Remember the GOP promise to improve ethics and clean up Alabama's campaign finance system? If not, don't worry about it: neither does the AL GOP supermajority. At least that's how it appears with Senator Bryan Taylor's new bill SB445.
Bill Britt at the Alabama Political Reporter has the scoop this morning:
It seems that Mr. Taylor has found a way to backdoor PAC-to-PAC transfers for some organizations and eliminate any muscle that others might have.
It also appears to give utility companies the ability to provide unlimited amounts of money. The Republicans promised that they would bring about campaign finance reform. But the reforms passed by the GOP have been questionable in scope and enforcement. Now, Taylor seems ready to deal a further deathblow to real reform.
The whole article is appalling.
Among other things, Taylor's bill:
- Allows legislative caucuses to accept political contributions and seems to exempt them from the rules regulating PAC to PAC transfers.
- Forbids any entity from acting as a “pass-through” for political contributions if it appears to exist solely to conceal the identity of the original donor. Britt calls this the “True Republican PAC Get Even With AEA” section.
That may be, but it's a self-inflicted wound for AEA. As we've already noted, the AEA's bet on Bentley was a bad ROI for education and that shady network of PACs it used during that election only served to highlight the need for more transparency in campaign financing.
- Allows public utilities to make unlimited contributions to any candidates but those who are standing for PSC slots.
This last one is totally the most egregious power grab of the session. Remember what's been going on with the PSC and the rate review requested by member Terry Dunn? He's the guy that Speaker Mike Hubbard rebuked for taking his job too seriously.
He suggested that perhaps a formal rate review might be in order since Alabama Gas Company customers pay rates twice as high as their counterparts in Mississippi. The reaction by PSC Twinkle Cavanaugh was swift – and paranoid. Simply asking questions at a public hearing, she asserted, would lead to Socialism, environmentalism, and unemployment. Sure.
But Dunn has persisted, and perhaps some of Alabama's utilities are worrying that he might derail the gravy train. It's a good plan: why worry about PSC oversight when you can simply buy off the legislature with unlimited campaign contributions?
Just in case you think this stupid bill will go nowhere, think again. After flying through committee (with no public hearing, it seems), it passed the Senate yesterday is headed to the House.