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Daily News Digest – December 20, 2018

Good morning! This rain… boy, I don’t know.

Here’s your Daily News for Thursday, December 20.


1. Government is funded… almost

  • Late last night the Senate passed a continuing resolutionkeeping afloat at current levels the fourth of the government that wasn’t already fully funded.
  • The House can pass it today or tomorrow to avoid a partial shutdown.
  • Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but (1)many members haven’t returned to Washington for various reasons, (2) some Republicans want to keep fighting for wall money, and (3) Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie is forcing a bunch of laborious roll call votes. Could be a fun day in the House!
  • Bottom line: there is no deal to fund a border wall, and the can has been effectively kicked into next year. The CR lasts through Feb. 8.
  • Some of President Trump’s most ardent supporters are frustrated by him seemingly giving in on wall funding. Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows said the base “will just go crazy” if he signs a bill without wall funding. Kellyanne Conway took tough questions about “softening” positions from the usually-reliable Fox & Friends crew.
  • At the same time, some lawmakers aren’t loving how one $5 billion bucket of money has shut down the appropriations process. That’s understandable, especially seeing as how Mexico was always supposed to pay for all this, right?
  • Read more HERE.


2. Making sense of the Ethics decision.

What Happened
  • On Wednesday, the Alabama Ethics Commission voted to dismiss a complaint by Troy King that Attorney General Steve Marshall violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act by accepting campaign contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).
  • King argued that RAGA accepts money from other political action committees (PACs) and that, since Alabama law bans PAC-to-PAC transfers, Marshall couldn’t accept the donations.
  • At issue is whether a state ban on PAC to PAC transfers applies to a federal PAC like RAGA.
  • A guidance memo on the Secretary of State’s website says no, it doesn’t. Literally, it reads “Federal PACs are not subject to the Fair Campaign Practices Act.”
  • Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton disagrees with that interpretation. He says that the law’s mention of “out-of-state” committees means the PAC-to-PAC ban should apply to federal PACs. He began making this case publicly earlier this year.
This gets complicated…
  • State law requires the Ethics Commission to “Approve a manual for all candidates, principal campaign committees, and political action committees, describing the requirements of the Fair Campaign Practices Act that shall be published by the Secretary of State.”
  • Secretary of State John Merrill told me the guidance memo has been in place for years. He wasn’t sure if there was ever a formal vote to approve the memo, but it has been in the PAC filing for as long as there has been anything to review.
  • Albritton told me he and the Ethics Commission never approved that guidance memo on the Secretary of State’s website.
  • Yet, he didn’t say the memo was wrong, only that the language applies to registering and reporting requirements, not the PAC-to-PAC ban.
  • Confused yet? You’re not the only one.
Why it Matters
  • There’s a reason a lot of people were watching this case.
  • The Ethics Commission was ultimately voting on whether or not to refer this complaint to a prosecutor.
  • In other words, had they voted differently, a district attorney could have charged AG Marshall with a crime.
  • Thing is, many Alabama candidates have accepted donations from federal PACs just like Marshall did for years. The sheer amount RAGA contributed stands out, but donations are donations.
  • So yeah, people were watching.
Confusion, uncertainty, disagreement
  • The state’s top election official has a public guidance form saying Federal PACs aren’t subject to Alabama law, the state’s top Ethics administrator says that’s incorrect and the form is irrelevant, and, even though the law says the two entities are supposed to coordinate on these things for public consumption, they apparently haven’t.
  • This confusion/uncertainty/disagreement was also private until pretty recently.
  • The Ethics Commission seems to have said this: When the law isn’t clear, we should clarify the law. We don’t go charge people with crimes and ask a jury to.
  • That’s reasonable. It’s also something to keep in mind today while the usual suspects try to tell us the sky is falling.


3. Dems “experiment” with Russian tactics in Jones/Moore race.

  • A fascinating article by New York Times reporters Alan Blinder and Scott Shane details how Democratic operatives working to elect Sen. Doug Jones attempted to replicate the same deceptive tactics used by the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential contest.
  • In fact, Jonathon Morgan, the same guy who prepared an intelligence report for Congress on Russian social media efforts, was involved in the Alabama “experiment,” they report.
  • [Morgan says his involvement was just for research. Purely academic, you understand.]
  • The effort sought to “enrage and energize Democrats” and “depress turnout” among Republicans through fake social media pages and what amounts to trolling of unsuspecting voters and encourage write-in campaigns.
  • The whole thing cost only $100,000 – a drop in the bucket of a $50 million race.
  • It is seen perhaps more as a warning of things to come, as clever and craven political animals take advantage of a less and less discerning public.
  • Maybe we should all delete our facebook pages.
  • Read the whole thing HERE.


4. State growth stagnant.

  • Alabama’s population growth ain’t great.
  • The state grew by about 12,751 people this past year. As Brian Lyman cleverly notes, that’s almost enough to fill up half of Cramton Bowl.
  • That said, we aren’t losing population like some other states are. Still, a growing population is key to economic and political success.
  • Brian digs into the latest Census Bureau estimates to find some reasons as to why this is the case. Hints: births, deaths, and migration.
  • Read his full story for the Advertiser HERE.



5. Skip Tucker: What the Dickens is Christmas anyway?

Christmas – the Christmas we enjoy today, especially if we own a business – was established in Germany ages ago, took root in Victoria’s England where- she made sure it was no longer Secret. She adopted the Germanic tradition of a Christmas Tree.
Then it took wonderful wild flight through the genius of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol. He created it to be a time of goodwill, and his Scrooge became a generic term for miser in the English language.
Few today read the original. There are many good movies of it, faithfully redone. Those who haven’t read the friendly little ghost story are missing a treat. It’s less than 30,000 words.
There were Christmas Carols, of course, of everlasting music and words. Dickens made them real, as real as Santa who is, after all, what one makes of him.
“Kindness and forbearance,” qualities the Ghost of Christmas Past chides Ebenezer Scrooge to embrace. Goodwill.
  • Read Skip’s full column HERE.


Bonus: A special honor

  • President Donald Trump has appointed Dr. Annette Shelby, wife of Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, to serve on the Kennedy Center Advisory Committee.
  • Committee members act as ambassadors to their home states on behalf of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and its national education and outreach programs.
  • This is a very special honor, and Dr. Shelby is known for pouring herself into causes she supports.
  • Sen. Shelby said he was excited for his wife and remarked about her qualifications for the post.
  • “I am very proud of my wife, Annette, for her nomination today by President Trump to be a member of the Kennedy Center Advisory Committee,” he said.
  • “She spent her career as an academic, teaching at both the University of Alabama and Georgetown University for more than 30 years. Annette has been widely recognized for her distinguished career of teaching, research, and service. She has worked diligently to earn this honor.”
  • Read more in Caroline Beck’s writeup HERE.
  • Congrats, Dr. Shelby!


News Briefs.

We’re pulling out of Syria
  • President Trump announced Wednesday he is pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria. The reason? We’ve defeated ISIS and our troops need to come home.
  • The move “blindsided” many, including many Trump backers on Capitol Hill. It seems to have gone against his own experts assessments and advice.
  • As recently as August, the Pentagon estimated there were still at least 14,500 ISIS soldiers in Syria.
  • Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two weeks ago said the U.S. still has a long way to go in training local Syrian forces to prevent a resurgence of ISIS and stabilize the country.
  • John Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, said in September that the U.S. would keep a military presence in Syria as long as Iran was active there. “We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias.”
  • This morning the president is defending his decision on Twitter saying “Russia, Iran & Syria are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the FAKE NEWS says.”
  • Full story HERE.
Prisons get grant money
  • Alabama prisons are getting some extra money to spend on improving security.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced that a new $64,000 federal will help the Department of Corrections buy new equipment and conduct additional training.
  • Some of the money will go toward protective gear that correctional officers can use when handling dangerous narcotics.
  • Grant funds also will be used to train two investigators in retrieving data from cellphones, which can provide evidence during investigations. Rules bar inmates from having phones behind bars, and the presence of the devices inside prisons has become a problem for authorities.
  • The system will also purchase additional surveillance equipment.
  • Alabama prison officials are devoting additional resources to security to both prevent crimes inside prisons and reduce corruption.
USDA moves Food Stamp work requirements
  • The Trump administration is setting out to do what this year’s farm bill didn’t: tighten work requirements for millions of Americans who receive federal food assistance.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday is proposing a rule that would restrict the ability of states to exempt work-eligible adults from having to obtain steady employment or participate in job training to receive food stamps.
  • Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their SNAP benefits. The House bill would have raised the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and required parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training.
  • The work requirements were championed by Alabama’s Rep. Mike Rogers, but ultimately did not make it into the final version of the Farm Bill.
  • The bill passed with assurances from the White House that executive action would be taken to implement the food stamp work requirements.
  • Read more HERE.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Dr. Annette Shelby Appointed to Kennedy Center Advisory Board
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Skip Tucker: What the Dickens is Christmas Anyway?
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama fans embrace Jalen Hurts from field to stage
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – USDA move to tighten restrictions on food stamps
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Senate approves bill to keep government running into 2019
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump pulling all US troops from Syria, declaring IS defeat
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Federal grant to add security steps in Alabama prisons
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Activists focusing on Alabama officials after mall shooting
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – December 19, 2018
AL.COM – Ethics Commission finds Steve Marshall did not violate law; Troy King filed complaint
AL.COM – Corps move seen as ‘positive step’ for Dauphin Island
AL.COM – Sen. Doug Jones asks Betsy DeVos to extend grace period for Virginia College students
AL.COM – Mall shooting protests could resume, expand if demands not met, organizers say
AL.COM – LibertyFi reaches $3 billion in assets within first year
AL.COM – University of Alabama recognized as elite research school
AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire:  All I want for Christmas is an electoral system that works
AL.COM – Alabama’s biggest political stories of 2018
AL.COM – Contributor Mary Walker:  EPA seeks clarity on Clean Water Act for farmers, landowners and states
AL.COM – Alabama family hopes to recover cremated remains stolen in Las Vegas
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Man dies in Wednesday shooting
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Twitter erupts after mysterious light seen in evening sky over Northern California
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Montgomery Catholic runner Amaris Tyynismaa touts perseverance
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Alabama population growth stagnant amid high mortality rate
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Contributor Rev. H.K. Matthews:  Don’t take power away from low-income parents
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Ethics complaint against Steve Marshall tossed out
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Annette Shelby to be appointed to Kennedy Center advisory committee
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Man with autism dead after climbing Alabama ship’s deck rail, going overboard
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – The Trump, GOP collapse on the wall is a perfect ending to 2018 for Republican voters
DOTHAN EAGLE – Judge suspends court proceedings for Daleville man charged in shooting death of brother pending competency
DOTHAN EAGLE – MidSouth Bank to construct new two-story operations center on West Main Street
DOTHAN EAGLE – AACFCU Awards $100,000 Grant to The Ark Dothan
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Saban a finalist for Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Cruise line: Missing autistic man went overboard
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Tuscaloosa man accused in sexual assault of 12-year-old
DECATUR DAILY – Sheriff: 5 charged in Limestone theft ring
DECATUR DAILY – Decatur students read 486 million words in a semester
DECATUR DAILY – Mom faces drug charges unrelated to daughter’s Thanksgiving death
TIMES DAILY – Ex-UNA student: Title IX probe was handled correctly
TIMES DAILY – Plan offers reduced costs for nursing students
TIMES DAILY – Commission OKs Colbert County Jail painting project
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – County teams remain ranked in newest ASWA basketball poll
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Opp BOE hires employees, OKs buying computers
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – SBI investigating Sunday death of Kinston teen of
TROY MESSENGER – Team USA taking responsibility for Davenport payment
TROY MESSENGER – Brundidge City Council tables splash pad request
TROY MESSENGER – HONORED: Green celebrated at retirement ceremony
THE ANNISTON STAR – Council appoints mayor, city manager to negotiate with GSA on courthouse
THE ANNISTON STAR – Jailer charged, fired over tobacco smuggling
THE ANNISTON STAR – Anniston mother graduates with second degree, despite rough youth
GADSDEN TIMES – Centre death caused by self-inflicted gunshot
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Father of Jakell Mitchell charged on drug trafficking offense
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Columbus man charged Wednesday after police pursuit, fiery crash
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – ‘Money’ magazine names Auburn best place to live in Alabama
CULLMAN TIMES – (Update) Man in custody after fatal wreck has 11 DUI charges, attempted murder in 2016
CULLMAN TIMES – Santa making early visit to Cullman this week
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Chelsea Middle School helping to preserve city’s history
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Where to dispose of holiday trash, live Christmas trees in Helena
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Red Cross to host blood drive Dec. 21 to combat shortage
THE MADISON RECORD – Ed Buckbee shares insight, memories working under von Braun during the Space Race
THE MADISON RECORD – Madison City Schools hires new safety/security coordinator
THE MADISON RECORD – Columbia students see Grinch’s change of heart
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Walker High grad rises to high Army rank
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Internet crimes expert addresses Curry students
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Bevill State offers help to former Virginia College students
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump Withdraws U.S. Forces From Syria, Declaring ‘We Have Won Against ISIS’
NEW YORK TIMES – U.S. Exit Seen as a Betrayal of the Kurds, and a Boon for ISIS
NEW YORK TIMES – Bidding Congress Farewell, Paul Ryan Laments Nation’s ‘Broken’ Politics
WASHINGTON POST – Mattis, once one of ‘my generals,’ loses his influence with Trump
WASHINGTON POST – Senate passes bill to keep government open until February, undercutting Trump’s drive for border wall funding
WASHINGTON POST – Trump administration aims to toughen work requirements for food stamps recipients
USA TODAY – Sen. Graham: Trump’s claim of ISIS defeat is ‘fake news,’ pulling troops is ‘stain’ on US
USA TODAY – Millions of teens are vaping every day. Here’s what they have to say about the growing trend.
USA TODAY – U.S. Department of Agriculture moves to tighten restrictions on food stamps
POLITICO – ‘Oh, no’: The day Trump learned to tweet
POLITICO – EU unveils minimal Brexit safety net for no deal
POLITICO – Senate passes short-term spending bill to avert shutdown


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