(Part of our “2010 Greatest Hits” retrospective while most of the front pagers are on vacation. Mooncat wondered if AEA’s strategy of supporting Bentley in the GOP primary would work. Given the “ethics reform” bills that passed a few weeks ago, what do you think? – promoted by countrycat)
Are they looking to hang onto power in the Alabama Legislature or pinning their hopes on a sympathetic governor? And who might that be?
The question was prompted by Thomas Spencer's article in the Birmingham News, AEA is hedging its bets …
AEA is the largest direct contributor to Democrat Ron Sparks' campaign for governor, directly giving him $180,000, about 20 percent of his cash contributions.
AEA also has been the principal source of cash for Super Show PAC, which has provided about $87,000 to Republican Bill Johnson. That amounts to about half the cash that long-shot has collected in his bid for governor.
As for the ads bashing Byrne, the True Republican PAC by late April had paid out about $570,000 for the “Peas in a Pod” ad, which attempts to link Byrne to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. And that was before a new commercial featuring a quacking duck began running.
So far AEA is bankrolling:
- Democrat Ron Sparks, who hasn't opened offices in any city but Montgomery, hasn't led in any published poll and is the only major candidate of either party who has yet to produce a television ad;
- Republican Bill Johnson who has virtually no money, perennially polls in last place and is a real nut (intuitively obvious to the casual observer, proof left to the reader as an exercise);
- A psuedo-GOP PAC responsible for a series of pretty decent anti-Bradley Byrne ads.
What does this mean?
Again, from Spencer's article:
“AEA has a couple of strong candidates that they don't want to win,” Browder said.
“I think that it is the older generation of leaders, white and black, who are fairly comfortable with the way the system has run (and) are pretty uncomfortable with the new guy coming in and changing the game,” he said.
It seems to me that AEA is kind of like Bradley Byrne — they know what they don't want, but they aren't sure what they do want. They know they don't want Byrne, who has been running against AEA for several years (news flash: Paul Hubbert and AEA won't be on the ballot, Bradley) but they don't want Artur Davis either because he's running on shaking up the Montgomery power structure. So the strategy is to attack Byrne directly and fund Davis' primary opponent, but why the money to Bill Johnson? That $87K looks like money down a rat hole any way you look at it, and the Sparks money doesn't look much better.
Maybe that's why they decided to stop fooling around with funding opponents and do the job themselves through the “True Republican” PAC. Which begs the question: Does AEA care who ends up in the Governor's Mansion as long as it isn't Bradley Byrne? And: What about the Legislature?
According to Follow the Money, in 2006 AEA spent $3.3 million, played heavily in legislative races and the Lt. Gov. race (on behalf of Folsom) but spent essentially nothing on the governor's race. They spent a similar amount in 2002, again largely on the Legislature, with only small contributions to Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman and Republican Steve Windom, who lost the primary. Their overall win/loss percentage was somewhat worse in 2006 than in 2002. Obviously, they're going forward with a very different strategy in 2010, having already spent around $800,000 in the governor's race, mostly to prevent Bradley Byrne from winning.
This strikes me as a very reactive strategy and indicative of an entrenched power trying to hold what they've got, but why so much on the governor's race? What about the Legislature? Have they written it off, or are they that sure their allies (in both parties) can win with considerably less help than in the last two cycles?