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

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September 24, 2014

Alabama is 11th nationally in political-TV spending

AP via Opelika-Auburn Now reports: Alabama ranks 11th in the U.S. in spending on TV ads for the 2014 state-level campaigns and first on such spending in legislative races, according to a national report.

The report by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity found that Alabama campaigns for state-level offices, ranging from governor to the Legislature and state school board, had spent $6.9 million on TV ads that had aired through Sept. 8. The number will grow significantly as the general election approaches on Nov. 4. ...

In some states, political groups running ads independent of the candidates have played a major role in TV spending. But in Alabama, candidates accounted for $6.5 million of the total and groups only $433,800. The biggest spending groups were the political action committee of the state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, with $307,300 in ads and former Gov. Bob Riley's Alabama 2014 PAC with $125,000. Riley's group spent money to try to maintain the Republican majority in the Legislature, while AEA spent money to challenge some incumbent Republican legislators. ...

These figures represent only part of the money spend on political advertising. They do not include the money spent on ads on radio, online, in direct mail, or on local cable systems, or the cost of producing the messages. That means the total cost of spending on political ads can be significantly higher. -- OANow.com | AP News

September 18, 2014

"Why did feds sue Texas over voter ID law but not Alabama?"

AL.com reports: The U.S. Justice Department last year pounced on a Texas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, but the agency chose not to challenge a similar statute in Alabama,

Why?

Holly Wiseman, the civil rights enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Mobile, told the local League of Women Voters chapter at a Wednesday luncheon that she is not privy to those decisions. But she contrasted the two laws.

She said Texas has stricter requirements for the types of identification that a voter can produce, and when documentation is needed to obtain an ID, the state charges for it. In addition, she said, residents in some cases have to drive hundreds of miles to get to the registrar's office to obtain an ID.

Wiseman said Alabama's law, on the other hand, provides a photo ID for free to voters who do not have one. The state also issues copies of documents like marriage and birth certificates to voters who need them to obtain IDs. -- Why did feds sue Texas over voter ID law but not Alabama? Government lawyer explains | AL.com

September 7, 2014

Editorial: "Campaign funds should fund campaigns, not lawyers"

The Dothan Eagle editorializes: Alabamians should be troubled by the news this week that Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has spent about $230,000 in campaign funds on legal fees since December 2013.

An attorney general's opinion issued in 2000 states that an incumbent can use excess campaign funds to defend criminal charges brought in relation to the public office they hold, and that opinion was taken at face value by some lawmakers tried in the federal government's futile case against a clutch of lawmakers and lobbyists in an alleged vote-buying scheme over electronic bingo in recent years. ...

Campaign funds are meant to fund campaigns, not to pay lawyers for undetermined legal work.

This matter deserves more than an opinion from the attorney general. It should be weighed by the state Supreme Court, where rulings carry a measure of legal weight. -- Our view: Campaign funds should fund campaigns, not lawyers - Dothan Eagle: Editorials

"Campaign finances can make for daunting record-keeping"

The Jacksonville News reports: Candidates for Jacksonville's school board election Aug. 26 didn't have access to six-figure checks from wealthy political action committees, yet they were subject to the same campaign finance laws as higher-office candidates who do enjoy such access.

Local party officials say candidates for local offices didn't use to worry much about filing campaign finance reports. But that has changed over the years, and in 2011 state law was amended to make it easier to track where campaign funding comes from and how it is spent.

Party executives and officials with the Alabama Secretary of State's office have worked to teach candidates the rules, but as the five school board candidates recently learned, it can still be tough to track down details about the new requirements. They wound up filing their campaign finance reports in a variety of ways. -- Campaign finances can make for daunting record-keeping - The Jacksonville News

September 5, 2014

Ala. Supreme Court denies Barry Moore's appeal

Al.com reports: The Alabama Supreme Court today ruled against state Rep. Barry Moore in his effort to have his perjury case dismissed.

The decision was 8-0. The court did not release an opinion to accompany the decision.

Moore, a Republican from Enterprise, is accused of giving false testimony to a special grand jury in Lee County in January. ...

Moore sought dismissal of the case by claiming the prosecutors were not appointed legally and the indictment was improperly written. -- Alabama Supreme Court rules 8-0 against Rep. Barry Moore's move to dismiss case | AL.com


Campaign cash is buying influence in Alabama courtrooms

Cameron Smith opines on AL.com: Imagine for a minute that a corporation with an effective monopoly in the State of Alabama became the target of litigation initiated by a state prosecutor. Not only does the corporation use their cash to fight the litigation in court and by lobbying legislators, but they also go after the prosecutor politically in the middle of the legal proceedings.

In an attempt to find a more favorable prosecutor, the corporation funnels $1 million to the prosecutor's political opponent through a series of vaguely named political action committees (PACS) managed by a former felon.

Why not make it even more interesting? What if the transfers and the amount of money were legal under state law and the manager received a pardon a few months after his conviction?

While the hypothetical might seem like the latest legal fiction thriller, it happens to be reality in Alabama politics. The state prosecutor is none other than Attorney General Luther Strange, the business is the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that operates casinos in Alabama, and the A, T, and Speed PACs the tribe funds are managed by former state senator John Teague. -- It doesn't take much to imagine that campaign cash is buying influence in the courtroom: opinion | AL.com