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3 years ago

A liberal blogger claimed I slept with the Alabama AG—but I fought back and won big

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange speaking to Jessica Garrison (Photo: Doug Coulter)
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange speaking to Jessica Garrison (Photo: Doug Coulter)

Thursday on Marie Claire, Alabamian Jessica Garrison shared her story of being harassed and libeled by a notorious liberal blogger.

“My saga started in July 2013,” she wrote. “A friend texted me, asking, “Do you know this guy, Roger Shuler?” I didn’t, but quickly learned he was the political blogger behind the website Legal Schnauzer and author of a new post that would forever change my life: “AG Luther Strange Has a Messy Extra-Marital Affair with Ex-Campaign Aide Jessica Garrison.”

The scenario that unfolded for Garrison was nothing short of nightmarish.

That was my name in a headline, alleging I had had an affair with my friend and former boss, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. (I managed his 2010 campaign.) I was shocked—it was usually the politicians whose names were dragged through the mud, not mine. Honestly, it was so ludicrous that I did something like a proverbial shoulder shrug and tried to move on. And thankfully everyone who knows me knew it wasn’t true, including my former boss’s wife, Melissa—we wound up in tears on the phone together wondering why someone would make up such horrible things.

By then, I was a Executive Director at RAGA, the Republican Attorney General’s Association, in Washington, D.C. My job was to meet with corporations to promote working with Attorney Generals. One day, I went to a meeting with the Government Affairs director at Apple at a restaurant in Cupertino, California. When I arrived, he said, “I looked you up online so I could recognize you.” My heart stopped beating. All I could think throughout the meeting was, ‘This man thinks I slept with the Attorney General of Alabama.’

I’ve worked since I was 16, was the President of the Student Government Association in college, and got a job out of law school at a firm where I worked for nine years before starting on Luther’s campaign in 2009. Now, it felt like all that hard work was under threat.

The rumors got so out of control that people started asking Luther if they were true. Here he was, running for another term—having to field questions about me.

There is no second place in politics—you either win or you lose—and this ridiculous little blog was being used as a tool to try to gain a competitive advantage. I was livid.

From there, it only got worse as the blogger’s persecution continued.

Shuler posted photos of my home on his website, which felt like a threat, not to mention a huge violation of privacy. Had he been at my house? Was he stalking me? I installed a home security system and put the police on notice. I was so paranoid that I called the cops in tears one night, convinced someone was outside, and was relieved—and slightly mortified—to learn it was the police doing a drive by.

The final straw was when Shuler wrote a follow-up post claiming my then five-year-old son was actually Luther’s illegitimate child. I could handle the professional stuff—I have pretty thick skin—but this crossed a line. It upset his father, my ex-husband, who sent Shuler a comment to set the record straight, which of course he never posted.

Garrison decided she’d had enough, and began to fight back.

When Shuler was served with the papers from my attorney, he was already in jail for another defamation case. (Robert Riley, a lobbyist, sued Shuler for alleging he’d had an affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke.) When we met in court for a preliminary hearing, Shuler came in wearing an orange jumpsuit. He sat directly across from me, but never looked at me. He didn’t seem to care that his lies could have destroyed my personal and professional life. I can only assume that his goal was to damage Luther politically, and that he thought using a woman who worked closely with the AG was the best way to do that. He didn’t realize that he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

But when the trial date came Shuler didn’t show.

 Both Luther and I were called to the stand. Seeing Luther responding to questions about the rumors was mortifying. My job had been to help him present a strong front—the exact ​opposite​ of making him vulnerable to such scandalous lies. I knew it wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t help feeling like I failed him somehow.

One day a month later, I was running late for a meeting with a close colleague when my lawyer called with the news: Not only had I won my case, but the judge had awarded me $3.5 million in damages. I ran into my meeting literally shouting, “I won! I won!” I was elated—not about the money, but about the fact that I’d seen justice done.

I will likely not see a penny from the lawsuit (Shuler doesn’t have the means to pay it), but I don’t care—all I wanted was for the world to know the truth, which is why I’m sharing my story with you today. This is about more than just me. It’s about the women who are bullied, trolled, and victimized online because someone has an agenda, or a chip on their shoulder, or a self-righteous feeling that they simply ​can​.

Garrison then related her story to the current situation regarding rumors surrounding Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s divorce.

The week before last, I got a call from a man who works in Alabama politics. He was upset about rumors swirling around the recent announcement of Governor Robert Bentley’s impending divorce. Bentley’s wife filed papers in late August, which prompted the same blogger who lied about me to write that the cause was primarily the result of an affair with one of his aides, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

I had no idea if any of this was true—all I knew was that it brought back all the anxiety, stress, and sadness that had consumed me for months when I was the target of the same man.

I have since learned that Rebekah has retained a lawyer, and while I don’t know the details of her case, I do know this: I am proud of her for fighting for her name and reputation. If more women fight back, then maybe, just maybe, people like Shuler will stop seeing us as easy targets—and more as forces better not reckoned with.

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3 hours ago

Port of Mobile welcomes home a Harley-Davidson used during World War I

A true piece of history arrived at the Port of Mobile yesterday.

The 1918 Harley-Davidson Model J motorcycle was brought over from France to drive on American soil for the first time since it was manufactured some 100 years ago.

Its current stage of life began about 10 years ago when a wealthy Frenchman named Christophe de Goulaine, of the notorious Château de Goulaine in Nantes, purchased the Model J and had it refurbished, with the intentions of bringing it home to its land of birth.

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Last month, the Harley was put on a ship docked at Port Saint-Nazaire in France and sailed to Alabama’s Port City.

Until Monday, the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum in Mobile will be displaying the Model J for visitors to see though on Saturday morning, those who want to see it will have to visit the Mobile Bay Harley-Davidson.

“We thought it was a rare opportunity for us to showcase a piece of military history that transited seaports 100 years ago, assisted the war effort, and found its way back home through the Port of Mobile,” Brent Beall, Interim Executive Director for the museum, said in a press release.

After that, de Goulaine and the bike’s restorer, Pierre Lauvergeat, will drive it all around the country: first stop, Jacksonville, Florida.

The two also intend to stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Harley-Davidson Headquarters.

“In all, we plan to complete 9000 kilometers (5600 miles) on a 1918 motorcycle without any special technical assistance,” de Goulaine said.

4 hours ago

Are we making the opioid problem worse?

Opioid abuse is taking a tremendous toll on America, with 42,000 opioid-related deaths in 2016 and 343 in Alabama.  The problem involves both prescription opioid-based painkillers and illegal heroin and fentanyl.  Might our public policy response be worsening this terrible problem?

Economists have analyzed prohibition, both alcohol in the 1920s and illegal drugs more recently.  We evaluate prohibition, or any other government policy, by comparing the world with and without the policy in question.  This necessarily involves a state of the world which does not exist.  We will never see the toll opioids would have taken in 2018 if we had significantly different policies in place.  We must construct an alternative.

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Rules govern the construction of alternatives to produce meaningful comparisons. One key is allowing only the policy to vary, not other factors, so differences can be attributed to alternative policy.  For example, prohibition does not automatically stop people from taking a substance.  Some potential users will be deterred because of illegality, but others won’t, as we saw with alcohol in the 1920s.

Economic analysis distinguishes harm from the substance itself and those due to prohibition.  Drug violence, for example, is almost entirely due to prohibition.  Dealers’ cash and drugs are vulnerable to theft, and these thefts will not be reported to the police.  Dealers will use violence to protect, steal or retrieve drugs and money. Walgreens and CVS do not have gun battles to control the OxyContin market.

Prescription painkillers provide a distinctive twist to the opioid crisis.  Introduction of opioid painkillers in the 1990s opened new options for millions of American pain sufferers.  Prescription drugs occupy a middle ground in prohibition, legal under government-approved conditions and illegal otherwise.

Perhaps the major controversy for policy and lawsuits brought by dozens of states and cities against drug companies is the addictiveness of opioid painkillers. Studies in leading medical journals show that perhaps one or two percent of patients using the drugs as prescribed become dependent.  Many of the Americans addicted to painkillers obtained them on the black market or through a bogus prescription.

In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration reformulated OxyContin to make the pills harder to crush and make into more potent opioids.  Other restrictions on prescribing followed, and pill mills have been shut down.  In Alabama, opioid prescriptions declined 17 percent between 2013 and 2015.  Yet the crisis has become much deadlier since 2010, with heroin- and fentanyl-related deaths increasing by factors of five and six respectively, with only a slight decline in prescription-related deaths. (Overdose victims often used more than one narcotic, so deaths are described only as related to a drug.)

Heroin, especially when laced with fentanyl, is far deadlier than prescription opioids.  It is tragic when people fall into substance abuse, which often happens after traumatic life events.  Rehab is often not effective until people decide to change their lives.  Unfortunately, public policy may only be able to limit the harm during a dark period in people’s lives, and ensure the availability of help when requested.  Forcing people to turn to heroin by restricting access to painkillers increases harm.

Restricting access to prescription opioids is costly.  Many people can no longer successfully manage their chronic pain, with tragic consequences.  In some documented cases, patients have committed suicide after being denied painkillers.  Any policy limiting access for people who do not “need” painkillers will deny some patients in pain needed help because pain is subjective; no doctor or nurse can know if it is tolerable.  And a strong argument exists that American adults should be able to decide how to treat their pain without the government’s approval.  Libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argued that free people have a right to drugs.

The concentration of the opioid deaths in regions with dwindling manufacturing and mining jobs suggests a significant economic element to the crisis. And this, to me, is the crisis’ most disturbing element.  America today boasts tremendous prosperity and opportunity.  Given the high overall quality of life today, why is the economy seemingly leading so many Americans to addiction?

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.

5 hours ago

Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers says Mueller probe should be ended by ‘Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’

The numbers do not lie: America is clearly starting to turn on the Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller. The IG report on the FBI cast more doubt on some of the players involved and the non-stop media coverage has Americans growing weary. U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) told WVNN and Yellowhammer News that this investigation needs to stop now:

“I want it stopped now. I called for that about two weeks ago,” Rogers said. “We’ve passed the one year mark, we have spent $25 million dollars. This town leaks like a sieve on anything and particularly with this group of folks if they had anything it would of been leaked out months ago. Even if they have something, they need to tell us, it has been a year and $25 million dollars. I am a recovering attorney, I know exactly how lawyers work, these people are going to keep running the clock as long as we are willing to keep writing checks every month and paying them.”

Why this matters:

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Congressional Republicans who were inclined to “let this play out” are now openly calling for this to end. They are sighting the lack of results, the length of the investigation, the costs, and even the cloud it is casting over the country.

When asked who should be the one to end the investigation Rogers did not miss a beat, he put that task on one of Alabama’s favorite sons “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.”

Listen to the interview here:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

Why Mike Kemp’s withdrawal from BCA is highly significant

As reported earlier today, BCA Progress PAC Chairman Mike Kemp has resigned his position and withdrawn his membership from the group. Kemp was also set for installation as Chairman of BCA later this year.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board has obtained a copy of Kemp’s letter of resignation to BCA Chairman Perry Hand. The letter is dated June 20, 2018.

Based upon Kemp’s position in the organization and the reasons he states for his withdrawal, his leaving BCA is a highly significant development in this ongoing saga.

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Kemp served as Progress PAC Chairman and was next in line for the BCA chairmanship.

The funds in Progress PAC, the BCA’s campaign finance apparatus, typically swell above $2 million during any given state election cycle. As this year’s Progress PAC chairman during a busy state election cycle, Kemp was right in the middle of choosing on whom those dollars got spent. Overseeing the distribution of that kind of money brings with it a tremendous amount of power and influence.

Kemp was also set to take over as the next chairman at BCA. The list of people who have held that position reads like a who’s who in the Alabama business community the last 30 plus years. Kemp was set to join an elite group of business leaders.

No one gives all this up lightly.

And so one can imagine that it took grave concerns about the organization’s direction and actions for him to forego the opportunities that lay in front of him.

Kemp’s stated reasons for withdrawal reveal that deeper problems may exist within BCA.

One passage, in particular, jumps out in Kemp’s letter:

“We must also demonstrate unwavering integrity in communicating with and managing the resources of our membership, to whom we are ultimately accountable. This is particularly true in a time of crisis, like the one before us. I am disappointed that the BCA leadership’s actions to date have failed to meet these standards, and as such, are antithetical to my views in all respects.”

Without elaborating in more detail, Kemp clearly identifies internal communications and financial management as contributing factors to his withdrawal. The organization recorded annual expenses of $4.7 million, according to IRS documents filed in 2016. With so many large members having left already, BCA will likely encounter an even greater budget shortfall. Time will reveal the severity of these shortfalls given that any proposal to dip into organizational reserves requires adoption by the full 132 member board. Additionally, according to multiple sources, a full financial audit of the organization is being pursued.

Attempts at communication within BCA were poor. We have been told repeatedly by current members of the Executive Committee that no one was updated with any regularity. The details surrounding transition were murky. Members feel as if they are being kept at arms-length.

Kemp was a trusted mediator.

Kemp worked diligently to find a solution to the problems that have contributed to this crisis. Other members trusted Kemp based upon his prudent and measured approach. He was making a genuine, good-faith effort to preserve the mission of the organization and improve our state’s economy.

The fact that he has withdrawn completely from BCA would indicate that the group’s leadership has strayed too far from its mission and the problems are beyond repair.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board is comprised of the owners of the company.

7 hours ago

Birmingham doesn’t make the cut for 2020 DNC Convention

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says Houston, Milwaukee and the Miami area are the finalists to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

The mayor says Denver also made the party’s short list but has withdrawn its bid.

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A Denver city spokeswoman, Amber Miller, tells the Houston Chronicle that scheduling conflicts forced Denver to bow out.

Turner, a Democrat, told City Council members Wednesday the trimmed field makes Houston’s chances for hosting Democrats “exponentially better.”

The city last hosted a Democratic National Convention in 1928. Republicans gathered in Houston in 1992.

Toyota Center, home to pro basketball’s Houston Rockets, would be the main convention site.

Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco and Birmingham, Alabama, also were seeking the convention.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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