When Republicans won a supermajority in the Legislature in 2010, they pushed to enact strict ethics and campaign finance laws. Current appointed Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall, the party’s standard bearer in the upcoming November general election for attorney general, has not only accepted tainted funds, which drew an ethics complaint, but he has also failed to report a sizable in-kind campaign contribution in violation of the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.
According to federal IRS filings, the Republican Attorneys General Association has given Marshall $735,000 in his bid to defeat Republican challengers in the June primary; it also gave him $18,500 in-kind contributions for opposition research.
RAGA in May paid Oklahoma City-based WPA Intelligence $18,500 to dig dirt on Marshall’s Republican primary opponents Alice Martin, Chess Bedsole and Troy King. RAGA didn’t report the expenditure until after the election, and Marshall has never reported the contribution on his state-required FCPA reports.
It wasn’t that Marshall didn’t report in-kind contributions — he listed over a dozen in detail — it was just the RAGA money he failed to disclose.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Marshall’s failure to report the $18,500 contribution is in clear violation of state law.
State Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton said that he had warned other candidates not to take the type of contributions Marshall received from RAGA.
Secretary of State John Merrill has written that the same kind of contributions Marshall received from RAGA are not permitted under state law.
Under state law, candidates are not permitted to accept a donation from PACs that receive money from other PACs. The reason is that when Republicans passed sweeping reforms, they wanted to ensure that the public could see who was financing political campaigns. RAGA permits campaign contributions from other PACs which masks the original donors.
RAGA receives much of its funding from big pharma, large corporations and casino operations who want a friendly relationship with states’ attorneys general across the nation.
Presently, there is an ethics complaint against Marshall for accepting RAGA contributions.
Marshall’s predecessor Luther Strange took RAGA contributions. But realizing the potential illegality of the donation, he immediately returned the money. In the Marshall camp, they believed they couldn’t win without the nearly quarter of a million in sullied funds.
The Ethics Commission is scheduled to meet on Oct. 3, but Albritton will not confirm if the complaint against Marshall will be heard at that time.
Even though the Republican supermajority passed wide-ranging reforms, Marshall’s specific alleged violations do not carry any penalties.
According to Merrill’s office, only the state’s Republican Party can hold Marshall accountable for accepting unlawful contributions or failing to report donations promptly.
The Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee could refuse to certify Marshall as it did with Public Service Commission Place 1 candidate James “Jim” Bonner earlier this year.
Bonner was punished over, “growing concerns about his sometimes openly racist, including the n-word, sometimes misogynistic, sometimes anti-Semitic, and often disturbing social media posts,” according to a report by APR‘s Brandon Moseley.
North Alabama Republican activist Thomas J. Scovill points out the hypocrisy of essentially removing Bonner for words and not disciplining Marshall for potentially illegal acts.
“As Steve Marshall’s campaign finance issue drags on, the embarrassment to Alabama government and the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) is growing,” Scovill said. “Just as the Alabama Republican Party acted quickly and decisively on the issue of PSC candidate James Bonner’s decorum, now is the time to act decisively on the much more serious issue of lawbreaking by our attorney general.”
However, Party Chair Terry Lathan and the Republican establishment remain silent on Marshall.
Marshall was appointed to his current office after he agreed to then-Gov. Robert Bentley’s scheme to investigate the team that prosecuted former Speaker of House and convicted felon Mike Hubbard.
Marshall will face Democrat Joseph Siegelman in the fall elections.