Speculation ran rampant last week when an unknown, out-of-state group reserved $1.1 million of air time with the state’s major television stations. The group planned to saturate Alabama’s leading markets with a series of advertisements that would … what?
No one knew. Thus, the speculation in the final weeks of a heated gubernatorial campaign.
Because pundits believed there was a possible connection between the New Sons of Liberty and organizations on the far right, theories centered on the group throwing its money to conservative candidates in the state.
Of course, since most liberals in Alabama are still conservative, that did not seem to be a particularly productive strategy.
Because the name — New Sons of Liberty — had a “Tea Party” ring to it, there was conjecture that the ads would support candidates most in line with that movement. However, most Alabama candidates have gone out of their way not to alienate the Tea Party voters, so that did not did seem to be a likely tactic, either.
Another possibility was that New Sons of Liberty had prepared a last-minute attack ad that would accuse a candidate of a despicable act — but not give the accused time to respond. It’s happened before. But since so much mud had already been thrown by a few of those running for their parties’ nomination, any new revelations would hardly matter.
Thankfully, this political who-done-it proved to be a dud.
The day before the saturation was to begin, a representative of the group called the stations and cancelled the ads. Some stations lost as much as $200,000 because of the cancellation, the Associated Press reported. Thus, the state’s largest television stations scrambled to sell the air time, and political experts — and journalists, as well — were equally confused.
Who were these guys?
It seems clear that the New Sons of Liberty were interested in gambling in some fashion. The group had criticized five gubernatorial candidates for not taking a stand on gambling, the AP reported, including both Democrats and Republicans Bradley Byrne, Tim James and Robert Bentley. But was the group for it or against it? We don’t know.
What we do know is that under the state’s system of campaign financing, it is possible for a little-known group to pour large sums of money into a campaign and threaten to change an election’s outcome.
Is this the way we want democracy in Alabama to work?