A couple of weeks ago, state comptroller Thomas White Jr. put a stop to the automatic deductions. It was no insignificant event.
White's decision affected more than 15,000 state workers who belong to the Alabama State Employees Association. Those state employees were having their donations to their association's PAC voluntarily deducted from their paychecks. Other agencies, such as the Alabama State Troopers Association, were following the same procedure.
The comptroller's decision — though unpopular among those state employees — was wise.
White's point was simple yet important: PACs are political. It is illegal to use state resources — computer time and programs — to further a political cause by automatically deducting contributions from the paycheck of state workers who authorize the deductions.
If state employees want to contribute to their associations' PAC, they should. They can write a check and send it in. That is their legal right. The state should neither help nor hinder them.
But let's look at the bigger picture.
The state Legislature, the governor and the courts need to take this decision to heart. PACs are not professional organizations no matter which profession sets them up. They are not faith-based no matter what faith uses them to advance whatever goal they might want advanced. They are political.
And because they are political, the state has no business doing them special favors, like shielding their contributors from the prying eyes of the press and the public.
Part of the problem this state has with PACs is that we allow them to carry out political activities in such a way that Alabamians do not know who is really behind them. The shell game of hidden contributions is a massive issue in this state.
That also needs to be stopped.