Campaign finance reports reveal PAC, corporate influence on mayoral candidates

See who’s funding each candidate below.

Campaign finance reports released this week for Tuscaloosa’s three mayoral candidates show more than $54,000 of political action committee (PAC) donations collectively. Martin Houston received the most, followed by Walt Maddox and then Serena Fortenberry. 

Houston, a pastor and former Crimson Tide football player, received about $44,000 from three PACs: BIZPAC, CRA PAC and Free Enterprise PAC. 

Amason and Associates, a multi-family and student housing developer in Tuscaloosa, has donated about $40,000 to the three PACs funding Houston’s campaign. 

In October, the Tuscaloosa City Council extended a moratorium on building permits for multi-family and student mega-complex housing developments after Maddox’s executive order expired on May 30. 

District 4 Council member Lee Busby said the moratorium was intended to let the demand for housing in the University Residential District catch up. 

These three PACs were established to back candidates “who support and promote the interest of business and industry to enhance the welfare of the people of Alabama,” according to state records.

Additionally, records show these PACs have donated to dozens of local and state public officials’ campaigns, including Gov. Kay Ivey and Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth.

Houston has also received local support from community businesses like TradeMart, a convenience station chain, and NorthRiver Primary Care, which each contributed $1,000 to his campaign. His campaign balance at the end of January was about $10,300.

“I am very grateful for the support I’ve received from citizens and the business community over the last several weeks. Business leaders in Tuscaloosa believe it’s time for a change and have helped us financially to reach our goals,” Houston told the CW. “They want a leader for all of the people and one that will help small businesses rather than hurt them. I believe small businesses are the backbone of our city and I want to see them thrive.”

Incumbent Maddox received $10,000 in PAC contributions from three groups: EDUPAC, Westervelt Company PAC and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations PAC (AFL-CIO).

EDUPAC is located in Birmingham and supports candidates who “promote a strong education system in Alabama,” according to its state filings. Westervelt is a local organization that lobbies for the forestry industry, and Alabama AFL-CIO is the state chapter for one of the country’s most influential federations of labor unions

Local businesses, including Pritchett-Moore Inc., a real estate and insurance company, and REV Construction, Inc. also shelled out several thousands of dollars to aid Maddox’s reelection campaign. His campaign balance was about $97,000 at the end of last month. 

It has never been lost on me that you must earn the opportunity to serve as mayor,” Maddox said. “Tuscaloosa is my hometown, and it was humbling to receive donations from so many people across our community.”

Fortenberry, a UA professor and community activist whose cash balance was about $13,000 at the end of January, received a $500 donation from one PAC: the Republican Women of Tuscaloosa County (RWTC). 

McWhirter Holdings, LLC, which is owned by Egan’s Bar owner Mike McWhirter, made a $1,500 contribution to the Fortenberry campaign. Compared to her two competitors, Fortenberry said most of her donations came from individual contributors who reside in Tuscaloosa, like McWhirter.

“My donations have mostly come from individuals who want to see meaningful change in Tuscaloosa City Government, and do not mind having their names associated with that desire,” Fortenberry said. “I am a candidate who represents actual people more than I do business interests, and the tilt of my donations shows that.” 

Assistant News Editor Zach Johnson contributed to the reporting of this story.