Thursday, December 20, 2018

Alabama Ethics Commission, led by Republican racist Frank "Butch" Ellis of Shelby County, gives AG Steve Marshall a free pass on unlawful campaign donation

Steve Marshall and "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley
The Alabama Ethics Commission yesterday voted to give Attorney General Steve Marshall a free pass for accepting more than $700,000 in unlawful campaign contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). In what should be a surprise to no one, the vote largely was engineered by Frank C. "Butch" Ellis, a commissioner from Shelby County, which widely is considered the most Republican, crooked, and racist county in Alabama.

From a report at

The Alabama Ethics Commission voted 3-2 today that there was insufficient evidence that Attorney General Steve Marshall violated the state campaign finance law.

Former Attorney General Troy King had filed the complaint and was at today’s meeting but left before the vote was taken.

King had alleged that Marshall’s campaign contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association violated the state campaign finance law. Marshall has said the contributions were legal. King filed the complaint in July, while he and Marshall were engaged in a runoff campaign for the Republican nomination for attorney general. Marshall won the runoff and went on to win the general election over Joe Siegelman.

USA Today brought national attention to the RAGA donation in an article published on Nov. 5, the day before the midterm elections. How outrageous is the Alabama Ethics Commission's conduct in the Marshall matter. As we showed in a Dec. 5 post, it did not just start getting nutty with yesterday's vote:

Marshall, appointed AG in February 2017 before scandal-plagued governor Robert Bentley left office, defeated Democrat Joseph Siegelman in the November midterms despite national reports that he had accepted $735,000 from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which officials from both parties said violated Alabama law.

The Alabama Ethics Commission failed to resolve the issue before the Nov. 6 election, so complaints are pending, both with the ethics commission and the Montgomery County district attorney's office. Before the election, Siegelman noted that Marshall could be forced from office if the ethics commission applied state law properly.

Was there serious doubt the donation violated Alabama ethics law? Consider these words from Bill Britt, publisher of Alabama Political Reporter (APR), written on Oct. 11 about Marshall's cozy relationship with 3M, a major polluter in Alabama:

RAGA is not registered with the state and commingles its funds with other political action committees, masking the donors contrary to Alabama law. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton knows Marshall’s contributions were unlawful, so does Secretary of State John Merrill, but no one is willing to act. Even Marshall himself is on the record saying the type of contributions he received from RAGA are illegal and banning such contributions was, “the only legal protection standing between Alabama voters and the reality or appearance of quid pro quo corruption.”

Troy King
 Perhaps the larger question for the Commission and the Alabama Republican Party is should a candidate who willingly takes illegal campaign contributions be allowed to remain on the ballot? . . .

The right remedy in the Marshall situation lies with the Alabama Republican Party, which is responsible for pursuing such violations and taking appropriate action, but the so-called party of law and order has taken a pass on the Marshall fiasco, choosing to remain silent.

So, even Republicans know the RAGA donations are unlawful, but Marshall is a favorite of the Mike Hubbard-Robert Bentley-Bob Riley wing of the party -- as evidenced by his recent firing of special-prosecutions chief Matt Hart. Does anyone expect that crowd to take ethics violations seriously?

APR reported yesterday that Troy King received notice of the hearing less than 24 hours in advance, and he was the primary complainant. That was a sign the fix was in.

Butch Ellis proved to be the fixer, a role with which he is quite familiar from his years of turning Shelby County into a racist, ethical sewer. How racist? Butch Ellis played a central role in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Butch Ellis' father, Handy Ellis, joined with notorious Birmingham Safety Commissioner Bull Connor to lead a walkout of Alabama delegates at the 1948 Democratic Convention. The issue of contention? Civil rights, primarily for black Americans:

Butch Ellis’s father was Handy Ellis, a former lieutenant governor and the chairman of the Alabama delegation at the 1948 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

With Birmingham Commissioner of Safety Bull Connor, Ellis led the Dixiecrat walkout of the convention after declaring that Alabama delegates were instructed “never to cast their vote for any candidate associated with a civil rights program such as adopted by this convention.”

Bottom line: Butch Ellis is the son of a prominent Dixiecrat, meaning he has been a thinly veiled white supremacist for much of his life. At yesterday's Ethics Commission meeting, Ellis stood up for the white elites who want a do-nothing AG like Steve Marshall, so they can keep Alabama as one of the most corrupt states in the nation. From

The commission heard a number of other cases behind closed doors today. After the commission reopened the meeting, Commissioner Butch Ellis made a motion that there was insufficient evidence that Marshall violated the state campaign finance law. Commissioner Beverlye Brady offered a substitute motion saying there were “ample facts” to show that Marshall had violated the law.

Butch Ellis
Brady’s motion was rejected on a 3-2 vote. Brady and Commissioner Charles Price voted for it. Voting no were Ellis, Commissioner John Plunk and Commission Chairman Jerry Fielding. The commission then voted to approve the Ellis motion on insufficient evidence on an identical 3-2 vote. That closed the case.

The Ethics Commission determines whether there is probable cause that the law was broken. Had Brady’s vote prevailed, the case would have been referred to a district attorney.

Brady and Fielding declined to comment on the case after the meeting ended.

Brady and Fielding probably could not comment because they were trying not to puke.

As noted above, complaints regarding the RAGA donation remain with Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. Attorneys Julian McPhillips and Melissa Isaak apparently filed the complaint with Bailey's office because they expected a sham ruling from the Alabama Ethics Commission.

If that was the case, McPhillips and Isaak certainly proved to be on target. Is there any chance Daryl Bailey will be different, that he actually has respect for the rule of law? I'm not holding my breath.


Anonymous said...

More GOP sleaze in Alabama. Film at 11.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this a foregone conclusion?

Anonymous said...

The ethics commission is reaching a legal conclusion here, that the RAGA donation was not unlawful. It has nothing to do with insufficient evidence.The evidence is clear that Marshall took the donation and RAGA gave it.

That the commission is trying to frame this as "insufficient evidence" is essentially an act of fraud on the public.

Anonymous said...

Glad you laid the "R word" on Butch Ellis. He is, in fact, a racist, like many of his slippery comrades in Columbiana.

Anonymous said...

One word: embarrassing.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:15 --

You make a powerful point. This commission can't even gets its legal terminology straight.

Anonymous said...

Butch Ellis on an "ethics commission"? Is that a joke?

Anonymous said...

Corruption has reached the point in Alabama where the crooks don't even try to hide what they are doing.

legalschnauzer said... says Ethics Commission has gutted campaign-finance law:

"However, that didn’t stop Steve Marshall from accepting $735,000 from the Republican Attorneys General Association’s PAC which is based in Washington, D.C. That PAC takes money from other PACs.

But because it’s an out-of-state federal PAC, Marshall’s campaign argued that it wasn’t subject to Alabama’s PAC-to-PAC ban.

Guidance issued by the Alabama Secretary of State’s office concurred with Marshall’s opinion. The Secretary of State’s website says that federal PACs aren’t subject to Alabama law.

The only trouble is, no one seems able to show where the law actually says that.

And the Alabama law’s definition of a PAC is pretty clear: “Whether in-state or out-of-state,” if it’s trying to influence an Alabama election, it’s a PAC subject to the state law.

At least that’s what Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton has told others in the past, and it’s pretty clear — despite the closed-door session — that’s what Ethics Commission staff argued on Wednesday."

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine a black-run PAC, from DC, pouring this kind of money into an Alabama race to benefit a black candidate? They would be found guilty of campaign-finance violations so quickly it would make your head swim.

In Alabama, it's always about race . . . alwayw.

Anonymous said...

How in the hell did Butch Ellis get on the Ethics Commission anyway?

legalschnauzer said...

@3:47 --

Ellis was appointed to the commission by his Columbiana compadre, "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley.

Anonymous said...

This decision has nothing to do with racism. But, it is wrong on every level. Marshall should be charged and/or impeached. Not sure what the proper way to remove him from office is. Maybe hire Robert Mueller as special prosecutor. Even more delectable would be hiring Matt Hart as special prosecutor. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Kate Lynch said...

Awesome article! Thank you!