simply aren’t very open. They don’t believe in being honest about why they support or oppose one particular bill or another, or whether they’re even healthy enough to maintain public office.
Former Gov. Robert Bentley ran a most secretive office and, eventually, his secrets cost him his position. And that had more to do than just with his sordid, junior high, sexual infatuation with top aide, Rebekah Mason.
The attorney general’s office when it was under now US Senator Luther Strange often kept its workings away from public scrutiny. Certainly the office can’t discuss active investigations; but it can be forthcoming about its procedures and plans – and, yes, possible conflicts.
Lawmakers are known to walk out of committee meetings so they don’t have to vote one way or another on a particular bill (example: Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) on Atti’s Law, the puppy mill regulation bill). Orr disappeared after he committed to vote in favor of the bill. Others on the committee who indicated they favored the bill voted against it, which killed the bill for this Session.
When forced to account for their votes or actions, they often spew platitudes or outright BS – “I favored the bill, but it needed work.”
What bill doesn’t need work? Successful bills come together through compromise, meaning nobody gets everything he or she wants.
We can respect lawmakers who are honest – “Hey, I support puppy mills! I don’t want them regulated.” – but who can respect a lawmaker who refuses to be honest about the motives of his decisions?
These are public people, and they asked voters to give them public lives.
Yet, the deflection, dishonesty and, sometimes, outright lies continue.
That’s the kind of hubris that eventually cost former House Speaker Mike Hubbard his office and will likely (eventually) lead to his serving a jail term; Hubbard left office in disgrace after being convicted of 12 counts of felony corruption.
Hubris also cost Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore his position on the State Supreme Court (for the second time in his strange career), when he, once again, wouldn’t abide by Federal court directives. Then, afterward, he claimed he never did any such thing.
Our elected officials and public servants must learn to be straight with their constituents. They must be honest, up front. They should tell the people they work for what they mean, why they acted as they did, why they voted one way or another.
There is a way to teach them. Vote them out. We do, as voters, have the power to make them honest – or at least make them gone.
And that is what WE must learn.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].