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

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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.

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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

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"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.)

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"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. --

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July 23, 2013

New Alabama law allows absentee ballots for emergency workers

AL.com reports: Gov. Robert Bentley held a bill signing ceremony today for a new law aimed at allowing emergency workers to vote by absentee ballot if they are called away to work during an election. ...

The new law authorizes the Secretary of State, by emergency rule, to provide for absentee voting by those emergency workers if they are called away to work during an election. -- Read the whole story --> Gov. Robert Bentley praises new absentee ballot law for emergency workers | al.com

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July 19, 2013

Rep. Hubbard wants to run in special election for another House seat

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: It's a question of time and place, with two very different interpretations.

The Alabama secretary of state's office said Thursday that the current boundaries of House District 74 - being vacated at the end of the month by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery - will be the boundaries used for a special election expected to be called for the seat.

That could be an issue for Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, who has purchased a home within the new District 74 boundaries and is considering entering the special election. Hubbard's residence, while in the newly created boundary lines for the 2014 general election, is outside the current lines. ...

Hubbard said Thursday he has not made a decision whether to run in the special election, though he plans to seek the seat in next year’s general election. However, he said that the law as written would allow him to run, and he accused Republicans of trying to make his race for the seat more difficult. -- Read the whole story --> Law may bar Joe Hubbard from running for House seat vacated by Jay Love | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

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July 18, 2013

Voter ID program an 'unfunded mandate' to county registrars

AL.com reports: Alabama's new law requiring people to show a government-issued photo identification to vote is raising some concerns for Jefferson County officials.

The law -- to get around accusations that it's a modern poll tax to make people buy ID -- requires that the state have an option for a free ID.

Jefferson County, which has more voters than any other county in the state, may be forced to come up with money to cover personnel and labor costs associated with producing new voter IDs, said Barry Stephenson, chairman of the Board of Registrars.

"I want to do everything possible to help the voters and to have fair and honest elections," Stephenson said. "However, I only have so many resources in my budget and the state has made no mention of reimbursing the counties for any personnel or labor costs associated with producing the new free identification cards." -- Read the whole story --> New Alabama state ID law may pose some problems for Jefferson County (photos, video) | al.com

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July 17, 2013

"Big donors" to be handled centrally by GOP legislative leaders

The Alabama Political Reporter reports: The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained an email from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sent to fellow republican senate members, telling them to "get started earlier as opposed to later" on their campaign fundraising; but only from local donors.

This letter, and similar communications, has senators privately grumbling over financial road-blocks, claiming that they are being set-up by Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

The rank-in-file members say they are being told to "stay out of Montgomery" when it comes to raising money for their campaigns. Marsh and Hubbard have made it clear that they will be handling the "Big Donors," legislators complain. ...

By keeping legislators off the Montgomery money train, Hubbard, Marsh and Riley guarantee they remain the masters of the political universe in Alabama. -- Read the whole story -->Editorial: Message to Republican Legislators: Big Donors Off-Limits

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July 6, 2013

Alabama's new online campaign-finance reports working well

AL.com reports: The Alabama Secretary of States office reported no glitches with its new online, searchable system for candidates and political action committees to file campaign finance reports.

The system was used for the first time for June campaign finance reports, the first reports of the 2014 election cycle. The reports were due on Tuesday.

Adam Thompson, deputy chief of staff for the secretary of state, said some candidates and PACs experienced problems using third-party software to access the new system, but the help line set up by the state's vendor, Quest Information Systems, Inc., was able to help them. The state paid the company $300,000 to develop the new filing system, which was mandated under a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2011. It replaces an old system of filing paper reports that were scanned and posted on the secretary of state website. ...

Thompson said 76 candidates and 168 political action committees had used the new system. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Secretary of State's office reports no glitches with new online filing system | al.com

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July 4, 2013

Eleven years

Eleven years ago today I started this blog.

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July 1, 2013

Voter photo IDs for old folks, disabled, et al

A press release from Gov. Bentley: Governor Robert Bentley on Friday tasked Neal Morrison, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, with developing a plan to help all citizens have access to a photo ID that will comply with the state’s photo voter ID law.

“The right to vote is fundamental to democracy,” Governor Bentley said. “I want to remove any obstacle that could keep any eligible voter from exercising their constitutional right to vote.”

The plan to be developed by Commissioner Morrison will compliment [sic] a photo voter ID plan outlined by Secretary of State Beth Chapman. Under the proposed regulations announced by Secretary of State Chapman, citizens without acceptable forms of photo voter ID can receive a free ID by visiting Department of Public Safety offices, Board of Registrars offices or the Secretary of State’s office.

Governor Bentley is tasking Commissioner Morrison to develop this additional plan to specifically help the disabled, the homebound and others who may not have access to those offices so they can receive this free service as well. The plan will be designed to provide assistance to citizens of any voting age who are in need of this service.

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June 29, 2013

Voter photo ID to be used in 2014; plans announced

AL.com reports: Voters without photo identification will have two options for getting a free ID from the state before the state's new photo voter ID law kicks in next year, Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced today.

Alabama's new law requiring people to show photo ID to vote is scheduled to go into effect with the party primaries in June of 2014. The law -- to get around accusations that it's a modern poll tax to make people buy ID -- also requires that the state have an option for a free ID.

Chapman today announced a proposal for complying with the free ID requirement.

She said voters can go to the Department of Public Safety office in their county and get a free non-drivers identification card. The secretary of state will reimburse Public Safety for the cost. Voters can also go to their local Board of Registrars office and get a free photo voter ID there. -- Read the whole story --> State announces plan for free IDs under new photo voter ID law | al.com

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June 26, 2013

Voter photo ID to be used in 2014

AL.com reports: Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision clears the way for Alabama's new photo voter ID law to be used in the 2014 elections without the need for federal preclearance, state officials said.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman said they believed the voting requirement, which is scheduled to take effect with the June 2014 primaries, can simply move forward. ...

Alabama lawmakers in 2011 approved a law to require Alabamians ? beginning with the party primaries in June of 2014 -- to show photo identification in order to vote. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama photo voter ID law to be used in 2014, state officials say | al.com

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"ALEC influences Alabama legislators"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: From voter identification laws to immigration bills, many states seem to be acting as if from the same agenda in recent years. It's no secret that lobbying groups impact public policy on all levels, but many states are being influenced by a stronger, more powerful group.

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, "is the only state legislative organization that adopts policies and creates model legislation for its members to use in their states," the ALEC website says. "To date, ALEC has nearly 1,000 pieces of model legislation."

Alabama has seen several pieces of "model legislation" in various forms in the past legislative sessions.

For example, ALEC offers model legislation on "The Parental Choice Scholarship Tax Credit Accountability Act," which describes a program similar to the one laid out in HB84, the Alabama Accountability Act.
http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-parental-choice-scholarship-tax-credit-accountability-act/ -- Read the whole article --> ALEC influences Alabama legislators

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June 24, 2013

Telling the "real Republicans" from the infiltrators

Alabama Political Reporter reports on Speaker Hubbard's incumbent-protection plan, saying "We cannot let those entities infiltrate and highjack our primary." The article then list 5 house members and 3 senators who ran as Democrats and switched parties after the election. The article includes this:

Most interestingly, though, is Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), who supported the Democrats long before he ever became a Republican.

Whatley donated a significant amount of money--$2,300--to the Obama campaign in July, 2008. This donation occurred around the same time that Whatley applied for an appointment, under the Obama administration to become the state director of USDA Rural Development in Alabama.

Whatley did not get the appointment, and many believe it was due to inaccuracies on his resume. Shortly after, Whatley joined the Republican Party and ran against Senator Ted Little, a 32-year incumbent, riding into the seat on the Republican landslide of 2010. -- Read the whole article --> Hubbard's "real republican" incumbents include Obama donor and party switchers

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June 22, 2013

Briefs filed in voting rights suit about Birmingham school board

AL.com reports: State school officials and a group of Birmingham voters argued in separate court papers Friday whether the state should have obtained federal permission under the Voting Rights Act before it took control of Birmingham school finances last year.

The voter group says the majority white state school board grabbed authority away from voters who elected the Birmingham Board of Education, which is majority black. The state board should first get pre-clearance for its 2012 intervention plan under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before overriding any more decisions by city school board members, the voter group says.

State school board officials say they don't need pre-clearance for what amounts to a "temporary shift" in how a limited number of decisions with "serious financial implications" are made. The voters' Section 5 claim should be dismissed, the state says. ...

In February a group of five voters, including Birmingham Board of Education members Virginia Volker and Emanuel Ford and Alabama Education Association representative Michael Todd, who lives in the city, filed a lawsuit that says the state's intervention in the city school system violated Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham group: state should be ordered to get federal approval to override city school board votes | al.com

Disclosure: I represent the voters in this suit.

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Hubbard seeks to preserve Purity of Essesnce of the GOP

AL.com reports: Rep. Mike Hubbard sounds more like a man about to run a counterintelligence operation than the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

Hubbard was at The Club Friday speaking to a meeting of Birmingham Young Republicans where he warned them that the "folks in Montgomery who used to run things" are making plans to take back their power and they are preparing to do it by pretending to be Republicans. ...

Hubbard identified the Alabama Education Association among other Democratic Party leaning groups who are at work on plans to reduce the GOP majorities in the House and state Senate. ...

"I'm telling you the race will be determined in the primary. The other guys know that," Hubbard said. "They know they can't win as a Democrat in a general election." -- Read the whole story --> Mike Hubbard readies to defend the GOP majority against faux Republicans | al.com

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June 21, 2013

Birmingham city councilor pleads guilty to interfering with voter

AL.com reports: Birmingham Councilwoman Lashunda Scales has accepted a plea bargain that eliminates felony charges against her, avoiding jail time and avoiding automatic removal from office.

On June 4 Scales was indicted on two felony charges and six counts of using her official office for personal gain and voter interference.

In an agreement reached this afternoon with Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls and approved by Judge Tommy Nail, the counts against Scales were reduced to two and downgraded to one violation and one misdemeanor.

In exchange, Scales pleaded guilty to interfering with an elector, a minor legal violation, and a misdemeanor charge of unintentional use of public equipment. ...

The original four voter intimidation and interference counts stemmed from allegations from Jami L. Bryant that Scales attempted to "disturb, or prevent, or attempt to prevent" her from voting during the city's bond referendum held Oct. 9, 2012. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham Councilwoman Lashunda Scales accepts plea bargain, avoids felony charges & retains office | al.com

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GOP official does not want felon running for Congress on GOP ticket

AL.com reports: Can Stephen Nodine mount a campaign for Congress from jail?

Not if one Republican Party official has a say about it.

Matt Simpson, chairman of the Baldwin County GOP, said he intends to challenge any attempt by Nodine to qualify with the party as a candidate in the special election for Alabama?s 1st Congressional District seat.

"Having plead guilty to a felony charge of perjury, a crime for which he is currently serving his sentence, Mr. Nodine does not represent the principles and qualities necessary to represent the Republican Party in south Alabama," Simpson said today. "I would oppose his qualifying on our party ticket."

Nodine, a former Mobile County Commissioner who is now serving a two-year jail term on perjury and harassment charges, announced Wednesday that he is considering a bid for Alabama's 1st District congressional seat. -- Read the whole story --> Stephen Nodine for Congress? Not so fast, says GOP official | al.com

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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