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Opinion | Siegelman wants ruling on Marshall’s campaign finances, and you should too

Josh Moon

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Joseph Siegelman is right.

You know he’s right. Even if you’re a Republican and hate Democrats with all your being, you still know he’s right about Steve Marshall and the $735,000 in campaign contributions.

They’re illegal.

Troy King brought it up first, even filed an ethics complaint against Marshall back in July.

Before that, the executive director of the state’s Ethic Commission went on the record saying that he had told other campaigns that donation such as the ones Marshall accepted were a violation of Alabama law.

Because what Marshall did — no matter whether there’s a D or an R beside his name (and Marshall’s had both in his time) — is illegal in this state.

The law is clear.

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He accepted money from a political action committee (PAC) that participates in PAC-to-PAC transfers in order obscure the identities of original source of donations.

That’s illegal here.

Even if it is done by an out-of-state PAC, it’s still illegal. The law says so.

Even if it’s done by a 527 group, such as the Republican Attorney Generals Association, it’s still illegal. The law says so.

So, when Steve Marshall, over the course of his re-election campaign, took in $735,000 from RAGA, he violated the law.

Marshall’s camp, of course, disputes this. It says federal PACs, such RAGA, don’t fall under Alabama reporting laws, and that PAC-to-PAC transfers at the federal level are legal.

That’s true. But Alabama law specifically states that an out-of-state PAC must register if it plans to donate to a candidate running for state office, and that PAC must follow Alabama laws.

On Thursday, Siegelman followed King’s lead and asked the Alabama Ethics Commission to do its job. At a press conference in Huntsville, Siegelman called on the Commission to issue a ruling on King’s complaint — a complaint the Commission has so far failed to take up.

The Commission, which meets monthly, won’t take it up prior to the November elections, unless a special meeting is called. There is no November meeting on its schedule.

Siegelman noted that the state has lost its top three officeholders in the last election cycle, with Speaker Mike Hubbard, Gov. Robert Bentley and majority leader Micky Hammond all being booted out of office or resigning over corruption issues. And he said Marshall would be next.

That’s probably not true. Only because holding Marshall accountable would be up to the current incarnation of the Ethics Commission, and well, it’s too busy knocking down fines and legalizing corruption.

But Siegelman is right about everything else.

This is an utter embarrassment for the state — to have its top law enforcement officer so blatantly and willfully skirting ethics laws like this.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that a guy who accepted donations from Hubbard’s attorney (oh, for real, that happened) and tens of thousands from one of the guys who bribed Hubbard (yep, that’s real too) would take illicit money. But it is. At least to me.

I’m sorry, I know I’ve been around this state for some crazy nonsense, but it’s still a bit shocking to me that the highest law enforcement agent in a state would blatantly and intentionally violate the law.

And it’s even more shocking that he would violate a law that is intended ONLY to make elected officials, such as himself, more accountable to the voters and citizens. And more shocking still that he wouldn’t, once his transgression was pointed out to him, correct himself.

Instead, Marshall attacked King for filing the complaint and attacked Siegelman for “running a negative campaign.” That last criticism came after Marshall’s campaign took a jab at Siegelman’s age and called him a “liberal.”

This is the State of Alabama’s Attorney General.

Think about that.

The state’s top law enforcement agent has, at the absolute best, violated the spirit of a law designed to keep the voting public more informed about who’s buying elected officials. And when this transgression was pointed out, the AG started attacking people for ridiculous things and refused to correct anything.

At a point, you have to ask: If Steve Marshall is willing to do this, what else is he willing to do?

 

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