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Alabama Gubernatorial candidate Lew Burdette is calling on those running for office to put a self-imposed restriction on campaign contributions.
At a small press conference on the steps of the Alabama State House, Burdette discussed the dangers of the corruption he believes permeates Alabama Politics.
Burdette's main criticism of the campaign process in the state was the unlimited amounts of money that could be donated. Burdette stated that the ability for Political Action Committees (PACs), wealthy individuals, and large corporations leave the process open for massive amounts of corruption and avarice. Burdette claimed that Alabama is one of the most corrupt states in the nation, and limiting excessive campaign contributions will be a significant way of improving that.
When asked if his concern was the ability for more well-financed campaigns to succeed or for a supposed quid pro quo that accompanies sizeable contributions, Burdette said that it is not fundraising with which he took issue. Instead, it is the large amounts of money coming from unknown PACs and corporations.
"We got to stop all these back avenues of funneling money through PACs, wealthy individuals, big corporations, funneling money through all these things that we've never heard of, they're from all over everywhere, and that's just wrong," said Burdette. "People can raise as much money as they can. Every Alabamian has the right to give money to any race they want to. I encourage that.
"I want to raise as much money as I can, but I want to do it the right way."
Burdette believes that addressing corruption in the election process is not a priority for Alabama leadership.
"What we don't have is great leadership to steer us away from corruption, and decade after decade, we have had politicians who have had to resign because of ethics violations, politicians who have gone to jail because of ethics violations," Burdette said.
In a move that Burdette hopes will be contagious, he announced his self-imposed limit on contributions his campaign will accept. Burdette believes that the limitation will increase Alabama elections' integrity and make it easier for more independent candidates to run successful campaigns.
"I am putting a self-limit on our campaign that we will not accept any contribution over $10,000," Burdette said. "Not a penny more, not a penny less. That's still a lot of money, but not compared to when it's unlimited. In Alabama, we have unlimited campaign contributions. We are one of only five states that allow unlimited campaign contributions. That's wrong. We need to change that."
According to the National Conference of State legislatures, Alabama is one of seven states with completely unlimited contribution amounts to state offices. In states with limits, the limits vary depending on the office. For governor, the limits range from $500 per year in Alaska to $44,000 per general election in New York.
Burdette believes his status as a virtual unknown in the state will work in his favor and benefit Alabamians.
"I am going to be the disrupter in the state," Burdette said. "Nobody has political influence over me. I don't owe anybody any favors. I say, ‘thank God I am not a politician’ because where have lifetime politicians gotten us? The bottom of every list and the top of corruption. I am going to end that."
Although Burdette believes that his status as a political outsider in the state will give him credibility, he also believes that the current political landscape makes it more difficult for political outsiders to run successful campaigns.
"The deck is stacked against guys like me trying to run for governor," Burdette said. "I don't have personal wealth to pour into my campaign. I don't have a war chest of money that lifetime politicians have, and that's got to stop too."
Burdette expressed consternation with the blackout period in Alabama, which he believes grants an unfair roadblock for more independent candidates. The blackout period in Alabama is a time during the legislative session in which political campaigns are prohibited from accepting contributions.
"The blackout period means that it is just another way that lifetime politicians and politicians in Montgomery have stacked the deck against guys like me."
Burdette pushed his campaign's effort to raise money through a more citizen-minded approach that abandoned the traditional model of seeking large contributors.
What I want to see is a grassroots effort of $22 for Lew in '22," Burdette said. "$22, that's not buying a payoff from anybody, is it? Go see what I stand for, I stand for doing what's right in this state, and it's not all this big money, all these big contributions that come funneling in through all these PACs that nobody's ever heard of, hiding behind that. I'm for complete transparency. That's what you'll see in my campaign, that's what you'll see from our team as we move along."
There is a very crowded Republican primary field for Governor.
Lew Burdette – the President of the King’s Home
Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard
Greenville businessman Tim James
Springville Mayor and former State Rep. Dave Thomas
Former Morgan County Commissioner Stacey George
State Auditor Jim Ziegler – who is campaigning but not committed to entering the race yet
Pastor Dean Odle
Incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey
The winner of the Republican Primary will have to face the winner of the Democratic Party Primary in the November election. Candidates who have expressed interest in running for the office:
Birmingham activist Yolanda Rochelle Flowers
Hemp entrepreneur Chad “Chig” Martin
LGBTQ activist Chris Countryman
Major party qualifying does not end until Jan. 28 so there is still more time for more candidates to get into this race.
The major party primaries are on May 24.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email craig.monger@1819News.com.