|Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange|
Is this the sort of political back-scratching that grew from a longstanding extramarital affair between Strange and Garrison? Does their relationship go beyond questionable personal ethics to possible violations of campaign-finance laws? What kind of price has Jessica Medeiros Garrison been willing to pay in order to climb the ladder of high-level Republican politics in Alabama?
We sought to put those questions, and more, to both Garrison and Strange. But they did not respond to our requests for interviews.
Some insight, however, comes from a Verified Amended Petition for Modification of Custody filed on August 22, 2011, in Jessica Garrison's divorce from Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison. (See document at the end of this post.) The parties both lived in Tuscaloosa when the divorce was completed on October 21, 2009, and they reached a custody agreement for their son, Michael Lee Garrison (date of birth, 3/27/07).
Jessica Garrison managed Luther Strange's successful campaign in 2010 and was a partner at the Tuscaloosa law firm of Phelps Jenkins Gibson & Fowler when she accepted the position as Strange's chief counsel in January 2011. The new job, however, presented complications. From her petition for custody modification:
In January 2011, the Mother was offered a once-in-a-lifetime appointment as Chief Counsel and Deputy Attorney General at the Office of Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange. Her appointment followed her successful work as Luther Strange's Campaign Manager and required that she relocate to Montgomery, Alabama. The Mother duly notified the Father of her change in employment and intended relocation, expecting that given the short driving distance between Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, she and the Father would be able to work out an agreeable arrangement that would allow her to relocate with the child and still permit him generous time with their son. Instead, the Father objected to the relocation and communications between the parties deteriorated. Despite engaging in both therapeutic and formal mediation, the parties were unable to reach an agreement. The Mother never changed her principal residence to Montgomery.
What are the duties of the chief counsel for Luther Strange? The job intended for Jessica Garrison apparently went to former Bradley Arant lawyer Kevin L. Turner, and his LinkedIn profile describes the duties this way:
He serves as the principal adviser to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on all legal and administrative matters and is responsible for overseeing the operations of the office.
Turner only has been practicing law since September 2007, so it's hard to see how he is qualified to be principal adviser to the state's chief law-enforcement officer. The same might be said of Jessica Garrison, although she certainly is more experienced than Kevin Turner. Her only experience in a high-level state position came from working as an intern for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and working in public relations for former Attorney General William H. Pryor.
State law required Jessica Garrison to relocate within 60 miles of Tuscaloosa, and that forced a change in her career plans. From the petition for custody modification:
In an effort to minimize the conflict between the parties and to create a situation that might allow for the kind of compromise the Mother had initially envisioned, she secured alternate employment through the Republican Attorneys General Association [RAGA], effective July 27, 2011, that requires that she reside in Birmingham rather than Montgomery, and she has been hired to serve Of Counsel for the law firm of Balch & Bingham LLP in their Birmingham office. Birmingham, Alabama, is less than sixty miles from the Father's home in Tuscaloosa.
The change in job plans did not alter the close ties between Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange. RAGA is an affiliate of the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which has engaged in a number of curious financial maneuvers involving Indian gaming money, Luther Strange, and other high-level Republicans in Alabama.
We already know about the personal hanky panky involving Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange. We soon will be taking a closer look at their financial connections.
(To be continued)