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Out-of-state liberal group spends big at last minute to swing Alabama legislative races

Then-presidential candidate Howard Dean delivers a passionate speech after the 2004 Iowa Caucuses that turned into a media gaffe known as the "Dean Scream." (Photo: YouTube)
Then-presidential candidate Howard Dean delivers a passionate speech after the 2004 Iowa Caucuses that turned into a media gaffe known as the “Dean Scream.” (Photo: YouTube)

Southern Progress Action Fund (SPAF), an Arkansas-based liberal group bent on returning Democrats to power in the South is spending over $100,000 to swing Alabama legislative races in the final week of the election cycle.

The group, which Bloomberg reported “hopes that the South will rise again — for Democrats, that is,” was launched by former Democratic governor of Mississippi Ronnie Musgrove and has ten former Democratic elected officials on its board of governors. The most notable name on the group’s leadership team may be Howard Dean, whose résumé includes stints as the governor of Vermont and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He’s also a former presidential candidate — if nothing else, you probably recall the “Dean Scream” — and has since then become one of the preeminent progressive activists in the country.

In addition to its spending on political ads, the group also opposes what they refer to as “onerous voter ID laws,” including the one Alabama put into effect for the first time this year.

On Tuesday, Alabama Republican Party chairman Bill Armistead sharply criticized SPAF for running “dishonest negative ads against Republican legislative candidates” and for not disclosing its donors.

“The Southern Progress Action Fund is a cloak-and-dagger group that is purposely hiding its contributors from the media and voters in Alabama,”Armistead said in a statement released to the press. “Much of the content of the ads is outrageous, offensive and untrue and attacks our conservative Republican legislative candidates with no accountability in return for those funding them. This out-of-state group is flagrantly avoiding Alabama’s campaign finance laws and trying to mislead Alabama voters by hiding its donors with sleight-of-hand tactics.

“These dishonest tactics may work elsewhere, but I believe the people of Alabama will recognize the Southern Progress Action Fund as a group of liberals being funded by liberals to elect liberals,”Armistead continued. “The group’s website lists ultra-liberals like Howard Dean, a former chairman of the National Democrat Party, and former California Gov. Gray Davis among its founders and leaders, which is all of the evidence you need to know that it opposes the conservative beliefs and values that most Alabamians hold.”

The SPAF ads began airing in the Montgomery and Huntsville media markets on Tuesday, and the amount of the buy was culled from advertising logs at the television stations running them. They are scheduled to continue through Election Day on November 4.

This is the second time this election cycle that a Howard Dean-affiliated group has become a player in Alabama politics. In preparation for the 2014 election cycle, Alabama Education Association (AEA) political operatives, including AEA chief Henry Mabry, attended  Dean’s “Campaign Academy,” a workshop for liberal-progressive community organizers, hosted by Dean’s flagship organization, Democracy for America.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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