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Republican Henchmen Get Their Grimy Hands on State Education Dollars

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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

The very sleaze that's at the heart of our Legal Schnauzer story now has infected Alabama public schools.

More than $13 million from the Alabama Department of Education has been paid since 2008 to a group with strong ties to the Alabama Republican Party--all without the approval of the state school board. And who is at the heart of this little scam? Why, none other than GOP operative Dax Swatek (photo above), who has ties to such conservative luminaries as Bill Canary, Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff, and former Governor Bob Riley.

Also in the middle of it all is House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), a longtime Riley backer. Alabama Republicans have claimed that the Riley administration was untouched by scandal. This story, broken by Bob Lowry of The Huntsville Times, might lay that canard to rest.

And how is this for GOP hypocrisy? These are the same Republicans who claimed it was unethical for a Democrat to work at a two-year college while also holding a seat in the legislature. They even came up with a clever term for it--double dipping. The scam that involves Hubbard and Co. makes "double dipping" look like recess.

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A group called the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) has received $13.1 million from an "at-risk fund" controlled by State Superintendent Joe Morton. And who handles lobbying efforts for CLAS? Why, it's the new Montgomery outfit called Swatek Azebll Howe and Ross (SAHR), whose members have held prominent roles in Alabama Republican politics.

The dirt bags behind SAHR are Dax Swatek, David Azbell, Tim Howe, and John C.H. Ross. Regular readers of Legal Schnauzer will recognize the Swatek name. William E. Swatek, Dax's father, is the ethically challenged Pelham attorney who started our legal headaches by filing a bogus lawsuit against me on behalf of our criminally inclined neighbor, Mike McGarity.

SAHR was formed in January, promoted as a one-stop shop for lobbying and political affairs. With Dax Swatek at the helm, I wondered how long it would take for SAHR to be exposed as crooked. Well, it didn't take long.

How does the education scam work? Here is how Bob Lowry describes it:

The money, part of an "at risk fund" controlled by Dr. Joe Morton, state superintendent, was paid to the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS), which hired a Birmingham software company to provide an after-school learning program based on video games called Kids College.

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The software company, Learning Through Sports Inc., was formerly a partnership between Brian Shulman, a former Auburn football player, and Auburn Network Inc., a multimedia company owned by House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn.

Hubbard, president of Auburn Network, sold his interest in Learning Through Sports in 2005 to Shulman, according to a letter on file at the Alabama Ethics Commission. Hubbard declined to be interviewed for this story. But he said in a statement that he trusts Morton's judgment in the matter.

It appears that CLAS is used as an intermediary, to help hide where state-education dollars really are going. Reports Lowry:

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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