There was a time not so long ago when the Alabama Republican party could not mention the Democratic party without also mentioning the Alabama Education Association AND trial lawyers. If a Democrat was being vilified, so was AEA and trial lawyers.
Then something strange happened. Almost overnight the Republicans stopped cussing trial lawyers. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. All you had to do was look at the campaign financial disclosure paperwork of Republican candidates. As if by magic, they discovered that campaign contributions coming from trial attorneys were as green as dollars coming from the Business Council of Alabama.
And lo and behold, folks like me who look at campaign contributions found lots and lots of dollars coming from a political action committee by the name of Trust Representing Involved Alabama Lawyers (TRIAL) on Republican financial records.
From the looks of campaign donations in this year’s cycle, one has to expect that Republicans will soon stop speaking ill of the Alabama Education Association. And they have 1.1 million reasons to do so. Because since the first of the year, 75 Republican legislative candidates took $1.1 million from AEA.
Of these, 19 were incumbent senators or candidates seeking to be elected to the senate as a Republican. And 56 were incumbent House members are wannabes. AEA picked those it supported well as only six of the 75 candidates they supported lost.
On the Senate side, my friend Chris Elliott, Republican in Baldwin County who was elected to succeed Trip Pittman got more than anyone else, $55,000. Next came Republican Tom Whatley of Auburn with $42,500.
Incumbent Republican House member Dickie Drake of St. Clair county won the sweepstakes for State Representative with $37,555. He was followed by incumbent Republican Chris Sells of Greenville with $27,500.
The irony of all this is hardly lost on me because when I ran as a Republican last spring for the Montgomery school board, I was attacked for once having a contract with AEA. (I also had contracts with the School Superintendents Association and the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools at one time but those opposing me never mentioned that.)
So while mailboxes across my district were filled with fliers saying: “Larry Lee is a lackey for the AEA.” Republican legislative candidates were filling their war chests with AEA contributions.
But as we’ve just seen nationally, politics is often not what some would have us believe.
And when you couple this development with the fact 30 percent of the Alabama Senate and 25 percent of the House will be first time members in 2019, the dynamics of legislation may be very different than in the recent past.