Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: April 2014 Archives

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April 30, 2014

GOP chairman criticizes 'Gang of Four' ad

AL.com reports: Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said today he did not like what he said was the attacking style of the "Gang of Four" campaign ad run by Chad Mathis in the District 6 congressional race.

"I am disappointed to see one congressional candidate in the 6th District take on four others by name and blasting them," Armistead said. ...

Armistead said competition is beneficial, but that candidates should focus on their differences on issues and their records. He said Mathis' ad veers from that and into attack mode. -- Alabama Republican Chairman Bill Armistead says Chad Mathis 'Gang of Four' ad not good for GOP | AL.com

[See Mathis' website TheGangOf4.com.]

"Stop Common Core PAC amasses $700,000; targets GOP leaders in Alabama"

AL.com reports: Opponents of Alabama's GOP establishment have pumped $700,000 into the brand new Stop Common Core PAC -- a group that Republican leaders say masks support from "cowardly liberals."

All of that money arrived over the last five weeks from a single source, the Foundation for Limited Government. That's a seven-month-old group run by former state lawmaker John Rice of Opelika.

Rice, who is also chair of the Stop Common Core PAC, has not disclosed the foundation backers.

"The foundation members are anonymous," said Rice today. "That's the reason the Legislature set it up that way." -- Stop Common Core PAC amasses $700,000; targets GOP leaders in Alabama | AL.com

April 28, 2014

An inch?

AL.com reports: Chris McNeil, a businessman who hopes to run for state representative in District 102 in northern and western Mobile County, faces a challenge based on residency. His house is on the south side of Howells Ferry Road, which is the dividing line between Districts 102 and 101.

McNeil has argued that his candidacy is legal because his property extends 1 inch into District 102.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead ... said the party could declare McNeil ineligible if he were to win. But he said he is unsure if the party simply would go with the second-place finisher or require a separate vote. He also said he does not know if the party would require a runoff if one of the other two candidates wins but does not get a majority of the votes. -- Alabama GOP sets Friday hearing to consider challenge to Mobile legislative candidate | AL.com

April 27, 2014

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

AL.com reports: It's that time of year again. The time when candidates for local, state and federal offices rush out to streets and roads to find the best yard sign locations.

Some will find hot spots in neighborhoods or business centers, once they get permission from property owners.

Other candidates, and their supporters, will put campaign yard signs in the rights-of-way that are controlled by the state of Alabama or municipal governments. Those signs will come down sooner or later, says one state official, and they will be thrown in the garbage.

Often candidates blame thieves and rivals for the removals, as Republican Dale Peterson, candidate for Alabama agriculture commissioner, famously did in 2010. -- Wrong-of-way: Yard sign laws often ignored by candidates for office | AL.com

April 26, 2014

Candidate for US House moving -- just because

AL.com reports: Republican Will Brooke, a candidate in the race for the GOP nomination for the District 6 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has bought a new home in Birmingham so that his residency will match his candidacy.

The candidate, an executive with Harbert Management Corp., says he always lived in District 6, but found himself a few hundred feet south of the lines when the Alabama Legislature redrew congressional maps in 2011. ...

Brooke told AL.com on today that after the Legislature approved the new maps for its seven U.S. congressional districts in 2011, he found his home in District 7, a seat held by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham.

The U.S. Constitution only requires state residency for a congressional run -- candidates are free to pick their district within the state. But Brooke said that wasn't good enough. -- Congressional candidate Will Brooke lives a few hundred feet from District 6, for now | AL.com

April 22, 2014

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Conservatives for Alabama's Future is another dark money group that says it is "a community of citizens who believe less government, lower taxes, and traditional family values make our great state better."

In fact, Conservatives for Alabama's Future is paid for by another dark money 501 (c) 4 -- the Foundation for Accountability in Education founded by Senate President Pro Tem., Del Marsh (R-Anniston).

Marsh has recently made headlines casting stones at another dark money foundation: the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, chaired by former Republican Senator John Rice. ...

The major push of Marsh's new enterprise is to accuse the Alabama Education Association (AEA) for everything from gun control to "baby killing." -- Marsh?s New Dark Money Group Financed by His Other Dark Money Foundation

Too many people registered in predominantly black counties

AL.com reports: Less than three months before the June primary, four Alabama counties had more voters on their rolls than what the Census Bureau says is their voting age population.

Officials give a number of reasons for that, including under-counting by the census. ...

Each county has a three-person board of registrars that is responsible for maintaining the voting lists with help from the secretary of state’s office. ...

As of March, Greene, Hale, Lowndes and Macon counties had more active, registered voters than what the census estimated as their 18-and-older population in 2012. -- 4 Alabama counties have more active, registered voters than adult population | AL.com

April 18, 2014

"Florida no longer part of controversial national voter data project"

The Miami Herald reports: Interstate Crosscheck's reports in 2013 include Florida data based on the 2012 election. However, Florida is absent from the 2014 report.

We asked a spokeswoman for Republican Secretary of State Ken Detzner why Florida dropped out.

"The Department of State and Supervisors of Elections currently work with elections officials in other states to update registrations regarding residency, and we are always exploring options to improve the elections process," Brittany Lesser said.

Oregon is another state that changed its mind about sharing its voter data with the Kansas project. Its explanation was more blunt than the one we got from Florida.

"We left because the data we received was unreliable and we felt joining the ERIC project would better meet our needs," said Tony Green, spokesman for Oregon Secretary of State.

ERIC is a project of the Pew Charitable Trust to improve the accuracy and efficiency of state voter registration systems. States must pay to participate in ERIC while the Kansas project is free. -- Florida no longer part of controversial national voter data project | Naked Politics

Alabama Sec of State wants to join Interstate Crosscheck

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Based on recent evidence of double voting discovered in North Carolina, Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R) urged on Tuesday that Alabama legislators pass a bill allowing his office to exchange voter lists with other states to check for duplications.

Legislation that would have done that was sponsored by State Representative John Merrill (R) from Tuscaloosa in the last session. It passed the Alabama House of Representatives but died in the Alabama Senate. Secretary Bennett said that he remains committed to the plan under which a compact of 28 states exchange lists to look for duplicate voters. Alabama law currently only allows the secretary of state to sell the voter list to other states for a penny a name, which with about 3 million voters, amounts to approximately $30,000.

Sec. Bennett said, "The idea in the exchange is not to make money, but to check for voter fraud," Bennett said. "It is time Alabama joined the compact of states where cross-checks are made possible."

Sec. Bennett said that many Alabamians have vacation homes in Florida, so cross-checking there and in Georgia would be highly practical. Florida joined the compact in 2013. Every state surrounding Alabama is already a compact member. -- Bennett Urges Alabama to Join Compact of States Checking for Voter Duplication

[But see the post just before this one.]

"6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary"

AL.com reports: What campaign has the most individual contributors? What percentage of those contributors are from Alabama? Who has the largest average donation, and the smallest average donation?

This week, the Republican candidates in the race for Alabama's 6th Congressional district filed their April quarterly fundraising reports with the Federal Elections Commission. These six graphs will show you what they raised, and who and where it came from.

[Follow the link to see the 6 charts.] -- 6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary: Who raised the most, where did it come from? | AL.com

"AEA funds opponent of Sen. Del Marsh, foes of other supporters of Alabama Accountability Act"

AL.com reports: The state teachers' organization is fighting private school tax credits in court and the architect of the tax credits at the ballot box.

The Alabama Education Association's political action committee filed a campaign finance report showing the largest donation it gave in March was $50,000 to Democratic state Senate candidate Taylor Stewart, an Anniston attorney and son of former U.S. Sen. Donald Stewart of Anniston. Taylor Stewart is opposing Republican Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston, who was the chief architect of the Alabama Accountability Act. ...

The campaign finance report from AEA's PAC shows it gave large amounts last month to opponents of other legislators who voted for the act.

It gave $25,000 each to Republican Bruce Whitlock, a Cullman County store owner and bus driver, and former Democratic state Rep. Angelo "Doc" Mancuso, a Decatur physician. Both are running against Republican Sen. Paul Bussman of Cullman.

AEA's PAC also donated $25,000 each to Democrat Terry Jones, an educator from Hazel Green who is running against Republican Rep. Jim Patterson of Meridianville; educator Bobby Jackson of Athens, who is opposing Republican Rep. Dan Williams of Athens in the GOP primary; and Republican Ginger Fletcher, who is challenging Republican Rep. Kerry Rich of Albertville. -- AEA funds opponent of Sen. Del Marsh, foes of other supporters of Alabama Accountability Act | AL.com

April 17, 2014

"Ethics Commission asked to investigate PSC Commissioner Dunn staffer for misuse of state office"

Yellowhammer.com reports: In a letter sent today to the Alabama Ethics Commission, Tuscaloosa coal miner John Box asks officials to investigate what he describes as "misuse of state office" by an employee of Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn.

Mr. Box specifically asks the Ethics Commission to review two examples of alleged misconduct by Dunn's chief of staff David Rountree, under the auspices of his boss.

Rountree recently conducted a television interview on behalf of Commissioner Dunn, who is currently running for re-election.

"Not only is Mr. Rountree there during work hours under the title Chief of Staff in Commissioner Terry Dunn?s office, he is also discussing which type of political donations the Terry Dunn Campaign will accept," Box wrote in his Ethics Commission letter. "He can either be a Chief of Staff or a campaign spokesman, but he can't be both."

Box's second complaint centered around Rountree's use of a taxpayer-funded cell phone to conduct business for a Political Action Committee he launched last year. -- Ethics Commission asked to investigate PSC Commissioner Dunn staffer for misuse of state office - Yellowhammer News

Yellowhammer attached Box's letter.

"No campaign finance reporting changes this year, lawmakers look to 2015"

The Decatur Daily reports: The 2014 legislative session ended this month with no changes to state campaign finance reporting rules or better enforcement of existing rules.

Several north Alabama lawmakers worked on a campaign finance reform committee and suggested changes, including giving the secretary of state more authority to fine candidates who violate the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Now those lawmakers say they will regroup and work on legislation for 2015.

“The main thing is, after we go through the primary cycle (in June), we’ll have a better feel for what we need to change, what we need to tighten up,” said Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, a committee member. He said making changes this year wasn’t likely anyway — rewriting the rules in the middle of an election year would be problematic.

In the past three years, the Legislature banned PAC-to-PAC transfers and created penalties for candidates or groups that don’t file their campaign reports on time. Lawmakers also have made reports easier to view and search online. -- No campaign finance reporting changes this year, lawmakers look to 2015 - Decatur Daily: Local News

"AEA's PAC spends nearly $2 million in March"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Alabama voters aren't going to the polls for the next few months, but the Alabama Education Association is already opening its wallet -- wide.

The group's Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (A VOTE) political action committee reported spending $1.98 million in March, according to filings earlier this month with the Alabama Secretary of State's Office. The spending represented 45 percent of the $4.3 million the AEA had on hand at the beginning of the month. ...

Big spending by the Alabama Education Association isn't unusual. But it may be notable what the PAC spent the money on.

The largest share of it -- $1 million -- went for a loan made directly to the Alabama Education Association. Another $710,000 went to an organization called National Research Services LLC, based out of a mailbox in Brentwood, Tenn. -- AEA's PAC spends nearly $2 million in March

April 9, 2014

ADC files second motion for preliminary injunction

The Alabama Democratic Conference (represented by John Tanner and me, plus two others) recently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its suit against Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. ADC is suing the Alabama Attorney General to be overturn the ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers if the transfer is going to be used for independent expenditures. This is the ADC's second motion for preliminary injunction.

Alabama Democratic Conf v Strange, Mot for prelim Injunction motion

April 8, 2014

Replacement candidate -- legal or not?

Qualifying for Alabama's party primaries closed about a month ago. Elbert Peters was the only one to qualify to run as a Republican in HD 53 (in Madison County). After the qualifying deadline passed, Peters found out that he did not live in the district, so he resigned as a candidate. The GOP wants to replace Peters.

Not so fast. There is a federal court consent decree in which the Secretary of State (a Republican) represented by the Attorney General (a Republican) agreed with the big, bad U.S. DOJ (not Republican) to stretch out the election calendar. In particular, the proposed consent decree (later adopted by Judge Myron Thompson) states: "Notwithstanding the provisions of Ala. Code § 17-13-23, vacancies in nominations must be filled by the State or county executive committees not later than 76 days before an election." (US v. State of Alabama, Case No. 2:12-cv-179-MHT-WC, Middle District of Alabama, doc. 110-1) Since the primary is 3 June, the 76-day deadline was 19 March.

The Democrats have protested.

We will have to see what happens.

April 6, 2014

AEA backing Republican candidates in North Alabama

The TimesDaily reports: The Alabama Education Association's political action committee gave major contributions to three candidates challenging two Republican lawmakers from north Alabama, according to March campaign finance reports.

The PAC gave $25,000 each to a Democrat and a Republican challenging Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman. It also gave $25,000 to a Republican challenging Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens.

"We give to Republicans all over the state," AEA chief Henry Mabry said.

He said the AEA believes Republican Bobby Jackson, who is challenging Williams, is a pro-education candidate. Mabry criticized Williams for his education-related votes during the past four years, including his support of the Alabama Accountability Act.

Disclosure: I do legal work for the AEA. -- AEA backs challengers - TimesDaily: News

"Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw?"

Dale Jackson, a radio talk-show host, has a disjointed attacked beginning with: The Alabama Foundation for Limited Government is not a conservative group...

Anytime a brand new political group pops up out of nowhere with an absurd amount of money, people should be concerned and careful about what they believe.

As with most of these groups, we will find out who is behind this later but we already know it’s the AEA. -- Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw? | AL.com Disclaimer: I do legal work for the AEA.

(Read the comments following this initial rant. There is a lively discussion about the true source of these ads.)

"The Gang of Four"

AL.com reports: In District 6 Republican race, claws come out in new Chad Mathis radio ad | AL.com

In a new radio ad released Thursday by Alabama District 6 Congressional candidate Chad Mathis, a voiceover rails against four of his opponents, calling them "The Gang of Four."

"They're called the 'Gang of Four.' They say they're running for Congress to clean up Washington, but in reality they'll fit right in," the voiceover says, while ominous music plays in the background.

The "Gang of Four" is identified as Scott Beason, Will Brooke, Paul DeMarco, and Gary Palmer, who, like Mathis, are Republican candidates looking to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, who is retiring at the end of this term. --