Jeff Coleman and Barry Moore

The GOP 2nd Congressional District candidates who have, until recently, touted their “clean campaigns” leading up to the July 14 primary runoff are now in a battle to pinpoint who is “swampier.”

The attacks between the campaigns started with a midweek news release from Jeff Coleman’s campaign, accusing Barry Moore of “swamp tactics” related to Moore’s endorsement from the Club for Growth political action committee. Moore’s campaign fired back Friday morning.

Coleman’s stand

“The original never-Trump, anti-farmer super PAC Club for Growth is up to their old swamp tactics again. It’s disturbing that Barry Moore would welcome this group into our state after they ran millions of dollars in attack ads against Donald Trump in 2016,” Coleman’s campaign manager, Dalton Dismukes, said in the Wednesday release.

“Not only has the club targeted our president, but they have also targeted the livelihood of our farmers and producers by routinely opposing the farm bill —and other critical needs that support farmers and agribusiness across our district.”

The PAC recently released a television ad supporting Moore as the “right man for Congress.” The ad shows a clip of Moore endorsing Donald Trump for the presidency in 2015 while a member of the state House of Representatives — the first elected official in the nation to do so.

Dismukes also pointed out the attacks come after the Club for Growth paid over $300,000 to buy TV airtime and a digital ad placement to oppose Coleman earlier this week, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

“Why does Moore want to bring in outside groups to help him win this campaign? There’s a simple answer: These are the same swamp tactics that he learned as a politician,” Dismukes said. “He may claim to support term limits but will never pass the chance to collect a check as a politician, as he has tried to do in nearly every election cycle for the past 10 years.”

Moore’s response

On Friday, Moore’s campaign responded to the attacks.

“It’s sad that Mr. Dismukes has already resorted to mudslinging against Barry Moore, but it’s the only thing he can do at this point. They’ve already spent $2 million trying to buy a congressional seat,” Jonathon Barbee, Moore’s campaign consultant and media director, said in a statement Friday morning.

“They know Barry’s always supported farmers and agribusiness across District 2; he even grew up on a farm and has a degree in agriculture. They know Barry chose to limit himself to eight years in the Alabama House rather than seek re-election because he believes in term limits.”

Charges against Moore

Moore represented the 91st House District from 2010 to 2018. He was re-elected after being caught up in an investigation by the attorney general’s office into public corruption in Alabama. In April 2014, Moore was arrested and charged with perjury and providing false statements to police.

According to the indictment, Moore was charged with lying to Deputy Attorney General Miles Hart on two occasions when Hart asked if Moore had told his opponent in the upcoming election, Josh Pipkin, that then-Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard had threatened to pull economic incentives from a jobs project in Enterprise if his opponent stayed in the race.

According to an Enterprise Ledger report, earlier conversations between Moore and Pipkin projected 100 jobs as well as funding for a related program at Enterprise State Community College could be lost if Pipkin stayed in the race. Audio recordings of the phone call were released to the media.

Moore told the grand jury that he was unaware of a threat to the project and that he never told Pipkin that Enterprise would get the jobs if Pipkin dropped out, leading to the perjury charge.

Moore was found not guilty of all charges.

Case against Moore

In the lengthy statement sent to media outlets, Barbee continued to attack Coleman, who is seeking his first political office, for trying to buy the congressional seat and a 2015 Department of Justice lawsuit against his Dothan-based company, Coleman World- wide Moving.

“His company agreed to a settlement in 2015 of $5 million in a fraud case against the Department of Defense, where the Department of Justice had estimated the total fraud at over $700 million. Coleman has insisted that his company did ‘nothing wrong,’ despite agreeing to the settlement, and one of the company’s managers going to prison,” Barbee said.

“Mr. Coleman is a millionaire who has outspent Barry Moore by more than 10-to-1. Coleman has written himself some big checks, which is fine, but he’s also received contributions from a number of out-of-state groups and Alabama corporate big mules. … Mr. Coleman’s only record is littered with fraud, corruption and swamp connections in D.C. His campaign is distorting the truth because they’re trying to hide Coleman’s swamp connections. If anybody in this race is using swamp tactics, it’s the Coleman campaign.”

Before March’s primary election, Coleman said on several occasions that his company opted to pay the $5 million settlement as a business decision to avoid further legal costs and wasted time. The lawsuit focused on allegations that the company defrauded the federal government when submitting moving invoices with inflated weights for military families.

Coleman’s company continues to provide moving services to the Department of Defense.

The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in November. The seat is held by Republican Rep. Martha Roby, who isn’t seeking re-election.

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