2 years ago

Once toxic in Republican circles, teachers union money pours into GOP primaries

Campaign money from Alabama’s largest teachers union used to be so toxic in Republican circles that it triggered a party rule — still in effect — discouraging candidates from accepting donations from the organization.

No more.

In the 2018 election cycle, the Alabama Education Association has been a major player in Republican primaries. The union’s political action committee, Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education, or AVOTE, has dumped $604,500 into Republican campaigns.

That is actually slightly more than the total that the PAC has contributed to Democratic campaigns. The union could help determine dozens of nominees in Tuesday’s GOP primary.


Political observers contend that deluge of cash simply reflects the reality of a state that has marched significantly toward the Republican Party over the past two decades.

“Obviously, they’ve got to take account of partisan changes that have benefited Republicans,” said University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart.

Representatives from the Alabama Education Association declined to be interviewed for this story.

The Alabama Education Association for years operated essentially as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party — or given its enormous influence, perhaps the other way around. At any rate, the party and union shared office space and its longtime head, the late Paul Hubbert, simultaneously served as vice chairman of the party.

That cozy relationship prompted the Alabama Republican Party to play hardball after the party won control of the state Legislature, passing a rule in 2013 banning contributions to the party from the National Education Association or any of its affiliates.

The ban was not binding on candidates, but the bylaws state that, “Officeholders and candidates are strongly admonished to follow the same rule and, because the NEA is a veritable adjunct of the Democratic Party, failure to heed this admonition shall be regarded negatively by the Committee.”

Terry Lathan, chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party, said the party is bound to remain neutral in primaries. She said the party reserves the right to speak out about AEA donations, but she added that she trusts voters to sort it out.

“We hope voters will decide to make that decision if they want to make it part of the processes,” she said.

Some Republicans critical

AEA contributions have drawn criticism from some Republican candidates, however. Former Shelby County Commissioner Ted Crockett, who is challenging incumbent state Rep. Dickie Drake (R-Leeds), criticized his opponent for accepting $25,000 from the union.

“They’ve been pouring money into his campaign. … These people like the AEA have been trying to weedle their way into the Republican Party and gain control in secret,” he said.

Crockett said he decided to run because Drake supports raising taxes and cited a bill the incumbent sponsored to put a school property tax hike for the Leeds city school system on the November ballot.

Drake said he opposed raising taxes but agreed to sponsor the referendum in order to give city residents the opportunity to make the decision.

As for AEA, Drake said he considers the party bylaw to be outdated.

“The face of the AEA has completely changed,” he said. “Now, we’re working much more closely with them.”

Jess Brown, an Athens State University political scientist in north Alabama, agreed the AEA is not the same organization it was during the Democratic Party’s halcyon days. Alabama has “shifted from a one-party state that had a ‘D’ in front of it to a one-party state that has an ‘R,’ he said.

The AEA is not the only traditional Democratic money source that has spread donations to Republicans. A PAC associated with the state’s trial lawyers has contributed to a number of Republican candidates this year, most notably Supreme Court chief justice candidate Tom Parker.

“If Paul Hubbert were alive today, I have no doubt he would be dropping huge amounts of money in Republican primaries. … They’re either gonna play ball in the Republican Party or they’re not gonna have influence in Montgomery,” Brown said.

In addition to directly contributing to candidates, the AEA has supported others indirectly. The AVOTE PAC this year has spent more than $100,000 on advertising costs.

Some of those funds have paid for fliers promoting the candidacy of Sam Givhan over Mary Scott Hunter for an open state Senate seat in District 7 in the Huntsville area. Givhan has not received any direct contributions from the PAC.

Givhan could not be reached for comment.

Hunter focuses on ‘positive, conservative message’

Hunter, who currently serves on the state Board of Education, said in a statement that she is focusing on keeping trained on a “positive, conservative message” in the closing days of the campaign.

“This is the time that backbones can begin to weaken in a campaign and mistakes are made,” she stated. “As for me and my team, we will remain disciplined and on-message through election day, and we’ll have a campaign we can be proud of.”

In the Shelby County House race, Crockett lambasted a different PAC, called the Alabama Federation for Children, which has spent $25,758 in mailers attacking his candidacy. The group, an offshoot of the American Federation for Children, promotes school choice for low-income families.

The chairman of the board, William E. Oberndorf, is a wealthy hedge fund manager from California who supported Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential bids in 2008 and 2012 and backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the 2016 GOP primaries. But he told The New York Times that he would support Democrat Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump.

Crockett said the mailers make an unfair and untrue allegation that as a member of the County Commission, he led an effort to sell a municipal sewer system to Southwest Water Corp. He said he, in fact, opposed the sale.

Crockett blamed Drake for the attacks.

“He’s got a problem, so he’s attacked me,” he said.

Drake said he has nothing to do with the mailers and had not even heard of the PAC until a reporter told him Thursday night. He said his campaign was positive until he was forced to respond.

“It was never negative until he told a pack of lies about me two weeks ago,” he said.

Such intra-party squabbles likely will become more common the longer the Republican Party remains dominant, said Brown, the Athens State political scientist. He said the Democrats for years had various competing factions.

Lathan, the party chairwoman, said the GOP is in a strong position — even if a side effect is occasional difficulties maintaining party unity.

“At some point, we hope that people who run for office are good, patriot, servants who want to serve their counties and state through a conservative lens,” she said.

Stewart, the University of Alabama political scientist, said it is not surprising that Republicans are taking money from an organization they once shunned.

“Candidates need money badly, and I just think they’re flexible,” he said. “We don’t have permanent enemies. We have enemies at one time who later become friends.”

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

 

Mooney: Why every day should be Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

As a nation, we recently mourned on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, the almost 62 million babies of all races killed by abortion since the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade. This solemn occasion is the result of President Ronald Reagan’s historic 1984 Presidential Proclamation of National Sanctity of Human Life Day on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Sanctity of Life Human Sunday, the third Sunday of each January, commemorates the lives lost to abortion and proclaims protecting human life at every stage

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Life is precious and begins at conception. It’s heartbreaking and unfortunate that this is a controversial statement. I strongly believe that as a society we are judged by how we protect those who are the most vulnerable, and given the unborn cannot speak for themselves, there is no group more vulnerable. Having watched my children experience the miracle of life with their growing families and welcoming eight grandchildren into this world, as well as expecting two more, have only further cemented my unwavering belief in safeguarding the unborn’s right to life.

In 47 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, the medical community has made massive medical advances that clearly establish that life begins at conception. A heartbeat can be heard as early as six weeks after conception! Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knows the unborn, and God is growing that child with a purpose in our world. The black and white ultrasound picture clearly shows this growing baby.

The day after our tribute to the millions of unborn babies, the third Monday every January, our nation honors the most famous American civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s peaceful struggle against racial discrimination and civil rights was valiant, and the delivery of his 1963 speech “I Have a Dream” was the impetus of a movement that led to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Is it coincidental that the day our nation honors the unborn, and the day our nation honors the man who was instrumental in the decision to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin are on consecutive days? I think not. As a nation, we still have unfinished business to protect the lives of the unborn as we continue our nation’s civil rights fight.

This is a fight against the worst form of discrimination, discrimination against life.

Arnold Mooney is a State Representative representing District 43 and a candidate for U.S. Senate

1 hour ago

February event promises answers to VA health care concerns

The Veterans Affairs departments of the state and federal government are teaming up to put on the Montgomery Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC).

VEAC will be on February 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Campton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery.

The agencies promise it will be a time “for veterans to get answers—and sometimes resolutions—regarding their benefits and healthcare.”

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Veterans Service Officers will be in attendance, as will workers trained to handle claims both new and existing.

The groups welcome both veterans and family members, saying the event will provide the opportunity to “receive one-on-one service to address any and all issues” with the VA.

The Alabama Department of Veterans affairs reminds those attending that “for assistance with VA claims and services, veterans should bring proper documentation about their case: DD 214, all medical records about any military and civilian disability, and dependency documents.”

Other services available at the event will be the American Red Cross, Still Serving Veterans, and job opportunities from the Alabama Department of Labor.

Anyone seeking additional information can call (334) 625-3480.

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

2 hours ago

Alabama lawmakers renew push to create lifetime concealed carry permits

Members of the Alabama legislature introduced bills this week that would create a standard, statewide process for any individual that wants a concealed carry permit for a firearm. Under the proposed system, permits would be issued for terms of one year, five years or the remaining lifetime of the permit holder.

State Representative Proncey Robertson (R-Trinity) is sponsoring the effort in the House, and State Senator Randy Price (R-Opelika) is carrying the Senate version. Robertson spent over 25 years as a police officer in North Alabama.

The cost of a lifetime permit would be $200, with a reduced fee for senior citizens. Robertson wrote on Facebook that active and retired military service members would pay nothing. Currently, Alabamians can purchase a permit from their county sheriff’s office for up to five years. The price of a permit varies by county.

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Sheriff’s offices often benefit from the revenues brought in by pistol permits. Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran once told AL.com that his department depends on the income from the permits “for a number of things.”

Various efforts by Republican lawmakers to alter Alabama’s gun laws have run out of steam before becoming law in recent years.

As part of the new permitting system proposed this week, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) would have a new role in streamlining the permit process and administering background checks.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has come out in favor of the effort, telling members they should contact their state legislators “to secure passage of this critical legislation.”

“The NRA strongly supports this streamlined permitting process,” NRA Alabama State Director Art Thomm told the Alabama Political Reporter.

“Not only would it bring much-needed 21st century technology to Alabama’s antiquated system, but it would be the first time law-abiding Alabamians were given the option for a lifetime concealed carry permit,” he added.

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

2 hours ago

Doug Jones: Schiff speech, impeachment evidence presented by House Dems ‘compelling’

In a video tweeted out by his office on Friday, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) opined that evidence is “continuing to mount” against President Donald Trump as the impeachment trial unfolds in the Senate.

The video, lasting just over five minutes and 30 seconds, started with Jones praising the Thursday speech given by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the lead House impeachment managers.

Jones used Schiff’s line of, “In America, right matters,” as a theme for the video and even turned it into a hashtag when sharing the video on his personal Twitter account.

Alabama’s junior senator opened the video by reciting the line twice, placing heavy emphasis on it. He would also later close the video with the line.

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“That was the most compelling statement to me yesterday,” Jones remarked about the line.

Senator Jones’ newfound usage of #rightmatters may very well remind Alabama voters of what he tweeted when announcing his “nay” vote on confirming Justice Brett Kavanaugh: #RightSideofHistory.

Jones in his Friday video went on to say about the case presented by House Democrats, “Yesterday’s evidence was pretty compelling. It continues to get compelling.”

“Remember we have talked significantly about direct evidence,” he continued. “We have heard a lot of direct evidence on the president’s abuse of power. We’ve heard it from witnesses who talked to the president. We’ve seen press conferences. We’ve seen text messages. We’ve seen emails. Not all of those emails were provided by the administration; they were done pursuant to a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and a lawsuit. But we have them nonetheless.”

“And the circumstantial evidence begins to mount,” Jones added.

He then recited the definition of circumstantial evidence as, “Proof of a chain of facts and circumstances that tend to prove or disprove a fact.”

“That is continuing to mount,” Jones asserted.

The senator commented that he is “anxious to see” what the president’s legal team will “say and do” when given the chance to present their case.

Later in the video, Jones renewed his call for Democrats to be able to call witnesses during the trial. However, he mocked the idea of “reciprocity,” the concept that Republicans would be able to call witnesses if Democrats are allowed to, as “silly.”

Jones specifically said that Hunter Biden should not be allowed to be called as a witness. Jones has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid, saying that he would ultimately back whomever the Democrats nominate against Trump, no matter how radical that individual is.

Watch the full video:

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

2 hours ago

Alabama State Port Authority signs concession agreement for automobile RO/RO terminal

The Alabama State Port Authority and AutoMOBILE International Terminal (AIT) this week signed a concession agreement for the $60 million automobile roll on/roll off (RO/RO) terminal currently under construction.

AIT will operate the facility when completed in early 2021.

The agreement was signed at the Port of Mobile. AIT is a joint venture between Terminal Zarate, S.A., a Grupo Murchison company headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Neltume Ports, headquartered in Santiago, Chile.

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“We’re extremely pleased to see these world class services companies invest in both our region and our port. AIT’s investment will create a new U.S. gateway for shipping finished automobiles for both U.S. and global manufacturing and consumer markets,” James K. Lyons, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, said in a statement.

The under-construction 57-acre (23.06 hectares) terminal is located on the ASPA’s main port multimodal complex, and when completed, will have an annual throughput of 150,000 units. The facility is located on Mobile Harbor and is serviced by five Class I railroads and a rail ferry service with connections throughout North America and immediate, unencumbered access to major U.S. interstate and highway systems.

The Port Authority and AIT over two years ago signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the automobile RO/RO terminal.

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