Who Is Luther Strange? — Alabama’s Mysterious Unelected Senator
Did you know that we have a Senator sitting in the Senate who was hand-picked by a Governor — and who who has never actually been elected? That’s the unexpected case with Luther Strange — a Republican Senator who now represents Alabama, though he was never voted by Alabamans. More than that: some people think that when he was Attorney General, he had a serious conflict of interest in at least one decision that he made.
How did all of this come about?
On Feb 8, the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions — who had been a Senator from Alabama — as America’s new Attorney General. Sessions now left behind him an empty seat; there was now no Senator of Alabama to take his place. As a result, Alabama’s Governor, Republican Robert Bentley, drew on the little-known 17th Amendment of the Constitution — which let Bentley appoint a replacement Senator who was never voted in. As the Amendment puts it:
“When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”
Bentley is “the executive” in question. So he was able to personally select Luther Strange to be the replacement Senator from Alabama.
Strange had been Alabama’s Attorney General before he was tapped to replace Sessions. He will now hold a position in the Senate for at least one year. At that time, a special election will be held in Alabama which will determine if he is to serve out the full term.
Governor Bentley, in a report from his own website, states:
“This is truly a remarkable time in our state’s history. Alabama has surely been well represented by Senator Sessions, and I am confident Senator Strange will serve as a fine representative for our people. His leadership on a national level, service as a statewide elected official and long record of taking on tough federal issues are the very qualities that will make him a strong conservative Senator for Alabama.”
While Bentley and Strange have campaigned together in 2010, little is known publicly about Strange’s political platform. LutherStrange.com, as of this writing, seems to be hosted mainly for campaign funding, and email subscriber collection. You can see it below. It doesn’t spell out any details of his platform — it mostly offers a brief quote about how Strange is sad to leave his former position. There are no pages on the site at all spelling out any of Strange’s specific political beliefs, his accomplishments — well, it does say that he was the Attorney General — or his goals. There are only three buttons, and all of them say “donate now” or “sign up.”
Is there nothing to know, in fact? There’s lots to know if you look. We do know that Strange was an official lobbyist for Sonat Offshore in the 1990’s. Sonar Offshore is an Alabama oil company which is also known as “Transocean Ltd.”
There is history indeed. This is the same company that owned the oil rig that was contracted by British Petroleum, that caught fire and broke down in the infamous 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill, an ecological disaster that drained 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, according to Dosomething.org.
As Alabama’s Attorney General, Strange, who had worked for the company involved for twenty years as a lobbyist, now oversaw his former employer’s catastrophe. He was in charge of the conclusion, which was a $2 billion dollar settlement against British Petroleum — a settlement that many critics saw as minor compared to the damage the explosion had done. In an article for AL.com, Strange stated:
“[…] [Transocean] is in no way the same company that it is today [sic]. In fact, it has been reincorporated twice through mergers in the past 10 years and my work for them 12 years ago has absolutely no bearing on my intent to pursue all those responsible for the tragedy.”
Whether or not Strange truly had a conflict of interest in this situation, critics may say that his corporate interests and alliances could make him part of what President Trump calls the “swamp.” Strange is already making waves in Washington D.C. On February 10th, Strange cast his first vote as the Senate’s only totally unelected Senator: he voted to repeal and replace Obamacare.
What do you think of the fact that we have such an influential person sitting in the Senate — whom the people of Alabama did not actually elect? Is this the best policy for replacing Senatorial seats that are vacated in the midst of a term? Did Governor Bentley make the right decision in picking Luther Strange? Do you feel that he did have a conflict of interest in overseeing the settlement of a lawsuit against his former employer? Or is this all fair game? Share your thoughts and feelings — especially if you are from Alabama! — in the comments below.