Thursday, September 21, 2017

Black Wednesday for "Big Lutha": Breitbart News plans to go negative on Strange Senate campaign, while finance chair Mike Thompson is linked to nonprofit at the heart of Superfund bribery scandal

Luther Strange and Roy Moore
The Luther Strange U.S. Senate campaign took two blows to the chin yesterday. If we're lucky, one or both will prove to be a knockout blow for "Big Lutha." Win or lose, Strange surely will maintain his spot among the five most vapid, craven, and morally bankrupt political candidates in Alabama history -- and you have to work to earn those spots.

Does this mean I'm pulling for Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore in the Sept. 26 Republican run-off? "Pulling" isn't exactly the right word, but if Luther Strange is the alternative, count me in for Roy Moore.

What about Democrat Doug Jones, who already has a spot in the Dec. 12 general election? Despite a recent poll showing that Jones could make it close against either Moore or Strange, my guess is that he will get swamped by either. On top of that, Jones is a one-trick pony candidate and a sorry human being. He has conned a few Alabamians into believing he stands for social justice and the rule of law because of his ties to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing case; Jones constantly brings up the case because, well, he has nothing else to stand on.

Here is the truth about Doug Jones: (1) He's a suck-up to the Riley Political Machine, thanks to his cash-grabbing alliance with Rob Riley in a HealthSouth civil case; (2) He's a cover-up for former UA trustee Paul Bryant Jr. and Bryant's ties to massive insurance fraud. I have asked Jones multiple times the following question: Did you, as U.S. attorney, call off a planned federal investigation of Bryant, based on revelations from the Allen W. Stewart case in Philadelphia, in which Bryant's company (Alabama Reassurance) was implicated? Jones has refused to answer the question -- and that's because he had become U.S. attorney in the Bill Clinton administration when the Stewart case ended, and that's when the Bryant investigation was called off. It's hard to think of anyone, besides Doug Jones, who could have made that decision.

The Stewart case meant tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of Americans were left with worthless life-insurance policies. But evidence strongly suggests Doug Jones was more interested in protecting Paul Bryant Jr. than enforcing the law. If you still think Jones is a good dude, ask Don Siegelman about the $300,000 Jones charged him for criminal defense -- and accomplished little beyond helping the prosecution (while praising the despicable Bill Pryor) with its statute of limitations problems. Within Siegelman's inner circle, it widely is thought that the former governor never would have been convicted had his original defense lawyer, David Cromwell Johnson, not died. (And that makes you wonder if Johnson died of natural causes.) Anyone who thinks highly of Don Siegelman -- and still supports Doug Jones in the Senate race -- is blindingly ignorant, easily duped, or both.

As for Luther Strange, here is how his "Black Wednesday" went: First, we learned that Breitbart News and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon have vowed to attack "Big Lutha," even though he is Donald Trump's favored candidate. News on that front can be found at a CNN report titled "Bannon orders Breitbart to step up negative coverage of Trump-backed candidate." Ouch! Then came word that Mike Thompson, Strange campaign finance chair, is listed on federal tax documents as an officer in a nonprofit agency prosecutors say was used to bribe former State Rep. Oliver Robinson. That makes the second time Strange's name publicly has been linked to the evolving Birmingham Superfund scandal -- and it probably makes sphincters tighten on the campaign team.

What is the gist of Breitbart's plans to bash "Big Lutha"? This is from CNN:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Tuesday morning ordered top editors at Breitbart to step up its overwhelmingly negative coverage of the Alabama Senate candidate backed by President Trump, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.

Trump has endorsed Luther Strange in the race that will decide who will fill the Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became attorney general. Bannon, who returned to Breitbart as executive chairman following his exit from the White House, is supporting anti-establishment candidate Judge Roy Moore.

Shortly after Bannon told top editors to increase the site's volume of reporting on the race, Matthew Boyle, Breitbart's Washington editor, told staff "the only story that matters until next week is Alabama."

"As of now, everyone is working on the Alabama race," Boyle wrote in a message obtained by CNN in the company's internal Slack channel. "If anyone has any questions please let me know."

The "only story that matters is Alabama"? Wow, the Breitbart crowd is taking this seriously. (Hmmm . . . wonder if Boyle knows about the Luther Strange/Jessica Garrison extramarital affair?) Why is Breitbart intent on going after Strange -- not that he doesn't deserve it?

Bannon and his allies are readying primary challenges against Republican senators, a person close to Bannon told CNN earlier this month. Bannon has said he does not believe the Republican establishment supports Trump and has promised to fight for the ideas that got him elected from outside the White House.

"They do not want Donald Trump's populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented," Bannon said during a recent "60 Minutes" interview. "It's very obvious."

So, Bannon plans to bash Trump's candidate for Trump's own good? Does anybody believe that? Sounds to me like Bannon has a mad-on over being booted from his cushy White House gig -- and this is his way of getting back at, not helping, Trump. If Luther Strange gets caught in the cross fire? Well, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Steve Bannon
Meanwhile, the Mike Thompson story might prove to be more troublesome for Luther Strange than anything Steve Bannon can concoct. From a report at

Neither prosecutors nor court documents have said Thompson was in any way involved in the bribery scheme, but tax records show he was one of only two officers for the Alliance for Jobs and the Economy. According to the nonprofit's tax filings, Thompson served as secretary for the AJE from its incorporation in 2015 through at least the end of 2016, the time period when, prosecutors say, every dollar raised by the nonprofit was used to buy influence from then-state Rep. Oliver Robinson.

Strange named Thompson to lead his campaign's Financial Leadership Committee in June.

"Mike not only played a crucial role in President W. Bush's re-election campaign in 2004, he also has a proven track record of helping conservative Republicans win in Alabama," Strange said in a press release announcing the appointment in June.

The Thompson story originated with the D.C.-based Project for Government Oversight (POGO). From the POGO report, which hits close to home for a number of major names in Alabama -- including Jeff Sessions, Drummond Co., and Balch Bingham:

Thompson isn’t Strange’s only link to the bribery investigation. In late 2014 and early 2015, as Alabama’s Attorney General, Strange took official acts to oppose the EPA’s proposed actions at the Superfund site around the same time he took a total of $50,000 in campaign contributions from Drummond.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s Northern District Jay Town, who was confirmed by the Senate in August, both have personal and political connections to parties that have a stake in the outcome of the investigation. POGO has called for them to recuse themselves from the investigation. The investigation is being run by the U.S. Attorney’s Office now headed by Town.

As POGO and others have previously reported, Drummond Co. and Balch were among two of Sessions’ top campaign funding sources over the course of his Senate career.

Thompson has also made campaign contributions to Sessions.

Many Balch partners have worked directly for Sessions; a top Sessions deputy runs the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and was a Balch lobbyist until Inauguration Day (that deputy has recused himself from any matter involving Balch, including the Birmingham Superfund issue).

As for Town, he has advised Strange on political campaigns, and Strange supported Town’s nomination as U.S. Attorney.

Where is the Superfund scandal headed? That's hard to say, but POGO puts matters in perspective:

The DOJ began and publicly announced its investigation prior to Town’s confirmation as U.S. Attorney.

“This case gets at the heart of public corruption in Alabama,” Acting U.S. Attorney Robert Posey, a career official, said in June.

With Robinson’s guilty plea and pledge to cooperate with federal investigators, the investigation is now more likely to threaten members of Alabama’s political establishment and its key business allies. But parties connected to the case, such as Sessions, are in positions to influence the investigation’s direction. U.S. Attorney Town, a political appointee with no civil service protections who can be fired at will by Sessions, could also simply think twice about pursuing leads that would take him higher up the food chain from Robinson and could threaten his and Sessions’ political benefactors.

The Bannon story might cause headaches for Strange between now and next Tuesday. But the Superfund story could produce headaches that last much longer than that.

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