Outcry still heard in finance

Published 8:31 am Wednesday, March 18, 2009

By Staff
For several years there has been an outcry to pass legislation to stop PAC to PAC transfers. This should be addressed because this deceptive practice has rendered Alabama’s campaign finance laws useless. We may as well do away with the law that requires PACs and candidates to report contributions if we do not close this glaring loophole.
The practice of a special interest or individual giving money to a PAC that is going to another PAC, which gives to another PAC with the knowledge and intent to disguise the candidate they gave their money to is outright fraud and is simply money laundering. This practice has become rampant in recent years. There is no way to discern who is giving to whom. The paper trail is so creative that you, the voter, will never know the source of a candidate’s financing.
Governor Riley should attack this one issue head on. He should heed the KISS formula and not offer a laundry list of two dozen “accountability bills.” If Riley focused on a single issue, he might get a heads up vote on this issue.
Campaign finance laws and ethics disclosure forms for political campaigns and officeholders were enacted throughout the country in the 1970’s. These reforms were adopted in most states in reaction to the public outcry for ethics reform after the Watergate corruption. Practically every state passed an ethics law. There was even a model ethics law that was used as a framework from which states could create their own act, along with campaign finance disclosure laws. This model act was a very tough law, so in most cases the state legislatures chose to deviate from this strict model when drafting their own ethics laws.
In the 1970’s, Alabama had a lot of veteran and crafty and crusty legislators who simply ignored the national trend and had no intentions of passing an ethics law. That did not keep the Alabama media from constantly harping on the need for such legislation. The press would hammer the need for ethics in the legislature daily.
The press put a spotlight on the measures like they never had before and focused on the need for final passage. Things got out of hand and the House succumbed to public opinion and the bill got to the floor of the House.
Only a handful of House members had the nerve to vote against it. One was the crustiest and craftiest in the history of the legislature. Rankin Fite, the legendary House Speaker from Hamilton, who had done pretty well for himself and his county before any ethics law, voted against it. The press congregated around old Rankin’s desk and asked why he voted against it. He looked them squarely in the eye and said it wasn’t tough enough.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist who served
16 years in the state

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