T’was the night before Thanksgiving and all ’round the state no one was thinking about the long-shot race to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Richard Shelby. Well almost no one. I was on the phone with Senator Richard Shelby’s campaign trying to track down the truth about its role (or lack thereof) in a bizarre story of bribery and finger pointing.
Tuesday night, Yellowhammer News posted the sensational accusation that John Martin accused Jonathan McConnell of attempting to bribe him to get out of the race. You can see how this scoop would be worth a late night post if it were breaking but the “‘accusation” was based on a Nov. 9th Facebook post by Martin, so the post itself caused more questions than the accusation. Yellowhammer’s version of the story wasn’t helped when Al.Com picked it up and quoted Martin saying he wasn’t accusing McConnell of bribery.
That’s the way [Yellowhammer News CEO] Cliff [Sims] wrote it – probably not the way I explained it to him, but that’s the words he chose.”
AL.com quoted Martin specifically saying, “That’s his words. I didn’t say ‘bribery.'” Which is funny considering the YhN headline was, “McConnell accused of bribery scheme in Alabama U.S. Senate Primary.”
Here’s where things took a stranger turn: McConnell’s campaign response was, “44-year career politician Richard Shelby might have set the landspeed record for gutter politics by sending his bought-and-paid for cronies to attack the integrity of Jonathan McConnell. It’s no surprise that Shelby is scared of a one-on-one campaign because he can’t justify lining his own pocket on the backs of taxpayers. Jonathan McConnell Is looking forward to taking on Richard Shelby, regardless of who else is in the race.”
Which leaves us with a lingering question, who is “bought-and-paid for?” The implication is Cliff Sims and Yellowhammer and boy did he take offense. His response, in part, according to AL.Com, “As a general rule, I try not to interrupt people when they’re making a fool of themselves. But since Jonathan McConnell apparently believes he should be the exception to rules governing campaigns, I’ll make him the exception to my rule as well,” he then went on to recount the situation as he sees it, “So, let’s get this straight: Mr. Martin accuses Mr. McConnell of trying to pay him off to get out of the race. Mr. McConnell at first denies it, then admits to it.” Thanks for the clarification but…
Wait, there’s no mention of the allegations against him in there? Did Sims and McConnell both go to the same school of diversion in answering questions directly. We have to admit the directness of the Shelby campaign for the purposes of this story were much appreciated.
Still no answer to the question McConnell posed: What was Shelby’s role in this whole thing?
So we decided to contact the Shelby campaign with three simple questions:
- Has anyone from your campaign or Senator Shelby spoken to John Martin?
- Has Senator Shelby personally, through his campaign or through campaign consultants given, pledged or promised money to Cliff Sims and/or Yellowhammer directly or indirectly for advertisements or event sponsorships? (I clarified in a three year period)
- Were any of Shelby‘s consultants or team responsible for the story?
I got a phone call back almost immediately (keeping in mind this is the day before Thanksgiving) from the campaign spokeswoman and her answer to all three questions a one word response: “No.”
Now that that’s settled. We are left at square one which is all eyes on McConnell to better explain himself and his intentions.