By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
The first of the now nine women to have made accusations against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore — faced with questions from some over her decision to come forward decades later — made her first appearance in front of television cameras Monday in an interview on NBC’s Today.
Leigh Corfman, who accused Moore of initiating sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32, said she waited to come forward for a variety of reasons, one of them being her young children.
“I did tell people, my family knew, family friends knew, my friends knew. I spent a lot of time every time he came up railing against him and what he had done to me when I was 14 years old. My children were small. I was a single parent, and when you’re in that situation you do everything you can to protect your own,” Corfman said, directly addressing those who have been critical of her timing.
The Moore campaign called the accusations from the women a political hit job. Moore’s wife, Kayla, has posted on her Facebook page claims that the women have been paid to come forward. There hasn’t been any proof or reliable reports of any payments.
Corfman said Monday that she had not been paid or compensated.
Moore has been a high-profile figure in Alabama politics for decades, going back to his time as an Etowah County Circuit Judge when he first developed his nickname “The Ten Commandments judge.” Through two controversial runs for the Alabama Supreme Court and his two subsequent removals, no allegations surfaced. Corfman remained quiet.
Corfman said she went to the courthouse once to confront Moore but decided against it because she was worried about the backlash — and her kids.
“I sat in the courthouse parking lot and thought, ‘I’m going in, I’m going to confront him,'” Corfman said, recalling a time when she almost confronted Moore in 2000 or 2001. “I wanted to walk into his office and say, ‘Hey, do you remember me? You need to knock this stuff off. I need to go public.’ My children were small, so I didn’t do it.”
Moore is not the only public figure to face accusations of sexual assault in recent weeks — from Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota and comedian Louis C.K. to broadcaster Charlie Rose and actor Kevin Spacey — in what has been marked as a shift in the landscape for both accusers and the accused.
Corfman first went public with her accusations against Moore in an article in the Washington Post nearly two weeks ago. Corfman says Moore approached her and her mother outside of the Etowah County courthouse in 1979 when they were attending a custody hearing. He offered to watch her outside while her mother went in for the hearing. He then asked for her number and if he could call her sometime, she said.
He later picked her up twice, a few blocks over from her house, without her mother’s knowledge. The second trip to his rural Etowah County home ended with Moore taking off both their clothes and touching her over her underwear, she said. When he tried to get her to touch him over his underwear, she pulled away and asked to go home, she said, and he took her.
“I was a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adults’ world, and he was 32 years old,” she said.
Moore, at the time, was an upstart assistant district attorney and she was younger than the age of consent.
Corfman, in her interview on Today, said she considered confronting Moore a second time when her kids were a bit older than they were in 2001. But she again decided against it when her kids asked her not to because they were afraid of being outcast at school.
“They were afraid that with all of their social connections that they would be castigated in their groups,” she said. “We decided together that we wouldn’t do it at that time. When the Washington Post saught me out … I had to make a decision.”
Two other women, Beverly Young Nelson and Tina Johnson, told the Post and AL.com that Moore assaulted them, too. Nelson said last week that Moore tried to force her into a sexual encounter outside of the restaurant she was working at as a waitress in 1977 when she was 16, and Johnson said Moore groped her buttocks after a meeting in his Gadsden law office in 1991. She was 28.
The other six women have accused Moore of a range of actions, from dating them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s to persistently pursuing them when they were between the ages of 16-18. Some said Moore repeatedly asked them out on dates at their high school, and another said Moore forcibly kissed her after a date.
Moore has denied all of the allegations but specifically denied the allegations put forward by Nelson — with his campaign actively working to discredit her in particular in a release Monday that picked apart her account, citing two women the campaign says are former employees of the restaurant where Nelson worked. The two women, Renee Kiser Schivera and Rhonda Kiser Ledbetter, who, according to public records, are sisters, said in statements that Nelson would have had to be 16 to work at the restaurant, Olde Hickory House.
Nelson said she was 16 when the assault happened but was 15 when she started working there and Moore began approaching her. The sisters say they worked there between 1977-1979 but don’t remember Nelson working there or Moore ever being a frequent customer. Nelson said the assault occurred in December 1977, and she quit the next day.
“I never went back there again,” Nelson said.
Rhonda Ledbetter also attempted to poke holes in the details of Nelson’s account, including the time when the restaurant closed, where the dumpsters she was allegedly assaulted near would have been, and if there would have been space behind the restaurant for Moore to park in.
Nelson, in her account, said Moore offered her a ride home but instead pulled around to the back of the restaurant and assaulted her.
“We were always told to park on the side of the building because there just wasn’t much room behind it,” Rhonda Ledbetter said in the campaign’s “debunk.” “I don’t remember there being an exit from the back of the parking lot, there would barely have been enough room to turn a car around.”
Aside from two sisters, the campaign also cites a man they say is a former Gadsden police officer who frequented Olde Hickory and said he never saw Moore there, never met Nelson and “couldn’t say that she even worked there.”
The campaign has also attempted to cast doubt on her only piece of hard evidence, a yearbook she said he signed in 1977 days before he assaulted her. They have requested the yearbook be turned over to an analyst because they believe the inscription was forged.
“The days of unbiased reporting are over,” said Brett Doster, a Moore campaign strategist. “The liberal media will dodge any source and refuse to air any interview that doesn’t square with their effort to land a liberal Democrat in the Senate seat.”
The embattled candidate has also denied Corfman’s allegations, saying he doesn’t know her or remember her, but his campaign hasn’t launched an extensive attack against her allegations as they have with Nelson’s.
“I wonder how many ‘me’s’ he doesn’t know,” Corfman said.
Despite calls for Moore to withdraw from national Republican leaders from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to Sen. John McCain, Moore has said he is staying in the race. The Republican National Committee, the Senate Leadership Fund and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have severed fundraising and financial support from his campaign.
State leaders, on the other hand, from Gov. Kay Ivey to the Alabama GOP Steering Committee, are standing by Moore. The GOP has said they will not disqualify him as a candidate.
You can watch the full interview here:
Tuberville calls for term limits, balanced budget and lobbying reform
Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville’s campaign began emphasizing key structural reforms that the Republican nominee hopes to advance if elected to the U.S. Senate including congressional term limits, withholding lawmakers’ paychecks unless a balanced budget is passed and a ban on former officials becoming lobbyists.
“Only an outsider like me can help President Trump drain the Swamp, and any of the proposals outlined in this ad will begin the process of pulling the plug,” Tuberville said in a statement. “Doug Jones has had his chance, and he failed our state, so now it’s time to elect a senator who will work to fundamentally change the way that Washington operates.”
Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.
“You know Washington politicians could learn a lot from the folks in small town Alabama, but Doug Jones … he’s too liberal to teach them,” Tuberville added.
Polls consistently show that term limits are popular with people across both political parties, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that imposing term limits would be adding a qualification to be a member of Congress and that can only be done by constitutional amendment.
It is an unspoken truth that when Americans send someone to Congress they never come back. They either keep getting re-elected like Alabama’s own Sen. Richard Shelby, who is in his sixth term in the Senate after four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the other hand, they may become lobbyists getting paid to influence their colleagues on behalf of corporations, foreign governments or some well funded non-government organization.
Tuberville said he would ban that practice.
A balanced budget amendment almost passed in the 1980s and again in the 1990s.
Since that failure, Congress has increasingly passed bigger and bigger budget deficits. The U.S. government borrowed more money during the eight years of President George W. Bush’s presidency than the government had borrowed in the first 224 years of the country combined.
President Barack Obama followed and the TARP program propped up the post-Great Recession economy. Rather than cutting the deficit, President Donald Trump invested billions in the military and a tax cut without cutting domestic spending. The 2020 coronavirus crisis has further grown the budget.
The government has borrowed trillions to prop up the economy and provide stimulus while investing billions into medical research and treating the virus victims. Congress is currently debating a fifth stimulus package that would add more to the deficit.
Both a balanced budget amendment and a term limits amendment would have to be ratified by the states if passed by Congress. Tuberville is challenging incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.
House passes General Fund Budget
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.
The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”
Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.
The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.
Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.
Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.
The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.
Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.
The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.
Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.
The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.
In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.
SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.
Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”
State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”
The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.
The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.
The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.
The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.
Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.
SB185 passed 101-0.
Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.
Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1 for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.
SB215 passed the House 87-0.
The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.
State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.
SB231 passed 87-2.
The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.
The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.
The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.
Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.
Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.
Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.
Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.
Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.
Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.
The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.
Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.
Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.
Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.
Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.
Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.
Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.
The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.
Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.
It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.
Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.
The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.
Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.
Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.
Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.
- Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)
Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.
Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.
The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.