Ducks, Dogs and Scumbags

Helen Hammons turns her eyes (and ears) to the state Senate today and wrote this report for us.


Sleeping duck and dogThings got heated again in the Alabama Senate Thursday afternoon during discussion of Senator Mitchell’s bill (SB167) banning PAC-to-PAC transfers a bill which also redefines what entities constitute a political action committee (PAC) and providing more avenues for people who wish to hide just who is behind all the money contributed to various political entities.

The filibuster on PAC-to-PAC started in the morning and after a break for a joint session, continued briefly Thursday afternoon, with the Senate finally adjourning around 2:40 p.m., while some senators from both sides were in negotiations, it was said to come, to try and come to some agreement on the issue of exactly what was and wasn’t going to be included in any definition of a PAC.

The flare up between Senator Ben Brooks and Senator Phil Poole came about as follows:

Senator Brooks: “So will we get to that point, will we get to a point where we can have a vote on the bill and have some bipartisanship here and do some real campaign finance reform? I don’t know. The reality is once this bill passes with the very big majority in the Senate, the big majority in the House, if this bill gets to the governor, it’s over. Certain political leaders will run around the state and say, ‘Hey we did campaign finance reform and banned PAC-to-PAC transfers.’ “

“But it’s all political gamesmanship, because in reality it never happened. It’s calling a duck a dog and everybody knows it…How do you know when you see a duck? If it quacks and it waddles what is it? It’s a duck. Here they call that duck a dog. This bill is called a ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers, but in reality it is creating a new PAC of the new millennium called the legislative caucus…”

Senator Poole asked Senator Brooks if Poole could ask a question and proceeded to ask Brooks:

“Is the tens of thousands of dollars that Governor Riley took from Indian gambling, is that a duck or a dog?”

Brooks responded to the question: “May I respond now? Mr. President, you know Senator Bedford, one of the leaders of the majority, just took the podium and I know that’s funny over there, I see you Senator Poole, you get to come up and it makes you a big man in your caucus to come up and bang a fine governor like Gov. Riley. It makes you a big man, I understand that. The reality is I’m not going to yield Mr. President. I yielded once I’m not yielding again.”

To which Senator Poole responded,“ Mr. President point of order. Rules don’t allow any scumbags to single out another person.”

This of course got Lt. Gov. Folsom presiding from the chair involved, “Senator, senator, senator I’m going to have to interrupt you there. Let’s refrain…”

And so it continued on with Folsom admonishing Poole and Brooks to behave better and both men again replaying what had just occurred. Brooks asked, “I want to be clear…would scumbag be a word…”

Which got Folsom hot under the collar, “Now I thought we disposed of this issue…I think you’re in error bringing the issue back up. It had properly been taken care of and Senator Poole had taken his seat. I’m getting testy on this. Senator Poole I think he has restrained himself, he was quite emotional…”

Brooks responded, “It’s an important debate and emotions are high and I understand that those that are in control of power in Montgomery…” and Senator Poole interrupted to report what he believed Senator Brooks had said to him and in the end nothing was accomplished which in the Senate is not always a bad thing.

We have previously discussed the makeup of Senator Mitchell’s bill and the loopholes created by explicitly stating that principal campaign committees, political parties and legislative caucuses are not political action committees and because they are not considered PACs allows them to continue the shell game in essence that goes on with PACs now of laundering money so it is difficult to trace. Both sides allege the other is responsible for the exemptions problem.

A new senator got to be part of the debate, Baldwin County Senator Pittman got to make his first appearance at the microphone Thursday.

“I didn’t take any PAC money, so I feel uniquely qualified to talk about this issue. And the reason that I didn’t take the money is I think it’s very important not only about getting elected, but about how you get elected and the reason I ran is because I am frustrated with the process as a lot of citizens are. They don’t think that the process works for them…and the people in office don’t actually represent them; they tend to represent the people that give them the money…”

My question is why are so many people ashamed of where they get their money from? Some politicians have told me with PACs they have no idea who’s giving them money. So why don’t they want to know?

8 comments to Ducks, Dogs and Scumbags

  • walt moffett

    Plausible denial appears to be operative. Who wants to tell the home folks they are being funded by money lenders, gamblers and the other mules.

    Your earlier point about the poor quality of education in this state is also evidenced in Sen. Poole’s remark. He needs to increase his vocabulary. Calling some one a “ill gotten silver tongued varlet” is much more satisfying.

  • Jeff (no, the other one)

    Yeah, but “scumbag” gets their full attention much faster. I’m waiting for a legislator to go off on someone like Sgt. Hartman (Lee Ermey) in Full Metal Jacket. What a proud day for our state that will be!

  • Montgomery

    Walt, plausible deniability goes both ways. Look for example at a situation where an incumbent Senator is running for another term, and say there are powerful special interests that want to take him out, but know it will be a difficult fight. The challenger, in all likelihood, would be willing to take the money from just about anybody, because to beat an incumbent you have to have dollars. The funders, however, want to hide the fact that they are giving to the challenger from the incumbent, in case the incumbent does in fact win, to avoid the vengeance of the victor. Having been involved in campaigns, I can tell you without a doubt that it is rarely the candidate that asks that the money be “laundered”. Either the source of the funds recognizes the need up front for the source to be hidden, or wants the freedom to contribute to both sides.

  • walt moffett

    Montgomery, doesn’t every gambit in the game of politics cut both ways?

  • Montgomery

    True, Walt. It just seems that all the venom in the PAC-to_PAC argument goes toward the candidates, and in the numerous campaigns I have been involved in, both successful and unsuccessful, we have never asked a donor to route money. It has always been the donor, usually to cover tracks and support both sides. And now those same groups, many of whom the editorial boards routinely praise, are working behind the scenes against the PAC-to-PAC ban. But just as “every gambit in the game of politics cuts both ways”, I guess that seeking consistency from our newspapers is a little too much to ask.

  • Why doesn’t Charlie Bishop do us all a favor and smack Phil Poole right in the mouth. If he hits him right, it breaks his jaw and shuts him up so that we can have at least a shred of progress on ANY issue.

  • Helen Hammons

    In the interest of fairness the Rs have been filibustering the P2P bill mainly over the exemptions issue. I heard late yesterday there is an attempt to reach agreement on putting the definition of legislative caucus in the bill. Also seems I missed part of the debate where Sen. Brooks told Sen. Bedford he loved him. To which Bedford is alleged to have replied,”Gr meant that in the Christian way.” And so it goes. There appears to still be a little hope behind the scenes an agreement of some kind is still possible on P2P.You’ll have to decide if that’s good or bad for yourselves.

  • Trvld

    Montgomery is right. This game goes both ways. Look at the money that Pachyderm-Mobile PAC shows in their 45-day from 2006. P-Mob received around $25K from Pachyderm-Birmingham PAC, which received about $29K from New Leadership Alabama PAC. That PAC got well over $100K from several AL GOP Senators. Where does the majority of these Senators funds come from??? PACs.

    So, let’s not cast stones.

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