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

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May 25, 2013

Is paying face value for UA football tickets an ethics violation?

AL.com reports:A longtime University of Alabama booster said today he is filing an ethics complaint against state public officials for purchasing Crimson Tide football tickets without paying extra as Tide Pride members. The Alabama Ethics Commission, without confirming or denying the complaint, says the issue is out of its hands.

Fred Palmer, a 76-year-old Tuscaloosa man who says he's an original Tide Pride member, argues that because Alabama states all season tickets are sold through Tide Pride except for students, faculty and staff, public officials are receiving free booster-club membership.

"It's not fair for the people that can't get tickets," Palmer said. "The legislators work for us. They're no better than we are. There are 28,000 people on a waiting list who can't join Tide Pride unless they pay $25,000 per seat to jump the line, and 100 legislators get the tickets." ...

"It's not an ethics issue," said Jim Sumner, director of the Alabama Ethics Commission. "The commission couldn't do anything even if they wanted to. This is an issue for the universities to determine. If they want public officials to purchase tickets outside the booster program, that is not an issue for the commission." -- Read the whole story --> Alabama booster files ethics complaint over public officials buying football tickets without donations | al.com

May 23, 2013

Searchable campaign-finance records

AL.com reports: Following the money could soon become much easier in Alabama.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman this morning demonstrated the state's new computerized campaign finance filing system designed to bring Alabama out of the disclosure dark ages.

The electronic system will replace the paper forms that for decades have been hand filed and then scanned at the secretary of state?s office. Candidates, beginning in the 2014 election cycle, will file reports electronically and the public will be able to run searches on the data.

"This gives us 24-7 transparency in campaign finance filings in Alabama. We are real excited about this. It's something the people have called for for a long time," Chapman said. -- Read the whole story --> State debuts new electronic, searchable campaign finance filing system | al.com

May 21, 2013

Legislature adopts changes to campaign finance law

AL.com reports: Alabama's law governing campaign finance would change in numerous ways under a bill approved by the Legislature tonight.

The Senate and House of Representatives voted tonight to pass a compromise version of SB445 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville.

The bill goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who could sign it into law.

It would repeal the $500 cap on campaign donations by corporations. Proponents of that change have said the cap is meaningless because corporations can legally skirt it. -- Read the whole story --> Legislature approves bill to change campaign finance law, repeal cap on corporate contributions | al.com

May 13, 2013

"Broke. Broke. Broke."

AL.com reports: Acting state Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley lowered her head and slowly shook it side to side when summing up the financial condition of her once powerful party.

"We're broke, broke, broke," Worley told the party's Executive Board in a special called meeting Frida.

How broke is broke? Worley didn't sugar coat the answer.

"This is my 18th day as chair and thirty minutes after I took over on April 22nd the landlord of the building where our party headquarters are came in and said he wanted us out, that the rent was overdue and was always overdue," said Worley. -- Read the whole article --> The Alabama Democratic Party: "We're broke, broke, broke." | al.com

May 10, 2013

Revision of Fair Campaign Practices Act amended in House, heads back to Senate

AL.com reports: The Alabama House of Representatives passed a Senate bill tonight that would make numerous changes to state campaign finance laws, including removing the state's $500 cap on campaign contributions by corporations.

The bill returns to the Senate, which could agree to changes or send the bill to a conference committee.

Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, chairman of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee, said it was time to do away with the ?pretend? cap because corporations have been allowed to legally skirt the limits for decades by routing money through large numbers of political action committees.

Ball?s committee added the repeal of the corporate cap in a substitute to SB445 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville. -- Read the whole article --> Campaign finance law revisions pass House; headed back to Senate | al.com

May 9, 2013

House to consider elimination of cap on corporate contributions

AL.com reports:
A bill before the Alabama House of Representatives today seeks to repeal the state?s $500 limit on corporate campaign contributions to candidates.

The chairman of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee said Wednesday that it was time to do away with the "pretend" cap since corporations have been allowed to legally skirt the limits for decades by routing money through large numbers of political action committees.

"It?s stupid. It's just stupid. The $500 corporate contribution cap is a pretend cap," Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, said.

Senate Bill 445, which makes many changes to campaign finance law, is expected to come before the House today. The House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee approved a substitute bill that included a repeal of the cap.-- Read the whole story --> Bill before House today repeal state limit on corporate campaign contributions; Lawmaker says it's a 'pretend' cap | al.com

May 6, 2013

New campaign finance database going online

The Anniston Star reports: Following the money in Alabama politics might soon get a whole lot easier.

Officials of the Alabama Secretary of State's office say they'll launch a searchable online database of campaign donations by the end of May -- replacing the office's old system of paper filings and scanned-in documents.

State officials say the changes should make it easier for average voters to figure out who's accepting money from whom. -- Read the whole story --> Anniston Star - Alabama campaign finance reports soon to go online

May 4, 2013

AL.com reports: A sold out crowd of nearly 700 is expected for an event in Birmingham tonight honoring 28 lawyers for their contributions to the civil rights movement in Birmingham.

The Journey for Justice Gala at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center will also include the premier of the 27-minute documentary "Preserving Justice," which relates the story of the critical roles lawyers, both black and white, played in the civil rights movement. ...

Clarence B. Jones, former personal counsel, adviser, draft speech writer and close friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., will deliver the keynote address at the gala. ...

Jones also is among the legal pioneers, living or dead, being honored at tonight's gala.

The others are: Oscar W. Adams Jr.; Norman Amaker; James K. Baker; Abe Berkowitz; Orzell Billingsley; Harvey Burg; U.W. Clemon; Jerome "Buddy" Cooper; J. Mason Davis; Edward Friend Jr.; Peter A. Hall; Charles Hamilton Houston: Frank M. Johnson; Paul Johnston; Tom King Sr.; Thurgood Marshall; Nina Miglionico; Chuck Morgan; Constance Baker Motley; Demetrius Newton; Vernon Patrick; J. Richmond Pearson; Arthur D. Shores; C. Erskine Smith; Robert Vance; David Vann; and W.L. Williams Jr. -- Read the whole story --> Event honors 28 legal pioneers for their contributions to the civil rights movement in Birmingham | al.com

May 3, 2013

Where did Mike Hubbard get the funds to print his sorta-campaign mailer?

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Lee County voters this week were treated to a campaign-style push-card paid for by the Friends of Mike Hubbard. The mail drop is an unusual direct response to a stinging--and humorous--flyer branding the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as "The Graftmaster." ...

Now, Hubbard is striking back with a glossy, high-production quality direct mail piece that insists he is a "conservative leader" who "works for us." The irony should be lost on no one that Craftmaster Printers appears to have printing the flyer, and the Craftmaster postal permit was used to pay postal costs. The printed address for the Friends of Mike Hubbard campaign committee uses is, naturally, the headquarters of his other lucrative business, Auburn Network Inc.

It seems in keeping with Hubbard's usual business practices that he would use his personal business interests to support campaign activities. Hubbard delivers to constituents a high-quality--and likely high-priced political mailer, paid for with donations to his campaign committee. And then he pays his own companies to print and deliver the propaganda. It's Diamond Mike at his best.

But exactly how Friends of Mike Hubbard paid for the mailer and postage costs is unclear. State campaign finance laws require political communications state clearly who pays the costs. The mailer states that is was paid for Paid for by Friends of Mike Hubbard. Yet, Secretary of State records show that Friends of Mike Hubbard as only having $607 dollars in its account as of January 31, 2013. Keep in mind that it is illegal for him to raise or transfer money until June, after the legislative session ends. -- Read the whole story --> The Graftmaster Cometh: Hubbard Strikes Back at Critics