- Created on 31 July 2015
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Testimony given at Howard "Gene” Sisson’s personnel hearing claimed, that the Attorney General’s Chief Deputy was giving orders to secretly tape and file complaints against the chief prosecutor in the Speaker Mike Hubbard case.
Documents released this week in a motions filing by Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney J. Mark White, disclose that former Assistant Attorney General Henry T. “Sonny” Reagan said Kevin Turner, the AG’s second in command, was instructing him to secretly tape conversations with Matt Hart, the chief prosecutor in the Hubbard case, and to file a personnel claim against him.
In August 2014, this publication reported that Turner was behind a plan to have Hart removed from the Hubbard case. Now, Reagan's testimony has let slip the smoking-gun. Turner, according to Reagan’s testimony, also ordered Reagan to tape the Acting Attorney General in the Hubbard case, W. Van Davis.
While it is not illegal in Alabama to tape a conversation without the other party's knowledge, it is, however, against the written policies of the Attorney General’s office. So, Hart and Davis would have assumed that their conversations with Reagan were not being recorded.
During the personnel hearing, Sisson’s attorney Micky McDermott asked Reagan:
McDermott: “Now, when you— are you saying that somebody with the Attorney General's Office authorized you to violate the policy against secret recording?”
Reagan: "I was directed to record any conversation with Matt Hart or anything that he was doing, by the Chief Deputy."
McDermott: “And that's Kevin Turner?”
Reagan’s testimony shows that he and Turner collaborated to secretly record Hart.
McDermott: “And is it your testimony that Mr. Turner told you you should do that secretly?"
During his court appearance, Reagan confessed that he knew it was a breach of office policy to secretly record a co-worker, but he did it anyway.
McDermott: "Mr. Reagan. Was it against the policy of the Attorney General's Office to secretly record a conversation with another person with the office?"
Reagan: "There is — it is very clear in the handbook that there is a prohibition on recording fellow employees without their knowledge."
Reagan also testified that Turner directed him to file a personnel complaint against Hart with Charlotte Doucet, Chief of Administration for the Attorney General’s Office.
Reagan: “I had filed a complaint with Ms. Doucet at the direction of the Chief Deputy, who had been recused from a Special Grand Jury Mr. Hart was working on; so I was directed by the Chief Deputy to speak with Ms. Doucet about any complaints regarding Matt Hart.”
According to Attorney General Luther Strange, Sisson and Reagan lost their positions with the Attorney General’s office because they aided the defense team in the Hubbard case. Turner has left his job at the AGs office as well.
As was reported in this publication almost a year ago, Turner’s personal cell phone records observed by the Alabama Political Reporter —show Turner made numerous private calls to Hubbard, Rep. Barry Moore and possibly former Gov. Riley from mid-March 2014 to mid-April 2014.
Turner’s personal cell records show that several calls coincide with the arrest of lawmaker Rep. Greg Wren, and Rep. Barry Moore.
On the same day Reagan was informed he was being placed on administrative leave, he admits he was secretly recording Davis.
Why would Turner, Reagan, and Sisson break office policy and risk their careers to record Davis and Hart?
During a very crucial period in the Hubbard investigation in 2014, this publican learned that Turner informed Hart’s staff that he was reassigning Hart to Birmingham, and that he would no longer have an office within the AG’s office in Montgomery. Turner ordered the case files for the Lee County Grand Jury kept in Montgomery away from Hart’s new office location, all this, according to sources within the AG's office.
According to those present, Hart, upon arriving at his office, found a letter informing him of his reassignment. According to sources with immediate knowledge of the situation, Hart, along with W. Van Davis, confronted Strange, and the ensuing, heated discussion resulted in a reversal of Turner’s orders.
In an internal memo, AG Strange made it clear why Reagan was removed from his position stating:
“During his employment with this Office, Mr. Reagan forged relationships with persons, outside the Office of Attorney General, who had an interest in undermining the Lee County Special Grand Jury's investigation…While working as a prosecutor in this Office, Mr. Reagan shared legal counsel with the indicted criminal defendant, Rep. Moore. Moreover, the representations of Mr. Reagan and Rep. Moore were both related to the Lee County Special Grand Jury. By sharing legal counsel with Moore on the subject of the Grand Jury's investigation, Mr. Reagan created an irreconcilable conflict of interests. Mr. Reagan's duties of loyalty and confidentiality to the State of Alabama and to the Office were compromised by his own personal interest in undermining the grand jury's investigation - an interest he shared with the defendant Moore and his defense team.
Additionally, Mr. Reagan shared legal counsel with Speaker Hubbard, who was the subject of the grand jury's investigation. The representation of Mr. Reagan by Speaker Hubbard's attorney was, likewise, related to the Lee County Special Grand Jury. By sharing legal counsel with the subject of the grand jury's investigation, Mr. Reagan again created a situation in which his duties of loyalty and confidentiality to the State of Alabama and to the Office with respect to the Hubbard investigation, conflicted with and were compromised by his own personal interests.”
Reagan, Sission, and Turner have all left the Attorney General’s office.
- Created on 31 July 2015
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The legislature returns from its recess to consider a package of bills designed to greatly expand what Alabamians pay for State government, move money currently for education to the State’s troubled general fund (SGF), and authorizes borrowing $50 million to build a luxury hotel and conference center at Gulf State Park.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has been pushing for these massive tax increases since his reelection on a "no new taxes and smaller State government" platform since November.
The Governor’s proposals are aimed at protecting against significant cuts in services in the General Fund, through a combined approach of budget reforms and revenue increases.
State government has let General Fund spending get out of control for years. Governor Bob Riley (R) and the then Democratic Party controlled State legislature raided $110 million from the Alabama Trust Fund (which still hasn’t been paid back) and accepted Obama Administration stimulus dollars to prop up spending at levels well beyond State revenues.
Governor Robert Bentley (R) and the Republican supermajority dominated State legislature avoided rightsizing State government for the past three years by raiding $435 million from the Alabama Trust Fund (which they haven’t paid back). Now the legislature is tasked with paying to continue the artificially high levels of State spending by raising taxes as Governor Bentley wants them to do; expanding legal gambling in the State to increase State revenues as Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston) wants to do; or finally rightsize the size of State government to actually fit the revenues the State currently has.
Despite the massive deficit spending, legislators have already eliminated 5,500 State jobs over the last four years and if they pass something similar to the austerity budget passed by the legislature in June (but vetoed by Governor Bentley) there will likely be similar government job cuts as well as prisoner releases, and a cut in Medicaid benefits and other costly government services.
The budget level proposed by the Governor funds most State agencies in the General Fund and provides funding for the implementation of Medicaid and Prison Reforms passed by the Legislature.
The proposals include budget reforms:
The existing Use Tax would be un-earmarked for education and schools and transferred to pay for the SGF. Gov. Bentley wants to un-earmark approximately $400 million from other General Fund agencies to provide State agencies additional flexibility with General Fund appropriations.
The Rolling Reserve Act would be weakened and amended to remove certain restrictions.
The BP Oil money would be spent paying off debts, including the $545 million of Alabama Trust Fund dollars raided over the past six years. The State also owes tens of millions of dollars it wrongly charged the Federal government in the troubled Alabama Medicaid program.
Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians would see their income taxes soar by the removal of the FICA Deduction. Bentley is proposing removing the Social Security tax deduction from the State individual income tax to offset the proposed loss of the use tax revenue in the Education Budget. Taxpayers who do not itemize (approx. 50 percent of Alabama taxpayers) would not be affected.
The wealthy would see much less of an increase proportionally than working people do because for 2015, the 6.2 percent FICA tax is not levied on income in excess of $118,500. The Medicare tax deduction is not affected. The Federal Medicare Tax is uncapped.
Gov. Bentley also wants to remove the deduction on Federal income tax. Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians will pay more income taxes to the State government if this passes.
Changing the Business Privilege Tax so that small business would see their tax eliminated; but increasing the maximum tax and rates for larger businesses.
Smokers would pay more by increasing the tobacco tax by 25 cents per pack. Bentley also wants to tax consumable vapor products.
The Fraud Prevention Act would repeal the tax withholding exemption.
These proposals would raise an estimated $310 million a year for State coffers. Education would lose an estimated $31 million to the General Fund which would balloon to over $1.9 billion.
Recent polling shows that there is enormous across the board opposition to tax increases of any kind. 66 percent of Alabama voters do not want these tax increases. We will find out in coming weeks whether their representatives are going to pass this on them anyway.
The Governor is also asking the legislature to let him borrow $50 million to build his pet project luxury hotel and conference center on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
- Created on 31 July 2015
By John Rice
President, Alabama Foundation for Limited Government
Gov. Robert Bentley and scores of lawmakers promised not to raise taxes throughout election season just last year.
Now, Governor Bentley is breaking his promise, and he says he has been meeting with most lawmakers in an attempt to get them to break their promises, too.
Governor Bentley spent millions of dollars on his race for re-election, and the centerpiece advertising used the slogan, “More Jobs. Less Government. No New Taxes.”
Within months of these ads running all over Alabama, the Governor made an about face by calling for more government and more new taxes.
The people of Alabama should be incensed at such hypocrisy.
When Robert Bentley was running for Governor, he signed a no-taxes pledge saying, “I, Robert Bentley, pledge to the taxpayers of the State of Alabama, that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
Now, these words ring hollow, and Alabamians who voted for the Governor should be angry concerning this betrayal of trust.
Bentley wants to tax working people.
Bentley proposes to abolish the FICA income tax deduction.
Bentley wants to tax every man, woman, and child who drinks a Coca-Cola.
Bentley proposes a beverage tax on soft drinks, but he leaves beer and liquor alone.
Bentley wants to tax cigarettes, and he wants to tax businesses all over Alabama.
All told, the Governor wants to stick Alabama taxpayers with another $300 million tax tab, year after year.
Because he wants to pay more money for Medicaid and prisons.
Big promises broken.
Alabama has gotten along just fine for decades without a Coca Cola Tax or eliminating the FICA deduction.
All Alabamians, and the businesses that employ them, have suffered the plight of an economy that has limped along throughout Governor Bentley’s occupation of the Governor’s office
Instead of more government and more taxes, Governor Bentley should concentrate on each of his three promises to Alabama and proactively work toward the more jobs.
Promise to help your State, rather than hinder your State.
We put our lives in your hands and you promised to take good care of us. Why have you forsaken us?
Why, all of the sudden, is it imperative to create these new tax sources?
The real answer is: it is not.
The real answer is: the Governor needs to tighten the State’s belt, just like every Alabama family has had to do since 2008.
In 2012, we told Alabama not to raid the Alabama Trust Fund, but they did it anyway. State government needed to get its house in order then, but instead, it raided the Trust Fund to pay for regular expenses. A bad move for our future. Now, after kicking the can down the road for three years, we have a governor in panic mode trying to throw more money at Medicaid and prisons.
Gov. George Wallace told me in 1983 when I was in the legislature, that Medicaid is a “black hole” that can never be filled. Now, instead of seeking non-tax solutions to fixing our out-of-whack budget, the Governor is doing the opposite.
In 2012, State government took almost $500 million from the Alabama Trust Fund. Governor Bentley and lawmakers promised to repay this money. They have not repaid a dime.
In another turn of events Alabama now will receive over $1 billion in an oil spill lawsuit settlement from British Petroleum (BP). Instead of squandering this windfall, the first priority needs to be repaying the Alabama Trust Fund as promised. Is Governor Bentley and are lawmakers going to break this promise, too?
Now is the time for public officials to hold true to their campaign promises. Alabama taxpayers need to hold Governor Bentley and every legislator accountable to their campaign promises.
Alabama taxpayers deserve honest service from their elected officials, and keeping the most basic of promises is the first step for faith to be restored in State government.
And by the way, do the officials not owe us an explanation for all this?
- Created on 31 July 2015
By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
The crisis in the General Fund budget has dominated lawmakers’ focus this year, and for good reason. But one proposed solution that continues to come up, and it would be devastating for Alabama.
State Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) has introduced a bill to combine the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets. In the past, I argued that all that would do is spread the General Fund’s problems to our public schools. And while that is still very true, there’s another important reason why we don’t need to combine the budgets.
Even though the Education Trust Fund (ETF) isn’t in as much trouble as the General Fund doesn’t mean that the ETF is out of the woods.
Since 2008, Alabama has cut per student funding for k-12 schools by more than 20 percent, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That means Alabama is spending $1,242 less per student than we were before the recession. At the same time, funding for post-secondary schools (i.e., community colleges and universities) has been cut by more than 35 percent!
What do those spending cuts look like in the real world?
A perfect example is the Russellville City Schools Rocketry Team. These kids, some of whom are only 13 years old, just came back from the Paris Air Show in France where they won the international rocketry competition. They aren’t just national champions. They are international champions.
And do you know how much funding they received from the state? Zero.
These kids had to raise the money on their own to compete in their competitions. And on top of that, they had to spend hundreds of hours over the last year working in a building that had no heating or air conditioning.
So when some legislators start talking about a “surplus” in the education budget, keep in mind that that doesn’t mean the education budget has money to give away. It just means we collected more money than we budget to spend. And there are very real needs in education where that money needs to be spent.
Unfortunately, some legislators have forgotten that. They would rather take even more money away from our children’s education than let the people vote on a lottery and gambling, or make tough choices about budget cuts and tax increases.
After more than 20 percent cuts in k-12 and more than 35 percent cuts in post-secondary education, the answer isn’t taking more money away from education. If anything, we should be putting more money into education!
If we did, it would help the General Fund in the long run. The General Fund’s biggest expenditures are prisons and Medicaid. People who are better educated are less likely to make choices that land them in jail, and are also more likely to make better health choices.
And after years of asking educators and state employees to do more with less and for less money, it is long-past time that we give our educators and state employees a pay raise instead of balancing the budgets on their backs.
But our current leadership has not supported public education. Their signature policies, like the Accountability Act and charter schools, only undermine public education and set it up to fail.
And that’s why I’m not surprised that some of them now see combining the budgets as the solution to the General Fund’s crisis. But robbing our children is not-and never will be-the answer!
Furthermore, combining the budgets has the same problem that gambling has with getting us out of this crisis, because it would require a constitutional amendment voted on by the people in a special election. That means the quickest we could start transferring money out of the ETF would be the spring of 2016.
If we were going to do that, then why not let the people vote on a lottery and gambling bill instead? We could start receiving money from gambling just as quickly, plus it wouldn’t take anything away from public education.
There’s a reason Alabama keeps education funding separate from everything else: to protect our schools from being raided every time the General Fund gets in trouble. And even with that protection, education has still been gutted over the last few years.
Just because the ETF has a surplus this year doesn’t mean it has more money than it needs. That surplus needs to be spent on education, like it was intended to be. What it doesn’t need to be is a bailout for politicians who would rather take money away from our children’s education than have to make tough decisions.
Robbing our children is not-and never will be-the answer!
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.
- Created on 31 July 2015
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, July 30, a third video was released by abortion opponents about allegations of unethical, and possibly, illegal marketing of body parts from aborted fetuses.
Planned Parenthood went to a judge to get a restraining order to stop the release of more of these videos. A judge granted the request, but a fourth video was released apparently suggesting that some infants may have been aborted alive and then dispatched.
Members of Congress are asking than an independent counsel be appointed to investigate this and many other charges being thrown about by abortion opponents as the US Senate considers legislation, perhaps as early as Monday, August 3.
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) said in a statement, “The videos distributed by the Center or Medical Progress provide strong evidence that Planned Parenthood may have broken Federal law by selling fetal body parts for profit. If this is the case, the entities that purchased the fetal organs and tissue may have also violated Federal law. Consequently, the investigation goes beyond Planned Parenthood. We are calling for an independent counsel to ensure an impartial and thorough investigation is conducted.”
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said, "The third Planned Parenthood video was released today, and it is the most disturbing yet. Once again, it is clear that this organization is “pricing” aborted baby organs in a market-based way."
US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) wrote in a statement, “I'm proud to join the efforts in the Senate to ?#?DefundPlannedParenthood by cosponsoring S1881 today. This bill prohibits Federal funding of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its affiliate organizations while protecting federal funding for health services for women.”
Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said, “This morning yet another tragic video surfaced regarding Planned Parenthood’s "black market" harvesting and selling of human fetal tissue. These potentially criminal actions shock the conscience and demand answers. That’s why I joined more than 100 of my colleagues in sending a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an immediate investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices.”
Rep. Roby said, “Momentum is building in the House to cut off Federal funding from this organization. I continue to work with my colleague Rep. Diane Black on her bill to do just that. At the same time, the Senate is reportedly taking up the effort too. They work a little differently than the House, and many times items like these are attached as amendments to other bills. These are votes we should pay close attention to. I encourage you to read about and watch the video, but seriously it is pretty grisly, so be warned.”
Rep. Palmer said that he and 55 of his Congressional colleagues called for an independent counsel; because during the 2007 United States Supreme Court case of Gonzales v. Carhart, Attorney General Lynch signed onto a brief supporting Planned Parenthood’s opposition to a partial birth abortion ban. Palmer wrote that because of this support, there is a justifiable public perception that she cannot conduct an impartial investigation of Planned Parenthood.
National Right to Life said in a statement that the US Senate will vote Monday, August 3, on a bill -- strongly backed by National Right to Life -- that would cut off all federal funds to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and all of its affiliates.
The bill, S1881 was introduced on July 28 by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), with numerous co-sponsors, including Sen. Shelby. It has the strong backing of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who has vowed to force a US Senate vote on taking up the measure early during the week of August 3, 2015.
The legislative director for National Right to Life Douglas D. Johnson said, “Senator Ernst's bill would push the snout of Planned Parenthood, a bloated abortion mega-marketer and a fetal organ trafficker, out of the US Treasury feeding trough...National Right to Life strongly supports this legislation.”
The bill states simply, "Notwithstanding, any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or to any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics." The bill also contains language to provide that "all funds no longer available to Planned Parenthood will continue to be made available to other eligible entities to provide women's health care services." In other words, any funds removed from Planned Parenthood would be reallocated to women's health services provided by others (but such funds cannot be used for elective abortions).
There were protests across the country including at least three in Alabama on Wednesday.
The New Media Coordinator for Students for Life of America Amanda Lord said in a statement, “Thank you for coming out yesterday to join your local ?#?WomenBetrayed Rally – as final reports are coming in it looks like we were in 65+ cities and over 12,000 strong! This is a huge victory! We are asking you to continue this momentum to defund Planned Parenthood by signing up now for the #WomenBetrayed Action Kit at www.WomenBetrayed.com. When you sign up you will be sent everything you need to get started defending women and children from abortion by ending taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in your town! You will also get information to join a National Webcast on August 11th where you will receive training on researching the local dollars that go to Planned Parenthood, how to organize a community educational outreach, and information on how you can join in another nationwide event! Together we will see this abortion Goliath defunded and ultimately abolishing abortion in this lifetime!”
The group is also claiming that at least two babies, one in Houston and one in Pittsburgh were saved from Abortion by the rallies.
The President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Cecile Richards dismissed the organization’s critics as “extremists” last week in response to the videos. President Cecile wrote in the Washington Post, “Since our very beginning, our health centers, providers and patients have come under outrageous attacks, political and otherwise.” “The most recent attacks in this decades-long campaign represent a new low.”
Planned Parenthood, which is recognized as a charitable non-profit by the government receives $528 million from government to perform other services. It is the nation's largest provider of abortions -- about one-third of all abortions in the U.S. are performed at PPFA-affiliated facilities.
(Fox News, the National Catholic Register, and the Daily Caller contributed to this report.)