U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), who rode a wave of support from black voters to upset Republican Roy Moore in a 2017 special election, accepted a campaign donation from a Birmingham law firm that tried to block cleanup of toxic pollutants heavy industry had pumped into a predominantly black neighborhood.
Jones' June report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows he received $5,000 from Balch and Bingham LLP Federal PAC, according to a recent report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). That's the same Balch and Bingham that was a central player in the North Birmingham Superfund scandal, with former partner Joel Gilbert convicted of bribery in a federal trial last summer.
APR reports much of Jones' campaign support is coming from outside Alabama:
U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama is drawing contributions from Democratic donors from all over the country in his bid for re-election in 2020.
Senator Jones reported to the Federal Election Commission a final cash balance at the end of June of $4,259,540.86 in cash on hand after a busy first half of 2019. . . .
Jones has several individual contributors. Barbara Hostetter of Boston, Massachusetts has contributed $11,200 to Jones. Hostetter is not employed. Kevin Rowe of Santa Fe, New Mexico contributed $2,800 to Jones. Rowe is the owner of K. Rowe Investments. Daniel Seymour of Weston, Connecticut has donated $5,400 to Jones including a $2,800 donation. Seymour is a portfolio manager with Paloma Partners. Penny Pritzker of Chicago, Illinois has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Pritzker is the Chairman of PSP Partners. Ashley McDermott of New York City has donated $2,800 to Jones. McDermott is a self-employed activist. Allen Pinny of Pebble Beach, California has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Pinny is not employed. Charles Miller of Pebble Beach, California has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Miller is retired. Jeffrey Bayer of Woody Creek, Colorado has contributed $4,000 to Jones. Bayer is employed in real estate by Bayer Ventures. Philip Purcell of Park City, Utah has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Purcell is an executive with Continental Investors. Randy Gori of Edwardsville, Illinois has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Gori is an attorney employed by Julian Gori. Amy Fowler of Rhinebeck, New York has committed $5.600 to Jones. Fowler is a self-employed author. All of these leading contributions to Jones were earmarked by ACTBLUE. According to original reporting by the Yellowhammer News, 78 percent of Jones’ contributions come from outside of Alabama.
Where does Balch and Bingham enter the picture? APR provides the answer:
Jones reported 351 contributions from other committees. The biggest of these contributions include: AFLAC PAC $10,000, UBS Americas Inc. PAC $5,000, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama $10,000, All for our Country Leadership PAC $10,000, Keystone America PAC $10,00, Victory NOW PAC $5,000, Balch and Bingham LLP Federal PAC $5,000 . . .
How alarming is the pollution problem in North Birmingham? An article from al.com helps explain:
The pollution in the north Birmingham neighborhoods of Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont has been around for more than 100 years. The controversy surrounding the cleanup of that pollution is much newer.
Sandwiched between two coking plants, and surrounded by other industrial facilities and heavy rail lines, these neighborhoods have long borne the environmental brunt of the city's steel-making success, but since 2014, a legal battle is being waged between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Alabama and the five nearby industries identified as "potentially responsible parties" to the pollution over who should pay to clean up 100 years of industrial residue.
|North Birmingham Superfund site
Soil that was removed was laden with contaminants including arsenic, lead, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like benzo(a)pyrene. All are strongly linked to human health problems, and benzo(a)pyrene is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The cleanup will be ongoing for some time yet. . . . The EPA has identified 235 additional parcels of land that meet the criteria for removal. . . . At current pace, the removal operations will be complete in about three more years.
The total cost of the cleanup is expected to be $20 million. . . .
The potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are: the United States Pipe and Foundry Company (seen above), Walter Energy (now ERP Compliant Coke), Drummond, Alagasco, and KMAC Services.
Who wanted to make sure industry, especially Drummond Co., did not pay its share of the cleanup costs? That would be Balch and Bingham, the outfit that now supports Doug Jones' U.S. Senate campaign. The Balch scheme involved apparent bribery of state officials and almost the entire Alabama Congressional delegation, as we wrote in a recent post (with original reporting from banbalch.com):
On October 30, 2014, a ghost-written letter drafted by Balch and Bingham and signed by six members of the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama was dispatched. That same day, Congressman Robert Aderholt reported receiving $5,000 from Alabama Power, according to FEC filings.
* A week before, Drummond Company gave Congressman Bradley Byrne $5,000 on October 22, while forking out another $5,000 to Congressman Mike Rogers on October 24.
* Balch and Bingham sweetened the money trail by tossing $2,000 to Congressman Aderholt on October 28, 2014.
* At various times in October, Congressman Mo Brooks received $2,000 total from Balch and Bingham, $2,500 from Drummond, and $5,000 from Alabama Power.
* Congresswoman Martha Roby reported a $4,000 contribution from Alabama Power on election day, November 4, 2014—five days after the letter was mailed out.
Over $30,000 was used to grease the wheels.
By accepting campaign cash from Balch, Doug Jones essentially has aligned himself with a law firm that tried to cover for industries that poisoned black neighborhoods. Specifically, Jones has aligned himself with a firm that apparently sees no problem with toxins such as arsenic, lead, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like benzo(a)pyrene (a known carcinogen) infiltrating black neighborhoods. This isn't the first time Jones has stabbed his black supporters in the back. He also supported legislation that limited their opportunities to achieve home ownership, according to a report from Michael Harriot at theroot.com. Title of the 2018 article is Doug Jones and the Democratic Party Just Screwed Black Voters ... Again:
My grandmother, a slight woman whose values still trickle down through four generations, and who radiated love and wisdom as if she were our family’s own self-contained solar system, once showed me the scars on her legs from being bitten by a police dog and instructed me to “trust a white man as far as you can throw him.”
While that ancient African proverb now seems like a bit of reverse racism, Alabama’s black voters, in all their egalitarian forgiveness and goodwill, ignored it this past December when they cast their ballots for Doug Jones, sending him to the Senate chambers to represent them.
Sure, he was a white man, they reasoned, but he wasn’t like the others. Even with his problematic campaign, he was one of the good ones. He would remember what black voters did for him. How could he not recognize that the only reason he is now referred to as “Sen. Doug Jones from the state of Alabama” is the black vote? After all, he’s a Democrat. How could he forget who put him there?
In return, Doug Jones and the Democratic Party, once again, have thrown black people to the wolves.
How did Jones and his fellow conservative Dems screw black supporters? Harriot explains:
Politico magazine reports that on Wednesday, the Senate passed a bank-deregulation bill that rolls back many of the regulations imposed on banks and lenders. The bill passed with the support of the Trump administration, Republican senators and 17 Democratic senators—most of whom are considered to be moderate or conservative Dems. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.
For more than a decade I have been trying to push the idea that blackness has evolved past its murky racial and cultural definition. As a college macroeconomics instructor, I taught a class, Race as an Economic Construct, that advocated examining race through the lens of data and numbers. (The science of economics is not limited to the production and distribution of goods, services and wealth.)
One of the easiest ways to illustrate this point is with the history of black home ownership. Home ownership is the biggest builder of wealth in America and is still affected by the history of segregation, Jim Crow and redlining. It fuels every indicator of discrimination in this country and is one of the best examples of the manifestation of white supremacy.
Housing discrimination relegated African Americans to homogeneous, poor black communities with underfunded, segregated schools. Poorer schools create the education gap. The education gap creates employment disparities. Underemployment creates poverty and the phenomenon called “black-on-black crime.” Poverty leads to the inability to acquire affordable housing, which relegates black people to low-income communities, which leads to underfunded schools, which leads to more crime and so on. It is a vicious circle.
How central is this issue to the black experience in America? Harriot explains:
It is all about homeownership.
We have always known this. The Root has routinely reported on the difficulties black people encounter when buying a home. A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, along with Reveal News, uncovered how U.S. banks systematically prevent blacks and Hispanics from becoming homeowners.
JPMorgan Chase paid $55 million in January to settle charges that it discriminated against black and Latino borrowers. In 2011, Bank of America handed over $335 million for making its minority customers pay more than its white customers for the same loans. A federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo alleges that the bank has discriminated against Philadelphia’s black and Latino borrowers since 2004.
It is an indisputable fact that many banks treat their black customers unequally. The only reason we know this is that banks are required to report demographic data on most mortgage loans. That data is publicly available to anyone who wants to look at it.
Among other things, the legislation passed by the Senate on Wednesday strips away for some banks the requirement to report the race, ethnicity and gender of their mortgage customers. Under the new proposal, only the largest banks will have to report demographic data, which means that it will be impossible to find out if the other banks discriminate. If the law passes, these banks will be able to deny black customers without fear of repercussion or lawsuits.
The Democratic Party could have singled out that provision to the public and made a fuss. They could have called it racist (because it is racist), which would have made the legislation lose support. They could easily have refused to vote for this bill unless that specific provision was stripped away.
Sen. Doug Jones from the state of Alabama voted for it.
Michael Harriot was way ahead of the curve on this one, understanding that Doug Jones doesn't give a damn about the black voters who put him in office. By accepting campaign cash from Balch and Bingham, Jones just adds more evidence to the pile.