A Sudden Fall From Grace

By now, most folks in Alabama know that Secretary of State John Merrill’s future in politics crashed and burned this week when he admitted that he had had a three-year extramarital affair.

None of us are such prudes as to think such things never happen.  But most are not nearly so public and the person vehemently denying having one is an elected official.

Merrill was once considered by many to be a rising star in state politics.  A graduate of the University of Alabama and SGA president while there, Merrill was elected to the state house of representatives from Tuscaloosa in 2010 and then Secretary of State in 2014.

Everyone knew he had ambitions for higher office.  In fact, not long after becoming Secretary of State to told some folks that his name was being floated as a potential gubernatorial candidate.  And he launched a bid for Jeff Sessions’ senate seat in 2019.. But this was soon aborted.

He also ran into hot water in 2015 when his name surfaced in a divorce deposition when the wife of a friend of his said she and Merrill had an affair. Merrill’s denials stretched credibility in light of the deposition.  A longtime attorney friend of mine has read the deposition and says it is very damning.

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back came to light this week.  On Tuesday, someone on social media mentioned his most recent liaison.  Merrill again went on the defensive, claiming the woman in question had been stalking him for a long time and they had not had a relationship..

Then the other shoe dropped on Wednesday when a taped telephone conversation between Merrill and the lady turned up.  It was  graphic and there was no denying Merrill was part of the conversation  At some point AL.com called Merrill and he immediately went into his denial routine.  Then they played him part of the tape.

At that point it was game over for the Secretary of State, who planned to run for Richard Shelby’s open senate seat in 2022.  He told AL.com that he would not run for the senate, or any other office, next year.  (The Secretary of State is term limited to only two terms.  Merrill is in his second term.)

Merrill is a tall, good-looking man and a tireless campaigner.  He is as good on the stump as anyone.

However, the fact that he has now been proven a hypocrite will follow him a very long time.  Merrill loved to sprinkle religious overtones in his speeches.  For instance, he told audiences that we no longer have any “morally uplifting” TV shows.  That we no longer have shows based on “biblical foundations.”  That people were too interested in things like “wife swap shows,”

The irony that he was ignoring the commandment about “thou shalt not commit adultery” is obvious.

And when you have someone who is proven to be a liar, cheat and hypocrite you certainly don’t see someone who should be trusted in any elected office.

(Though I must add, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that such qualities seem to be tolerated in Washington these days.)

Josh Moon Takes Del Marsh To The Woodshed

Editor’s note: John Moon of the Alabama Political Reporter, is one of the handful of investigative reporters left in Alabama.  As such he is used to taking politicians to task.  He recently took aim at Senator Del Marsh, a frequent opponent of public schools. for a bill he is proposing. Here are excerpts from his article:

“The bill, sponsored by Del Marsh, is the latest in a long line that takes from public schools and students that can least afford it.”

Somehow, State Senator Del Marsh managed to do worse. Yes, it was bad enough that Marsh brought to committee on Tuesday a bill that specifically allows public schools to deny entry to children with special needs — an abhorrent proposal and one specifically deemed illegal by federal law. And one the Republican-led committee passed in a 7-3 vote.

But despite the awfulness of such a proposal, that wasn’t the worst of Marsh’s time before the committee on Tuesday morning.

No, the worst of it was when Marsh, the biggest crutch for the Alabama Accountability Act, stood before the committee — while being questioned about his bill by Sen. Vivian Figures — and said that he was greatly troubled by Alabama’s current school funding structure and that he would love to see more money go to struggling schools.

“…. no one has done more to take funding from struggling schools over the past decade than Marsh.

Marsh was the primary sponsor of the 2013 Alabama Accountability Act, and he has been the sponsor of numerous “improvement” bills related to the Act. If you’re unfamiliar, the AAA was illegally passed and serves as a way to divert tax dollars that would ordinarily go to public schools and instead sends them to private, for-profit schools.

It does absolutely nothing to aid “failing schools” — most of which are located in economically depressed areas — but instead purposefully sucks money and students away from those schools and gives them to private schools.

He’s proposed legislation that has asked for more money for the AAA on at least two occasions. This despite the per-pupil allocation under the Act being higher for students attending private schools than it is for the students who remain enrolled in their zoned public schools.

Marsh also has asked for more money for the charters, proposing in 2019 that some local tax dollars also follow students to the charter schools.

Marsh is now back proposing yet another escape hatch. And of course, he’s also proposing a means to keep more vulnerable students — learning disabled kids this time — from clogging up the hatch. 

All of that is bad, of course. But it pales in comparison to the fact that it’s being proposed even while Marsh — and many, many others — knows where the real problem lies.” 

You can see the entire article here.

Matt Gaetz Can’t Keep His Mouth Shut

We have all heard it said that when you are in a hole, you should stop digging.

That is, except Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz.who is being investigated by the Justice Department for sex trafficking, among other things.

Now he has written an op-ed for the Washington Examiner declaring his innocence and how he is a target of “the Washington swamp” that wants to silence his on-going battle against the political left.  He claims all allegations are just made up and that the Biden Justice Department is trying to get him.

Interestingly, he fails to mention that this investigation was begun by President Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr.  And to hear him claim that people are telling falsehoods about him is the pot calling the kettle black.  In spite of no evidence to support his claim, Donald Trump continues to claim that he only lost last November’s election because of massive vote fraud in many states.  Of course, no one has been a bigger proponent of this lie than Matt Gaetz.

Person after person believe Gaetz is in serious hot water, including former Republicans who served with him in the house.  It is now known that AG Barr told his staff to not schedule him to appear anywhere Gaetz was expected to be because he didn’t want his picture made with him.  And at least one incumbent congressman’s staff has said their boss refused to be any place Gaetz was..

So when Gaetz talks about the swamp, he is apparently talking about many Republicans.  At one time you could hardly turn on Fox News without seeing Gaetz.  Now he is seldom mentioned by them.

And Gaetz’ incessant efforts at continuing to be in the limelight are doing nothing but reminding friend (if he has any) and foe alike of the investigation.

Which reminds me of something else we’ve all heard, something about chickens going to roost.  If you listen carefully, you may hear some of them cackling.

For more on this mess, go here.

Will Space Command End Up In Huntsville?

There was great rejoicing around the state when it was announced in January that the U.S. Space Command would be relocating from Colorado to Huntsville.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command,” Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. said.

“Our state has long provided exceptional support for our military and their families as well as a rich and storied history when it comes to space exploration,” she said.

Of course there was pushback from Colorado at the decision.  And now Colorado is gaining support from some senators in other states.  Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla of California, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico recently signed a letter to the Pentagon objection to the decision.  All are democrats.

Naturally, politics is involved.  EVERYTHING in Washington is political.

Many contend that this move would not have happened if President Trump hadn’t have put his finger on the scales after he lost Colorado to Joe Biden, while handily winning Alabama

But the landscape has totally changed in Washington with the election of Biden as president and democrats having more congressional clout than before.

Alabama has two senators and seven congressional seats.  All but one of these, Terri Sewell of Selma, are Republicans.  And the eight Republicans consistently oppose anything the Biden administration proposes.

Not only that, but congressman Mo Brooks of Huntsville is running for the U.S. Senate in 2022 and goes out of his way to denounce the new administration as he tries to stir up Trump supporters around the state.

Given this situation, it’s safe to say that this decision on relocating this command, is not etched in stone–especially with Brooks constantly running his mouth.

I hope Alabama gets this significant investment in Huntsville.

However, I would also suggest that some of our congressional delegation remember that is not safe to bite the hand that feeds you, especially in the political world.

 

More On Matt Gaetz Investigation

Editor’s note:  Our last post discussed the Justice Department investigation of Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida.   Gaetz is one of the more bombastic folks in Washington and seems to go out of his way to anger others.  No doubt this is why reporters are working overtime on this story.  For instance, The New York Times  is now reporting that Gaetz and a political friend, Joel Greenberg, were apparently involved with multiple women who were recruited online for sex in exchange for cash.  Greenberg has been indicted and is in jail awaiting trial in June.

The Times has reviewed financial records that show Gaetz made payments to a woman, who told her friends the money was for sex.

The following article from NBC does an outstanding job of outlining the entire satiation.  Here is the entire story::.

“Matt Gaetz has always been open that he didn’t go to Washington to make friends.

But after news broke that the FBI is investigating the Florida Republican for potential sex trafficking, Gaetz found few people willing to defend him or lend credence to his claim that he’s done nothing wrong but instead is being extorted and smeared.

Instead of circling the wagons and reflexively declaring “fake news” about the investigation, first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by NBC News, Republican leaders and opinion-makers are mostly staying quiet or letting Gaetz, a strong ally of former President Donald Trump, flap in the breeze.

During an interview Tuesday night in which the congressman denied any relationship with a 17-year-old woman, Fox News host Tucker Carlson wore an incredulous expression.

“That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,” Carlson later said. “I don’t think that clarified much.”

Trump has so far not spoken up and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was traveling in Iowa on Wednesday, told NBC News that he was “surprised” he hadn’t been able to reach Gaetz yet and that the allegations were “serious.”

“If a member at my conference gets indicted, they will get removed from a committee,” McCarthy said. “He says this is not true. And we have a newspaper report that says something else. We’ll find out.”

The most vocal defense has come from the likes of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a former wrestling coach who has faced his own allegations of ignoring sexual misconduct by a doctor who treated student-athletes, which Jordan has denied.

Despite his high profile among the conservative grassroots, Gaetz has few friends on Capitol Hill, according to multiple Republican aides and operatives.

His relentless self-promoting and near-daily appearance on Fox News stand out, even by the standards of Congress, where a generous ego and a hunger for the spotlight are practically job requirements.

He proudly criticized some of his own Republican colleagues, accusing them of weakness and selling out the conservative cause.

“When I first got to Washington, the party leaders said ‘Gaetz, it seems to us you’re not really a team player,’ and I said ‘I am, but you’re not my team,'” he told a crowd in his district this week, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Gaetz’ relationship with his party’s leadership has been especially strained since he flew to Wyoming to lambast Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, in her home state over her vote to impeach Trump.

One former Trump campaign aide, who said Gaetz seems more interested in generating social media buzz than advancing conservative issues, said he frequently winced when the former president praised Gaetz.

Trump repeatedly lauded the “handsome” and “fantastic” Gaetz, who relished his role as Trump’s man on Capitol Hill and gatekeeper for people seeking favors. “I only regret that I have but one political career to give to my president,” Gaetz said last month.

Gaetz is the son of a wealthy Florida GOP powerbroker, former state Senate President Don Gaetz, who helped support and bankroll his son’s political career and is now corroborating his son’s claim that the elder Gaetz wore a wire at the behest of the FBI to foil the alleged extortion plot. The FBI has declined to comment.

“There was always that group of four or five male Republican members of Congress who would hang out late at the Capitol Hill Club and carouse and get into trouble. And I think everyone expected Matt would go in that trajectory,” said former Rep. David Jolly of Florida, who has since left the GOP and become a Trump critic.

The Capitol Hill Club, founded 70 years ago by a former Republican congressman, is the unofficial-official watering hole of Republican members of Congress, government officials and lobbyists.

“He kind of walked into that House seat. And that was just lighting a match to a personality that was looking for a fire,” Jolly added. “Anybody who knew Matt knew that eventually he would find controversy or controversy would find him.”

Gaetz has answered charges of impropriety before, including an accusation by a Florida legislator that he created a game in which young lawmakers scored points for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists and other legislators. He denied the accusation.

Gaetz has spoken publicly about several ex-girlfriends, including the sister of a young man whom he has come to see as his son.

The 38-year-old lawmaker got engaged in December to a 26-year-old food industry analyst at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club in Florida where the former president now lives. “He’s giving up the single life!” exclaimed Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who happened to be in attendance.

A skilled debater with an instinct for what enrages the left and delights the right, Gaetz has a knack for chasing viral news moments.

He wore a gas mask on the House floor in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. He barged into a secure room to disrupt the House Intelligence Committee’s work on Trump’s first impeachment. And he tried to get Britney Spears to testify before Congress on her conservatorship.

Controversy sells. Gaetz raised nearly $6 million in 2020, even though he faced only token opposition in re-election to his third term, and almost two-thirds of his haul came from small, grassroots contributions.

Gaetz was one of the few lawmakers in either party to defend former Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., after leaked nude photos showed her relationship with a campaign staffer.

Hill returned the favor when Gaetz faced questions about his adoptive “son,” saying on Twitter, “I can’t stand a lot of his beliefs but he’s been there for me when others haven’t.”

But the latest allegations were a bridge too far for Hill. “A 17 year old girl is a girl, not a woman. Statutory rape is rape, not anything else,” she tweeted.”

Congressman Matt Gaetz Under Investigation

There seems to always be a handful of Washington politicians who I refer to as “peacocks.”  This is because while they strut and show their flashy feathers–they do little else.  Their primary motivation is to bring attention to themselves.  They never meet a TV camera or reporter they don’t like.

Matt Gaetz, who represents a big chuck of the Florida panhandle, is probably Washington’s number one peacock these days  He is loud and bombastic and on Fox News frequently.

However, he has lost some of the sheen from his feathers in the last couple of days as a number of news sources have revealed that he is under investigation by the Justice Department as to whether he had sexual relations with a 17-yer-old girl and paid for her to travel with him.

Gaetz is a Republican and one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters.  He has strongly supported Trump’s contention that last year’s election was stolen from him.

Rep. Liz Chaney of Wyoming is one of the Republican leaders in the House.  She voted in favor of impeaching Trump.  Seeing a chance to make headlines, Gaetz went to Wyoming to hold a rally against Chaney.  I saw some of this event where Gaetz told the crowd that while he had been in Wyoming only an hour, he knew more about the state than Chaney did.

It is of particular interest that this investigation began while Bill Barr, Trump’s Attorney General, was at Justice.

The Gaetz investigation is linked to an investigation of Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Florida.  Gaetz and Greenburg are friends.  Greenburg was indicted last June on several charges, one being sex trafficking. He resigned his office the next day.

Gaetz has denied the allegations and claims they are tied to a scheme to extort $25 million from his family.  He says that the extortion effort is led by Pensacola attorney David McGee, an associate of Beggs & Lane.  Gaetz implies that McGee is a former DOJ employee.

Beggs & Lane released a statement saying the Gaetz allegation is both “false and defamatory.”  It has also been pointed out that McGee worked for DOJ 25 years ago.

Apparently Gaetz is about to find out how few friends he actually has in Washington   In fact, according to Business Insider, a former Trump White House aide told them, “Good riddance.  It sounds like he let whatever BS power he thought he had go to his head and he thought himself above the law.”

Gaetz went on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News in an effort to defend himself.  Carlson called it, “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

But wait.  It gets even more weird as Gaetz is dropping hints to associates that he has been talking to major cable news channels about leaving congress and going with them.  He says he has had discussions with Newsmax, OAN, Fox Business, Real America’s Voice and others.

But Fox News released a statement to the Daily Beast stating, “No one with any level of authority has had conversation with Matt Gaetz for any of our platforms and we have no interest in hiring him.”

It sounds like this is one peacock who may get his comeuppance and that not many folks in Washington will weep..