Two Montgomery-based political action committees each contributed $2,500 to Oxford Mayor Leon Smith’s campaign last week. Another Montgomery PAC donated $500 in July to Smith’s main opponent, Cristy Humphries. Some political experts said PAC money is no longer just associated with legislative and national races, but is being spent more in state municipal campaigns.
According to the latest campaign finance reports filed Friday, Smith received money from the Field PAC and the Duck PAC, both of which have the same Montgomery mailing address. Alabama Secretary of State records indicate the PACs both are chaired by Harvey Cauthen Jr. of H.E. Cauthen and Associates, a consulting services firm out of Montgomery.
Both PACs list their purpose as “to promote good government in the state of Alabama.”
Political action committees funnel money in support of candidates and campaigns.
Records do not show any contributions to the Field PAC in the past year, but they do show contributions from Birmingham residents and other PACs in 2010. The state banned transfers of money between PACs at the end of 2010.
Records indicate the Duck PAC received contributions this year from several state businesses.
During a brief phone interview Monday, Cauthen said he donated to Smith’s campaign because he knew him and not the other mayoral candidates, Humphries and Russell Mullins. Cauthen noted that he had known Smith for the last 15 years but did not elaborate on how the two were acquainted.
“I don’t know the others but I do know Leon,” Cauthen said. “He’s been a nice guy as long as I’ve known him.”
Smith said he appreciated the PAC money, but said he was not obligated to the donor.
“PAC money is pretty good when it comes in,” Smith said. “But I’m not obligated to a PAC … I think my record speaks for itself.”
Smith is not the first Oxford candidate to receive PAC money this year. Humphries received $500 from Montgomery-based CDG PAC last month. The CDG PAC states its purpose is to elect favorable business candidates and candidates who support the interests of the professional engineering community. The PAC’s finance reports show it has donated to several Alabama mayoral candidates this year. The reports also show most of the PAC’s contributions this year have come from residents of the Andalusia, Attalla and Albertville areas.
William Stewart, professor emeritus of political science for the University of Alabama, said PACs have spread into Alabama municipal elections in recent years.
“It’s a new phenomenon as far as municipal elections,” Stewart said. “I expect PACs to be the primary mode to transfer funds to candidates for many years to come.”
Stewart said municipal candidates can raise money faster through PACs than through the more traditional individual donations.
“It’s an easy way to collect funds and distribute money to candidates,” Stewart said.
William Lester, professor of political science at Jacksonville State University, said PACs have traditionally not had much involvement in municipal politics.
“Normally it’s for state offices and federal offices,” Lester said.
Lester noted that he has yet to see a huge rise in PAC donations to municipal candidates in the state.
“But it’s not unheard of,” Lester said.
Larry Powell, a University of Alabama at Birmingham communications professor who specializes in political communications, said PAC donations to municipal candidates will only increase in the years to come.
“PACs are becoming an easy way for candidates to raise money quickly,” Powell said. “It’s the coming thing, if not already the here thing.”
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star