Gov. Robert Bentley’s fundraising slows, but campaign still has $2 million

Gov. Robert Bentley, seen here on July 10, 2013, saw fundraising slow in November due to travel obligations.  (Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

Gov. Robert Bentley, seen here on July 10, 2013, saw fundraising slow in November due to travel obligations. (Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh)

November proved a bountiful month for some campaigns, a lean month for others, and a chance for new contributors to step into the picture.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s breakneck fundraising slowed down in November, due in part to travel obligations the governor had during the month. Attorney General Luther Strange and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, enjoyed significant fundraising months, while airplane manufacturer Boeing — being courted by Alabama and other states — took a ginger step into the world of Alabama politics.

Bentley’s campaign reported raising $24,250 in November, less than a tenth of the $313,000 the campaign pulled in during October. Rebekah Mason, a spokeswoman for Bentley’s re-election campaign, said the governor’s travel schedule in November, which included trips to Japan and California, made fundraisers difficult.

“I think in December we’ll see an uptick, certainly,” Mason said. “There weren’t any formal fundraisers, but a number have been scheduled.”

The off-month shouldn’t be a concern for Bentley, who already has $2 million in his campaign account and, as of Wednesday, no major opposition. Mason said Bentley held a fundraiser in Huntsville Tuesday evening, and his campaign reported major contributions Monday from the American Society of Anesthesiologists ($25,000) and the Alabama Nursing Home Association ($20,000).

The campaign also returned a $5,000 contribution made in October by StudentsFirst, a group founded by former Washington DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee that opposes teacher tenure and supports charter schools. Mason said that the governor supports flexibility options for school districts in the Alabama Accountability Act, passed amid heated controversy by the Legislature this past spring, and felt that accepting the money from StudentsFirst might be seen as “contradictory.”

“If we’re going down the flexibility route, it could be seen as a distraction from what the governor wants to see happen,” she said.

The Alabama Accountability Act also allows families of students in schools designated as failing to claim tax credits for use in private schools. Democrats have said they plan to run against the law in the 2014 general election, and the Alabama Education Association, which strongly opposes the law, ran ads sharply critical of former Montgomery County Board of Education president Charlotte Meadows in the run-up to last month’s special House election in Montgomery. Meadows is a vocal supporter of the law.

Elsewhere, Attorney General Luther Strange, also lacking serious opposition, raised $126,665 in November, and reported over $1 million on hand for his campaign. Strange’s major contributors included the Alabama Nursing Home Association ($10,000), RAI Services, the parent company of R.J. Reynolds ($10,000) and Facebook ($5,000).

House Speaker Mike Hubbard raised $91,700 in November, and reported $255,000 on hand. $50,000 of Hubbard’s fundraising came from PACs created by Montgomery-based lobbyists Fine Geddie & Associates. and funded by Birmingham-based Drummond Co., a coal firm, and Great Southern Wood Preserving Inc., owned by businessman Jimmy Rayne. The same Fine Geddie PACs also accounted for about 55 percent of the fundraising done by House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden in November.

Locally, Rep.-Elect Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery, reported $13,258 on hand following his Nov. 19 victory in a run-off for House District 74. Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, Polizos’ likely opponent in the 2014 General Election, reported just under $40,000 on hand.

In House District 75, Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, who will face a challenge in the GOP primary from Montgomery County Commissioner Reed Ingram, reported $8,755 on hand. Ingram, who announced his candidacy late in November, filed a waiver for the month.

Boeing Co. also entered the race in November. The airplane manufacturer, which is being courted by state officials for a new plant in Huntsville, gave $10,000 to political campaigns during the month, mostly in donations of $500 and $1,000. Bentley, Strange, Hubbard, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston and a number of north Alabama politicians all received donations from the company.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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