Steve A. Stone
Club for Growth targets Mr. Carl
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By Steve A. Stone
March 24, 2020

Dear Friends and Patriots,

The late Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neal (D-MA), used to say "All politics is local." It's an axiom he learned while coming up under the tutelage of Democratic Party bosses in mid-20th century Boston. It's true, though. In the end, politics begins and ends right where we live. I want to illustrate how that works these days and let you decide what to think about it. Oh, don't worry, I'll tell you what I think about it, all right. But you will still need to make up your minds when I'm done.

Do you know of Club For Growth (CFG), the Club For Growth Political Action Committee (CFGPAC), and Club For Growth Action (CFGA), a so-called super-PAC? If you don't, you really should. CFG is one of the biggest guns out there when it comes to monitoring elected officials and scoring them on their conservative records, and CFGPAC and CFGA are among the most active funds of their kind. From what I read, in aggregate CFGA is the second biggest active PAC fund. CFGPAC and CFGA fund candidates in many states, supposedly all conservative, and all of whom sat through interviews before CFG decided to endorse them.

You should recall all three organizations' activities in 2016. They sided with the Never Trumpers that year and spent a lot of time and money in efforts to interfere with then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign during the Republican primaries. They stand behind their activities in those days, but look like they've learned to love President Trump a little; at least enough to back his run for re-election this year. We shall see about that in due time.

CFG's web site is sort of interesting in what it says and what it doesn't say. It states it's all about free enterprise, limited government, lower taxes, deregulation, free market economics, right to life, etc. You know, all the essential Christian conservative bullet points. But, they don't say what their positions are on social issues (except abortion, which I guess they fit into another category) and immigration. They state they don't take positions on those categories of issues, but perhaps they do. Not officially, though.

CFG, CFGPAC, and CFGA might seem to be organizations most Christian conservatives would want to be behind, but are they? CFG does present a benign face. Democrats refer to them as hard-right political groups and funders, but conservatives are probably comfortable with their public presence. There doesn't seem to be much to object to with CFG. But, CFGPAC and CFGA might be a different story.

This communication isn't really so much about CFG, CFGPAC, or CFGA, as it is the tactics those last two groups use to support their chosen candidates; the various horses in the races they get involved with. While CFG's web page presents the organization in a benign way, the campaign ads put out by CFGPAC and CFGA are anything but. Their ads for their chosen candidate are upbeat enough, but the ones they produce against their favorites' rivals aren't. That's what I want you all to focus on. I want to illustrate by highlighting some things from the CFG campaign against my own County Commissioner, Jerry Carl, who is now running to represent Alabama's District One in the US Congress. Jerry is in a runoff with Alabama State Senator Bill Hightower. The runoff election was to be held on March 31, but has been rescheduled to July 14 because of the COVID-19 response effort.

Before I go on, I have to make a personal admission. I know both Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower. Jerry has been my County Commissioner for almost eight years, while Bill has represented my district in the Alabama State Senate for an equal length of time. I met both of them when they were first campaigning for those offices, got to know them through many mutual acquaintances, and have voted for both every time I could. I consider both men to be good, decent Christians with solid conservative values. In fact, the two are so alike in their apparent philosophy I understood from the beginning their biggest problem would be in differentiating themselves, so the voters could make a clear choice. When CFGPAC and CFGA came on the scene, that all changed.

At the beginning of the campaign season, there were three other men running in the race for Congress beside Jerry and Bill. Club For Growth interviewed them all. From listening to the various candidates prior to the 3 March primary, I gathered CFG offered to back at least three of them, including Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower. Bill was the only one who accepted that offer. The others declined. That set the stage for the scenario we have now in Alabama. Just as another factoid to help you understand – the contest between Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower is the only one in Alabama CFGPAC and CFGA are involved in.

For simplicity sake, I'll refer henceforth only to CFG, even though it's their PAC and super-PAC fronting for them that are the actual subjects. The parent organization acts almost as if it isn't involved, but its two "children" certainly are.

CFG ran an ad that infers Jerry Carl ran as a conservative Republican, then backed $20M in handouts to big corporations. The problem with the ad is it infers something was wrong with that deal and that Jerry was a material part of it. The deal being pointed to involves Walmart, and the efforts to aid that company in locating a $135M distribution center in Mobile County, accessible by Exit 10 on Interstate Highway 10. It's true that Jerry backed the deal, but it was put together with the State of Alabama, City of Mobile, and the Mobile Chamber of Commerce in the lead roles. Just so you know, the distribution center employs right at 750 people. Jerry's main role as Commissioner had to do with planning infrastructure improvements and county tax abatements – both of which were presented to, voted on, and approved by the whole Mobile County Commission. Here's a question – if Bill Hightower had been County Commissioner at the time, would he have opposed that project? I can't conceive he would.

There was another ad put out by CFG that stated a multi-billion dollar company bought a $6M piece of land from one of Jerry's campaign donors. The facts are true. The original seller of the land is someone known by Jerry; a man who had donated the princely sum of $1,000 to Jerry's re-election campaign fund. The buyer is a multi-billion dollar corporation – Walmart. This is the same deal discussed in the paragraph above. But, Jerry's involvement in the land sale was to inform the Mobile Chamber of Commerce of who had suitable tracts of land where Walmart wanted to locate, and who might be willing to sell. We're talking about a 400 acre tract, not a house lot. When Walmart indicated the specific land in question met all its need criteria, Jerry gave assistance to the landowner and Chamber of Commerce in negotiations. The Chamber of Commerce bought the land, then deeded it over to the Mobile Industrial Development Board, which eventually sold the land to Walmart. The final price Walmart paid for land was $6M, which works out to $15K/acre for farmland right next to I-10 and only hundreds of feet from Exit 10. If Bill Hightower was in the same situation and he knew the major land owners where a corporation wanted to put a new $135M facility, do you think he might have informed the Chamber of Commerce and helped facilitate the deal? You know darned well he would. As a Commissioner, it's part of the job.

There's a third allegation made against Jerry by CFG. It's actually a rehash of an older claim made in 2016 by Jerry's election opponent that year. The claim made was that Jerry ran on a "no new taxes" platform, but had backed a tax hike in the county. That allegation was a misleading characterization of the truth. It involved a plan to put a Super Sam's Warehouse facility in the county, in Grand Bay, at Exit 4 on Interstate Highway 10. That project never materialized, so there wasn't even the semblance of any kind of tax. What is being referred to was a plan that would have allowed Sam's a special taxing authority, to collect a 1% surcharge on its business transactions in order to eventually recoup their property investment. That same special taxing authority had been previously granted to the tenants of the McGowin Park Shopping Complex in Mobile, one of the largest of such developments in Mobile in decades. There are several newer shopping areas in next-door Baldwin County that have the same kind of special taxing authority. Would Bill Hightower have refused to consider a special taxing authority in such circumstances? Why would he?

Here's my axe to grind with the whole CFG campaign. I think Alabama's political representation is Alabama's business. We don't need outsiders who don't understand our state's and districts' issues coming in and perverting our political races with their deep pockets and slick propaganda-style campaign literature. CFG has produced at least a half-dozen mailers that show up in peoples' mailboxes. They make their claims against Jerry, then add a URL to whatever AL.com news piece they believe supports their position. There are two problems with that. The allegations are couched in extremely vague language, which is probably intended to deflect any attempt at a libel lawsuit. The other problem is the URLs. Few people would type those into their search engines to read the articles by AL.com in the first place, and even if they did, fewer still understand that AL.com is no friend of Republicans in the state. It's a "news" outlet with a very noticeable tendency to favor a "liberal" point of view. I could use terms like "progressive" or "Democratic Party," or any one of several others. The main point being AL.com is not usually very friendly in their coverage of Jerry Carl – or Bill Hightower, for that matter. But CFG isn't trying to smear Bill Hightower, are they?

If you're seeing similar campaign tactics on your home turf, do yourself a favor. Look at the campaign literature to see who's paying for it. Then look them up and try to find out who they are, where they're from, and why they're bothering you. If you find they're a PAC or super-PAC from out of state, study hard to figure out why they're involved and the circumstances of their presence. Lastly, take the time to find out the truth. You'll start with a contact card with pretty pictures and not-so-pretty allegations. Go and ask your candidates to explain themselves. Find out what's true, what's not, and what's in between. You want your political opinions to be informed by facts, not allegations or innuendo. Tell everyone you know if you determine there's something to be concerned about. Then, when you show up at the polls you'll know the person you're going to vote for is the right candidate for you. The same thing goes for the general election and all candidates. If you're not normally an "informed" voter, learn how to be one. It's not that hard, and it may keep you from making a mistake.

In Liberty,

Steve

© Steve A. Stone

 

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Steve A. Stone

Steve A. Stone is and always will be a Texan, though he's lived outside that great state for all but 3 years since 1970. He currently resides in Grand Bay, AL, with his wife of 44 years and a larger herd of furry dependents. Steve retired from the US Coast Guard reserves in 2011 after serving over 22 years in uniform over the span of four decades. His service included duty on two US Navy attack submarines, and one Navy and two US Coast Guard Reserve Units. He has worked as a senior civil servant for the US Navy for over 30 years, and is still on the job. Steve is a member of the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee and Common Sense Campaign, South Alabama's largest Tea Party. He is also a member of SUBVETS, Inc. and a life member of both the NRA and The Submarine League. In 2018, Steve created 671 Press LLC to publish his books under – he does it his way.

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