A business leader who apparently committed suicide last week in Montgomery, Alabama, was director of a 60,000-member association that had long been coveted by rivals with ties to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove.
Ralph Stacy was a senior vice president at the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), and his death apparently took place at BCA headquarters. But Stacy also was president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama (CCAA), whose membership dwarfs that of the more nationally connected BCA.
The two organizations formed an alliance called The Partnership in 2003, not long after Republican Governor Bob Riley took office. But a source tells Legal Schnauzer that, with Riley stained by scandal and his term coming to an end in January, ties between the two groups were splintering.
Did those tensions contribute to Ralph Stacy's unexpected death? Was Stacy's death the result of a power struggle between one organization favoring small business and another leaning toward big business? And did Stacy's death, while seemingly an Alabama event, have ties to national figures such as Rove and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Director Tom Donohue?
Stacy has been described in news reports as a close associate of BCA President Bill Canary. But in truth, our source says, the two men had an uneasy relationship--and radically different business philosophies. Stacy became the CCAA's first professional director in 1999, helping to guide more than 120 local chambers around the state, many of them in small towns. Canary, from his days at the American Trucking Association, has ties to big business and national players.
Why would Canary even care about Stacy and his many small-town constituents? Well, Stacy's organization has almost 60,000 members, while Canary's BCA has only about 5,000 members. That discrepancy, our source says, had long gnawed at Canary, Donohue, and Rove, who has deep roots in Alabama from his successful efforts in the 1990s to turn Alabama appellate courts over to Republican control.
Canary's desire to gain control over CCAA's members, and their fees, led to formation of the Partnership in 2003. But it took awhile for the alliance to fully take hold. It was not until December 2009 that the two groups held their first joint annual meeting, featuring Tom Donohue as featured speaker. Here is how the CCAA Web site described the event:
The Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama and the Business Council of Alabama will make history on Friday, December 4, when they hold their groups' first joint Annual Meeting in Birmingham featuring a keynote address by Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce.
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