Why is Jeremy Oden the Alabama Republican Party Nominee for PSC Place 1? by Taxpayer Tom Scovill

I guess when you took a ton of money from Drummond Company while their vice president was being convicted of bribing former state representative Oliver Robinson in an attempt to avoid paying for pollution cleanup in Jefferson County, and while you were busy convincing your investors to dump half of a million dollars into your campaign, and while you were getting ready to convince the leadership of the ALGOP to not count the votes of your underfunded opponent, it might be easy to overlook some of the requirements of Alabama law with which ordinary candidates have to comply.

In this case it is a piece of the code of ethics, Section 36-25-15. It states,

… 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 and the candidate shall be deemed not qualified as a candidate in that election … If a candidate is deemed not qualified, the appropriate election official shall remove the name of the candidate from the ballot.

Because an important American political principle is transparency in government, 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. 

The timing requirement is laid out in 36-25-15,

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 …

Incumbent Public Service Commissioner Oden applied to be on the Alabama Republican ballot on January 8, 2018. He should have filed his SEI for calendar year 2017 with the State Ethics Commission at that time. Oden did not file until May 4, a point well past the April 30 deadline for elected officials when they are not involved in an election.

Now it may be that Oden was led astray by guidance from the executive director of the state ethics commission, Thomas Albritton. He claims the law does not really mean what it says and that incumbents, unlike ordinary candidates, can wait until April 30 after the ballots for the primary election have been printed.

Albritton wrote in January,

… We have consistently told incumbents at all levels of government (in writing) that if you filed a correct SEI by April 30, 2017 it is current until May 1, 2018. No need to file a new one yet. When we made this decision months ago, I confirmed with the SOS’s office that they, likewise, were in agreement with this approach just so that this type of confusion would not exist …

While he is likely not capable of turning water into wine, he has proven to be capable of turning the law into mush.

Oden is an example of why this matters. Incumbents get to wait to do their SEI’s after the primary ballot is printed. This is not fair play. It is also a problem for  enforcement.

Oden did not even comply with Albritton’s ill-considered guidance. And not having done as the law demands, Oden is “deemed not qualified” and “the appropriate election official shall remove the name of the candidate from the ballot.”

It seems a bit late for that, but maybe our secretary of state and ALGOP chairman can figure it out. Or maybe the Republican zeal for ethics has cooled since the issue swept them into office in 2010. Convicted scofflaws like Greg Wren, Mike Hubbard, Robert Bentley, and Micky Hammon can do that to a party.

And it’s not like the problem is limited to Jeremy Oden. Of nine GOP nominees for state-wide non judicial offices, only Rick Pate and Chip Beeker filed an SEI when they applied for ballot access. And a good many nominees for the legislature are scoffing at the law as well.

In closing, please excuse me for not being the cheerleader that some in my party want me to be.

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