Under modern rules of warfare, false-flag attacks are frowned upon. But in politics, anything goes.
In Alabama, 2010 was the year of false colors. When stakes are high and PAC money is virtually untraceable, it’s perhaps no surprise that the year’s biggest truth-stretchers donned the other side’s uniform –- or at least pretended to be someone they’re not –- in order to further their political ambitions.
That’s what Bama Fact Check found when we set out to name the winners of the first Rubber Band Awards, designed to sharply snap the wrists of the year’s biggest truth-stretchers. (Get it? Truth-stretchers? Rubber bands?)
We selected our award winners from our own nominations and from readers’ submissions. There were plenty tale-spinners to choose from. But judging from reader submissions, nothing seems to irk voters more than politicos who fly false colors.
Without further ado, here are the 2010 winners of the Rubber Band Awards:
The award for Best Camouflage goes to the “true Republicans” of the Alabama Education Association. In early spring, a series of television ads from an organization called the True Republican PAC set the tone for the vicious GOP gubernatorial primary. Using Terry Gilliam-style cut-and-paste visuals and a series of sarcastic-sounding narrators, the ads blasted presumptive frontrunner Bradley Byrne as a Darwin-loving, Bible-doubting pretty boy who was “too liberal” for Alabama. (Byrne and his supporters, not surprisingly, were incensed by the ads’ attack on Byrne’s faith, and denounced the them as false.)
Given the tone of the ads, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were from Tim James or one of the other Republicans trying to claim the right wing of the GOP vote.
Campaign documents later revealed that the True Republican PAC got much of its funding from a network of PACs connected to the Alabama Education Association –- the teachers' union -- which historically hasn’t been exactly a GOP stalwart.
It would seem that Byrne’s real crime was being Bradley Byrne –- the former two-year college chancellor, who marketed himself as the Eliot Ness of the community college system, and who seemed poised to become a union-busting governor.
In addition to its sham PAC, the AEA also got a real “true Republican” on its side. In October, The Mobile Press-Register revealed that the AEA had funded a robocall by Republican Robert Bentley in his runoff fight with Byrne -– despite Bentley’s assertion that he never took money from the teachers’ union. The news incensed some Republicans, but both revelations came too late to have a serious impact on the vote.
In our book, that’s good camouflage.
The Worst Camouflage Award also goes to the Alabama Education Association. In August, a spokesman for AEA told The Anniston Star that the organization is not a labor union. It’s not the first time AEA has made the claim, which may come as a surprise to its dues-paying members. The assertion had little impact on the press, which continues to apply the union label.
The Most Likely to Infuriate Voters award goes to the party-switchers. After winning public office on Nov. 2, Democratic state Reps. Steve Hurst, Alan Boothe, Mike Millican and Lesley Vance announced they were going over to the victorious GOP. Admittedly, none of these people were likely to be mistaken for Paul Wellstone –- Hurst, for instance, touted his support for gun rights and opposition to abortion –- but it’s likely that liberals and some moderates cast a vote for these pols just because of the “D” in front of their name. Would it have been so hard to change parties before running, like state Sen. Gerald Dial?
A Notable Snub goes to the legislators arrested in the gambling probe. The probe –- which led to the arrests of former Republican state Sen. Jim Preuitt of Talladega, Rep. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb, Rep. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery and former state Rep. Larry Means, D-Attalla –- was likely the biggest political story of the year. Still, Bama Fact Check presumes defendants are innocent until proven guilty. If they’re convicted, we’ll give them a Lifetime Achievement Award next year.
The Dumbest Accusation Medal goes to agriculture commissioner candidate and vaguely Vietnam-ish veteran Dale Peterson. In his much-viewed YouTube ad, Peterson accused his opponent's supporters of stealing his campaign signs. Sign theft seems to occur in just about every political race, but Peterson never supported his claim that his opponents were stealing signs. Rather than shooting at straw men (pyew!), perhaps Peterson should take some sleuthing classes from Weaver Mayor Garry Bearden, who had a bunch of kids arrested for alleged sign theft.
Or maybe he should just leave it alone, which is what most politicians do.
The Famous for Being Famous Award goes to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James, who became a flash-in-the-pan nationwide celebrity for his tough-talking ad about driver’s license tests conducted in foreign languages. The only problem was, almost nothing in the ad was true. James’ fame didn’t propel him into the governor’s mansion, but it did help Alabama bolster its long-standing image as a place where outsiders just aren’t welcome. We didn’t need those foreigners and their big auto plants anyway.
The Sarah Palin/Barack Obama Award for the Candidate Most in Need of a Teleprompter goes to Gov.-elect Robert Bentley and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey. During the campaign, both quoted grossly inaccurate numbers on the amount of administrative spending at the Alabama Department of Transportation. Both seem to have thrown their numbers out in the heat of battle, and both could have used some well-researched notes.
Write them on your hand if you have to.
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