1 month ago

Sessions makes closing pitch, knocks Tuberville with eight days until election

PIKE ROAD — Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday attacked his opponent for connections to a failed hedge fund and made the case that he was the right choice for Alabama Republicans in next week’s primary runoff.

Sessions’ remarks came during a campaign appearance at SweetCreek Farm Market in Pike Road, a suburb to the east of Montgomery. He and his opponent, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, compete at the ballot box on July 14 to be the nominee that will take on U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

The details of Tuberville’s involvement in a hedge fund that ended in disaster were first printed in the New York Times over the weekend.

“Either he was greedy, incompetent, naive and lacked knowledge; or he actually deliberately participated in an activity that was criminal,” Sessions said Monday about the former coach’s alleged involvement.

Tuberville campaign chairman Stan McDonald told the Times that Tuberville’s involvement in the hedge fund “was a big mistake, and he’s paid for it.”

McDonald says the coach was “as surprised as anyone” to learn that his partner in the venture, John David Stroud, was engaging in fraudulent behavior with the money in the fund.

Neither the regulating body in Alabama or Washington, D.C. that oversees hedge funds chose to charge Tuberville with a crime, though a former attorney for Stroud alleged Tuberville had knowledge of the dealings. The Times reported that the coach “was not picking stocks, or even a frequent presence in the office.” Coach Tuberville settled out of court after being sued by investors in the hedge fund and reportedly lost all of the money he invested in the venture.

Sessions also brought up a piece authored by an opinion writer at the Washington Examiner that detailed how Tuberville suspended a player for one game after the individual pleaded guilty a misdemeanor: contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The incident in question involved Auburn wide receiver Clifton Robinson allegedly having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl while he was a 20-year-old college student. The young woman involved in the encounter was visiting her sister on Auburn’s campus.

Robinson was initially charged with statutory rape but later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was sentenced to one year of probation and 200 hours of community service.

Tuberville suspended Robinson indefinitely while the charges were being prosecuted as a rape but lessened it to a one-game suspension once prosecutors lowered the charge to a misdemeanor.

Sessions believes that the one-game suspension was insufficient.

“You simply cannot place winning football games ahead of responsibilities to young girls, you can’t put winning football games ahead of teaching important life lessons to young men,” Sessions commented.

“I think he made a mistake,” Sessions said of Tuberville.

At the event in Pike Road, the former senator from Alabama continued to express his frustration with Tuberville for choosing not to participate in a debate.

Sessions alleged that Tuberville “promised Bradley Byrne and I” that he would debate if he made the runoff.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) took third place in the initial Republican primary for the U.S. Senate on March 3.

Yellowhammer News asked Seth Morrow, who served as Byrne’s campaign manager, about the alleged promise Sessions talked about on Monday.

Morrow told Yellowhammer that no formal agreement or promise was ever made between the three men to debate in a runoff scenario. Morrow added that he had checked with Byrne himself on Monday to make sure.

Tuberville’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment about the debate assertion. The campaign has in the past maintained that their declining to debate is a matter of prudent strategy.

Sessions continues to say that Tuberville should “come out of hiding.”

With regards to why he was the right choice for voters, Sessions pointed to his conservative record and said he had “come out of the soil” of Alabama.

Sessions argued that he was a staunch supporter of the American First agenda since before Donald Trump began campaigning for president.

He mentioned that two conservative challengers have recently beaten Trump-endorsed candidates, because in his view, those challengers were more effective than their opponents at communicating their support of the president’s agenda. Sessions believes he will be the next member of that group.

Sessions was asked if it was disappointing to be trailing Tuberville in the polls to try and represent the seat he held for 20 years.

“The voters will decide,” he responded. “The polls have often been in error.”

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

16 mins ago

Alabama GOP legislative leaders request fourth presidential debate in Yellowhammer State

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL), State Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and State House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) have requested that an additional presidential debate be scheduled ahead of November’s general election.

The Republican legislative leaders jointly sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking for a fourth debate on top of the three previously scheduled by the commission.

Currently, presidential debates are set for September 29 in Cleveland, OH; October 15 in Miami, FL; and October 22 in Nashville, TN. The election will be held on November 3, featuring President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden — the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees, respectively.

Ainsworth, Reed and Ledbetter began their letter, “In order to continue preserving fairness and transparency in this year’s presidential election, we are writing today to request that an additional, earlier debate be held in our home state of Alabama, this September.”

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“As you are aware, presidential debates are a critical part of the electoral process,” they advised. “Unlike television ads or pre-written speeches, debates give Americans a firsthand look at each candidate’s own policies and intellect in an unscripted setting. They allow voters to hear the candidates’ platforms firsthand and give candidates the opportunity to respond to the tough questions at the forefront of every voter’s mind.”

The three Alabama officials explained that the current debate schedule begins too late, considering Alabamians will have already begun casting absentee ballots before the first presidential debate. More voters are expected to choose the absentee route this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary of State John Merrill has extended absentee voting because of the ongoing pandemic to ensure all eligible voters are able to exercise their rights.

“This monumental election will determine the very future of our nation. The least we can do is equip voters with the facts necessary to aid them in electing the next President of the United States,” Ainsworth, Reed and Ledbetter concluded.

Read the full letter here.

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

58 mins ago

This back-to-school season, families should decide

Parents and other observers have many understandable questions about how their local school districts are responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

At this juncture, I don’t think it’s helpful to lay much blame on anyone. There will be plenty of time for that in the future, and when the dust settles, we’re likely to find that there is real blame to go around from the state board of education all the way down to your kid’s geometry teacher. It is probably true that some number of educators and administrators did not make proper use of the time they had in late spring and early summer to adequately plan for the fall, but let’s remember two things.

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First, events are constantly changing. We’re all dealing with a virus that no doctor had encountered 12 months ago, and both the spread and the effects of the virus are novel. Volatile case numbers mean that some plans for schooling must be altered or scrapped altogether. Now is simply not the time for those discussions. The goal for everyone who works not only in education, but in state and local government at large, should be to get children back to school as safely as possible. Given the summer spike in Alabama’s COVID caseload, that goal is proving elusive.

Public education in Alabama is noted for its many different school districts – county and city, both large and small. Our state is varied in its approach and it’s reasonable that the state board did not attempt to mandate how each and every district conducts itself. Areas with a very low caseload are prepping for a return to class, while some districts with high rates are choosing to remain virtual.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey suggested as many as half of the state’s students could begin the year with virtual-only education. Some districts such as my own suburban district are offering both in-person and virtual instruction; parents make the choice that’s best for their family and commit to it for the duration of the fall semester. The degree of variation and experimentation is confusing at first, but there is some hope that these varied approaches will produce helpful innovations in the way we educate our state’s children.

There is just one problem. Families are still bound to the decisions made by their local district. My own district is offering both in-person and virtual instruction, but parents had just six days to make an important decision that will stand for the entire fall semester. My family made a decision that works for us, and we hope circumstances uphold our judgment. What about families that simply cannot work within the parameters provided by their local district? If a family cannot meet these expectations without compromising either the education of their children or the financial stability of their family – then what?

We are likely to find that creative parents and concerned community members come up with various means of supplementing their children’s education if their district is all virtual, or if the pandemic shuts down in-person instruction. Anecdotal evidence from other parts of the country already suggests that parents are going to develop something that resembles the subject-based co-ops already utilized by many homeschooled children. It’s not hard to imagine something similar happening in Alabama if school-based instruction begins to falter, even if through no fault of the school district.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many things about our world, one of which is that we cannot ask our public institutions to do everything, because those institutions have their own limitations.

The ultimate decisions about a child’s education must be made within the family, by parents and other caregivers. When the local school falters, even through no fault of its own, we cannot deny parents the ability to make the best decisions on behalf of their children. In the midst of this pandemic, that may look like many things; it may be a move towards other home-based resources besides that which are provided by public schools. It may mean a move towards voluntary pods or co-ops with other families, and yes, it could mean a move towards a private school that, due to its flexibility as a smaller institution, is able to continue to meet in person.

Alabamians generally value and appreciate the public schools that serve as meaningful institutions in their communities. I mean instead to protect the freedom of families to make their own decisions. The state can best do that by allowing some of their children’s education funding to follow them in the form of education savings accounts. ESAs allow some funding to be reserved for specified education expenses, which alleviates some of the financial burdens that come with choosing to educate outside the bounds of the traditional public systems. Parents must not be constrained by finances into a bad situation; the goal of state policy should instead be to liberate parents to make the choices they deem best.

The end result of those choices may look different, but we will find in time that parents begin to create new forms of civil society that strengthen their children, their communities, and their state.

Matthew Stokes, a widely published opinion writer and instructor in the core texts program at Samford University, is a Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational organization based in Birmingham; learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

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4 hours ago

7 Things: Trump signs executive order for economic relief, Jones is ready to test Tuberville, the college football season is on shaky ground and more …

7. This would make more sense if there was a VP pick for Biden

  • Even though presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t made, or announced, a final decision on who his running mate will be, the defense of that pick is already underway, referring to the coming criticism as sexist and racist with “women’s groups” already gearing up to call all detractors names.
  • According to NBC News, the groups are putting news outlets “on notice” and then ridiculously saying, “We’re not saying any attack on a woman is sexist. We’re not saying that any criticism of a woman is unfair,” as Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications at Emily’s List is quoted.

6. Child care facilities have remained open

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  • Of the 2,410 child care facilities throughout Alabama, 63% have stayed open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources. That’s compared to the 12% that stayed open in the initial shut down, and there has been no reported outbreak among children.
  • The department also reported that 501 child care facilities or providers have received a total of $7 million in financial aid through Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care grant program, but 58% of facilities have had financial challenges during the pandemic.

5. Coastal cities behind in Census

  • Alabama has a statewide average response rate of 60.7% for the 2020 U.S. Census, but Gulf Shores at 35.9%, Orange Beach at 18.3% and Dauphin Island at 27.7%, are all surprisingly far behind in their responses. This is a trend being seen in other parts of the country, too. 
  • In other tourist cities, responses for the Census are well below state averages, like in Gatlinburg, TN, where participation is at 18.5%, and Destin, FL, is at 31%. Florida and Tennessee have statewide averages over 60%, but these low response rates have been attributed to the higher volume of rental homes in the area and owners have likely not responded to the Census yet. 

4. Viral Georgia school closed

  • The Georgia high school, North Paulding High School, that gained national attention after a picture of a crowded hallway was posted to social media, has decided to close the school for in-class learning and will change to virtual classes since nine students and staff have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  • The virtual classes will only be until Tuesday at least, and the school district will notify parents if in-class learning will continue after that, but the closure is being used to sanitize facilities.

3. College football had a bad weekend

  • Much to the pleasure of the American media (even the sports media), college football appears to be headed towards more cancellation this week after last week saw both the MAC and Connecticut football both cancel their seasons. according to giddy reporting, more conferences are ready to follow suit.
  • According to CBS Sports, “prominent athletic directors spoke to CBS Sports” and told them that the season is all but done. The cancellation of the season was painted as a “when not if” situation with PAC-12 and Big Ten allegedly inching towards a delay.

2. Jones doesn’t think Tuberville has been tested

  • During this week’s edition of “Capitol Journal” on Alabama Public Television, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) said that during the primary, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t “hardly touch” on important issues with former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and he hasn’t been tested on issues that matter. 
  • Jones also said that when it comes to the recent polling data that shows Tuberville 17 points ahead of Jones, he doesn’t have a lot of “stock” in that data, mentioning how the polls were incorrect during the special election when Jones was elected in 2017. 

1. Unemployment extended

  • As the House and Senate couldn’t come to an agreement, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to extend unemployment benefits of $400 per week, a deferral on student loan payments and payroll tax, and a hold on select evictions, with Trump saying that “if Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need.”
  • Democrats have voiced displeasure with President Donald Trump’s most recent executive order, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has warned that if Democrats decide to challenge the order legally, there would likely be a delay in assistance to Americans that many deem necessary.

5 hours ago

TVA reverses course on outsourcing plan after Trump’s intervention

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has abandoned plans to outsource employees after President Donald Trump interceded on their behalf last week.

The authority earlier this year announced its intentions to outsource one out of every five of its information technology jobs, resulting in at least 200 in-house IT jobs being shipped out.

President Trump last Monday removed the TVA’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, and one other board member — citing the outsourcing plans. The president also warned the other board members that they would be next if the plans continued and called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

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On Thursday, Tupelo, MS-based Daily Journal reported that the TVA had scrapped its outsourcing plans in the wake of the the president’s opposition, as well as a related executive order he signed.

“This is certainly a win for American workers, for TVA ratepayers, and for everyone who relies on the U.S. electrical grid,” said Gay Henson, president of the Engineering Association/IFPTE Local 1937. “Our members will get their jobs back. TVA ratepayers will benefit from having skilled U.S. workers providing quality service. And the entire U.S. electrical grid will be more secure, with critical information remaining on U.S. soil.”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) reacted to the news.

“TVA is an agency of the United States government,” he stated. “The federal government, or any entity thereof, should always, whenever absolutely possible, hire American workers to do American government work. So, I’m happy that TVA reversed its decision.”

“It is unfortunate for TVA that the President had to get directly involved for them to understand that hiring Americans first should be the highest priority,” he added.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) also reacted to the TVA reversal in a Facebook post. He pointed to a letter he sent to the TVA in March about the issue.

“Thanks to an executive order from President Trump, TVA finally did the right thing yesterday and reversed their decision to replace American IT workers with foreign workers,” Brooks said on Friday. “I wrote to TVA on this issue in March demanding answers. TVA is tasked with spurring economic development. Outsourcing IT jobs is the complete opposite of what TVA should be doing. TVA should put ratepayers and Americans first.”

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent months also had been vocal opposing the TVA plans. Jones’ office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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