Thursday, March 15, 2007
On this day:

Nancy Worley indicted

From the AP:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Secretary of State Nancy Worley has been indicted by a grand jury on charges stemming from her unsuccessful campaign for re-election last year, her attorney told The Associated Press Wednesday.

Montgomery attorney James Anderson said he received a call from the attorney general's staff informing him that Worley had been indicted on five felony counts and five misdemeanor counts accusing her of soliciting campaign funds from employees in the secretary of state's office.

Hmmm. I've often heard that you can indict a ham sandwich, but I never knew that you could go after the whole hog.

(AP - continued) Asked about the indictment by a Montgomery County grand jury, Worley said she had not received anything official from the attorney general's office, but "nothing would surprise me" when "you've got a Republican attorney general appointed by a Republican governor."

The Secretary of State is Alabama's highest elections official. Having served in that position for four years, Mrs. Worley certainly knows the campaign rules as well as anyone, and she knows full well that she broke them. Section 17-1-7(c) of the Code of Alabama states it very clearly:
It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee to solicit any type of political campaign contributions from other employees who work for the officer or employee in a subordinate capacity. It shall also be unlawful for any officer or employee to coerce or attempt to coerce any subordinate employee to work in any capacity in any political campaign or cause.
Mrs. Worley now has the nerve to attack Attorney General Troy King (and Gov. Riley by mere association) for challenging her less-than-legal campaign activities. They don't call her Surly Worley for nothing.

(AP - continued) During Worley's re-election campaign last year, one of her employees, Ed Packard, ran against her in the Democratic primary and filed a complaint with the attorney general's office. The complaint involved Worley sending an envelope to her employees that had a place on the outside for them to mark whether they would like to volunteer in her campaign, post a bumper sticker on their vehicles, or make a contribution. ...

State law prohibits state officials from soliciting their employees for help in a campaign. Violations can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, with the felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine and a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Ed Packard's complaint against Mrs. Worley is available online at his old campaign web site here.

The sad thing about all this is that Mrs. Worley had every opportunity to put this issue to rest back during her campaign. All she had to do was say, "Sorry, folks. I made a mistake. I sent out a letter to employees of the Secretary of State's office asking them to contribute to my campaign. However, the law says that I am not allowed to solicit campaign funds from my employees. I will correct this oversight by refusing and/or returning any and all contributions from my subordinates." Simple as that.

Mrs. Worley refused to take that easier route, though, so the two main questions that she now has to address are: 1) Did her letter to SOS office employees actually "solicit" campaign contributions? and 2) Does the law consider the employees who received the letters in question to be "subordinates" to the Secretary of State?

Another question - a bit more far-fetched, but maybe worth considering - is whether the solicitation of campaign funds from whatever source is protected as free speech under the federal and state constitutions. I'd actually be sympathetic to someone who argued that it should be. Even if that "someone" were Nancy Worley.