State law required all candidates who had raised more than $5,000 to file their 50-45 day pre-election reports by Monday with the Alabama Secretary of State. Candidates who did not meet the $5,000 threshold were not required to file anything, but were asked to file a waiver. Candidates have one more report to file before the election.
While PAC money was prevalent during the primaries earlier this year, even more funds are flowing into area candidates’ coffers in the final months before the Nov. 2 election –- a fact that is not surprising to some political experts.
Bill Lester, political science professor at Jacksonville State University, said PAC money significantly influences politics, particularly in Alabama.
“It extends even beyond money … there is a lot of organization behind it,” Lester said. “And particularly in Alabama, there is a lot of money because it is not as regulated in the state as at the federal level.”
Political action committees are private groups organized to promote certain political issues and elect candidates.
David Lanoue, former chair of political science at the University of Alabama and current dean of the College of Letters and Sciences at Columbus State University in Georgia, said Alabama law allows the PAC-to-PAC transfer of funds, which provides advantages in state politics.
“PAC-to-PAC transfers allow people to funnel money into campaigns without a lot of accountability,” Lanoue said. “Candidates can get money from unpopular groups without that connection being firmly established.”
Though there has been some talk in the state Legislature in recent years to end PAC-to-PAC transfers, no real effort has been made to abolish the practice.
“Who wants to go against the system that got them elected?” Lester said. “In their view, obviously, the current system works.”
Nearly all area incumbents received PAC money of some kind, including Republican Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston. Marsh reported $128,600 in contributions, including $25,000 from the Alabama Builders PAC and $10,000 from the Vote ’98-PAC.
Incumbent Democrat Rep. Barbara Boyd of House District 32 reported $1,000 from the Alabama Optometric PAC, while Democrat House District 35 Rep. Steve Hurst reported funds from six PACS, including $5,000 from Future PAC.
Democrat Rep. Richard Laird of House District 37 reported $9,500 in contributions, mainly from nine PACs, while Democrat Rep. Richard Lindsey reported $94,435 in contributions, which came mostly from 22 separate PACs.
Many newcomers also received plenty of PAC money, including Jerry Fielding, the Democrat running for the Sen-ate District 11 seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Preuitt. Fielding reported $91,255 worth of in-kind services for adver-tising, more than $75,000 of which was funded by the Citizens for Economic Development PAC.
Greg Varner, who is running as a Democrat for the vacant Senate District 13 seat, reported $219,592 of PAC-funded in-kind services for advertising.
His Republican opponent, Gerald Dial, reported $133,150 in contributions that came mainly from 29 separate PACS.
Area candidates who did not report funding from PACs included Sen. District 11 Republican candidate Ray Rob-bins, who filed a waiver; House District 32 Republican candidate Ron Struzik, House District 35 Republican candi-date Steve Dean; House District 36 Democratic candidate Garry Bearden, who filed no report; House District 37 Republican candidate Bob Fincher; House District 39 Republican candidate Tim Sprayberry, who filed no report; Republican Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Place 3 candidate Debra Jones; Democratic Calhoun County Dis-trict Court Place 3 candidate Shannon Page and his Republican opponent, Beth Rogers.
The only local incumbent who did not report any PAC money was Democratic Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Joel Laird.
“In general incumbents tend to get more PAC money,” Lanoue said. “And PAC money is normally given to the Democrats since they control the House and Senate.”
To see the full details of candidates’ finance reports, visit the Alabama Secretary of State’s website at www.sos.state.al.us.