Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Monday, June 27, 2011

Show Us The Money Boys--Lawmakers and Their Side Deals Hidden From the Public

How much do our legislators and top republicans really earn from their elected offices and where is the line of ridiculous in the sand?

It raises the question of why we are paying lawmakers a taxpayer based salary, with all the extra income and benefits they receive on the side from lobbyists, business interests, PR firms and state and national political party’s handing out credit cards to top republicans. 

How much extra is enough?

Being elected to office is no longer public service on a modest, civic pay scale. Holding office leads to all types of enormous monetary benefits, and our politicians have become very adept at gaming the system. Their desire to affect change for the public good lands dead last behind their own financial interests. 

Is this what we vote for? Is this the type of party representation we envision?

Former RNC head Michael Steele came under a barrage of fire when it was revealed that donor money was being spent on lavish dinners, strip clubs and a whole host of personal enrichment monetary favors. The firestorm ended in his stepping aside as RNC head after public outcry became too loud for the RNC to ignore.

Why don’t we get this angry when it goes on at state levels?

Both sides of the aisle play the blame game over money—republicans point the finger at democrats on federal spending, and the democrats turn around and blame republicans for being far too lenient with big business in tax breaks and loopholes. But there is a big difference in our opinions—federally spent money is much more open and traceable than hidden money doled out by political party organizations.

How many voters are aware of the credit cards being handed out to select lawmakers?

The GOP has been doing this in all 50 states and until they get caught by a media source that is savvy enough to catch on to the game, they’ll keep doing it. No lessons were learned from the fairly recent scandal to the national GOP party that brought down Steele and others in shame.

It’s incumbent on our media sources to unearth these schemes and expose them to the public at large. We have a right to know the financial behavior of our elected politicians that we entrust with the power to handle our state affairs. If politicians will waste donor money on lavish dinners and expensive haircuts, then that tells us a lot, which we should know, about their fiscal attitudes in general.

The way we learn of these back room deals is through our media informing us and keeping an eye out for these types of charades. That will not happen unless they are willing to set aside their political leanings and act as a public watchdog rather than a political lapdog. Who do they really serve, us or their advertisers?

The media was paying attention in Florida

In 2010, controversy swirled around the use of state GOP issued credit cards to high ranking lawmakers who used them for anything but party related expenses—the intent behind handing out the cards. When demands from the media for access to the statements from the FLGOP on the credit card activity grew louder, the party responded in predictable fashion and circled the wagons around the transgressors. Lawmakers refused to grant access to the statements. What were they trying to hide from their voters?

The fountains of free flowing money aren’t confined to GOP issued credit cards

Last week’s testimony in the bingo gambling trial opened up a can of worms when it was revealed that Representative Barry Mask-R Elmore County has been receiving $10-50K per year for a single client referral to lobbyist Steve Windom. Windom, a former Alabama legislator and party switcher from democrat to republican, gained notoriety for using the senate floor as his personal men’s room in 1999 when he urinated in a jug behind his desk while presiding over the senate fearing if he left the floor he would be stripped of his powers by the democratic majority. 

Windom is one of those politically bendable characters that wouldn’t necessarily be a boost to any lawmaker’s good association list, but Mask, a self-professed upright Christian and would be good steward of the people’s money, sees nothing wrong with his arrangement with Windom. He admitted in testimony this past week that what he is doing is “perfectly legal” even though does basically nothing of consequence for the tens of thousands in yearly ‘thank you’ money from Windom.

The Alabama Ethics Commission seems to be in agreement with this cozy deal. 

How many other Alabama lawmakers have a Representative Mask style deal or party issued credit cards? Why isn’t the state press asking the questions and demanding that the state party admit this is going on in Alabama?  

It's time to put an end to these on the side deals and name the names of who is doing it. If what they are doing is legal as written in Alabama Code, but it's considered very distasteful to the public, then maybe it's time to end the legality of it.

Our ‘new day republicans’ refer to themselves as ‘morally upright and fiscally responsible’ so let’s take them at their word and ask them to release the statements and records to the public view. 

Representative Mask can go first by naming what high value client he referred to Steve Windom that is netting him tens of thousands of dollars per year in addition to his taxpayer based legislative pay. Perhaps he also has a handy explanation for the amounts increasing by ten fold once he took elected office. And maybe Mr. Windom can tell us, during his tenure of public service, if he was approached by a big money bag source who promised a Beason style PR position once he left office for a favorable vote during his career. 

At the very least Windom is a prime example of the reprehensible revolving door practice, so what else did legislative office afford him? We don't send representatives to Montgomery to get rich on the side, we send them to represent us, the people. They all seem to have forgotten what their real purpose is and made political office-holding a career move that pays off better and faster than any private sector job ever would.

If you are going to talk the talk, then walk the walk.

The Alabama republicans stated more than once during their campaigns that “Alabama’s government should have more transparency and accountability.” We think there’s no better place for them to begin than with themselves.

So Say We The Opinion Board Of The Vincent Alabama Confidential 


  1. I second that: ASK THE QUESTIONS!!!!

  2. I second that Carol.
    Does the press not think this is a public interest story or are they protecting certain politicos? If it's going on nationally, it's going on on a local level too. We deserve to know a lot more than we do so far.

  3. One thing that has become crystal clear with this trial is the danger of wearing a federal wire and recording at will rather than by instruction from the feds.
    Sending a political climber to do the job of a credible governmental witness was the first mistake.
    The revelations contained on the recordings in open court was the next. From the looks of the case to this juncture, it appears there are a number of lawmakers who should spend some time on the witness stand in separate trials once this trial concludes.

  4. Don't you think most newspaper articles are nothing more than the regurgitation of a press release? What passes for news is a joke for the most part.
    I would like to know who else has these honey deals and I think most people I know would feel the same.
    I don't see anything in the job description for public service that includes this kind of bs.

  5. Any lawmaker who is participating in this deserves a mountain of scrutiny!

  6. Annette in AlabamaJune 27, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    It has become clear(er), throughout the testimony of this trial, the elected don't see things the way the voters do. Once in office, they have more ways to skin a cat than we could shake a stick at.

    What might appear to be illegal and unethical to the constituents, is covered by some screwy law to cover these thugs asses. If not, don't forget those gatekeeper thugs in the etchics commission. If that's not enough to deal with, don't forget money can fix a multitude of problems. And politicans and thugs need money. You know they do. It helps with the elections.

    Political groupies and main stream media across the state - Unite! And for God's sake, pony up on the side of what's right.

  7. You are expecting any Alabama press outlet to actually do an investigative look-see into the republicans? That will happen when hell freezes over. They don't care and take their orders from the big dogs.

  8. I'll take a guess on the client...Poarch Creek Indians. They have a casino sitting right smack in the middle of Mask's district.

  9. What we have here is a failure to communicate to the people about why we need to be paying these crooks and carpetbaggers one thin dime of taxpayer money!
    Maybe it isn't illegal but it sure as hell erodes the public trust and cuts real close to the line of ethics.

  10. A lot of our politicians ought to be ashamed about what's coming out in the trial, but instead, they appear glib about their misdeeds. It's all perfectly legal so that makes it a-okay.
    I hate 'em every last one. Crooks and liars the whole lot.

  11. Re Mask:
    So it's legal in Alabama for powerful lobbyists to make payments directly to elected officeholders?
    How is this different from what McGregor and Co. are accused of?
    We're slitting some real fine hairs from where I sit.
    Re Beason:
    By virtue of being an elected officeholder, if he votes favorably on an issue, his reward will be a PR job worth a cool million a year?
    Looks like we have gotten a glimpse into how the game is really played in Alabama.

  12. Mask wasn't the only one getting lobbyist money according to the Montgomery Advertiser, no wait, according to Phillip Rawls of the AP. At least someone in the bigger media is paying attention.
    Gambling Trail Puts Spotlight on Legislators Fees
    Little Jimmy Sumners is acting innocent and claiming he didn't know because "nobody has ever asked."
    Is he telling the truth or is the state media so asleep they really have not ever asked before?

  13. I'll answer, they're ASLEEP!!!!
    Remember the three monkeys of see no..speak no..hear no...

  14. The NPR podcast is quite interesting.

  15. Every time I see the Birmingham News motto of "This is our story" all I can think of is why isn't it the real story?

  16. Mask has a nerve being so flippant about his Windom money. If I recall correctly, he got rather upset about the renaming of a building at Auburn and called it a "show me the money public relations disaster."
    Now that he is in the middle of the same type of SMTM disaster, it seems odd that he doesn't think someone might describe what he is doing as not much different.
    Sumner excuses this honey pot game because Mask had the arrangement before he was a legislator. But after he got elected the money went way up.
    Sumner is an idiot and would be better suited to go back to hawking Royal Cup Coffee before he does any more damage to an already broken commish.

  17. i'myourhuckleberryJune 28, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Gilley said in testimony today that even he was surprised at the pit of corruption in Montgomery. That's probably one of the few truthful things he has said thus far.
    I would like to know more about the sweetheart deals our legislators have. Shall I hold my breath waiting for the press to get on it?
    I do fancy the color blue.....


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