Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler issued a news release this week criticizing calling the visit of three investigators from the United Nations “a major assault on Alabama laws protecting children.” Ziegler has plenty of more pressing problems that he should be focusing his attention on.
Sometimes it’s easy to spot when a politician is trying to advance his or her own career. Sometimes it’s more subtle.
But Alabama, like a lot of states, has a problem in which elected officials use their office to campaign for future seats – revealing their larger interest in advancing their careers rather than doing the job they were elected to do.
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler issued a news release this week alleging that “investigators from the United Nations” came to Alabama and launched “a major assault on Alabama laws protecting children.”
In fact, the three women who visited Montgomery were not “investigators,” and despite Zeigler’s implications, the United Nations has no authority to make or change laws in Alabama or any other state.
It is a union of nations mostly known for wartime alliances that protect both our interests in overseas disputes and besieged ethnic minorities in lawless countries. But it also recently has taken up causes such as children in armed conflict, Rwandan genocide, democracy, sustainable development and messengers of peace.
So Zeigler’s claim that these so-called investigators “neither understand or respect Alabama’s values” is either an unintentional (bad) or intentional (worse) misrepresentation of the group’s interests. The U.N.’s Human Rights Division has an arm devoted to protecting women, which any reasonable person realizes is a critical global problem.
Zeigler’s problem with them, if he were to state it plainly, is that this group is preparing a report on global access to abortion related to women’s health. They have made trips to China, Iceland, Spain, Peru, Tunisia, Chile, Morocco and more. So it’s quite unlikely that Alabama is their biggest concern. They’re also going to other states, including Oregon, so if Alabama is in trouble, Oregon must be too.
A more significant concern than a visit by this fact-finding team is how exactly a press release, on Zeigler’s letterhead, is warranted from the state auditor.
According to Alabama law, his duties are “to perform post audits of the accounts and records of the Treasurer and the accounts and records of the Department of Finance.”
Unless the governor took these ladies out to dinner and turned in a receipt, it’s hard to understand why this is official business of the state auditor.
Let’s be clear: It is not.
It’s a campaign speech without a campaign, and it is pandering to emotions of voters who might remember Zeigler and mistakenly believe that he is fighting the good fight for Alabama when he would be actually serving voters by doing his own investigation — of how our tax dollars are being used.
The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity recently issued grades for every state, and Alabama received F’s in political financing and public access to information, and a D-plus on a state integrity investigation.
That’s the investigation Zeigler, and a lot of his peers in Montgomery, should be focused on. He has plenty real problems to keep him busy.