Thursday, January 25, 2007
On this day:

Politics as usual in the Alabama legislature

From the AP:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Education Association gave a $10,000 campaign contribution to state Sen. Phil Poole one day before he switched sides in the Senate's organizational struggle and voted to put AEA allies in control of the chamber.

A campaign finance report filed by AEA's political action committee shows the $10,000 donation occurred on Jan. 8. The next day, Poole was on the winning side of an 18-17 vote to elect Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, as the Senate's new president pro tem. ...

Poole was originally one of seven Democrats who planned to side with the Senate's 12 Republicans and help Republican Gov. Bob Riley organize the Senate. Their goal was to elect Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, as president pro tem.

But shortly before the vote, Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, changed sides and then Poole followed. Poole provided the deciding vote that made Mitchem pro tem and kept in power many of the Democrats who had controlled the Senate for the last eight years. ...

The Jan. 9 vote wasn't the first time Poole switched sides in a Senate organization battle. He did the same thing in 1999 and provided the winning vote that helped then-Gov. Don Siegelman's allies organize the Senate. Afer that vote, Siegelman announced a major road project for Poole's district, but both said there was no connection between the project and Poole's vote.

Rep. Rodger Smitherman, the other side-switcher in the contest over this session's Senate leadership, also managed to benefit handily from his treachery. From the Jan. 10 Tuscaloosa News:

Mitchem, 68, of Union Grove, said the deal to elect him includes an agreement on a second vote in late 2008 or early 2009 to support Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, as president pro tem for the remaining two years of the four-year quadrennium.

“I requested that," Smitherman said. “I hope they do that."
Nice to know we have such men of principle serving us in the legislature, huh?

Games like this are all too common in the Alabama legislature, as they are in every place where politicians gather. Usually, though, elected officials try to hide their brazen politicking a little better than these two guys did. It's so transparent what Reps. Smitherman and Poole were doing that you can't even look at it and say, "Damn, I can't believe they were smart enough to get away with that." It's more like, "Damn, I can't believe everyone else was dumb enough to play along."