HUNTSVILLE — After playing defense from charges by her opponent that she was avoiding a debate, Gov. Kay Ivey and her re-election campaign have turned the tables and gone on offense.
The Ivey campaign started circulating emails to the news media last week linking Democratic nominee and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox of taking money from political action committees that are funded, either in whole or in part, by billionaire financier George Soros — a bogeyman to Republican conservatives for years, well-known in political circles for contributing millions of dollars to liberal causes and campaigns.
That trend continued Saturday, as Ivey mentioned Soros in two separate appearances before GOP party faithful — one as a part of her standard stump speech to the Madison County Republican Men’s Club, the other in front of a smaller group of campaign workers in the party’s county headquarters.
Attacking Soros is a time-honored practice in recent years for Republican candidates appealing to their conservative bases, just as Democratic candidates will often attack industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch, who likewise contribute heavily to many right-wing causes and whose names engender hostility from liberal activists and supporters.
But does the name of Soros register with average Alabama voters who may not be regular viewers of Fox News or MSNBC?
“The people of Alabama are well in-tuned to things, and they know how famous George Soros is as a liberal,” Ivey said when asked just before her appearance at Trinity United Methodist Church. “It’s clear he’s putting $200,000 into my opponent’s campaign. It’s not coming to Kay Ivey, who’s a conservative, and I represent Alabama values. That shows my opponent is representing liberal values from out of state.”
Ivey invoked Soros again in brief remarks to campaign workers in a Huntsville office complex, just before they began a day of manning phones and knocking on doors.
“When George Soros puts $200,000 into my opponent’s campaign, it’s clear, clear where my opponent stands,” Ivey said. “Soros believes capitalism is more dangerous than communism. … We’ve got to teach these liberals and put them in their place, and promote Alabama and our conservative values and American values and make Alabama and America strong.”
But unlike her standard stump speech, which is light on issues and relies heavily on recounting the day when she had three hours’ notice before taking over for then-Gov. Robert Bentley, Ivey focused on four key issues that she wanted the campaigners to emphasize with voters:
- An “open, honest, transparent administration”
- Working to “make our state even better”
- Making “our government more effective”
- “Bring back our conservative values,” which includes opposition to abortion and gun control.
Ivey addressed those points in a speech shortly after she took office last year. She added that since then, her government has also funded more than 1,000 pre-K teachers and presided over five straight months of record employment.
The Ivey attacks came right after a story by the conservative website Yellowhammer News, which reported that Soros gave to six PACs, all of which list Josh Taylor as their treasurer. Taylor is also the Maddox campaign treasurer, according to a contract for the purchase of advertising spots with WBRC-6.
The Yellowhammer report said that Soros contributed $200,000 to the PACs, and that those committees had then given $622,400 to the Maddox campaign. A check of those PACs’ online filings with the Secretary of State’s Office showed that Soros contributed $35,000 each to T-Town PAC II, ET PAC, Cash PAC, Pride PAC II and CMG PAC II, and $25,000 to Leadership PAC. All six contributions were received Oct. 15, and all six committees filed a major contribution report Oct. 17; that filing is required by law within two days of receiving a contribution of $20,000 or more.
The six PACs are run by Michael Echols, a political consultant from Tuscaloosa. According to a report by The Montgomery Advertiser, those committees together raised more than $3 million in the first seven months of 2018, well before Soros’ contributions, and about $400,000 more than the Ivey official campaign committee had raised to that point. Most contributions at the time came from trial lawyers, though the two largest contributions came from what The Advertiser called “entities with uncertain real world presences.”
Though most of the money from the six PACs has gone to Maddox in this campaign cycle, they have in past cycles contributed to Republican Troy King, who was appointed attorney general by Gov. Bob Riley to take over the unexpired term of Bill Pryor.