Bob Davis: My personal plan of attack against PAC
by Bob Davis
Anniston Star Editor
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If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. In fact, if elected, I’ll question the sanity of the voters.

Nevertheless, with the election just around the corner and the lessons of countless editorial meetings with candidates for high office in Alabama, I will proceed with my plan for a better state.

My robust and challenging vision begins on the first day of the 2011 session of the state Legislature. It concludes when my four-year term ends or when someone realizes a journalist has no business running a state, whichever comes first.

Here are my proposals.

Ethics: Very few will admit they are against them. The trick is getting past the shell game where pending legislation gets lost on a high shelf in Montgomery until someone on Goat Hill sighs, Oops, did the session end before we could pass ethics reform?

There’ll be none of that in my administration. We’ll tackle this on Day 1, even if we have to keep going into Day 2.

Of course, we’ll ban the legal money laundering known as PAC-to-PAC transfers. Only one place should be famous for hiding suspicious money, and offshore banks in the Caribbean were there first.

Next we’ll give the Ethics Commission more power and money to enforce the new rules. No need keeping our watchdog chained to the porch.

We’d also upgrade the campaign-finance reporting website so that it is more easily searchable and so that reports are uploaded in nearly real-time.

Those ideas have been around for plenty of sessions, and have pretty much gone nowhere. Maybe our problem is something other than simply advocating good ideas whose time has come.

We’ll take a lesson from Washington politics. The way to get something passed quickly is to attach a nifty label to it, such as the USA Patriot Act (or as some know it, the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001”).

We could call ethics reform the “Bingo, That Was a Goodie” Act. Or the “Let’s Clean Up Our Act Before We Turn Into Louisiana” Act. Or the “No More Indictments” Act. Or we could appeal to that old standby, economic self-interest, with the “Corruption Is No Way to Recruit Economic Development” Act.

Well, with that completed on the first day of the session, we can turn to other business.

The lottery and gambling have been big topics this season, at least from the Ron Sparks campaign.

If it sounds familiar, it should. Don Siegelman built his 1998 campaign around creating an Alabama lottery to fund schools. That effort was defeated by Alabama voters, thanks in part to Mississippi Indian casino money secretly funneled to gambling foes in Alabama.

With fresh scandal in the form of the federal prosecution of 11 Montgomery players accused in a vote-buying-for-bingo scheme, the chances of legalizing more gambling in Alabama seem slim. That probably includes passing a lottery amendment.

Here’s a baby step in that direction that might just work. Turn every ABC State Store, a ka Alabama alcohol outlets, into a place to purchase tickets from the three neighboring states with lotteries — Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. Think of it like off-track betting, where gamblers can wager on horse races without the odor of a place where horse manure is a fact of life.

Naturally, the state would collect a handsome surcharge from ticket-buyers for the convenience of not having to drive across a state line to purchase a lottery ticket. Under the plan, the extra proceeds would go directly to the Education Trust Fund. It’s not the $300 million Sparks expects from an Alabama lottery, but it’s a start.

With two super-productive legislative days under our belt, we turn to a blockbuster Day 3.

The “Money Where Our Mouth Is” Act has the potential to permanently change Alabama rhetoric and Alabama policy. Here’s the setup. Alabama politicians love to tout small government and low taxes. The “proud Alabama conservatives” coalition rides into office promising less.

Then in office they act differently. They preside over a state that receives more than $1.60 from the federal government for every $1 it pays in federal taxes.

They enjoy the countless benefits of big government that flow into Huntsville’s growing military presence, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s remarkable medical research facilities and other colleges and universities, McClellan’s Homeland Security operations and countless military posts across the state like the Anniston Army Depot.

Did we mention 60 cents on every dollar spent on Alabama’s roads and bridges comes from the federal government?

That ain’t small government; it’s big government with other people’s money. Alabamians can abide quite a lot, but we don’t take kindly to hypocrisy.

So, the “Money Where Our Mouth Is” Act (the MWOMI Act, for short) offers the state a proposition:

Keep the bounty and own up to what we are.

Or give back the federal bucks and do one of two things: (1.) Forgo the prosperity coming from other people’s taxes, or, (2.) pay our own way by raising Alabama taxes to create our own prosperity.

Both Ron Sparks and Robert Bentley acknowledge the need for money to run state government. The former wants a lottery and other gambling, which are sort of self-taxes. The latter says more money can be gained by cutting waste, fraud and abuse, though he has been short on specifics thus far.

Both, however, agree on the need for greater ethics reform. Maybe we could combine Days 1 and 3 and levy an 80 percent tax on PAC-to-PAC transfers? We could call it the “PAC Tax,” the “Paying for Alabama Corruption Tax.”

Bob Davis is editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at (256) 235-3540 or . You can follow him on Twitter at: twitter.com/EditorBobDavis.
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