Former Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore responded to reports that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall was looking into media reports that a group used potentially illegal social media tactics to influence the 2017 special election, in which former Democratic candidate Doug Jones defeated Moore to win the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.
Marshall told reporters with the Washington Post that the disinformation campaign targeting Roy Moore’s Senate bid may have violated law. The news of the influence campaign was first reported by the New York Times earlier this month.
“It’s about time that state and federal authorities, as well as the general public, are becoming aware of the false and deceptive tactics used by the Democrat party and political operatives to influence the Alabama Senate election in 2017,” former Chief Justice Moore said in a statement. “It is curious that my former opponent Doug Jones, “Now” pretends to be ‘Outraged’ and calls for an investigation after the election, and Facebook suspends 5 accounts for ‘bad behavior.'”
Marshall told the reporters that he was worried that the operation could have affected the closely fought Senate race.
“The information is concerning,” Marshall said. “The impact it had on the election is something that’s significant for us to explore, and we’ll go from there.”
Marshall said that he first learned of the disinformation campaign called Project Birmingham through news reports over the past two weeks and that his office was beginning to gather information about the effort.
On Wednesday, internet billionaire Reid Hoffman apologized for donating $750,000 to the group, American Engagement Technologies, which is tied to the effort to discredit Moore and bolster Jones. Hoffman said on Wednesday that he did not know that the money was used for an illicit disinformation campaign.
According to the Times’ reporting, Democratic operatives created a fake website based on strategies first developed by Russian operatives, allegedly with ties to the Russian intelligence service, in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump.
A group of elite Democratic tech experts set up a fake conservative website that encouraged write-in votes instead of votes for Republican nominee Roy Moore. It also highlighted thousands of Russian-based bots beginning to follow the Moore social media pages.
One participant in the Alabama project, Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
An internal report on the Alabama effort, obtained by the Times, says explicitly that the firm “experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”
The project’s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to encourage write-in votes to draw votes from GOP nominee Roy Moore.
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the report says.
Morgan said in an interview that he saw the project as “a small experiment” designed to explore how certain online tactics worked, not to affect the election.
Morgan said he could not account for the claims in the report that the project sought to “enrage and energize Democrats” and “depress turnout” among Republicans, partly by emphasizing accusations that Moore had pursued teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s.
“The research project was intended to help us understand how these kind of campaigns operated,” said Morgan. “We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact.”
The Times report that the project had a budget of $100,000. The project was so successful that some Republican groups, most notably the Alabama Young Republicans, withdrew their support for Moore during the election.
There is no evidence at this point that Jones sanctioned or was even aware of the social media project.
Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic operative who served as a top adviser to the Jones campaign, told reporters that he had noticed the Russian bot swarm suddenly following Moore on Twitter. But he said it was impossible that a $100,000 operation had an impact on the race.
Trippi said he was nonetheless disturbed by the stealth operation. “I think the big danger is somebody in this cycle uses the dark arts of bots and social networks and it works,” he said. “Then we’re in real trouble.”
“We did have suspicions that something odd was going on,” said Moore’s campaign manager Rich Hobson and that they complained to Facebook. “Any and all of these things could make a difference,” Hobson said. “It’s definitely frustrating, and we still kick ourselves that Judge Moore didn’t win.”
“I can tell you very simply, hell, I’m as outraged as everybody else about it,” Jones said. “I have railed about Russian interference in our election process ever since I started campaigning and during this first year in the Senate, and I think we’ve all kind of focused too much on just the Russians and not picked up on the fact that, you know what, some nefarious groups, whether they’re right or left, could take those same playbooks and start interfering with the elections for their own damn benefit. And I gotta tell you, I’m not happy about it.”
Jones said his team had “no idea” about any of the social media antics being played during the election.
“I will tell you this: I think the FEC and the Department of Justice should take a close look at this to determine whether or not any criminal laws were violated, and if so, prosecute them,” Jones added. “We have to kind of nip this in the bud. We should not encourage or allow to happen any group, regardless of who they are or maybe even well-intentioned, to do the kind of things that illegally interfere with the election process. That is my position. I feel very strong about it.”
The narrow election was the first time in a quarter century that Alabama sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.
Moore said, “This problem must be addressed before the 2020 election if we are to preserve our Country. May God be with us!”
Faith in Action Alabama calls on law enforcement to protect voters from harassment
“In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.”
Nine clergy members from across the state have signed an open letter calling on local and state law enforcement to protect voters against intimidation and harassment at the polls.
The clergy are leaders in Faith in Action Alabama, a regional association of Christian congregations affiliated with the national group Faith in Action, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country. It seeks to address a range of issues like gun violence, health care, immigration and voting rights.
This is their letter:
Across our country and here in Alabama, it is being seen that citizens are turning out in record numbers to vote early and by absentee ballots. It is very heartening to see so many of our fellow citizens energized and committed to exercising that most fundamental and critical duty of citizenship, the use of their franchise. As servant leaders of an ecumenical association of nearly 2,000 faith communities across our state we are certainly encouraging our congregants to fulfill this duty either through early, absentee or day of election voting. For us this is not only part of our civic duty, but as people of faith obligation as well.
Unfortunately, it it also largely known that there are forces in our country that are actively, publicly and fervently at work to suppress the votes of some of our fellow citizens. We write to implore you to use the full authority of your office and department to ensure that those who seek to vote, especially on November 3, 2020 are not assailed or intimidated by illegal harassment in their polling places. We believe these threats are pervasive enough and real enough that proactive measures should be in place as citizens come to vote throughout that day. The strong, visible presence of uniformed legitimate law officers will hopefully prevent any attempts at confrontation or intimidation and violence.
The history of our state is marked by the efforts of tens of thousands of Alabamians who marched, protested, brought legal actions, shed their blood and some even gave their lives that every citizen of this state might have full and free access to the ballot box. In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.
Please be assured of our prayers for you and the men and women of your department who have the awesome responsibility of providing public safety and equal protection under the law for every Alabamian. If we, the members of Faith in Action Alabama’s Clergy Leadership Team, can be of assistance please do not hesitate to call upon us.
Rev. Jeremiah Chester, St. Mark Baptist Church, Huntsville
Rev. David Frazier, Sr., Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, Mobile, and Moderator, Mobile Baptist Sunlight Association
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Russell Kendrick, Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast
Bishop Seth O. Lartey, Alabama-Florida Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
President Melvin Owens, Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention
Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Ninth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Dr. A.B. Sutton, Jr., Living Stones Temple, Fultondale
Father Manuel Williams, C.R., Resurrection Catholic Missions of the South, Montgomery
Some conservatives oppose Amendment 2
An Alabama Law Institute Committee composed of legislators, judges and lawyers met in secret away from the press and public over 19 months conducting a comprehensive review of Article VI.
A number of prominent conservative voices in the state of Alabama are urging voters to vote no on Amendment 2 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Amendments 2 and 3 are a rewrite of the state constitutional reforms championed by former Chief Justice Howell Heflin in 1973.
An Alabama Law Institute Committee composed of legislators, judges and lawyers met in secret away from the press and public over 19 months, conducting a comprehensive review of Article VI since Heflin’s revisions were approved in Amendment No. 328 in 1973.
The resulting Amendment 2 is one of the most controversial constitutional amendments brought forward by the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature since Gov. Bob Riley’s controversial Amendment 1 in 2003, which would have raised taxes by over a $1 billion. That was voted down by the voters, and conservatives are asking voters to similarly reject Amendment 2.
Alabama Eagle Forum is urging citizen to vote no on Amendment 2.
Amendment 2 is a complete rewrite of what is an already complicated portion of the Alabama Constitution, and it does many things. One of these is that it strips the power of the Legislature to impeach a judge.
Under current law, the Alabama House of Representatives can bring articles of impeachment against a sitting judge. If the House impeaches, the Senate sits in trial and decides whether the judge has acted improperly and is guilty of what the House has charged them with.
This closely parallels the U.S. Constitution. Amendment 2 would change all of that and instead the only power in state government who can discipline judges would be the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which brings charges against judges, and the Court of the Judiciary, which determines guilt and punishments.
The Alabama Legislature has not impeached anyone in over a hundred years. Amendment 2 would take the power of impeaching members of the judiciary away from future legislatures.
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore opposes Amendment 2 and explained that stripping the Legislature of the power to discipline a judge for cause takes away a powerful check on the judiciary and violates the principle of checks and balances between the three branches of government. Moore also objected to giving more power to the unelected Judicial Inquiry Commission.
Moore, like Eagle Forum, also strongly objected to taking the chief justice’s power to appoint his own administrative director of the Alabama Court System and instead gives it to the full Supreme Court.
The chief justice is the elected head of the Alabama Court System, but under Amendment 2, he or she would not be able to hire their own administrator but would be forced to work with an administrator chosen by the Supreme Court as a whole.
The current administrative director of the Alabama Court System is Rich Hobson, who was appointed by Chief Justice Tom Parker. Hobson is in his third tenure as administrative director of the Alabama Court System. The previous two times he was appointed by Moore.
When Moore was effectively removed by the Court of the Judiciary his replacement as chief justice fired Hobson.
If Amendment 2 passes, the associate justices could overrule Chief Justice Tom Parker, fire Hobson and replace him with someone of their choosing.
This situation would also apply to Democrats. The last Democrat elected to the role of chief justice was Sue Bell Cobb in 2006. Cobb was able to appoint her own administrative director of the Alabama Court System, but under Amendment 2, the administrative director of the Alabama Court System would have been someone suitable to the Republican associate justices, who could simply outvote the chief justice.
Moore called this move a “power grab” by the associate justices.
“Amendment 2 is really an anti-democratic and anti-Tom Parker amendment,” Foundation for Moral Law staff attorney Matt Clark said. “It is anti-democratic because it removes the people’s main check on the judicial branch, which is impeachment. Instead, it provides that only the Judicial Inquiry Commission, over which the people have no control, may remove a judge from office. It is also designed to strip Chief Justice Parker of his power as the administrative head of the judicial branch to choose his right-hand man for carrying out the judicial branch’s administrative role.”
Eagle Forum also had a number of other objections to the extremely long and complicated Amendment 2, including that it takes away the power of the lieutenant governor to make JIC appointments and gives them to the governor.
The Alabama Constables Association has also come out strongly against Amendment 2, arguing that it would write the funding mechanism for their position completely out of the state constitution.
“Constables are not taxpayer-funded, they are largely voluntary Peace Officers,” said Jefferson County Constable Jonathan Barbee. “The fees they collect from their duties as Officers of the Courts allow them to support the expenses of the office such as vehicles, uniforms, and equipment. Amendment 2 also deletes the language protecting how Constables are paid by private court fees, leaving it in question for the appointed Administrator to decide.”
In Alabama, constables are elected peace officers and act in many of the same ways as do sheriff’s deputies. They’re able to make arrests, serve court papers and provide security for parades, funerals and other functions.
Amendment 2 was sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.
Voters need to remember to vote on the constitutional amendments. Amendment 2 is extremely long and complicated so voters should probably read it and know how they are going to vote before going to the polls.
FarmPAC endorses congressional candidate Barry Moore
“I’m pleased that FarmPAC has seen fit to endorse me in this election,” Moore said.
Republican congressional candidate Barry Moore thanked the Alabama Farmers Federation political action committee, FarmPAC, for endorsing Moore in next week’s 2nd Congressional District general election race.
“I’ve always been proud of the fact that I grew up on a farm,” Moore said. “Farm life teaches you to respect God’s good earth and everything in it. It taught me the value of hard work, and that not everything, like the weather, will always go the way you want it to no matter what you do or how hard you work. That’s something I think a lot of people these days could do with learning.”
“I’m pleased that FarmPAC has seen fit to endorse me in this election,” Moore said. “I’ll continue to be a strong supporter of our farmers and all the businesses that support and rely on them, just like I’ve always been. District 2 is an agricultural district first and foremost, and we can’t forget that.”
“I look forward to working in the next Congress to support Alabama’s farmers and agribusiness by making it easier for them to access new markets and new technologies,” Moore added. “We also need to make sure they aren’t weighed down by excessive regulations and have the backing they need from Washington to compete globally. I have every confidence that, given a chance, Alabama’s farmers can compete with anyone, anywhere. My job in Congress will be to make sure they have that chance.”
A full list of FarmPAC’s endorsements is available here. FarmPAC previously endorsed Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman in the Republican primary, but he was bested by Moore in a Republican primary runoff.
Moore faces Democratic nominee Phyllis Harvey-Hall for the open seat.
Moore is a veteran, small businessman, husband, and father of four from Enterprise. Moore and his wife, Heather, own a waste management business in Enterprise. Moore was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, is retiring from Congress after five terms.
Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation
Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.
The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday.
“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement.
Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign.
Jones has for months requested Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.
“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.
Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University.
Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release.
Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.