Following the money on Alabama New South Coalition’s $6-per-early-vote operation
Yellowhammer News earlier this week broke the story about a group supporting the respective campaigns of U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden offering Black Belt pastors $6 “per person” they get to vote early ahead of November 3’s general election.
Now, newly filed federal campaign finance reports shed light on where the funding for this group, the Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC), is coming from.
Yellowhammer News examined FEC reports filed this week after the original story broke.
Senator Jones’ campaign reported transferring $1,100,000 to the federal account of the State Democratic Executive Committee of Alabama — the Alabama Democratic Party — on October 2.
The Party’s FEC filings reported that they received the same sum from Jones’ principal campaign committee that day. A separate FEC filing by the Party this week shows that they also received $87,300 from the Jones Victory Fund on September 29. The Jones Victory Fund is the official joint fundraising committee for Jones’ campaign.
Five days after the October 2 transfer, the Party reported sending $75,000 to “New South Alliance, LLC” for “GOTV” — which is short for “get out the vote.” The Alabama New South Alliance is the ANSC’s political arm and has endorsed Jones’ and Biden’s respective campaigns this cycle.
The same day, on October 7, the Party also sent $10,000 to the local Jefferson County chapter of the Alliance. This expense was simply listed as a “contribution” rather than being for GOTV. That local chapter’s Facebook page shows that it is distributing sample ballots simply advising people to vote the straight Democratic ticket.
Seven days later, ANSC on October 14 ran an advertisement in a local Choctaw County newspaper advertising its $6-per-ballot operation. At the bottom of the advertisement, ANSC disclosed that it had indeed paid for the ad, listing an address in Montgomery in the disclosure. That exact same address was listed in the Party’s FEC filing for the Alliance expenditure.
The Party’s most recent FEC filing also showed a bevy of other related spending for GOTV efforts, as well as “contributions” to civic organizations in the Black Belt and Birmingham. In total, this spending amounted to $1,104,531.36. Combined with the two ANSC expenditures, that total rises to $1,189,531.36 — almost a perfect match for the recent influx of Jones campaign money into the Party’s account.
This included sending $40,000 as a “contribution” to the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention, which is comprised of historically and predominantly Black churches across the state.
Another “GOTV’ expense by the Party that stuck out was $3,000 to “Gray Family Limited Partnership” in Tuskegee.
As reported by Yellowhammer News this week, under the leadership of Chairman Fred Gray, Jr., the Macon County Democratic Party has paid for and is distributing signs that proclaim, “Racism is on the ballot.” This text is displayed over a Confederate flag and Trump campaign flag.
“Vote the straight Democratic ticket on Nov 3 and make a difference,” the signs add.
These FEC filings come after Yellowhammer News reported how little Jones’ reelection campaign had spent directly with Black-owned businesses and other organizations through the second quarter of this year.
Jones’ campaign has still not responded to separate requests for comment on the three Yellowhammer News stories from earlier this week referenced in this article.
Looking back at the ANSC’s financial ties to Democratic campaigns and political entities, it should be noted that the respective campaigns of Jones and Biden have directly given the group and its political arm at least $296,200 combined, starting with Jones’ 2017 special election victory.
Each campaign reported giving the Alliance $25,000 this spring for “printing & distributing sample ballots.”
In 2017, Jones paid the Alliance $49,000 for serving as a “consultant.” His campaign that cycle also paid the Alliance $192,000 for “canvassing.”
On the state level, the group has received funds from the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee and the Alabama AFL-CIO. Democratic gubernatorial Walt Maddox’s campaign paid the Alliance a total of $102,400 in the 2018 cycle. While $50,000 of that total was purportedly for “GOTV” (get out the vote), $35,000 was labeled for “consultants/polling” and $15,000 was designated as being for “advertising.”
A difference between the ANSC and Alliance between that 2017 Jones cycle and the current one comes down to transparency. During the 2017 and 2018 cycles, Alabama New South Alliance was registered as a federal “Super PAC,” technically known as an independent expenditure-only committee. It thus had to report federally related expenditures. The group terminated its FEC registration in summer 2019, so it is unclear exactly how all of its money — or how much — is being spent this time around.
The ANSC website says the organization has local chapters in 40 Alabama counties.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn