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Report: Though improving, Alabama remains one of country’s most corrupt states

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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Alabama has been ranked again as one of the country’s most corrupt states, according to a new survey conducted by Illinois State University’s Institute Corruption Studies, though the ranking this year is a major improvement from last year.

The new survey lists Alabama as the fifth-most corrupt state in terms of illegal corruption — or corruption that is totally against the law — and No. 11 in terms of legal corruption, or conduct that is unethical or appears corrupt but isn’t wholly illegal.

The Institute surveyed news reporters covering state politics and investigative reporters covering issues related to corruption to gather perception-based indices measuring the two forms of corruption.

The state ranks behind Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and New York in perceptions of illegal corruption. In those states, illegal corruption in the state legislature and the executive branch is perceived to be “very common.”

“With respect to illegal corruption, Arkansas and Kentucky are perceived to be the most corrupt states, followed by Louisiana and New York, and some other usual suspects such as Alabama and New Jersey,” the survey found.

Alabama’s judicial branch performs better. In that branch, illegal corruption is considered to be only “slightly common.”

In recent years, Alabama was ranked at the top of the list for legal corruption, but this year, it’s further down the list. Despite its improvement in the rankings, legal corruption is still perceived to be “very common” in the Legislature and the executive branch and “moderately common” in the judicial branch.

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via ISU’s Institute for Corruption Studies


In 2016, Alabama was behind only Kentucky in illegal corruption and was No. 1 in legal corruption. This results that were just released covers the year 2017.

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“It is all bad news for such states as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York as their aggregate scores are in the highest quartiles of both illegal and legal corruption,” the survey found.

The Institute contacted nearly 1,000 reporters via email and phone, receiving a total of 240 responses. The reporters then ranked their perception of corruption on a scale of 1 to 5 for each branch of state government.

Over the course of a year in 2016 and 2017, the top three elected officials in the state of Alabama were removed after corruption or ethics scandals.

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted of ethics violations, former Chief Justice Roy Moore was effectively removed for violating judicial ethics and former Gov. Robert Bentley resigned after a sex scandal with a top aide.

“You cannot convict the way out of corruption. You have to vote it out,” said Oguzhan Dincer, the director of the institute and associate professor of economics at ISU.

Alabama consistently ranks in the top of this survey, but it isn’t the first or only study to list corruption in Alabama as an issue.

In a recently released Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama survey identifying voter priorities ahead of this year’s statewide election, at least 65 percent of respondents said they were “very concerned” about government corruption and ethics.

“While majorities of nearly every demographic or political group are concerned, there are some differences among partisan identifiers: A majority of Republicans are very concerned, while two-thirds of independents and over 80 percent of Democrats are very concerned,” the report reads.

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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Elections

Jones campaign director blasts Tuberville for saying $600 “too much” for out-of-work Alabamians

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

The communications director for U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign on Wednesday called out Tommy Tuberville for saying that $600 in emergency unemployment aid was too much for Alabamians. 

“Tommy Tuberville once again proves he’s out of touch with Alabama. When he ‘resigned’ from his job as a football coach he took a $5.1 million payout for himself. To this day, he receives $800 a week in State Retirement funds for a coaching job he ‘quit’ in 2008,” said Owen Kilmer, communications Director for Jones’s Senate campaign, in a statement Wednesday. 

“But he says $600 in emergency benefits is ‘way too much’ for people in Alabama who lost their jobs in this crisis through no fault of their own. Tuberville says $600 is ‘way too much’ to help people put food on the table and pay utilities,” Kilmer continued. “No wonder, when asked about how to handle this crisis, he said ‘I wouldn’t have a clue.’ It’s true. He doesn’t.”

Tuberville, the Republican Senate nominee, is trying to unseat Jones in the November general election. Jones has called the former Auburn football coach and first-time political candidate an unprepared hyper-partisan.

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Elections

Mimi Penhale, Russell Bedsole advance to GOP runoff in HD49

Brandon Moseley

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Miriam "Mimi" Penhale, left, and Russell Bedsole, right, are vying for the vacant Alabama House District 49 seat.

Republican voters in House District 49 went to the polls Tuesday to nominate their next representative. Miriam “Mimi” Penhale and Russell Bedsole received the most votes and will advance on to the special Republican primary runoff scheduled for Sept. 1.

“What an incredible day!” Bedsole said. “Thank you friends and family for your love, support, and prayers. We had a great showing today and we are on to a runoff. Looking forward to getting back out and winning this thing on September 1st.”

“THANK YOU Bibb, Chilton and Shelby County!” Penhale said on social media. “I’m looking forward to earning your vote, again, on September 1 in the runoff.”

The election was very tight between the two. Mimi Penhale received 829 votes, or 31.4 percent of the votes. Russell Bedsole received 919 votes, or 34.8 percent.

The rest of the votes was split among the other four candidates. James Dean received less than 1 percent, Chuck Martin received 24.3 percent, Jackson McNeely received 2.16 percent and Donna Strong received 6.71 percent.

There were 2,639 votes cast on Tuesday. Voter turnout was 8.88 percent.

Bedsole serves on the Alabaster City Council, Pemhale is the director of the Shelby County Legislative office.

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The eventual winner of the Republican nomination will face Democrat Cheryl Patton in the special general election on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The vacancy in House District 49 was created when State Rep. April Weaver, R-Briarfield, announced her resignation to accept an appointment as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

House District 49 consists of portions of Bibb, Shelby and Chilton Counties. The winner will serve the remainder of Weaver’s term, which ends in late 2022.

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Jimmy Reynolds, Ben Robbins qualify as Republicans for Alabama House District 33

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Republican Party on Tuesday closed its candidate qualifying period for the Alabama House of Representatives District 33 special primary election scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Jimmy Reynolds Jr. and Ben Robbins have qualified to run for the District 33 seat in the special Republican primary.

“Our district is a wonderful place to raise a family,” Robbins said in a statement. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them with more opportunities than we had, and I believe fresh ideas, bold leadership and true conservative values are the foundation of that success.”

Robbins serves on multiple community boards, including Habitat for Humanity, as co-president of Leadership Sylacauga and serves the Talladega Rotary Club as a past-president. He is also active with several local Chambers of Commerce and the Sylacauga Young Professionals. He is a seventh-generation Talladega County resident and the grandson of former Childersburg Mayor Robert Limbaugh. He and his wife Melanie have one son.

Jimmy Reynolds Jr. is a visual arts teacher at Sylacauga City School System. He previously worked for HHGregg Inc. and Tweeter Home Entertainment. Reynolds has a business management degree from Auburn University and lives in Hollins.

The Republican Special Primary Election will be held on Oct. 6, 2020, with the General Election scheduled for Jan. 19, 2021.

The vacancy in House District 33 occurred following the sudden passing of State Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, in July.

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House District 33 consists of portions of Clay, Coosa and Talladega Counties.

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Elections

New poll: Tuberville has big lead over Jones in Senate race

Josh Moon

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

Team voting still rules in Alabama. According to a new Morning Consult poll of Alabama voters, Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville has a double-digit lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, virtually mirroring the advantage President Donald Trump has over Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the state.

The poll of approximately 650 likely Alabama voters shows Tuberville leading 52-35, with a large number of purported “independent” voters still undecided. 

Trump’s lead in that same poll is 58-36. 

The big lead for Tuberville would be a bit of a surprise, given that most polling up to this point has shown Jones performing favorably against both an unnamed Republican challenger and Tuberville specifically. 

Many of the polls documented on the polling tracking website FiveThirtyEight through June and July had Jones trailing Tuberville consistently, but typically falling somewhere between 3 and 10 percentage points behind. Only a Cygnal poll in late June showed him trailing by 14 points — his largest deficit by far at the time. 

While the Morning Consult poll was mostly negative for Jones, the breakdown of responses and the difference between loyalties in the presidential race and the Senate race could prove worrisome for Tuberville’s camp. 

A much higher percentage of respondents in the Senate race identified as “independents,” and 23 percent of that group said they had yet to make up their mind. In fact, among Republicans, while Trump pulled 96 percent of those voters, Tuberville managed just 87 percent. 

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Among those independent voters, Tuberville held just a 7-point lead, 34-27. 

Overall, 9 percent of the respondents were undecided or didn’t plan to vote in the Senate race.

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