Report: AEA paid for anti-Byrne ads in GOP runoff

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Newly released records show the Alabama Education Association provided every dollar for the $711,000 media blitz that targeted Bradley Byrne and helped defeat him in the Republican runoff for governor.

Before the July runoff, a new and secretive organization called the Conservative Coalition for Alabama ran an extensive ad campaign that criticized Byrne’s record in state government. Little was known about the group other than it listed its official address as a rented mail box at a package shipping store in Montgomery.

But a newly released report reviewed by The Associated Press shows its only donor was AEA, which provided $750,000 on June 23. That was one day after the coalition was created.

The coalition, in a quarterly filing with the Internal Revenue Service, said it spent $711,020 — all with the Smart Media Group that placed the anti-Byrne ads.

AEA favored state Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa, who won the Republican runoff July 13 with 56 percent of the vote. Byrne, a former state school board member, state senator and two-year college chancellor, had targeted AEA in his campaign and accused the teachers’ organization of being a corrupting influence on state government.

Byrne said Tuesday it’s sad that people can run attack ads against a candidate but not disclose who’s behind the ads until after the election.