WVNN Candidate Get Together – 4/30/2010

WVNN’s Dale Jackson is hosting another Candidate Get Together at Mason’s downtown this Friday from 5PM to 8PM.

Confirmed so far:
* Alabama Gubernatorial Candidate Dr. Robert Bentley
* Alabama Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Johnson
* AL-05 Congressional Candidate Mo Brooks
* AL-05 Congressional Candidate Les Phillip
* AL-05 Congressional Candidate Steve Raby
* AL-05 Congressional Candidate David Maker
* State Representative Howard Sanderford
* State Representative Phil Williams
* State Representative Mac McCutcheon
* State Senator Tom Butler
* Candidate for State Representative SR-5 Don Hudleston
* Candidate for State Representative SR-20 Frances Taylor
* Candidate for State Representative SR-20 David Pinkelton
* Candidate for State Senate SD-2 Bill Holtzclaw
* Candidate for State Senate SD-9 Clay Scofield
* Candidate for State Senate SD-9 Don Spurlin
* Candidate for State Senate SD-9 John Wilson
* Candidate for State School Board Mary Scott Hunter
* Candidate for State School Board Ken Gawronski
* Candidate for State School Board Sue Helms
* Candidate for Huntsville City Council D-3 Johnathan Hitt
* Candidate for Huntsville City Council D-3 Barry Pendergraft
* Candidate for Huntsville City Council D-3 James Lomax
* Candidate for Huntsville City Council D-3 Rusty Kemp
This is a great opportunity to meet elected officials and candidates in real life.  Mason’s provides a great venue – it’s big enough to move around in and talk to politicians one-on-one.  I see that Steve Raby is on the list – in keeping with our policy of not saying anything on the blog that we wouldn’t say to someone’s face – I’ll ask him about his involvement in hijacking an election if I see him, then let you all know what he says…
Thanks to the staff at Mason’s for wearing their Free the Hops t-shirts at the last get together - it was great PR for Free the Hops…

Hijacker Smithwick claims ‘selective prosecution’

Troy Smithwick (who attempted to hijack a primary election) was recently indicted for campaign finance disclosure violations and his defense is “that violations of those reporting provisions are rather common in Alabama political campaigns” and “are practically never prosecuted”.

Matt Quillen of  The Daily Home (Talledega) wrote the article “Smithwick defends allegations” reporting on a hearing in Talledega County Circuit Court.  This seems like a story that The Huntsville Times should cover since one of the people named in the story is running for Congress (Democrat Steve Raby) and another person runs a Huntsville-based PAC (Jyles Machen of  the shady TRDPAC – The Real Democrat PAC).

The second count on the indictment dealt specifically with a $100,000 contribution reported from a Huntsville-based political action committee called The Real Democrat.

Smithwick had claimed a $100,000 contribution from another Huntsville-based group, called the Tennessee Valley PAC.

Giddens said he spoke to Steve Raby and Jyles Machem of Tennessee Valley PAC and The Real Democrat PAC, respectively, about the reported contribution.

“There was a snafu with the political action committees,” Giddens said. “They have since filed some amended reports and I still don’t think they understand what happened, based on the people I talked to from the committees.”

Raby and Machem had both previously said there was not a second donation made to Smithwick’s campaign. An amended 2008 annual report from The Real Democrat, received Oct. 19, did not report any contribution to Smithwick.

Keep in mind that Smithwick was running in the Republican Primary against Stephanie Bell and that Democrat PACs gave more than $300,000 to his campaign.  This prompted Mike Hubbard, chair of the Alabama GOP to say that Democrats were trying to “hijack” the election and he warned Republicans not to vote for Smithwick.  Hubbard believes that the money was funneled through those PACs from the Alabama Education Association (a subsidiary of the Democratic Party – Paul Hubbert of the AEA teacher’s union is Vice Chair of the Democratic Party).  This case illustrates why banning PAC to PAC transfers is important.

Somehow we’re being asked to believe that TRDPAC’s Machen reported a contribution to Smithwick for $100,000 but that it didn’t really happen (what – they changed their mind after he lost)?  That a Huntsville Democrat PAC got the amount of their check and the name of a local politician from Talledega confused?  Raby and his PAC still admit to contributing $100,000 to Smithwick’s campaign.

It bothers me that Steve Raby is running for Congress - by his actions he has proven that he has no respect for Alabama voters or the election process.  I guess if you’re a Democrat, cheating is a feature, not a bug.

Huntsville Governors Forum Report

It’s been awhile since the life-changing Huntsville Governors Forum on March 2 - my notes and memories aren’t getting any better with age.  So finally here it is, the post you’ve all been waiting for, the hottest post in the world, the Huntsville Governors Forum report!

To refresh your memories, the Madison County Young Republicans and Right On Huntsville hosted the Forum at the Davidson Center.  Republican gubernatorial candidates Robert Bentley, Bradley Byrne, Kay Ivey, Tim James, Bill Johnson, and James Potts attended – note that Kay Ivey has since decided to run for Lieutenant Governor.

Retired Lt. Gen. Jim Link of Redstone Arsenal and Teledyne Brown, Gary Palmer of the Alabama Policy Institute, and former Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer were the Forum Panelists.

The event was attended in total by 575 people, but what surprised me was that it was almost like two events: several hundred attended the Reception and several hundred attended the Forum.  Anyway – it was a successful event – the hosts did better than break even (the Davidson Center costs big money – IIRC like $8,000 with catered hors d’ouvres  - but it was worth it).

The Forum began promptly at 6:15, with the Butler High School Air Force ROTC Color Guard presenting the colors.  I was able to spend some time with the cadets and they are great kids – smart and ambitious.  ROTC Instructors Colonel Mike Parsons and Senior Master Sergeant Elijah Porter are creating future leaders – well done!

Retired Colonel John Reitzell led the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Clinton Carter of the Madison County Young Republicans introduced the candidates and panelists.  Kudos to Carter for doing a fantastic job of organizing the Forum.  Joel Jaqubino of Right On Huntsville fired up the audience with red meat – and then – the big show…

Loretta Spencer asked about State support for BRAC in terms of roads and infrastructure:

Bentley – signed the gas tax pledge.
James – signed the gas tax pledge, saying “where do we get the biggest return” and “bang for the buck”.
Byrne – cited Maryland BRAC efforts as a model, Governor is “the point of the spear”, State may have to spend more than 100% on the dollar for roads and schools.
Johnson – helped get BRAC jobs, “understands the needs and will deliver”.
Ivey – “focused”, designate senior staff to liaison with City / County leaders to cut red tape, “count on Kay Ivey”.
Potts – Statewide audit, tax-free bonds for infrastructure, subdivisions pay their way, air / water quality of life.

General Jim Link asked for specific ideas to boost the economy:

James – “keep taxes down”, incentivize existing businesses, regulations – “get Government out of the way”.
Byrne – use Universities as key asstes, cited 2-year college Robotics Center, create “Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship”.
Johnson – get all the BRAC jobs here that are allocated, improve State image, grow exports.
Ivey – economic liberty, entrepreneurship, elevate Office of Economic Development to Cabinet level, workforce development and education.

Unfortunately, I missed Potts’ and Bentley’s answers, as well as Gary Palmer’s question along with the responses to his question from most of the candidates.  We’ll pick back up with Bentley and James’ responses to Palmer’s question:

Bentley – unfunded teachers retirement is huge problem ($5.4 billion plus $1 billion for employee health care), need to refinance over 30-year cycle.  Need Health Savings Accounts. Likes Representative Greg Canfield’s Rolling Budget Plan.
James – elect Republicans to the State House and Senate.

 *** MORE ***

Mayor Loretta Spencer asked about forming a ‘Transportation Commission’ to hire the Alabama Department of Transportation Director:

Johnson – supports “taking the politics” out of road construction.
Ivey – “the last thing you need is another layer of Government”.  Need a firm method of deciding road funding.
Potts – “committees spend money on studies but don’t get anything done”.
Bentley – every time this bill came up he voted for it, he voted against it this time because he’s running for Governor.  The Governor needs a single point of contact, not a commission.
James – no commission.  Removing politics from the process won’t happen.  Need one person in charge.
Byrne – not ready for a commission, maybe in the long term.

General Link said there are 33,000 people who work at Redstone Arsenal.  What role does the State play in protecting Federal jobs such as Constellation?

Ivey – listen and “keep economy healthy, healthy, healthy”.
Potts – keep a close relationship with Senators; work force development; ensure that education produces students who perform grade-level work.
Bentley – BRAC renegotiation in 2015; education; work with Senators and Representatives.
James – believes in limited government, interstate commerce and defense.  Cited lobbying office in Washington for the Air Force tanker program.
Byrne – “intense response to BRAC”.
Johnson – cited the moon landing, “we can’t sit on the sidelines” while China and Russia continue improving their space programs.


Sorry about this, out of time.  Only a few more pages of notes to post.  Maybe starting this post will motivate me to finish it – that’s the plan…

Brewery Modernization Act Fails This Year

From fellow blogger Dan:

Yesterday marked the last day of the legislative session. We had hoped two pro-beer bills would be passing. Unfortunately, neither did.

SB328, the Brewery Modernization Act, was the official Free the Hops bill for this session. Despite being a common-sense, pro-business bill that would create jobs and help a growing industry in Alabama (without costing a penny to the public purse), the House leadership decided not to put it on the agenda Thursday. We were instead relegated to a possible second agenda, meaning that if they got through with the first agenda and still wanted to work, we would be placed somewhere on a follow-up agenda. When things started slowing down Thursday, it was clear that we would not get our shot.

 Unfortunately, the Brewery Modernization Act had a big holdup early on in the session after the ABC expressed concerns with it. We certainly don’t want the state agency responsible for regulating alcohol to lobby against our bill, so we worked with them to address their concerns. After a long time, we were finally able to craft a substitute bill to move through the legislature.

 After that hurdle, SB328 sailed through the Senate and received a favorable report from the House Committee on Tourism and Travel. Unfortunately, all the delays meant we really only had the last 2 weeks to pass our bill through the House. They didn’t get to us.

 All things being equal, the Brewery Modernization Act made it very far for its first year. But all things aren’t equal. Free the Hops decided to go with this legislation because we thought it was a common sense bill to pass in an election year and with a down economy. With the growing brewing industry in Alabama, it just seemed like the right time.

 Straight to Ale is a new brewery in Huntsville expecting to debut in time for the Rocket City Brewfest. They are located in the Lincoln Mills development and have plans for a taproom at the brewery to showcase their selections. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to build their taproom for at least another year because the legislature decided not to consider the Brewery Modernization Act.

 Until last week, Back Forty Beer Company was looking at two locations to build their new brewery in Gadsden. One site was if the Brewery Modernization Act passed – it had space for a tasting room and was ideally located in the historic district of Gadsden. The other site was in an industrial park if it didn’t pass. Unfortunately, the legislature this year kept a growing business off Broad Street as Back Forty has to brew it’s beer in a hidden corner far away from public eyes.

 Good People Brewing in Birmingham recently moved into their new location and were hoping the Brewery Modernization Act would allow them to build a taproom at the new place. Instead, the public has to keep out of this growing business.

 Olde Towne in Huntsville has an extremely spacious brewery and would like to rent it out for events and hold promotional events of their own periodically. The legislature put an end to that idea.

 Montgomery Brewing Company has been around since 1995 and is the only brewpub licensee currently active in the state of Alabama, meaning it is the one place where you can enjoy a beer at the brewery. They already have a wholesaler network ready to distribute and market their beers outside of the brewery, but instead they must continue selling their beer on-premise only. They’re not allowed to expand their business by selling their beer to other bars, restaurants, and stores.

 I personally know of a few entrepreneurs who have the means and desire to open a brewpub in different cities in Alabama. Most, if not all, will put their plans on hold for now because, until the Brewery Modernization Act passes, they’re so restricted on where they can open and who they can sell to, the business risk is too high.

 These are some real-world examples of how the legislative inaction with regard to the Brewery Modernization Act is hindering economic development and expansion. We’re not talking abstract ideas and possibilities. There will be real repercussions due to the House’s decision not to consider this legislation.

MCGOP – 17 April 2010

Sorry for the lack of content lately – it’s Spring fever.

I attended Saturday’s Madison County GOP breakfast – it was packed – we even had to set up extra tables to handle all the guests.  The big attractions were the AL05 GOP Congressional candidates – incumbent Congressman Parker Griffith, Mo Brooks and Les Phillip.  Here are some highlights from their brief remarks:

Mo Brooks – he’s got a “track record”.  On taxes – “families are better able to spend money than Government”.  He led the fight to kill Amendment 1 (tax increase).  Votes for tort reform.  Believes in Capitalism.  America is operating with “unsustainable budget deficits”.   Brooks will fight “Socialism” in DC.  We need a balanced budget amendment. Health care – kill, repeal, replace.

Parker Griffith – some of his first votes were to oppose the Lily Ledbetter act (which passed – it’s bad) and Cap and Trade (also bad – volcanoes release more CO2 than all the cars ever made – plus think of the trading system as Enron run by Chicago cronies).  “Faced down every Democrat initiative”. Opposes the Democrats “hard-left Socialist agenda”.  Griffith said he will “wake up a Republican on June 2, win or lose”.  He mentioned his appointment to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which is a plum appointment) and suggested that he may be in line for an appointment to the Appropriations Committee.    Griffith is “committed to making the 5th District Republican from now on”.  “I am the American Dream”.

Les Phillip – “we are at war” – liberals and progressives have been subverting the Constitution (applause).  “We’ve allowed people who don’t believe in the American system… or God… to take power”.  “The Government is out of control”.  “These people don’t know who we are… these colors don’t run”.  “We must take it back”.  Phillip “swore an oath to fight… we have domestic enemies now”.  “Liberty is worth fighting and dying for”.  Phillip was the only speaker to get a (semi) standing ovation.


WVNN’s Dale Jackson’s account of his exchange with Parker Griffith is accurate.  I witnessed it, but I didn’t hear the preacher’s comment.


For those who think that Les Phillip’s rhetoric was over the top – I’ve heard the same (and more) from many people – Socialism is an existential threat to America as we know it – people recognize that.


I attended the Tea Party on April 15th (5PM) – the Times reported 2500 people.  The sound system was much better this year.  Lots of friendly people.

At 6PM, I dropped by the Rock the Vote Party at the Roundhouse – there were about 100 people there (appropriate, since IIRC it was sponsored by the Committee of 100).  I heard the crowd grew to about 200 later.  This seemed to be a mostly Democrat event.  I got to see City Councilmen Bill Kling and Will Culver.  I talked with Kling about the Police Advisory Council (or whatever it’s called) and asked him if this scheme had ever succeeded in a city (no answer) – in my opinion it politicizes the Police Department and results in higher crime (see Cleveland or Washington DC or many other failures).  To be fair I haven’t seen Kling’s proposal but I’m tired of our City trying to implement failed policies (years after they’ve been proven to fail).  What gets me is that Kling is usually one of the good guys.

Casino Gambling: What has it done for Mississippi?

mooncat at Left in Alabama wrote an article that sounds like it could have come from Gov. Bob Riley or Luther Strange – Casino Gambling: What has it done for Mississippi?:

It appears that poverty in Mississippi — land of gambling tax revenues — is even worse than here in Alabama.  And in fact it is

While the state of Mississippi opened casinos and built riverboats, Alabama built automobile plants – Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, the Toyota engine plant – a rocket plant in Decatur, aviation and aircraft maintenance in South Alabama, not to mention catfish farms throughout the Black Belt and biotechnology in North Alabama.  Those industries create things, they employ people for good wages and they come with a network of smaller support businesses that also employ people.  To put it in old fashioned terms, they grow the local economy.

After construction, except for the tourism component, casinos don’t grow the local economy.  They harvest dollars that are already available in the system.  Most of the jobs created are service jobs, with relatively low wages.  The economic impact is localized, not spread around in a network of suppliers.

Read the whole article, it’s well-researched and informative.  What I find interesting is that these are points I’ve heard from Riley and Strange.  For example, here’s Big Luther on April 19, 2009:

Strange then spoke about gambling.  He made the point that if gambling is so good for the people of Alabama, why are the places where gambling has been allowed for 20 years still the poorest in the State – look at Greene County or Walker County and see if gambling helps a community.  He said that only about six people directly benefit from the ‘Sweet Home Alabama Bingo Bill’ and described the ‘bingo machines’ as indistinguishable from casino slot machines.

Nice job, mooncat.  Thank you.