By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In his ongoing effort to ensure adherence to the Fair Campaign Practice Act (FCPA), Secretary of State John Merrill continues to crackdown on those who fail to report according to State law’s required guidelines. One such group, put on notice by the Secretary of State’s Office, is the Birmingham Association of Realtors (BARPAC) Political Action Committee.
According to the Secretary of State’s records, BARPAC did not file annual reports for four years, as required from 2013 through 2016, and made over $37,000 in political contributions to candidates, lobbyists, and others during those years.
Why such a well-known Birmingham-based PAC would neglect to submit its annual reports has raised eyebrows in Birmingham and Montgomery. In the Magic City, where ongoing Federal and State grand juries are looking into allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the 35th Avenue Superfund, waterworks related issues, all questionable actions are under the microscope of law enforcement.
Reportedly, BARPAC is receiving some unwanted attention due to its non-discourse for the past four years. On its 2013 Annual Report, BARPAC showed a beginning balance of $71,502 .34 and the ending balance of $34,194.60 on its 2016 Annual Report. According to those close to the situation, in March 2017, the BARPAC’s Chair and Treasurer, Cliff Long, hurriedly filed three years of annual reports:
The reports also appear to show campaign contributions outside of the 120-day limit to retire campaign debt.
The Secretary of State’s records show a contribution to Jefferson County Tax Assessor, Gaynell Hendricks, on March 14, 2015, amounting to $750. The election for this office was on November 4, 2014. The 120-day deadline to retire campaign related debt would have been March 4, 2015.
The PAC’s filings also show a contribution to Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Brown on March 14, 2015, of $750. Brown was also elected on November 4, 2014. The 120-day deadline would have been March 4, 2015.
The records list another contribution to Birmingham School Board member Daagye Hendricks on March 6, 2015, of $1,000. Hendricks was elected to the Birmingham School Board on October 8, 2013, making this contribution almost two years after her election and well outside of the 120-day limit to retire campaign debt.
The last report submitted by Birmingham Realtors PAC was on April 7, just days before Governor Robert Bentley resigned his office due to charges that he accepted campaign contributions outside of the 120-day window. These violations carry felony charges, but Bentley was allowed to plead guilty to two misdemeanors, then step down as Governor.
Merrill’s office says they are furthering their efforts to enforce the State’s FCPA laws, despite a person’s position or influence.