Hunter Biden is getting the contract to build Alabama’s $3 billion super-prisons. Is that true? I don’t know. Maybe. Probably not. But I can’t say definitively that it’s not true — and neither can any voter in this state.
Because the investors behind the company that was awarded two of the three contracts to build our super-prisons are secret. They could literally be anyone, including President Joe Biden’s son, who is much-loathed by Republicans in this state.
How much we’re really paying for these prisons is also secret. Although we’ve been assured by Gov. Kay Ivey’s office that it won’t be more than $94 million per year.
But then, that office also told us up until the day before the leases were signed that it wouldn’t be more than $88 million per year. So maybe it’ll only be $94 million, or maybe it’ll be $100 million. Who’s counting?
If this all sounds ridiculous, well, that’s because it is.
It’s bad enough that we’re paying $3 billion to build three prisons that won’t fully address any of the top five problems currently plaguing Alabama’s worst-in-the-developed-world prison system. It’s even worse that we’re not going to own the land or the prisons at the end of the 30-year deal we’re making for these prisons. And worst yet that we’re doing all of it in such a secretive, icky way.
But you know what’s really weird about it all?
Republicans aren’t saying much.
Not the elected variety of Republicans. Not the voting variety of Republicans.
There are a few grumbles here or there. Some questions raised about processes. Some gripes about leaving the legislature out of the decision making. A few voters who are upset that these prisons might be near their homes.
But outrage? Not really.
And that’s becoming a disturbing pattern, especially the silence of GOP-leaning voters.
Over the course of the last year or more, Ivey and a handful of other GOP elected officials have collected quite a bit of power and made unilateral decisions on a variety of issues that no single lawmaker should be allowed to make.
During an interview in December on the podcast I co-host, Alabama Politics This Week, Alabama Democratic Party chair and state Rep. Chris England ticked off more than a half-dozen examples of Ivey’s use of executive orders to grab power.
She changed an election date through an executive order. She replaced arrests with citations on some offenses through an executive order. She created limited liability protections for businesses through executive order. She extended tax breaks to businesses through an executive order.
She literally took issues that the Legislature had decided not to take up and pushed them through with the stroke of a pen.
If you’ve been grumbling about Biden’s executive orders over the last two weeks, were you also complaining about Ivey’s?
Or how about when Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill changed election laws through a press release?
Merrill can argue until he’s blue in the face that he had the power to essentially allow no-excuse absentee voting — he accomplished it by allowing all voters to use “coronavirus” as an excuse for receiving an absentee ballot — but the change was drastic and certainly no less substantial than changes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Georgia. Alabama was a party to a lawsuit that alleged such changes in those states unconstitutional and illegal.
But not a peep from the voters in this state. In fact, they were slapping Merrill on the back for conducting a smooth election.
Don’t get me wrong. I was very happy with Merrill’s changes, and the change Ivey made that allowed for the counting of absentee votes to begin earlier. I’m just trying to figure out why so many Alabamians were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, when the exact same changes were made in their state.
Of course, I know the answer. ALGOP is your team. These folks are on your team. Rah-rah-rah.
Which explains why the state is in the shape it’s in. We’ve been a rah-rah, one-team state forever. For the last 11 years, it’s been Republicans. For 100 years before that, it was Democrats. And they were all basically the same groups of conservatives.
And the voters were reluctant to hold any of them accountable for anything.
Look, Ivey’s prison plan might end up being squeaky clean. There has certainly been no evidence of shady dealings in her administration to this point. But that doesn’t mean the process is OK, or that it should be given a pass by voters simply because you choose the same party affiliation.
No one in government should get a pass. Ever.
Because when you hand out passes, the next thing that gets handed out are indictments.