Alliance for Jobs and the Economy
The Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE) is a tax-exempt 501(c)(6) business league incorporated in March 2015 with the stated mission, "to provide accurate and reliable information and advocacy for business business [sic], industry and local and/or state government when jobs are on the line from irresponsible threats or attacks fromenvironmental [sic] groups or from potential regulations, to ensure continued economic growth and opportunity for the Greater Birmingham, Alabama area and in the other areas of the state of Alabama as approved by the Board of Directors."
According to an indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in June 2017 the AJE was formed by staff attorneys Joel Gilbert and Steven McKinney of Balch & Bingham as part of their work for the Drummond Company, specifically to campaign against actions proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess polluters to offset the costs of remediating the 35th Avenue Superfund Site. According to the indictment, the role of the AJE was, "to raise money to help fund their opposition to the EPA actions."
On its IRS filings, the AJE listed David Roberson, Drummond's vice president for government relations, as chairman and president, and Mike Thompson of Thompson Tractor Company as secretary. Other businesses that were recruited to contribute annual dues to the alliance included ACIPCO, Nucor Steel, and the Alabama Power Company. Drummond CEO Mike Tracy and ACIPCO president/CEO Van Richey testified at trial that their understanding of the alliance's function was to educate residents and business owners in Tarrant about the EPA's "overreach" and the possibility that actions taken by the EPA would hurt the local economy and cost the area jobs. Robinson, who had already announced his resignation from the House of Representatives, pleaded guilty to the bribery charges in a deal with prosecutors reached in September 2017.
Almost all of the funds raised by the AJE, totaling more than $360,000, were paid out from Balch & Bingham to the Oliver Robinson Foundation, a non-profit group headed by Alabama State Representative Oliver Robinson's daughter, Amanda. Prosecutors claim that the payments were, in fact, bribes to Rep. Robinson in return for his using his standing as a public official and as vice-chair of the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation to influence his constituents and colleagues on behalf of Drummond. And in fact, Robinson did lobby the Alabama Environmental Management Commission and the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to oppose the EPA, claiming to be acting on behalf of residents of North Birmingham and Tarrant. He also communicated to residents and property owners in the area that their property values could be negatively affected if they allowed the EPA to test for soil pollutants.
- Business Alliance for Responsible Development, a similar organization formed in 2005
- "U.S. Attorney Charges Former Alabama Legislator in Bribery Conspiracy." (June 22, 2017) Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Alabama
- Whitmire, Kyle (September 21, 2018) "Luther Strange finance chair tied to nonprofit in Alabama bribery case." The Birmingham News
- Hrynkiw, Ivana (July 2, 2018) "Bribery trial: Drummond CEO thought contract was for community outreach." The Birmingham News