3 weeks ago

Doug Jones spends big on Facebook ads deriding Sessions

Over the last three weeks, Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) reelection campaign has invested in ads mentioning former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The majority of the advertisements are fundraising appeals viewed by people outside of Alabama.

According to data from the Facebook Ads library, the Jones campaign has spent $12,844 promoting 183 different ads between October 29 and November 15. All but one of the ads mention Sessions, who held Jones’ Senate seat before serving as attorney general, by name and argue that he is too divisive of a figure for Alabama.

Of the $12,844 spent in total, $4,219, or 33%, was spent advertising to Alabamians.

Nearly all of the Facebook ads include an appeal to donate to the Jones campaign. It would seem Jones’ team believes that the stir created by Sessions’ entrance to the race will have supporters of Jones opening their wallets.

The Jones team adopted a similar strategy when his 2017 opponent Roy Moore entered the race in June. During the time the Jones campaign ran ads about Moore entering the race, they received 338 contributions for a total of $158,877.03, per FEC data.

The Sessions ads make up around 30% of Jones’ Facebook expenditures this cycle. The Jones campaign has spent $42,735 on Facebook ads since May 2018.

The Jones campaign has a much greater reach on Facebook than any of its competitors.

(Yellowhammer/Henry Thornton) (Followers accurate as of noon 11/19)

Sessions formally announced his candidacy for his old Senate seat on November 7, but the news of an announcement actually leaked out in the preceding days.

The ads align with the central theme on the Jones campaign: That Jones wants to be a unifier, while the Republicans running are too extreme.

The majority of the ads tie Sessions to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of whom polling in 2017 showed was unpopular in Alabama even among conservatives. McConnell’s popularity may have ticked up since then as the native Alabamian has successfully led the historic push to confirm conservative judges appointed by President Donald Trump.

(Courtesy of Facebook Ads Library)

The Jones team has not mentioned by name in their ads Coach Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), Secretary of State John Merrill or State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) — all of whom are also seeking the Republican nomination.

Sessions has won five statewide elections in Alabama, first as attorney general in 1994 and then the U.S. Senate in 1996, followed by reelection in 2002, 2008 and 2014.

Trump nominated Sessions to be his first attorney general. Sessions served in that role from the beginning of the administration in 2017 until the president asked for his resignation in November 2018.

Jones won election to the Senate in a special election in 2017 to fill the open seat created by Sessions’ appointment as America’s top law enforcement officer.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.:

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Sessions campaign manager Jon Jones said, “Doug Jones is right to be worried about Jeff Sessions. He knows that Jeff will beat him next fall. Bring it on.”

“Since joining the race, the far-left Democrats and their water carriers in the media have attacked Mr. Sessions everyday. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, MSNBC, CNN, and many others have already voiced their opposition to his election. They are right to be worried,” Jones added.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

4 hours ago

Univ. of South Alabama provost elected chair of southern college accrediting commission

The University of South Alabama on Thursday announced that Dr. David Johnson, the university’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, has been elected chair of the board of trustees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

SACSCOC is the recognized American regional accrediting body in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, as well as in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees.

Johnson’s election came during SACSCOC’s recent annual meeting in Houston. He will serve during 2020.

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The Commission on Colleges’ board of trustees is the representative body of the College Delegate Assembly and is charged with carrying out the accreditation process.

“The SACS Commission on Colleges is responsible for ensuring that all accredited colleges and universities in our region meet the standards for quality and integrity that are specified in the body’s Principles of Accreditation,” Johnson explained in a statement. “I consider it a great honor, and a tremendous responsibility, to have been selected to serve as board chair of this important organization.”

Prior to his election as board chair, Johnson served as vice chair, executive council member and chair of the Alabama state delegation. He has reportedly been active with SACSCOC for many years, serving as an accreditation consultant and as a member of several site visit teams.

Dr. Belle Wheelan, SACSCOC president, advised, “This year as vice chair, Dr. Johnson demonstrated a thorough awareness and understanding of the many complex issues before us.”

“His patience, compassion and knowledge make him an obvious choice to serve as board chair,” Wheelan added.

Johnson has served in his current leadership roles at South Alabama since 2009 and is the first administrator of the Mobile university to serve as SACSCOC chair.

A member of the South Alabama faculty since 1984, he has enjoyed a distinguished career in teaching, research and community service. Johnson previously served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2002-2009. Before that, he served as associate dean, as well as acting chair of sociology and anthropology.

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

5 hours ago

Three former NFL players with connections to Alabama charged with healthcare fraud

The Eastern District of Kentucky announced Thursday that 10 former NFL players, including three with ties to Alabama, have been charged for their alleged roles in a healthcare fraud scheme.

Carlos Rogers, a former All-American cornerback at Auburn, was joined in the indictment by Robert McCune and Etric Pruitt, who were both born and played high school football in Mobile County.

According to the indictment, McCune and Rogers were both involved in the creating of the scheme, and they both recruited other players to join.

The scheme allegedly involved the submitting of claims for expensive medical equipment, typically between $40,000 and $50,000 for each claim. Allegedly, the equipment in the claims was never purchased by the former players who are accused of pocketing the money.

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The seven other players charged included Clinton Portis, a former All-Pro running back for the Washington Redskins.

According to the U.S Department of Justice, “The alleged fraud targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which… provided for tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their wives and their dependents – up to a maximum of $350,000 per player.”

Carlos Rogers, who grew up in Georgia, is an Auburn graduate who garnered First-Team SEC, and consensus All-American honors during his senior year in 2004. He was selected by the Redskins with the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of health care fraud.

Robert McCune, from Mobile, went to high school at John Leflore Magnet in Mobile. He played for Louisville in college and had a three-year stint in the NFL. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and nine counts of health care fraud.

Etric Pruitt is a Theodore native who played college football at Southern Miss before having a short career in the NFL. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud.

According to the indictment, over $3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims were submitted by the players in question. The NFL plan paid out over $3.4 million on those claims between June 2017 and December 2018.

“Ten former NFL players allegedly committed a brazen, multi-million dollar fraud on a health care plan meant to help their former teammates and other retired players pay legitimate, out-of-pocket medical expenses,” asserted Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.

Over 20 FBI field offices participated in the investigation.

This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the Miami Field Office.

“Today’s indictments underscore that whoever you are, if you loot health care programs to line your own pockets, you will be held accountable by the Department of Justice,” added Benczkowski.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

5 hours ago

Birmingham CEO calls on Congress to quickly ratify Trump’s historic USMCA trade deal

Altec CEO Lee Styslinger III on Wednesday announced his support for the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, the historic trade deal negotiated by President Donald Trump’s administration that would replace NAFTA.

Altec, headquartered in Birmingham, is a leading equipment and service provider for the electric utility, telecommunications, contractor, lights and signs and tree care markets. The Alabama company provides products and services in more than 100 countries across the globe.

Not only does Styslinger bring his experience running Altec to the table, but the respected businessman also currently serves as a member of the Business Roundtable, a board member of the National Association of Manufacturers and a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Additionally, he was a key member of President George W. Bush’s Export Council and was responsible for advising Bush on government policies and programs that affected U.S. trade performance and export expansion opportunities.

To the point at hand, Styslinger is currently serving as a member of the official Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), which provides policy advice on trade issues to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the highest levels of the Trump administration. Alabama’s own Styslinger and other members of ACTPN have been working closely with Ambassador Robert Lighthizer (the current USTR) to help finalize the USMCA.

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On Tuesday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that her caucus has come to an agreement with the Trump administration on the trade deal, setting the USMCA up for probable ratification now.

In a release, Styslinger outlined several benefits of the USMCA:

  • Maintains trilateral duty-free trade.
  • Modernizes key provisions and open markets more than current NAFTA.
  • Overall strengthens intellectual property protections and supports the digital economy.
  • Enhances trade facilitation and e-commerce across all three countries.
  • Expands services commitments.
  • Improves regulatory practices and enhances regulatory transparency.
  • Incorporates stronger competition and anti-corruption enterprises.
  • Includes important sectoral commitments and standards benefitting energy, telecommunications, financial services, information and communications technology, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.
  • Incorporates stronger and enforceable labor and environment commitments.

The USMCA is also expected to have a major positive impact on American jobs, especially sectors important to Alabama such as manufacturing and agriculture.

Styslinger advised, “Over 12 million American jobs depend on the $1.4 trillion in trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.”

This is even more magnified in the Yellowhammer State.

Canada and Mexico purchase more than 33% of Alabama’s total global manufacturing exports, and over 20% of the state’s manufacturing firms export to the two countries. Most of these firms are small- and medium-sized businesses. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, skyward of 23,000 Alabama manufacturing jobs depend on exports to Canada and Mexico.

Top Alabama manufacturing exports to Canada and Mexico include: motor vehicles; iron and steel; motor vehicle parts; paper products; chemicals; engine, turbine and power transmission equipment; aluminum; aerospace products and parts; fabricated metal products and plastics.

“Implementing USMCA will significantly increase U.S. GDP, increase U.S. employment by a minimum of 176,000 jobs, increase U.S. exports to Canada by $19 billion and increase U.S. exports to Mexico by $14 billion,” Styslinger said. “The agreement will create jobs in the manufacturing sector and greatly benefit American workers, farmers and ranchers.”

“We call on the House to move quickly to finalize USMCA legislation and bring it to a vote as soon as possible,” he concluded.

A vote on the USMCA has been scheduled in the House for next week, however, the current impeachment inquiry into Trump driven by House Democrats might actually stall ratification in the Senate after that.

Assuming the two impeachment charges announced this week get enough Democratic votes to pass the House and Trump is indeed impeached, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already said he will not take up the USMCA until the impeachment trial has concluded in the upper chamber.

The USMCA now seems to be a true bipartisan agreement, having the support of both Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

RELATED: Styslinger signs major national policy statement affirming importance of free-market, supporting the American worker

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

7 hours ago

Report: Alabama has nation’s 5th-best Christmas spirit

A study conducted by CenturyLink has determined that Alabamians really love Christmas.

In a nationwide ranking of which states have the most Christmas spirit, the Yellowhammer State came in at No. 5.

CenturyLink advised that their data analysis team compared data in two main categories: online activity and area culture.

Ten metrics comprised the two categories, and the Christmas spirit ranking were finalized by calculating the weighted average for each state across all metrics.

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Under online activity, metrics included: Google searches for Christmas movies and gingerbread houses (29%); Google shopping trends for wrapping paper, Christmas cards, Christmas ornaments and “elf on a shelf” (28%); Number of Christmas songs streamed (14.5%); and Number of tweets related to Christmas (7%).

For area culture, metrics were the number of Christmas tree farms per capita (7%) and amount of charitable donations (14.5%).

Only Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah and Ohio scored above Sweet Home Alabama.

Left-leaning states such as Hawaii and California came in at the bottom of the rankings.

RELATED: Ivey lights official Alabama Christmas Tree

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

7 hours ago

Former Birmingham Water Works chair Sherry Lewis sentenced on two felony ethics charges

Former Birmingham Water Works Board Chairwoman Sherry Lewis on Thursday was sentenced for two felony ethics-law convictions. She will almost certainly avoid prison time if she satisfies the requirements of her sentence.

In a joint press release from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and FBI Birmingham special agent in charge Johnnie Sharp, it was outlined that Jefferson County Circuit Judge Clyde Jones sentenced Lewis under Alabama’s split sentence law to 10 years of imprisonment for both counts, to run concurrently, with a “reverse split” of two years in prison. However, under a reverse-split sentence, the term of imprisonment is not imposed until the end of the sentence — which in this case is three years of supervised probation.

Jones additionally ordered Lewis to pay a fine of $15,000 for each count, for a total of $30,000, and to complete a total of 400 hours of community service for charities or agencies that feed the elderly and homeless. If she completes these conditions and her probation period satisfactorily, the judge is expected to suspend the prison time involved in the sentence.

Lewis has been in county jail since being convicted in October but walked away Thursday as a free woman.

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Her conviction followed a one and a half-week trial and involves Lewis having used her position as a director of the Birmingham Water Works Board to obtain personal gain for herself and her family, as well as having voted and participated in matters before the board involving issues about which she had a financial interest or gain.

The jury’s verdict was reportedly based on five days of testimony and hundreds of exhibits proving Lewis obtained three jobs for her son, tickets to the 2015 Cotton Bowl, trips and travel expenses and extravagant meals from a contractor performing work for the board.

This case was investigated by the special prosecution division of the Alabama attorney general’s office and the FBI. The state attorney general’s office prosecuted the case and specifically requested during sentencing that Lewis be required to perform a type of community service focused on charities or agencies that feed the elderly, needy and disadvantaged.

In a statement, Attorney General Marshall expressed his appreciation for the assistance of the FBI in this case.

“As first-vice chairperson of the Birmingham Water Works Board, Sherry Lewis advocated on behalf of, and voted for, compensation to pay a contractor three times their actual labor costs at the same time she was enjoying $63 a-la-carte steaks, $50 shellfish appetizers, and $70 bottles of wine bought for her by that contractor,” Marshall remarked. “Such abuse of public office is unacceptable. It is appropriate that she has been called to account and is being punished for this crime.”

The FBI’s Sharp added, “Lewis not only betrayed her community, but violated the law, and all in an effort to serve her own personal interests. Public officials entrusted to perform public service should do so legitimately and in the best interest of the community they represent. If not, they should expect the same outcome as Lewis had today, because the FBI and our partners will pursue you and hold you accountable for your actions.”

A contractor and a subcontractor have also been charged subsequent to this investigation and are awaiting trial in state and federal courts.

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