The Alabama Ethics Commission Is a Snake in the Grass by Taxpayer Tom Scovill

This reminds me of the politician who will not step on a snake.

The rule of law and equal protection under it are principles that have made America great and distinguish our country from banana republics and dictatorships. Implementing these principles has not been easy and on occasion has required extraordinary measures such as the 14th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to preserve them.

Another important American political principle is transparency in government. That is why Alabama government requires political candidates at the time they apply to access a ballot for election to file a Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) to reveal to voters their income, assets, and liabilities so that we might discern the potential for conflicts of roles and conflicts of interests. The principle is promoted by sections 36-25-14 and 36-25-15 of the Code of Alabama which includes this provision,

Candidates at every level of government shall file a completed statement of economic interests for the previous calendar year with the State Ethics Commission simultaneously with the date such candidate files his or her qualifying papers with the appropriate election official …

And,

… if a candidate does not submit a statement of economic interests … in accordance with the requirements of this chapter, the name of the person shall not appear on the ballot …

The law is enforced from time to time by the Alabama Ethics Commission. For example, two candidates in Huntsville, Les Tillery and Beason Fordham, will not be on the August 28 city ballot because they had not submitted an SEI for 2017 at the time of their application. The Ethics Commission was quite stern and did not even allow them the five days of grace the law gives them the discretion of granting.

But enforcement of the law is spotty. For example, even though Governor Kay Ivey did not submit her SEI for 2017 until April 18, more than three months after she applied on January 8 to be on the Republican primary ballot. Ivey got more than three months of grace and Republicans got to see her name on the June 5 ballot.

Apologists for the Ethics Commission say that incumbents like Governor Ivey are required by law to submit an SEI annually before April 30 and that this deadline exempts them from having to submit it if they apply for ballot access earlier in the year, but there is nothing in the law that provides for this privilege. By the law, an incumbent candidate need file only one SEI per year and it is triggered by whichever event occurs first – applying to be on the ballot or the April 30 annual deadline.

In acting beyond the law, the Alabama Ethics Commission is like a snake in the grass biting the wee ones and ignoring the larger beasts who return the professional courtesy of not stepping on it.

I have not checked for Democrats, but in 2018 there were a great many Republicans who won primaries when they should not have been on the ballot. This is fraudulent and corrupt. If the Alabama Republican Party and its elected officials ignore the problem then I am ready to ignore them in November.

The rule of law and equal protection matter to me. Do they to you?

References:

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/CodeOfAlabama/1975/Coatoc.htm

http://ethics.alabama.gov/docs/SOEI/Candidate-Information.pdf

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