Luther Strange is off the hook.
The executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission told APR on Wednesday that the commission determined a few sessions ago that allegations that Strange violated campaign finance laws were unfounded.
The two allegations, which were filed by Secretary of State John Merrill’s office during Strange’s special election campaign for U.S. Senate last year, were considered potential felonies and centered around Strange’s federal Senate campaign transferring funds to his state-level attorney general’s campaign account.
Ethics Commission executive director Tom Albritton said several factors went into determining that Strange had not violated the law. Most importantly: “The statute controlling the transfer from a federal campaign account to a state campaign account requires the candidate to be a state or local candidate. Luther Strange was not,” Albritton said.
Merrill disagreed with the commission’s decision, saying his staff’s understanding of the applicable laws forbids Strange from making the campaign account transfers in question.
“We understand that the Ethics Commission can do whatever they want with the things we send them,” Merrill said. “We do not agree with their finding, but it’s not our job to rule. It’s our job to pass along the violations. We did our job.”
While the laws governing the issue are complicated, the transfers at the center of the debate are fairly easy to understand. In December of 2016, Strange’s federal campaign account, in a series of transfers, sent a little over $1,400 to his state-level campaign account. The money was being used to pay for an already-purchased website domain.
The problem was the $1,400 exceeded the $1,000 threshold allowable for the transfers and also fell outside of the 120-day window. Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was forced to resign after accepting a donation outside of the 120-day window.
But according to Albritton, that’s where the mixing of federal and state laws make things murky. Because in addition to Strange, who was running for U.S. Senate, not being a state-level candidate, the law also requires the transfer to be a campaign contribution before it can be considered illegal.
“The transfer was made in order to reimburse the state campaign for an unintentional payment by the state campaign for the domain maintenance fee for the domain that the federal campaign had already purchased,” Albritton said. “It was not intended to influence the election of a state or local candidate.
“Federal law preempts state law in this circumstance. Federal campaign finance laws required the reimbursement for the state campaign. If they had not repaid it, it would have been a violation of federal campaign laws.”
Albritton said that Merrill and his office can forward their findings directly to the Alabama AG’s office if they feel a mistake has been made.
The Ethics Commission decision on the matter will likely add fuel to what is becoming a fiery feud between it and Merrill’s office. Just last week, Merrill was particularly critical of the Commission’s decision to pass on issuing fines to candidates, businesses and PACs that failed to file campaign finance reports on time.
During an interview with APR last week, Merrill was asked whether his allegations against Strange had been resolved by the Ethics Commission. At that time, he said he wasn’t sure, prompting APR to raise the question with Albritton. It doesn’t appear as if the decision on the Strange allegations has been previously reported in the media.
GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville leads Trump “boat parade” in Orange Beach
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville rode in the lead boat in a “boat parade” on Sunday in Orange Beach, celebrating Independence Day and the launch of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Hundreds of boats participated in the Trump parade in the Perdido Pass area. WKRG TV estimates that more than 8,000 people joined. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores boats joined boats from Pensacola and Dauphin Island.
Trump supporter and Alabama Republican Executive Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was also present.
“It was Awesome having Coach Tommy Tuberville on The TRUMP Boat at Orange Beach Alabama,” Hooper said. “Tommy was a Great Coach and he will be a Great US Senator. It’s Great To Be A TRUMP/ TUBERVILLE AMERICAN. Everybody was so Happy cheering for The President and Tommy on! Fun Day!”
Hooper is a former state representative from Montgomery.
Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. The Arkansas native lives in Auburn.
President Donald Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday.
“Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said. “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”
Trump accused opponents of trying to dismantle America.
“Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” Trump alleged. “In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.”
“President Trump has given several good Speeches,” Hooper said. “This Speech was by far his best! It was straight up AWESOME! His speech was all about the Greatness of America! President Trump loves our Country and its great History. President Reagan has given some of the best speeches ever. This speech topped Reagan’s best. As for Perry O. Hooper Jr., I would get in a foxhole and fight for him to the end. God Bless President Donald J. Trump and GOD BLESS THE USA!”
Trump faces a stiff challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in the polling.
Tuberville has been endorsed by Trump in the July 14 Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate. Tuberville faces former Sen. Jeff Sessions.
State Sen. Jim McClendon accuses Tuberville of hiding from a debate
State Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, on Monday accused coach Tommy Tuberville of avoiding his GOP Senate primary opponent, former Sen. Jeff Sessions.
“Coach TUBBERVILLE is hiding from a face to face debate,” McClendon said on social media.
McClendon compared Tuberville’s strategy to that of Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Joe BIDEN is hiding from the public in his basement,” McClendon said. “Same game plan for both of these guys. WHY? They are AFRAID (and UNABLE?) to answer pertinent questions. I will not vote for either of them. We MUST have leaders that understand the issues.”
Biden is the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. He will face President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 general election.
McClendon told APR that Tuberville, “Does not know the issue. He doesn’t have a clue. He just wants to be a U.S. Senator.”
Sessions has challenged Tuberville to debates.
“Anyone who represents our state needs to demonstrate that they know Alabama and each of its 67 unique counties,” Sessions said in May. “You can’t represent Alabama’s interests unless you prove that you understand Alabama and the challenges we face. Given your TV ads boasting about how strong you are (while standing in a gym where other people are exercising), I’m sure you can find it within yourself to demonstrate that strength in a series of debates so that the people of Alabama can see for themselves.”
“Being a United States Senator is more than just casting the occasional vote,” Sessions stated. “Effective senators must be ready to debate Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others on many issues and away from the safety of talking points scripted by Facebook’s chief open-borders lobbyist, who you’ve hired to help lead your Senate campaign.”
“And anyone representing Alabama needs to be fully vetted before they are trusted to represent Alabama Republicans in a race against Doug Jones,” Sessions continued. “I’ve been fully vetted, over and over again. The national Democratic Party tried to find “dirt” on me when I helped President Trump win the 2016 election, and again when he nominated me for Attorney General. They came up empty, because there’s nothing there.”
Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. He was also the coach at the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech University and Cincinnati University, and the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami and at Texas A&M University.
Polls have shown Tuberville with a lead over Sessions.
Sessions and Tuberville are running against each other in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The winner of the Republican nomination will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election. Sessions was Senator from 1997 to 2017, when he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general.
Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson endorses Jeff Coleman for Congress
Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson endorsed 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate Jeff Coleman Thursday.
“Jeff Coleman is a leader. We need a strong leader in Washington to fight back against these DC bureaucrats who represent themselves instead of the people,” Johnson said. “I know that Jeff Coleman will be that leader, and he will be the mover and shaker to get things done!”
“Mayor Johnson’s confidence in my ability to bring strong jobs, stand up for our values, and fight for our district is very humbling,” Coleman said. “His leadership in Andalusia has been incredible and It shows in their growth!”
Johnson now joins mayors from Luverne, Dothan, Geneva, Florala and Tallassee in endorsing Coleman for Congress.
Coleman and his opponent, former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, are running in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The two are scheduled to be in a debate Tuesday on WTVY Channel 4 in Dothan at 6 p.m.
Coleman is a native of Dothan. He is the fifth generation of his family to head the family business, Coleman Worldwide Moving, based in Dothan. He recently stepped down as president and CEO in order to run for Congress. Coleman is a former chairman of the Business Council of Alabama and one of the wealthiest people in Alabama.
Coleman has been endorsed by BCA and the Alabama Farmers Federation, as well as the Alabama Realtors Association, Alabama Home Builders Association, Alabama Retail Association, Alabama Trucking Association, Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce and the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Coleman is a graduate from Northview High School where he was a member of the 1981 Football team that won the Alabama High School Football State Championship. He has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration from Troy University in Dothan. He is an Eagle Scout, a 2011 Graduate of Leadership Alabama and a 2015 Graduate of the Air War College National Security Forum. Jeff served two terms as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama.
Coleman describes himself as a conservative outsider and businessman, like Donald Trump, who cares more about doing what’s right for the country than winning an election.
The eventual Republican nominee for the open 2nd Congressional District seat will face Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the November general election.
Tuberville should release fraud victims from NDAs, Sessions says
GOP Senate candidate and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions on Monday called on his primary opponent, former Auburn football head coach Tommy Tuberville, to release victims of a fraud scheme from non-disclosure agreements they signed as part of a court settlement.
“If Tommy Tuberville has nothing to hide, why does he continue to refuse to release the victims from the secrecy agreements that he made them sign, so that they could share exactly what happened?” Sessions said. “Tuberville and his lawyers must release the victims immediately, so we can get the full truth about this issue. Tommy’s hedge fund scheme bilked investors out of large sums of money, and now he’s trying to gag the victims to keep them quiet — and hope that Alabama voters don’t notice.”
Following the end of his coaching tenure at Auburn, Tuberville and former Lehman Brothers broker John David Stroud formed a hedge fund, which later went broke, costing the investors to lose their investments. Stroud went to prison and some investors sued Tuberville, who maintains he was the biggest victim of the fraud.
“If Tuberville was truly just an innocent investor and victim of the fraudulent hedge fund, as his campaign handlers now claim, why did he hand out business cards calling himself the ‘managing partner’ of the firm?” Sessions asked. “Why did the hedge fund’s offering documents that he gave to potential investors say that he was personally ‘responsible for the investment direction, capital raising, and the day-to-day oversight of business decisions’ of the fraudulent hedge fund? We need to know exactly what happened, and Tuberville must immediately give a full accounting of his scandals.”
Sessions has made the case that he is the known and vetted candidate and will be best able to withstand an onslaught of negative ads from Democrats who want to hold on to Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ Senate seat, which some analysts view as the most vulnerable seat in the 2020 election and a key pickup if Republicans hope to hold their narrow Senate majority.
“If this is just coming out now, we have to wonder what other skeletons are hiding in Tommy Tuberville’s closet,” Sessions said. “The truth is that he’s an unvetted candidate, and Alabama voters can’t afford to send a question mark into the race against Doug Jones and the millions of dollars of out-of-state money at his disposal.”
According to The New York Times’ reporting and court documents, the victims include a married couple from Wetumpka, a bookkeeper and a retired teacher, who invested $800,000 with TS Capital. The other victims include a married couple from Auburn, who transferred over $100,000 from their retirement accounts to invest with TS Capital.
After more than a year of fighting the lawsuit, Tuberville settled the case by paying a secret amount. All the parties involved signed non-disclosure agreements that prohibit them from speaking about the fraud allegations.
The Sessions campaign claims that it appears that none of the victims were made whole. “Meanwhile, Tuberville filmed videos for ESPN, bragging about his house on the white, sandy beaches of Florida,” the Sessions campaign said in a parting shot.
Tuberville and Sessions are running in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The winner will then face Jones in the Nov. 3 general election. Tuberville had the most votes in the March 3 Republican primary and has led Sessions in polling throughout the runoff race.