2 weeks ago

2021 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 31-40

It would stand to reason that the most powerful and influential media outlet in Alabama would have a keen sense of which state political figures fit the same bill.

That’s why Yellowhammer Multimedia, once again, is publishing its Power and Influence 40.

Taking into account countless conversations with political insiders, as well as the most recent developments in politics and public policy, the list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence on behalf of those they represent and the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list is being released in four segments, with 31-40 coming first and 1-10 finishing the week out.

Welcome to a peek behind the curtain.

40. Anthony Daniels

Anthony Daniels has seemingly done the impossible in the Alabama House of Representatives. As House Minority Leader, he has increased his power and influence in the lower chamber despite a reduction in numbers within his caucus.

Sometimes in the House, it is harder to lead that smaller number of people because personalities and agendas become magnified. But Daniels has deftly handled his current leadership position.

Possessing a natural intellect for legislative process and politics, Daniels has figured out how to best channel his caucus’ energy to leverage a permanent seat at the policymaking table.

The Rocket City can count Daniels among its growing list of powerful and influential politicians in state government.

39. Greg Butrus

What we said in 2019: It’s impossible not to learn something during a conversation with Butrus. Once a Senate staffer for legendary Alabama political figure Howell Heflin, Butrus displays the type of personality rare among the silk stocking law firms in downtown Birmingham.

The question is not “what does Greg Butrus know about legislation, ethics opinions and campaign finance laws?” Instead, the question usually asked by Alabama political insiders is “what doesn’t he know?”

This Balch & Bingham attorney has incomparable knowledge in the areas which matter most to lobbyists and principals trying to navigate the Alabama political waters.

His ability to be such a valuable resource among power players makes him one of their peers.

38. Greg Jones

Anyone who thinks bipartisanship is dead has never encountered the governmental affairs practice of Greg Jones.

Possessing an innate ability to connect with policymakers of both parties and all backgrounds, Jones has built one of the most durable practices in Montgomery. This experienced lobbyist and entrepreneur has set up a firm ready to engage on a wide range of issues at all levels of government.

A former Arkansas State defensive back, Jones’ ability to see the entire political field keeps his services in high demand.

37. Sommer Vaughn

What we said in 2019: Vaughn has hit her stride as a lobbyist who consistently delivers results for her clients. No issue is too big or too complex for her to handle.

Being a lobbyist comes naturally to Sommer Vaughn. An ingrained interest in public policy and an ebullient personality allow her to get locked into the decision-making process on any issue in state government.

Perhaps just as important for getting work done in politics is that hint of “don’t mess with me” that Vaughn possesses. Being able to evoke a tinge of fear in people behind an otherwise relatable personality is what delivers results for clients and amounts to longevity in the industry.

The ingredients are there for Vaughn to maintain her power and influence for decades to come.

36. Jeremy Walker

While his members have enjoyed a stellar year in the real estate market, Jeremy Walker has worked to position them well in the realm of Alabama politics.

Walker leads a thriving business association which now has more than $2.5 million in its political action committee. Coupling his ambitious leadership style with those resources will make Walker and his association one of the most impactful players during the upcoming 2022 election cycle.

An attorney and former football player for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Walker should continue to widen his trail of power and influence.

35. Bobby Singleton

Bobby Singleton could teach a master class in how to maximize the power and influence available to an Alabama state senator. He squeezes every ounce of available juice out of his position from start to finish each legislative session.

A commanding presence at the microphone in the well of the chamber, lobbyists and staffers – as well as many of his fellow senators – never quite know whether he is speaking from the heart or with the wink of an eye.

That ability to keep other stakeholders off balance, and a willingness to utilize his influence, necessitates their inclusion of Singleton throughout the policymaking process.

“Let’s work!”

34. Josh Blades

What we said in 2019: The depth of his work in the executive and legislative branches of government provides him the institutional knowledge to service his clients, but his influence comes from having the relationships to bring about results.

When Josh Blades’ clients gain his representation, they get way more than just a guy who walks up and down the hallways of the Statehouse.

Blades has an ability to think about issues and their impact more globally than most, and he could just as easily be running a business or an organization as he could be doing his present job as one of Alabama’s top lobbyists.

It is fascinating to think of how much is left out there for a talent like Blades to accomplish even with how much he has done already. Yet, his work is just beginning.

33. Ben Patterson

What we said in 2019: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable governmental affairs professional in Alabama than Ben Patterson. And there’s a good reason for this…Patterson holds a doctorate and quite literally taught classes in state and local government, as well as American politics, at the University of Alabama.

Lobbyists come in varying forms. One type is the lobbyist who can open a door and get a meeting scheduled but has no idea what their client actually needs. Another, although somewhat rarer, is the lobbyist who understands the issues but not the personal and political nuances that must be taken into account.

Ben Patterson is the perfect mix of what is good from both of those scenarios.

Patterson is a scholar and able to easily grasp complicated issues. He is also a relationship-builder by nature and has connected with the state’s power players on a personal level.

Being able to leverage that combination of influential traits puts Patterson in a unique position in Montgomery.

32. Paul Pinyan

What we said in 2019: With an impressive phone banking and polling operation, along with the best grassroots network in the state, Pinyan has the top tools at his disposal to continue increasing his power and influence.

Paul Pinyan has drawn up the blueprint for becoming powerful and influential at a business association in Montgomery.

A native of Holly Pond, Pinyan was appointed in 2010 by former Alabama Farmers Federation president Jerry Newby to replace legendary executive director Mike Kilgore. Since that time, Pinyan has effectively consolidated power both within his own building and externally.

Pinyan is particularly proficient in the art of subtle influence in advancing his cause and that of current president Jimmy Parnell, who relies heavily upon Pinyan’s guidance and counsel.

Pinyan’s organization has a little more than $750,000 in its state political action committee. With that tidy sum, the trust of his members and a variety of campaign tools at his disposal, Pinyan has the opportunity for continued success.

31. David Cole

What we said in 2019: Cole is a natural people’s person, someone adept at building genuine relationships and making real connections. In the governmental affairs world, these traits are hard to find.

Few have seen their stock shoot up in recent legislative sessions the way David Cole has.

Cole transitioned from a single industry constituency to the diverse industry interests of the Business Council of Alabama a little more than two years ago. He has thrived under that change of scenery.

Cole came charging out of the gate as senior vice president of governmental affairs at BCA. He was the tip of the legislative spear on the business community’s support for the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package.

There is no question he will be at the forefront of many legislative fights in the future. All Cole needs is a white board and a phone and he will relentlessly pursue votes on behalf of his group.

Meanwhile, his stock continues to climb.

Check back on Wednesday for the next segment: 21-30

3 hours ago

7 Things: Ivey says not to panic-buy gas, companies in Alabama need workers, border chaos must be addressed and more …

7. History will not remember Liz Cheney’s leadership position 

  • U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is on the cusp of being ousted by her fellow House Republicans, and the American media has declared this to be a pivotal moment in American history, which it clearly is not. Proving why she is being removed, Cheney spent her last full day in leadership rehashing the U. S. Capitol riots and talking about former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
  • U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) highlighted this when citing why his “friend” needed to go. He advised, “[S]he has made a decision that she is going to use her position as conference chairman not to just promote the position and point out the shortcomings of the Democrat majority and the Biden administration, but rather continue to relitigate what happened on January 6. It is not the job of conference chairman. It is to be the voice of our conference in talking about why we ought to be in the majority and why this majority is wrongheaded, the administration is not doing what the country needs.”

6. Rockets hit Israel, Israel hits back 

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  • In the latest round of Middle East violence, the terrorist group Hamas began shooting rockets into populated areas of Israeli cities with the support of Palestinian leadership. The Israeli military responded by launching targeted attacks on the leadership of Hamas and at rocket sites. Obviously, civilians are caught in the crossfire, again.
  • The American media seems somewhat unnerved by Israel’s defensive capabilities and uneven death toll, but they seem to be hellbent on ignoring the fact that the death toll is only low on the Israeli side because they are able to retard Hamas’ attacks.

5. Schumer wants to legalize marijuana 

  • U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is planning to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana and expunge records of those who have been convicted of possession.
  • Schumer specifically said, “It is not just legalization but a deal for the injustices of the past expungement of the records making sure that the money that’s made from marijuana goes to the communities, communities of color, poor people communities, that have paid the price for this ridiculous scheduling of marijuana.”

4. Kids 12-15 could get vaccinated in Alabama this week 

  • The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use on those 12 to 15-years-old, and now it could be approved for use in Alabama by Thursday.
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham vaccination clinics are planning to provide the doses to younger age groups by Thursday if the vaccine is approved for use by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today.

3. Secure the border 

  • Governor Kay Ivey and 19 other governors have signed a letter together demanding that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris address the crisis at the southern border. The letter points out that there have been “172,000 encounters in March, the highest number in nearly 20 years, as well as 18,890 unaccompanied children, the largest monthly number in history.”
  • The letter goes on to say, “The crisis is too big to ignore and is now spilling over the border states into all of our states.” They directly blame Biden’s administration and policy decisions for the surge.

2. There are jobs out there 

  • After it was announced that Alabama would be withdrawing participation from federal unemployment benefits, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released a report showing that there’s a record number of job openings.
  • In the report, 31% of businesses say they’ve raised wages and 20% will increase compensation within the next few months. In addition, there’s currently a record 44% of businesses reporting job openings.

1. Ivey: Stop panic buying gas

  • The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack has led to many in the Southeast panic buying gasoline, and now Governor Kay Ivey is urging people to stop panic buying, as this could result in even more issues.
  • Ivey stated, “Please do not fill up your car unless you need to and do not fill multiple containers. Overreacting creates more of a shortage. Please use common sense and patience!”

4 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Rogers on Liz Cheney ouster: ‘We’ve got to be fighting today’s fights and tomorrow’s fights, and not the fight of yesterday’

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is expected to be voted out of her position as House Republican Conference chairwoman, the third-ranking member of the House Republican caucus, and be replaced with U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

The move by Republicans has drawn very vocal reactions from the media and other Democrats, who allege that Cheney’s removal is a product of the GOP’s blind allegiance to former President Donald Trump. Cheney had been a frequent critic of the 45th president and remained so beyond his presidency.

During an interview that aired on Tuesday’s broadcast of Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Service Committee, called Cheney “a close friend,” but acknowledged her comments about the January 6 incident on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. had a lot to do with her ouster. He argued Cheney should have had a more forward-looking focus in her leadership role.

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“Everybody sees it coming,” he said. “Liz is a close friend of mine, but she has made a decision that she is going to use her position as conference chairman not to just promote the position and point out the shortcomings of the Democrat majority and the Biden administration, but rather continue to relitigate what happened on January 6. It is not the job of conference chairman. It is to be the voice of our conference in talking about why we ought to be in the majority and why this majority is wrongheaded, the administration is not doing what the country needs. She has made this conscious choice. You know, we had a vote on this back. I think it was in February. And she survived. And everybody told her then, ‘We don’t care how you vote on the impeachment or any of that. That’s all behind us. You need to be talking about the conference goals and agenda.'”

“That’s what that position is all about,” Rogers added. “She has chosen not to do that. I fully expect [tomorrow] she is going to be recalled, and Elise Stefanik is going to be put in that position because we’ve got to be fighting today’s fights and tomorrow’s fights, and not the fight of yesterday. She just won’t turn loose of it. Now at this point, because she’s my buddy, and I hate that she’s taking this course of action — but she’s a very smart lady, and this is a conscious decision on her part.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

18 hours ago

How the Regions Tradition led to Alabama’s star-studded vaccine PSAs

You already know the Regions Tradition’s reputation for competition. It’s the first major on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule in 2021, and it produces millions for charities.

But it’s also the place where things get done. And this year’s focus was intended to save lives.

The Bruno Event Team, which manages the Tradition, and the Alabama Department of Public Health used the annual Celebrity Pro-Am tournament as a stage to create a public awareness campaign encouraging Alabamians to get the COVID vaccine ASAP.

The idea, the pitch and the execution all came together in a week. And when approached, the centerpiece of the project agreed to participate without hesitation.

The centerpiece?

Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

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RELATED: College football’s biggest names turn out for 2021 Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am

“Research told us you don’t use national celebrities,” said Gene Hallman of the Bruno Event Team, which produced the spots. “You use local doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. Or you use local celebrities. And in this state, no one is better known than Coach Saban.”

In fact, according to a Montgomery pollster the Bruno team consulted, there’s no one more respected throughout the state than Saban. John Anzalone told the Wall Street Journal that Saban’s favorability rating is the highest in the state – 77 percent. That means that even Auburn fans who root against him each week still respect him.

Or, as Anzalone told the Wall Street Journal, “He is a God.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health reached out to the Bruno team to create a marketing campaign for the state’s underserved population, intending for the spots to motivate Black, Latino and tribal populations to get the vaccines. The public awareness videos will run on television and radio stations statewide, as well as on social media.

But as the campaign expanded, the goalpost moved. With federal and state grants provided for that specific reason, “we’re going to try to reach a very broad audience – the entire state,” Hallman said. “We’re not hammering people. We just want to provide an education on the science of the vaccine, so people can make an informed decision.”

And, since it’s Alabama, there’s also another lure: the opportunity to pack college football stadiums at 100% capacity next fall if enough people get vaccinated.

It’s not the first time the tournament known as the Regions Tradition proved to be a catalyst for change.

When the Champions Tour first came to Birmingham in 1992, Hallman’s group was called in to help with a very hush-hush operation. They were told an unnamed group of visitors from Europe, interested in bringing business to the U.S., would be coming to town to see what Alabama had to offer. No other information was provided, but they were to be shown a good time.

Only one problem.

The first tournament was held in August, a notoriously bad time for southern hospitality – at least for people used to cooler weather than the notorious sticky, 100-degree days. But, as luck would have it, an unusual cold front swept in at the start of the tournament, providing record low temperatures that created perfect temps for the visitors.

So, the secret entourage spent a week at the tournament, got to meet popular Champions Tour legend Chi Chi Rodriguez, and spent a day touring a large plot of land outside Tuscaloosa, less than an hour away …  land that would eventually become the site of Alabama’s first automotive manufacturing plant.

As for the vaccine spots, once Saban came on board others followed. The list includes an NBA legend, a college conference commissioner, a U.S. Senator and other coaches. All recorded their parts while participating in the Regions Tradition Pro-Am.

“We asked and they answered in two seconds,” Hallman said. “There was no hesitation. We got them all on camera that day.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

18 hours ago

Governor Ivey urges Alabamians not to panic-buy gas

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday spoke with the U.S. Department of Energy on a call regarding the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, which has caused a shutdown of the pipeline operations.

The pipeline, which is the largest system for refined oil products in the United States, is 5,500 miles long and can carry 3 million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York. It is operated by Colonial Pipeline Company, which is headquartered in Georgia.

The pipeline runs through Alabama, as people may remember from a Shelby County leak in 2016 that caused gas shortages in the region. The county is home to the Colonial Pipeline Co. Pelham junction and tank farm.

However, Ivey wants to assure Alabamians that the temporary pipeline shutdown should be resolved in the coming days and that any potential gas shortages have not reached the Yellowhammer State.

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“Please do not fill up your car unless you need to and do not fill multiple containers. Overreacting creates more of a shortage. Please use common sense and patience!” Ivey said in a social media post.

The governor’s spokesperson reiterated Ivey’s message.

“She was assured that the pipeline should be operational in a few days,” said Gina Maiola. “She is urging Alabamians and others to not panic and to use good judgement. A shortage has not reached Alabama at this time, and she reminds us that an overreaction would only lead to that. Be courteous, only fill up if you need to, and do not fill up multiple containers. Governor Ivey urges patience and common sense.”

Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden echoed Ivey’s words.

“While the state of Alabama is fortunate to this point to not be suffering from gas shortages, there have still been reports of panic-buying and gas price increases,” he said in a statement. “I echo Governor Ivey’s request that Alabama residents refrain from panic-buying, which would only cause more anxiety in the market. As Colonial has stated publicly they are working vigorously to reestablish service.”

The Colonial Pipeline shutdown comes as the average price of gas in the U.S. has risen from $2.112 per gallon before President Joe Biden was elected to $2.985 per gallon this week.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

19 hours ago

Vocational center for construction, electric vehicle, aviation technology fields coming to DeKalb County

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced a $1 million grant to help the Fort Payne Board of Education construct a new vocational center aimed at training students in careers that include construction, electric vehicle and aviation technologies.

The funds come from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the ARC program in Alabama.

The new DeKalb County vocation center will prepare Fort Payne high school students and adults for the future while helping to meet the needs of Alabama’s workforce in several career fields.

“Alabama is sounding the call for a skilled workforce and the Fort Payne Board of Education is responding to that demand,” Ivey said in a statement. “This program will ensure that students graduating from high school will be ready for rewarding and high-paying jobs, and that employers will be hiring a qualified workforce to move our state forward.”

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RELATED: Guest: Electric vehicles important for Alabama’s automotive industry

The new Building, Electric and Aviation Technology Center will provide students with a rigorous training program in a workplace environment to ready them for careers.

“The path to rewarding careers does not always go through colleges and universities,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell added. “I applaud the Fort Payne Board of Education for offering other options for students who have the same dreams for successful careers but choose a different path to get there.”

The project is supported by Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), who chairs the Alabama Space Authority and the legislature’s Aerospace and Defense Caucus.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn