…and the legislature isn’t even in session. Several big stories have hit recently:
First, I was out of town when the Troy King/Alabama Power story broke. Seems Troy took his family and a bunch of church friends to a luxury skybox full of food and drink (not that kind of drink, y’all — Troy is a good Baptist, and I’m sure he don’t hold with drankin’ alcohol) at Turner Field to see a Braves game, courtesy of the kind folks at Alabama Power. Whose customers Troy is supposed to represent before the Public Service Commission. Customers whose collective desire to keep rates affordable might preclude Alabama Power’s ownership of a luxury box at Turner Field.
Alabama Power didn’t bother to report this little gift until questioned by reporters for the Birmingham News, contending the expenditure didn’t add up to the reporting threshold of $250 a day per public official. Let’s see: 14 tickets with a face value of $45 each, which Troy got to distribute as he saw fit, and a food bill totalling $1,262.64, paid by two individual lobbyists. Troy repaid $486 to cover the cost of his family’s food because the lobbyist who footed that bill was ill and couldn’t be present, as required by law when feeding and watering a public official. That all adds up to $1,406.64, only — umm — 5.6 times the reporting threshold. Which, both Troy and Alabama Power contend, wasn’t all spent on him or his family, so somehow, magically, it didn’t benefit him at all. Uh huh.
Good to know the person in charge of prosecuting ethics violations that rise to the level of illegality doesn’t see a problem here. And this isn’t the only time that Troy’s been afflicted with a bad case of ethical confusion.
Which brings us to the next story: Rep. Phil Poole, one of two Democratic state senators who changed sides at the last minute and denied Jim Preuitt the president pro tem position in favor of Hinton Mitchem, received a $10,000 contibution from AEA the day before the vote. Loud squawking has ensued, as it should. This isn’t the first time Poole has changed his leadership vote at the last minute. The first time, he got a road project in his district. It is a little funny to hear so much moral outrage from his fellow senators, though. Their ongoing unwillingness to pass any meaningful lobbying reform has essentially made them $250 a trick whores, dependent on representatives of special interest groups to tell them how to vote or even to write legislation for them. Nothing will change until we vote them out of office or, in the alternative, publicly embarrass them into tightening ethics rules and enforcement. I’m not holding my breath. Now, I know what Poole did isn’t illegal, but would Troy King see a problem with the appearance of impropriety? I’m sure he would in this case, since Poole is a Democrat.
On to things that actually are illegal, newly elected County Commissioner Jim Carns is contending that his campaign was harmed by a bogus ad that linked him, along with several judicial candidates, to Roy Moore. In fact, he’s carried his complaint so far that Rick Spina, a local consultant, and (full disclosure) an acquaintance of mine, has been arrested and hauled off to the pokey — well, he did make bail, so he isn’t there anymore. I was hoping to find out more than has been reported so far, but my source for all things Vestavia Hills was just as surprised as I was by this.
According to a statement issued by King, investigators found Spina was behind a fraudulent ad linking Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Carns to Roy Moore and several Supreme Court candidates. The ad was published May 31 in The Birmingham News while Carns was a member of the Alabama House but was running for election to the county commission.
Carns defeated his opponent in the November general election. Before election results were tallied, though, Carns said the ad had hurt his campaign.
…The May 31 ad copy read, “Vote for our slate,” and included pictures of the former Chief Justice Moore, and several candidates for chief justice, associate justice and lieutenant governor.
A statement printed on the ad indicated it was paid for by the Assembly of Republicans, a political action committee that never registered with state or county officials, King said. It has been linked to Spina, who ran White’s campaign for re-election to the county commission.
Okay, we don’t have all the facts yet, but this does look really sleazy. However, it also contains the potential for lots of humorous posts from those of us who have always thought that associating with Roy Moore was harmful. Wheeler’s already kicked that off here. Actually, listening to Jim Carns, my former state rep and major suckup to the “Christian” Coalition, tell us how it hurt his campaign to be linked with Roy is more likely to elicit vomiting on my part. And I do wonder why it’s Carns (who won) and not the other candidates (who lost) who’s making such a big to-do about this now.
This kind of dirty campaign trick shouldn’t be tolerated, and if the facts are as alleged, there should be criminal charges filed. But if Troy King is intent on prosecuting everyone in this state who uses underhanded tactics to get elected (or their consultants; I don’t see where he’s planning to go after Gary White, the person who apparently was supposed to benefit from the fake ad), he’s going to be very busy for the rest of his term. In fact, he might even have to prosecute himself. Now that would be funny.