|Luther Strange and
Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who managed Strange's 2010 campaign, started MDM 27 Holdings Inc. in November 2006. Campaign-finance records from the Alabama Secretary of State show that Strange spent $207,015.26 with MDM 27 Holdings, from June 10, 2010, to November 30, 2011.
During roughly the same time period, the Strange campaign paid $33,245.07 directly to Garrison.
Is anything improper, or unlawful, about the payments to Jessica Garrison and her company? Why was the much larger amount paid to a holding company and not to Garrison directly? We still are examining those questions, but they seem particularly relevant in light of recent events.
The attorney general's office, under Strange's direction, indicted former state senator Lowell Barron on April 19 for allegedly violating the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act and the state ethics law. Barron is accused of illegally transferring $58,000, plus title to a 2007 Toyota Camry, to former campaign staffer Rhonda Jill Johnson.
Did Luther Strange make similar payments to Jessica Medeiros Garrison, his former campaign aide? Did Strange try to disguise the payments by making them to Garrison's holding company? (See first document at the end of this post.)
In general, the charges against Barron allege that he unlawfully put campaign funds to personal use. Is there anything personal about the campaign funds that Luther Strange transferred to Jessica Garrison?
We don't have an answer yet to that question, but we do see irony in the indictment Strange's office brought against Barron. According to press reports, the charges stem in part from Barron listing his payments to Johnson as "administrative" expenses. From a report at al.com:
The 2011 annual report says the campaign had an ending balance of just over $500,000 and included in the expenditures is a listing for Jill Johnson, who received $8,000 with a notation “administrative” work performed, according to the filing.
The 2012 annual report, which covers 2011 has a $50,000 expenditure listed for Johnson and the same “administrative” note in explanation. The indictment contends the check's memo line reads "severance/bonus."
Why is that ironic? Records show that Strange made 15 "administrative" expenditures to MDM 27 Holdings Inc. in roughly the same time period. And MDM 27 Holdings is owned by Strange's former campaign aide. (See second document at the end of this post.)
All but one of the administrative payments to Jessica Garrison's company was in the $10,000 to $30,000 range. The Strange campaign made three payments for "consulting" services, and those were in the $9,000 to $12,000 range.
Records show that MDM 27 Holdings has a reporting address of 1705 Dauphine Dr., Tuscaloosa, AL. Jessica Garrison is listed as company president, with an address of 119 Main St., Mountain Brook, AL.
Garrison currently serves as director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which is an affiliate of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). Garrison also serves in an "as counsel" capacity with the Birmingham law firm Balch & Bingham.
Strange has a history of trying to hide campaign-related financial transactions--and some of those activities have ties to RSLC, an organization that now employs Jessica Garrison. From one of our earlier posts on the subject:
We know that Strange takes hypocrisy on gambling issues to monumental dimensions. After all, this is the guy who has tried to shut down non-Indian gaming facilities, such as VictoryLand in Macon County and Center Stage Alabama in Houston County, while taking a $100,000 campaign contribution from the Poarch Creek casinos. This also is the guy who used the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to help obscure the donation via a PAC-to-PAC transfer.
Did Luther Strange try to obscure his payments to Jessica Garrison, violating campaign-finance laws? In light of the Lowell Barron indictment, it seems reasonable for Alabamians to be asking that question.