Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: April 2013 Archives

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April 30, 2013

2012 Evergreen election to be held on June 18

AL.com reports: A federal judge this afternoon postponed a long-delayed municipal election in Evergreen, pushing the voting back to June 18 after conducting a telephone conference with lawyers in a voting-rights lawsuit.

Attorneys for the Conecuh County seat requested the postponement, citing a need for more time by a special master appointed to oversee the balloting. U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade agreed, ordering the June 18 vote, with a runoff on July 30 if needed.

John Tanner, an attorney for three black residents who sued the city over the way it redrew council districts after the 2010 census, said the delay is the result of city officials? failure to include the plaintiffs' representative in discussions with the special master. But he said another postponement probably could not be avoided. ...

The plaintiffs alleged that the city illegally gerrymandered the five districts in order to maintain a white majority on the council despite the fact that Evergreenís population now is 62 percent black. Granade in March ordered a new political map based largely on the one that the plaintiffs had proposed. It creates three districts with large black majorities. -- Read the whole story --> Judge postpones Evergreen election again; voting with redrawn political map set for June | al.com

April 24, 2013

Former Sen. Lowell Barron arrested for campaign-finance violations

AL.com reports: Former state senator Lowell Ray Barron, for years a legislative powerhouse in Montgomery, has been indicted on charges of violating the state's ethics and campaign finance laws, the attorney general's office announced. ...

Former campaign staffer, Rhonda Jill Johnson, was also arrested.

Attorney General Luther Strange's Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a DeKalb County grand jury, resulting in the indictment of Barron and Johnson on April 19.

Barron and Johnson face six total counts of Ethics Law violations and violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. -- Read the whole story --> Former state senator Lowell Barron indicted on campaign finance, ethics charges | al.com

A press release from the AG's office describes the charges:

Count 1 charges Lowell Barron and Jill Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

Count 2 charges Barron and Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

Count 3 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

Count 4 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

Count 5 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improperly transferring campaign property, a 2007 Toyota Camry, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes; and

Count 6 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $6,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes.

April 19, 2013

Bill to amend Fair Campaign Practices Act clears Senate committee

AL,com reports: A bill that would lower the fundraising and spending threshold that brings political candidates under the requirements of the Fair Campaign Practices Act won approval this morning in a state Senate committee.

The bill, by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, would say that any person who had raised or spent more than $1,000 toward election to any state or local office would be considered a candidate under the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

That Fair Campaign Practices Act requires candidates to file reports listing their campaign donors and expenditures.

Current law has a tiered set of thresholds: $25,000 for statewide office; $10,000 for the state Senate; $5,000 for the state House of Representatives; $5,000 for a state office covering one circuit or district; and $1,000 for a local office. -- Read the whole story --> Bill to lower campaign reporting threshold clears Alabama Senate committee | al.com

The bill is viewable below:

Alabama Senate Bill 445 with committee amendments


April 13, 2013

Another early attack on a GOP leader

The Alabama Political Reporter reports: It seems campaign season came a little early in Senate District 12. Last week, an unflattering "push-card" concerning Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was circulated in the Anniston area. There had been reports of such a card showing up at the State House Thursday, but efforts to obtain the card proved fruitless. The mailer we received was said to have been received in the Senate 12 District as well.

With over a year to go before the 2014 election heats up, someone is firing a big gun across Marsh's bow. Cited in the mailer are stories concerning Marsh's solicitation of $350,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians, as well as how the money flowed back in to Senate campaigns.

When reports of Marsh?s solicitation broke months ago, it was rumored that Marsh has begged the tribe to say he didn?t ask for the money. Not only did Marsh make the trips to Atmore to ask for the tribe's money, he wanted the PCI to cover it up. Marsh must have believed that such a campaign would be forthcoming.

When the Alabama Political Reporter published the story, Marsh was given ample time to respond. However, the only response we received were in the form of threats from Phillip Bryan, Marsh?s Chief of Staff. -- Read the whole story --> Push Card Hits Marsh with Hard Facts

Campaigning about campaign-finance violations

Alabama Political Reporter reports: On Tuesday voters in Lee County received a campaign push-card that looks like an advertisement for a B-Movie or a Quentin Tarantino noir parody.

The mailer features Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as "The Graftmaster." Hubbard is currently under a grand jury investigation for campaign-finance-related issues, some dealing with his printing company Craftmasters. Obviously "Graftmaster" is an ironic play-of-words on one of Mr. Hubbard most prized businesses.

A study of campaign finance records for the 2010 election cycle shows that Hubbard?s business interests were paid over $1,000,000 in campaign expenditures from at least 18 GOP candidates and at least 4 political action committees (PAC). This does not include the almost $800,000 spent with Majority Strategies for GOP printing that was sub-contracted to Hubbard's Craftmasters as reported by AL.com. Craftmaster is just one of Hubbard?s businesses that grew out of his relationship with Auburn University.-- Read the whole story --> New Campaign Targets Hubbard as "Graftmaster"

April 3, 2013

"House committee approves bill that could limit primary run-offs"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A House committee Wednesday morning approved legislation that could curtail or eliminate primary run-offs in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, passed the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections committee on a voice vote.

Currently, if no candidate receives a majority of the vote in a party primary, a runoff is held. Ball?s bill would change that to allow candidates that win at least 35 percent of the vote to receive their party's nomination, with no run-off.

Ball told the committee Thursday morning that Alabama was one of only a handful of states that continue to maintain primary run-offs, a practice he called expensive and generally redundant. -- Read the whole story --> House committee approves bill that could limit primary run-offs | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com