Candidates for a vacant House seat in Alabama are sparring over allegations that one of them used a political consulting firm to enrich himself at the expense of donors and a candidate for statewide office.
Alabama State Senator Bradley Byrne (R) recently dubbed Dean Young, his opponent in an upcoming special election in the state’s first congressional district, a "political money man with a self-dealing past" who fooled "good Christian people" into supporting a group that allegedly existed to enrich Young.
The ad was based on statistics drawn from a 2000 race for the Alabama Supreme Court. Young supported Judge Roy Moore for the post, and started the Christian Family Association PAC to back his bid for the seat.
Byrne has accused Young of pocketing funds raised through the PAC by directing them to the campaign consultancy firm PMM Consulting, which Young owns.
Moore declined to accept contributions from many attorneys in the state, citing potential conflicts of interest. Young disagreed with the decision and started the PAC to solicit donations from some of those attorneys.
The PAC would eventually spend nearly $177,000 in the race. About 95% of its expenditures went to Young’s PMM Consulting.
Young’s campaign points out that the majority of those expenditures went towards advertising and were itemized as such on the PAC’s expenditure reports. However, nearly $40,000 was listed under "polling/consulting."
"This is part of a larger pattern of Dean Young using shady fundraising schemes to profit off of our political system," said Alex Schriver, Byrne’s campaign manager.
Young said that he only checked the box marked "polling/consulting" because there were not enough detailed options to account for the nature of PMM’s work for the PAC.
PMM continued to draw funds from the PAC after the election, receiving a payment for more than $16,000 for "polling/consulting" nearly two months after Moore won his Supreme Court seat.
Young's company also drew significant consulting fees from the Moore campaign itself.
Campaign expenditure forms list nearly $75,000 in disbursements to PMM, for services including fundraising, "expense reimbursement," and "loan repayment."
Expenditure reports list a $5,305 "contribution loan" from the campaign to PMM. They also show two $10,000 disbursements in two days under the "contribution loan" label to Young individually, as well as a $5,000 payment to Young for which no purpose is listed.
PMM also drew large fees for work done on behalf of the reelection campaign of Orange Beach Mayor Steve Russo.
Beach PAC, another political group formed by Young to support Russo, raised and spent $112,973.33, according to campaign finance records. More than 90% of those funds were paid to PMM, ostensibly for campaign work.
The final expenditure, listed under the "polling/consulting" label, was paid on the day Beach PAC was terminated. It had also paid another $2,805 to Young’s sons.
Following Russo’s successful reelection, he appointed Young to a seat on the city’s planning commission. Russo was subsequently convicted on federal corruption charges.
The Young campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his work for PMM or any of the campaigns for which it has worked.
Young vehemently denied the charges and media reports have expressed skepticism about the allegations.
Moore was well known at the time for his effort to display the Ten Commandments outside of his Etowah County courthouse. Young vigorously defended Moore’s position, and encouraged him to make it a central part of his campaign platform when Moore ran for the state supreme court.
Young’s support for Moore’s effort is one of several issues that observers worry could play well among Alabama’s conservative Republican electorate, but might reflect poorly on the GOP nationally.
"The need is now more than ever to elect people who understand the free market and not silliness," said Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the Chamber of Commerce. While the Chamber of Commerce is backing Byrne in the race, Reed said his comments reflected the organizations strategy generally, not specifically pertaining to the Alabama race.
Young also said he believed President Barack Obama was born in Kenya during an interview with the Guardian on Friday.
The president was born in Hawaii and has publicly released his birth certificate demonstrating so.
Young has also made controversial remarks about gay people. When asked by the Guardian whether or not gay people "can feel the same love for one another as straight people," he demurred. He has also previously said they "are not welcome here […] in the State of Alabama."
Despite those positions, polls have showed a tight race. One recent survey showed Young with a three-point lead. An internal poll from a third-party group involved in the race obtained by the Free Beacon shows Byrne with a three-point edge.
Byrne has focused more on Young’s alleged financial misdeeds, pointing specifically to his role on behalf of Moore.