Alabama's master politician has shown that at least one Democrat in the U.S. still has a spine. And in the process, he showed that Republican hypocrisy has reached a new zenith.
That's quite a feat. But Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association (AEA), pulled it off. And Democrats around the country, including the one who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, should watch and learn.
Bradley Byrne, Governor Bob Riley's hand-picked successor, has been conducting a whinefest ever since he got thrashed in the Republican primary by the relatively unknown Robert Bentley. Now we know, at least partly, why Byrne got trounced. Paul Hubbert took him to the proverbial woodshed.
Byrne had run on a platform of attacking "union bosses," a thinly veiled reference to Hubbert and the AEA. Did Hubbert choose to tuck tail and "look forward, not backwards"? Not exactly. He fought back--big time.
Associated Press reports that newly released records show AEA provided every dollar of a $711,020 media blitz that targeted Byrne in the Republican runoff. Reports AP:
Before the July runoff, a new and secretive organization called the Conservative Coalition for Alabama ran an extensive ad campaign that criticized Byrne's record in state government. Little was known about the group other than it listed its official address as a rented mail box at a package shipping store in Montgomery.
But a newly released report reviewed by The Associated Press shows its only donor was AEA, which provided $750,000 on June 23. That was one day after the coalition was created.
The coalition, in a quarterly filing with the Internal Revenue Service, said it spent $711,020 — all with the Smart Media Group that placed the anti-Byrne ads.
AEA has said it will remain neutral in the November general election between Bentley and Democrat Ron Sparks. But the organization made no secret of its distaste for Byrne:
AEA favored state Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa, who won the Republican runoff July 13 with 56 percent of the vote. Byrne, a former state school board member, state senator and two-year college chancellor, had targeted AEA in his campaign and accused the teachers' organization of being a corrupting influence on state government.
Has Bradley Byrne gotten over the spanking he received from Paul Hubbert and gone on to other things? Nope, he's still whining about it--even though there is no indication that AEA did anything unlawful or unethical. Reports AP:
Byrne, of Montrose on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, said today that it's sad that people can run attack ads against a candidate but not disclose who's behind the ads until after the election.
"It undermines democracy and it undermines the ability of people to make informed decisions," he said.
Oh, really? Did Byrne whine when Republicans used such tactics to take over Alabama's appellate courts? Not on your life. Reports AP:
It's a practice that has been used in Alabama campaigns before by business groups in judicial races, but it's the first time AEA has used it, AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert said Tuesday.
Most groups running ads in Alabama campaigns register with the secretary of state and report their donors before the election. Those groups are running ads advocating a vote for or against a candidate at a specific election.
Instead of doing that, the Conservative Coalition for Alabama registered with the IRS on June 22 as a "527 organization." Those are tax-exemption political organizations that run informational ads criticizing or praising a candidate's record. But their ads stop short of recommending how someone should vote, and they don't mention the date of an upcoming election.
"It's public information kind of advertising," Hubbert said.
Yep, and thanks to that public information, Republican voters told Bradley Byrne to take a hike.
Byrne's hypocrisy, however does not end there. Consider that his mentor, Gov. Riley, was the beneficiary of $13 million in Mississippi Choctaw gaming money during the 2002 election. That comes straight from a U.S. Senate report, from a committee chaired by Republican John McCain. Has Riley ever come clean about the source of those funds, which reportedly were laundered through confessed felon Jack Abramoff? No.
Has Bradley Byrne ever voiced concern about how those shadowy funds "undermine democracy"? No.
And what about Associated Press, and it's blatant hypocrisy? It is digging into perfectly lawful actions by AEA, but has it done any serious investigation of Riley's dirty money from Mississippi. We've seen no sign of it. Has it investigated the millions Byrne received from pro-business groups? We've seen no sign of that either.
So our hat is off to Paul Hubbert. Bradley Byrne, the quintessential arrogant, pampered, white-bread, pro-business Republican, threatened him and his organization. And Hubbert proceeded to administer a colossal beatdown--one from which old Bradley still is squealing like the Ned Beatty character in Deliverance.
Moral of the story? Paul Hubbert beat Republicans at their own game. And it's a wonderful sight to behold.
We would suggest that national Democrats take a page from the Hubbert playbook, before it is too late and Republicans have taken back one or both houses of Congress. We've seen no sign that "No Drama" Obama is listening. But just in case, he can take a lesson from Dr. Perry Cox, one of our favorite characters on Scrubs: