The corruption within Alabama’s state government doesn’t surprise me anymore.
The brazenness of that corruption does.
Seriously, these people aren’t even hiding it anymore.
Former Republican majority leader Micky Hammon, before being busted, convicted and shipped off to federal prison, actually told a reporter about his illegal deal with a health care company.
Former Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard was scheduling official meetings and whining in emails about the ethics laws — the laws he helped pass — before he was busted.
Former Republican Gov. Robert Bentley and former Republican Attorney General Luther Strange stood in front of a room full of reporters and tried to pretend that Bentley wasn’t under investigation by Strange’s office, even after Strange wrote a letter all but saying he was. And he was.
I mean, maybe there’s an argument to be made that our people are more stupid than brazen, and they’re simply too ignorant to recognize that we all see what they’re doing. But that’s not a lot of comfort.
Because we seem to have reached a point in this state where corruption and shadiness is the norm.
We simply expect the crooked deals and underhanded payoffs and backroom politics. So much so that our politicians aren’t really hiding it anymore.
Perfect example: Steve Marshall.
Take a quick look through our interim AG’s campaign finance records sometime. And prepare to be amazed.
Not necessarily at the amount of the donations, although that figure, at well over $1 million raised so far — for a gig that pays $168,000 annually — should be scandal enough. But look at who’s giving.
On Feb. 26, a $2,500 donation came in from the Riley and Jackson law firm. That’s the firm of former Gov. Bob Riley’s son, Rob Riley. That firm also shares office space with Bob Riley’s consulting firm.
But more importantly to Steve Marshall, and the attorneys working for him at the AG’s public corruption unit, Rob Riley is currently representing Mike Hubbard in his appeal against a case brought by that aforementioned AG’s public corruption unit.
So the current AG is taking in donations from the attorneys of a convicted felon who was one of the most powerful men in the state.
But in Marshall’s case, not at all out of the ordinary.
Because Marshall has indirectly hauled in tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Jimmy Rane and Will Brooke — two wealthy and prominent business owners, and major political donors, who were caught up in the Hubbard conviction.
And here’s the fun backstory there: Rane and Brooke could technically still be indicted for their roles in giving Hubbard money. Of the 12 felony counts against Hubbard, two involved in Rane and Brooke. And with a grand jury still empaneled in Lee County …
But no biggie to Marshall. He’ll take their cash.
And why not? In fairness to him, now that HB317 — a bill that altered the definitions of who is deemed a lobbyist under Alabama law — has passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature, it’s not clear how Rane and Brooke would now be defined under the law.
Yeah, sure, he took in most of the cash before this bill was even introduced. And yes, if you want to get all nitpicky, he was out there publicly pushing for the passage of this bill. (Really, sarcasm on pause for a minute, when’s the last time you remember an attorney general pushing for major exceptions to the ethics laws, particularly those that define who is and isn’t a lobbyist?)
But then, it’s not like he’s the top law enforcement official in the state or something.
I mean, is there anything that defines Alabama politics better than the state’s top law enforcement official accepting campaign donations from an indicted felon’s attorneys during the appeals process and from two subjects in an ongoing investigation being conducted by his office?
And doing all of it right out in the open for everyone to see.
Maybe it’s just what we’ve come to expect, and accept, in this state.