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Elections

Attorney General’s alleged illegal acts make national news

Bill Britt

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Alabama’s Republican Attorney General has drawn national attention over controversial campaign contributions he received from the Republican Attorneys General Association.

“Alabama’s Attorney General Steve Marshall may coast to victory on Nov. 6, but not without the help of some powerful friends from up north,” reads a report published over the weekend in USA Today.

The report focuses on $735,000 in alleged illegal contributions Marshall received from RAGA that enabled him to win the Republican nomination for attorney general.

Even though Marshall was appointed attorney general by disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley, RAGA treated him as an incumbent.

The Washington-based nonprofit stopped its donations to Marshall after a complaint was filed with the state’s Ethics Commission.

RAGA operates as a political nonprofit regulated by Section 527 of the IRS, often referred to as “dark money,” because sources of the original donors are masked.

At issue is Marshall receiving these funds unlawfully because RAGA accepts PAC-to-PAC transfers, which are illegal in Alabama.

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According to the USA Today report, 527s like RAGA, “must report all donors who give $200 or more per calendar year. But they don’t indicate which donors’ money goes to which candidate they support, so the original source of the cash helping a specific candidate is often unclear.”

RAGA’s largest funder is the Judicial Crisis Network, which, according to USA Today, has given the group $7.2 million since its founding. “As a 501(c)(4) ‘social welfare’ group, Judicial Crisis Network doesn’t disclose its donors,” said USA Today. “[B]ut IRS documents show it has received around $4 million from the Wellspring Committee, another conservative ‘dark-money’ group.”

USA Today also reports that RAGA receives significant donations from a corporation who are, “targets of large-scale multi-state lawsuit.” Among RAGA’s donors are Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the drug OxyContin, who gave the nonprofit over $600,000 since 2014.

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IRS filings show RAGA accepts contributions from super PACs such as the General Electric PAC and JP Morgan PAC, according to USA Today’s report, which is at the heart of the ethics complaint hanging over Marshall.

Alabama’s Ethics Commission has failed to act on the complaint against Marshall ahead of the elections, leaving voters in doubt as to the legal consequence Marshall could face after election day.

Montgomery District Attorney Darryl Bailey has been asked to present Marshall’s case to a grand jury.

Marshall has argued that PAC-to-PAC transfers are illegal while maintaining he has done nothing wrong.

Marshall faces Democrat candidate Joe Siegelman on Tuesday.

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Elections

First presidential debate is tonight

Tuesday’s debate, set to begin at 8 p.m. CST, will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020. (STAFF SGT. TONY HARP/AIR NATIONAL GUARD AND GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, are preparing for Tuesday night’s debate.

Tuesday’s debate will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace. The debate will be at 8 p.m. CST and is being hosted at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

Due to COVID-19, the two candidates and the moderator will not shake hands. There will be a small number of ticketed guests inside the debate hall, along with debate officials, crews and TV network anchors including Fox News.

Trump has prepared with help from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Major Rudy Giuliani but has chosen not to have traditional lengthy practice sessions.

Trump is suggesting he doesn’t want to overdo it.

“Sometimes you can go too much in that stuff,” Trump told reporters on Sunday.

Biden has been holding mock debate sessions with senior adviser Bob Bauer and top aides, according to CBS News.

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“I’m prepared to go out and make my case as to why I think he’s failed and why I think the answers I have to proceed will help the American people, the American economy and make us safer internationally,” Biden said.

“The president prepares by being president,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh reportedly said. “And by regularly facing hostile news media. That’s pretty good practice by any measure.”

The debate as to whether Trump should have appointed Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will almost certainly come up.

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“Joe Biden spent a lot of time in his basement to study up,” said Lara Trump, the president’s campaign adviser and daughter-in-law. “He’s been in this game for 47 years. I assume he’ll do OK. Quite frankly, the bar has been lowered so much for Joe Biden that if he stays awake for the whole thing it’s like maybe he won.”

The two candidates are running very different campaigns.

From March until the last week in August, according to news reports, Biden made no in-person speeches or campaign appearances. Biden’s events since have been rare and attended by just a few invited guests.

Trump, on the other hand, has been holding mass campaign rallies. Trump has held 14 in-person rallies in September including in swing states New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Minnesota with multiple trips to Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

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Elections

Sewell: Confirming Barrett before the election would undermine Supreme Court’s legitimacy

“The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is clearly tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to go back on their own promise,” Sewell said.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell (via Office of Rep. Terri Sewell)

Saturday, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) released a statement claiming that President Donald J. Trump’s (R) nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Associate Justice on the Supreme Court was tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans and that confirming Judge Barrett would undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court nomination by President Trump today, with the 2020 presidential election only 38 days away, denies the American people a voice in this very important decision,” Rep. Sewell said. “The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is clearly tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to go back on their own promise not to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court so close to a presidential election. This standard articulated by Senate Republicans was applied against President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland eight months before the 2016 presidential election. This blatant power grab by Trump and Senate Republicans is especially disturbing given that the voting process has already begun with hundreds of thousands of voters having cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election.”

“Fairness and comity demand that the Senate not confirm any vacancy on the Supreme Court until the American people have chosen the next president,” Sewell concluded. “To do otherwise, I believe would undermine the very legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

Friday before Barrett was even nominated, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) announced that he will not support any Trump nominee for the Supreme Court for the vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Jones stated, “I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election.”

“Justice Ginsburg was a role model and an inspiration,” Sen. Jones said. She was a brilliant and tireless advocate, a champion for fairness and equality, and her efforts have brought our country closer to the ideals upon which it was founded.”

“It is a poor reflection of the state of our national politics that, just hours after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we were thrust into a divisive partisan fight over her successor, denying the nation the time to mourn this extraordinary American’s death,” Jones continued. “Just weeks from a national election, we are confronting a blatant power grab by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President that will undermine the court and subvert the will of the American people.”

“Just four years ago, Leader McConnell held open a Supreme Court seat for ten months before a presidential election because he said time and again that, in an election year, we must let the American people decide,” Jones said. “If confirming a Supreme Court justice ten months prior to a presidential election would have denied the American people a voice, then isn’t he now denying the American people a voice by rushing to confirm a justice just weeks before a presidential election?”

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“I believe the answer to this question is a resounding YES,” Jones continued. “This is especially true given the urgent legislative work we have yet to do. Leader McConnell should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people by bringing a new bipartisan COVID-19 relief package up for a vote. We also need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act to support our military. We need to pass our annual funding bills instead of kicking the can down the road with yet another costly continuing resolution. We need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has languished in this Senate, in order to protect the right of all Americans to vote and participate in our democracy.”

“Consequently, under these circumstances, I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election,” Jones explained. We should not force the country into a brutal and divisive partisan confirmation fight while Americans are already voting to choose the next President. If President Trump is re-elected, I will evaluate any pending or future nominee on their merits and vote for or against the nominee based solely on their qualifications.”

Trump has already appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Barack H. Obama (D) only got to select two of his nominees to the court. When conservative icon Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 – the previous election year, Republicans led by McConnell and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) blocked Obama’s appointee, Merrick Garland.

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Jones also voted against previous Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. Sewell has no Republican general election opponent.

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Courts

Sen. Doug Jones won’t support SCOTUS nominee before Nov. 3 election

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones during a livestreamed press briefing. (VIA DOUG JONES CAMPAIGN)

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday said he would not support any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court before the outcome of the Nov. 3 election is determined. 

Speaking during a livestreamed briefing, Jones said that while Republicans appear to have enough votes to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he will not be a party to denying the people a voice in the process in the election of the next president “in just under 44 days.” 

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg, who on Friday became the first woman, and first Jewish person, to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. 

Several Republicans who voiced opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court more than 10 months before the 2016 election have reversed course, and now say they support Trump nominating a selection with election day just a little more than a month away. 

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said. “In fact, I believe that the level and intensity of hypocrisy being displayed by Senator McConnell and the president, with regard to the rush to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s successor, is unmatched in the history of our constitutional government.” 

Jones said what McConnell and other Republicans should be focusing on instead is getting another round of much-needed COVID-19 aid to small businesses and people impacted by the pandemic. 

“Rather than pushing this confirmation to the top of the Senate calendar, the majority leader should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people. We should pass a new bipartisan COVID-19 stimulus package to give Americans and businesses the relief that they desperately need, and that economists say if required to shore up the economy now,” Jones said. 

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Jones expressed concern as well for what medical experts are warning could be a new spike in COVID-19 nationwide. 

“There could be an even greater urgency, if our health care professionals’ warnings come to pass,” Jones said. “And that is as temperature drops and people go indoors that this virus spikes, and we see another surge.” 

Asked why his opponent, Tommy Tuberville, won’t debate Jones, he said, “It’s pretty simple. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”  

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“He has no clue. He is Coach Clueless,” Jones said. 

Jones noted that when asked recently on his thoughts on extending the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, Tuberville stumbled through an answer that indicated he wasn’t sure what the Voting Rights Act was.

“He had no earthly idea,” Jones said. 

Jones said Tuberville isn’t going to debate him because Tuberville doesn’t want to talk about issues.

“He doesn’t want to talk about a plan. His plan is simply this: Whatever Donald Trump says, I’m good,” Jones said, “and if Donald Trump says or does something that is not good, it’s crickets coming from Coach Tuberville.” 

Jones noted that after multiple news outlets, including Fox News, confirmed reporting that Trump had said disparaging things about veterans who died in combat, Tuberville has not spoken out against Trump’s comments. 

Jennifer Griffin, senior national security correspondent for Fox News, reported that she has spoken to senior U.S. officials who backed up reporting by The Atlantic, and said Trump said of the Vietnam War “anyone who went was a sucker.” 

“He has not said a thing about what was confirmed by Fox News about the president’s comment,” Jones said of Tuberville. “That’s just disgraceful.”

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Elections

Merrill gives guidance on straight party, write-in voting

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill issued guidance Wednesday on straight party and write-in voting.

“Voters who wish to vote straight party for all of the Democratic or Republican candidates on their ballot may do so by filling in the bubble next to their party preference at the top of their ballot,” Merrill explained in a statement.

“If a voter wishes to vote for any candidate outside of the selected party, however, he or she may do so by filling in the bubble next to the preferred candidate’s name. In doing so, the candidate(s) voted on outside of the voter’s designated party ballot will receive the vote for that particular race.

In addition, if a voter wishes to write-in a candidate, he or she may do so by filling in the bubble next to the box marked ‘Write-in’ and then printing the name of the preferred candidate on the designated line.

Write-in votes must be hand-written and not stamped or otherwise artificially applied to the ballot.”

Sample ballots for the Nov. 3 general election are available online.

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