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Are Birds of a Feather Indicted Together? (A Cliff Sims Story)

  |   By: West Honeycutt     |   Opinion

If you missed Part One of my series exposing Yellowhammer president Cliff Sims, “Dont’ Get Yellowhammered,” be sure to check it out here.

Last week I had enough.

I read the last biased, misleading Yellowhammer “News” article I could take without calling attention to its glaringly false reality. You know the article I’m talking about… “Ala. State Rep. indicted, points to evidence of coordinated political attack.

Earlier that day, Rep. Barry Moore (R – Enterprise) was arrested and indicted on four (count them — four) felony charges involving his lying under oath to a grand jury. What did Sims do next? He attempted to tell us that Moore’s lying wasn’t what got him arrested by a Republican attorney general… it was actually because of a coordinated political attack!

Sims has, for years, abstained from writing articles reflecting poorly on his friends in power, but this story must have hit too close to home. The yellowhammer could not hold its beak shut this time — so, instead, it started whistling a different tune.

Never mind that the closest thing Cliff Sims has to a yellowhammer is his own yellow belly, he and his friends in Montgomery decided it was high time to do a little propagating. Instead of continuing to ignore the Lee County grand jury that has been discussed, at length, for months, they would now acknowledge it and insist that democrats and liberals were behind it the whole time.

Last I checked, Republican Luther Strange was still attorney general of Alabama, Cliff — so no dice.

Why is it that Sims goes to such great lengths to distort the truth and mislead his readers? Evidence reported here at Sweet Home Politics would suggest, at least in this case, it is his longstanding relationship with Rep. Moore.

Sims and Moore are both from the Wiregrass; Cliff managed Moore’s House campaign in 2010; Moore was a member of Cliff’s wedding party; the list just goes on and on.

In a previous interview, Moore told Sweet Home Politics, “I taught Cliff Sims Sunday school, offered him his first job.”

Before he was indicted, Moore was caught in another lie… he deliberately listed an out-of-town address as his full-time residence on a country club application. All to save $100 each month – a small amount when compared to the thousands in state contracts Moore received. When Sims named Moore the most conservative legislator in Alabama, perhaps what he meant to say was Moore isn’t afraid to lie over $100 bucks.

I wonder if that was the lesson Moore taught Sims in Sunday School… after all, Sims sure isn’t afraid to lie and distort the truth on his blog.

Sims and Moore are, in fact, such good friends that they own property together. Want to guess which one?

Bingo! According to a Jefferson County tax assessment, Moore and Sims co-own the very property Moore tried to claim as his primary residence on his country club application — a property located a whopping 192 miles away from his actual residence, as listed by the State of Alabama.

Cliff Sims, Barry Moore Property Tax Assessment

Sims’ shady dealings do not stop there, however. We’ve all heard of Eminem’s Slim Shady… but increasingly, Alabama is home to its very own Sims Shady.

For much of the past year, Sims has written extensively on Ala. Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn. Ala. Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn calls for coal industry to be silencedThe irony of Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn’s populist rhetoricDunn is making a mistake cozying up to AARP; the list just goes on and on (literally, see here).

Eddie Curran, former reporter for the Mobile Press-Register, writes that Sims wrote a story tying protestors at a July 17, 2013 Alabama Public Service Commission meeting (complete with photos) to Dunn, yet Sims never showed up to the meeting that day. In fact, Sims published an entire video of the protest on his website.

As Curran put it:

Yellowhammer, in a story purportedly written by Sims, purported to quote some of the protesters. I say purportedly because Sims wasn’t there that day. The person who filmed the meeting and protest for Yellowhammer said Sims called him from Birmingham and directed him to focus on the protester carrying the “I Love Dunn” sign.

Curran went on to report that the cameraman was paid, not by Yellowhammer, but by Montgomery consulting firm Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross (more on that here).

When asked his thoughts on how Sims and Yellowhammer News had portrayed him, PSC Commissioner Dunn told Sweet Home Politics, “[A]nyone who has seen the Yellowhammer blog’s many stories about [me] knows at least the outline of an ugly myth Yellowhammer has been fabricating – for well over a year now – about who I am and what I believe.

“To provide you a candid assessment of Cliff Sims and his Yellowhammer website involves anything but a positive message,” Dunn stated. “Mr. Sims has shown himself, time and again, to be an unprincipled individual who tells lies casually, deliberately and often.”

In an interview last week, one Montgomery lobbyist (speaking on condition of anonymity) went so far as to say, “It has been known for sometime and is beyond speculation that the Yellowhammer blog run by Cliff Sims is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Speaker and those in his inner circle. And I don’t know anyone who would claim otherwise… His website is about as fair and balanced as MSNBC.”

Dunn is famous for calling for the first formal rate hearings for Alabama’s public utilities in more than 30 years. By doing so, he immediately drew fire from Sims and PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, who attempted to rebrand his request as a “war on coal.”

Sitting in a Durham, NC coffee shop, I spoke with a staff member of the Energy Foundation (who Sims has also written about) on their efforts in the South. When asked if she thought Dunn was on “their side,” she laughed. “Terry Dunn has been a supporter of using coal as long as he’s been on the commission. We’d love to have him as our friend — he’s just not.”

Moore; Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard; Terry Dunn… the list of those for whom Sims has attempted to change the news narrative gets rather lengthy.

“That Mr. Sims would deliberately try to fool his readers into believing such lies speaks volumes about Yellowhammer – and about Sims himself,” Dunn stated. “Worse, perhaps, are Yellowhammer’s ongoing efforts to persuade the people of Alabama that I am anti-coal and a secret supporter of Obama and his apparent desire to shut down coal-fired power plants. My record reflects just the opposite, but Mr. Sims has never felt the need to back up his lies with evidence of any kind.”

In April alone, a special grand jury in Lee County saw the arrest of both Rep. Greg Wren (R – Montgomery) and Rep. Moore. If these yellowhammer birds of a feather flock together, will they all be indicted together?

I suppose we’ll have to wait to see which song the yellowhammer sings next.

Follow West on Twitter at @WestHoneycutt

West Honeycutt is a small business owner in Birmingham, Alabama. He has formerly worked for political consulting firms in Washington, D.C. and Montgomery, AL.