Mo Brooks embraces controversy as he leads longshot fight for Trump – AL.com

Controversy has long defined Mo Brooks’ decade as congressman for north Alabama, far more than any legislative achievements or economic wins.

Speaking his mind freely is a defining characteristic – perhaps the defining characteristic – of the Huntsville native who served nine years in the Alabama Legislature, one year as Madison County District Attorney, and 14 years as a county commissioner before going to Washington.

At one point as a commissioner he opposed the use of legal foreign labor at a local DVD manufacturer, saying if the plant wanted foreign labor, it should close down and “open a plant in Jamaica.”

As he embarks on perhaps his most controversial journey yet – spearheading the last-ditch congressional fight over the results of the Electoral College — it’s a legacy he not only embraces but says identifies his value in Washington for his constituents.

“If you’re serving the people in Washington D.C. as a congressman, senator or president and you’re not controversial, you have not been doing your job,” Brooks said in an interview with AL.com. “You have been sitting quaking in your boots in your foxhole far too long. We have major challenges and all those challenges involve controversy. If you’re not addressing those major challenges, you need to go find another job.”

Told that no other congressman or senator in Alabama is nowhere nearly as controversial as he is, Brooks never blinked.

“No question, it appears I fight harder than most,” he said.

The challenge ahead

The fight will culminate on Jan. 6 when Congress will formally receive the results of the Electoral College that elected Democrat Joe Biden president. Brooks plans to challenge the election results, siding with President Donald Trump on issues of voter fraud and election theft with the ultimate hope of winning the president a second term in office.

Brooks was the first congressman to say he would challenge the results and has been on a media blitz in recent weeks promoting his views. It’s an effort seemingly doomed to failure, given that Democrats control the House of Representatives and would most certainly not vote to undermine the election results declaring the opposing party’s candidate the victor.

Such apparent certainties, however, do not deter Brooks – who still stands by his statement made in 2018 that rocks falling into the ocean is the primary cause of rising sea levels. Trump tweeted his support of Brooks’ effort and also phoned Alabama’s Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville about joining Brooks’ plan.

Should this be viewed as anything more than sour grapes over Trump’s defeat?

“That is a horribly shallow argument that is thoughtless,” Brooks said. “The key, if you are a thinking individual, is to examine whether or not there has been voter fraud and election theft. And the evidence is overwhelming and compelling that voter fraud and election theft has plagued this 2020 election cycle unlike any time in American history.”

There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. Repeated court challenges by the Trump campaign in election swing states won by Biden have failed as well as appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. And former U.S. Attorney General and Trump ally William Barr, who left office last week, has repeatedly said there has been no election fraud. Another Trump ally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said that Biden won the election.

In recent weeks, however, Brooks has delivered eight speeches on the House floor raising concerns about the election. Most recently, he focused on a 2005 election commission chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and James Baker, former White House chief of staff for Republican Ronald Reagan White House. That report, Brooks said, raised concerns about voting by mail and the prospect of non-citizens casting ballots.

Many states relaxed or changed their policies on mail-in ballots in 2020 in the spirit of voting safely during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Mass mailout of ballots, that is horribly insecure,” Brooks said in the AL.com interview. “It’s potential for voter fraud is tragically great.”

A statement by the Carter Center issued in May 2020, however, said that potential issues in vote-by-mail have been mitigated. Prior to the 2020 election cycle, five states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington – have conducted elections primarily by mail. In the presidential election, Biden won four of those states and Trump won one. None of those states, however, have had their results challenged by Trump.

“The Carter-Baker Commission found that where safeguards for ballot integrity are in place – for example in Oregon, where the entire state has voted by mail since 1998 – there was little evidence of voter fraud,” said the Carter Center statement, which was released six months prior to election day.

“Fortunately, since 2005, many states have gained substantial experience in vote-by-mail and have shown how key concerns can be effectively addressed through appropriate planning, resources, training, and messaging.”

Real-world Republican consequences

Regardless of the merits of the case Brooks is making, his election challenge is causing real-world consequences for Republicans, according to Jess Brown, a retired political scientist professor at Athens State University.

If Brooks pushes forward with his challenge, every member of Congress will be forced into a vote on the Electoral College – or, put another way, if they agree with Trump’s assertion that the election was stolen from him.

That’s an uncomfortable position for the almost two-dozen senators up for re-election in 2022 – either supporting Trump’s voter fraud claims or risking the wrath of Trump in their re-election efforts, particularly the six or seven candidates who face difficult re-elections in states with strong Democratic support, Brown said. McConnell has urged Senate Republicans not to join the effort of challenging the Electoral College results.

And even if Republicans maintain control of the Senate following the two runoff elections in Georgia next month, that control might be further jeopardized in 2022 in the aftermath of the Brooks challenge.

“The real sticky wicket in all this for Mo this time is this may not just have a consequence where it’s just Mo Brooks’ image and he would be viewed by the national press on the fringes of the Republican party,” Brown said. “This starts to mess with the political fortunes of the Republican Party in the United States Senate.”

All this from a congressman with little apparent history of “delivering the bacon,” so to speak, for his district.

In 2018, three retired generals who’d been posted at Redstone Arsenal publicly backed Brooks’ GOP primary opponent in search of a congressman they said could do more for north Alabama. It was an unprecedented rejection by leaders of the city’s biggest asset.

The generals backed Clayton Hinchman, a young business owner and Iraq war veteran who lost his leg in combat to an IED. It would seem hard to find a better candidate to run against Brooks.

“We thought a lot of a fellow disabled veteran who is well-schooled, well-experienced and ran a business,” Jones said. “We thought it was a good time for change.”

Critics like Jones have no doubt that Brooks is a conservative. “He’s the ultimate conservative,” Jones said, “but we need a voice, and we need someone that can look out for (North Alabama)” in the future.

What happened next: Brooks won

What happened next has also been another defining characteristic of Brooks as a congressman: He won. He defeated Hinchman with more than 60 percent of the vote in the primary and easily defeating former city of Huntsville attorney Peter Joffrion in the general election. And, like he’s done every two years, cruised to another landslide re-election in 2020.

It’s perhaps telling of his electoral strength that – despite a penchant for grabbing headlines over controversial opinions and not being a pied piper for economic development – no elected official or political veterans have challenged him on the ballot.

In the 2020 GOP primary, Brooks was challenged by Chris Lewis, a retired Army commander from St. Florian in Lauderdale County. Lewis raised more than $165,000 on his campaign, stumped throughout the five-county district and not only lost a lopsided race, he only received 38 percent of the vote from his home county at a time when northwest Alabama could have swung some of the political influence away from the district heartbeat of Huntsville.

As he wins re-election every two years, what does it mean for Brooks’ district beyond one controversial headline after another?

When asked about the controversial Brooks, a spokeswoman for Mayor Tommy Battle of Huntsville – soon to be Alabama’s largest city and the home of Redstone Arsenal as well as dozens of private companies doing business with the thriving Army base — said he would not be commenting.

A look at Brooks campaign website gives no indication of his influence on raising the stature of his district. Instead, the “issues” on his website is a laundry list of GOP favorites – from support of Trump’s border wall to increased defense spending to “drain the swamp.”

In contrast, the campaign website of U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt – whose district borders Brooks’ on the south – touts a $2 million education center in Cullman and his work as a leader in Congress on expanding rural broadband access in his district.

Asked what’s on his brag sheet for his district, Brooks said, “I don’t look at it the way you look at it. I look at it the way Ronald Reagan explained it: A rising tide lifts all boats. I have tried to make America better and stronger. Then all of America has benefited, including and not limited to, the Tennessee Valley that I represent.

“Having said that, I am cognizant in our specialization in space and national defense, hence my influence on space and defense policies on the Science, Space and Technology committee and the House Armed Services committee.”

That matters, said Brown, the political scientist.

“Do they go to Washington and get themselves on committees that are relating to the primary economic interest of their district?” Brown said when asked about evaluating the job of a member of Congress. “Mo did that.”

Even foes respect strength

And during his decade on Capitol Hill, north Alabama has prospered perhaps more than any congressional district in the state.

“I would say the track record to date is it’s helped us to be one of the strongest booming economies in the United States of America,” Brooks said. “Even your foes, they respect strength, they don’t respect weakness. And they know that with Mo Brooks, you’re not going to be facing weakness.”

Indeed, there is no denying that north Alabama has prospered during Brooks’ decade in Congress.

“I can’t tell that the local area and region has suffered because of Congressman Brooks’ high-profile comments,” Brown said. “But it is evident that it is at times out of sync with the preferences of at least some of the leaders within Republican ranks. But I can’t tell that the district has been harmed in terms of any core economic interests.”

However, Brown asked, is that a credit to Brooks or has it happened in spite of him?

As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby is one of the most powerful lawmakers in Washington. Aderholt is Alabama’s senior House member and, until recently, was the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, has eight years seniority on Brooks in the House and is expected to become the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee next month.

That’s a sprawling safety net of federal influence for north Alabama regardless of Brooks’ contributions.

Parker Griffith, the Huntsville oncologist and incumbent congressman Brooks defeated in the 2010 GOP primary, repeated recently what he described as an often-heard Huntsville prayer: “Thank God we’ve had the cover of (U.S. Sen.) Richard Shelby.”

“The opportunity costs of Mo Brooks to this district we will not know as long as Shelby is there to protect us,” Griffith said. “We know that we have a lot of assets here than could be in other areas of the United States. And we know there are powerful congress people who would, if they could, get things moved out of here to somewhere else. And Mo is not capable of protecting us.”

Brooks maintains he plays a critical role, though it is a more subtle voice on behalf of his district. He pointed to 52 occasions since he has been in office where he has made changes in defense spending bills that became part of the legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. Those changes came at the requests of companies or military entities in north Alabama.

Brooks carried 59 more requests on behalf of contractors to the defense department after spending bills were approved by the House and 17 other requests that were part of bills that passed the House but died in the Senate.

“I’m asked to do these things, I do these things,” Brooks said. “I assume there are (other lawmakers) asked. But this is something we worked on getting into legislation and it ended up being in legislation.”

‘I do these things’

Among those requests that were approved came from Raytheon in 2011 for $424 million for SM-3 Block IIA interceptor development and testing, Brooks said. Another for $108 million came from the Missile Defense Agency for support for hypersonic ballistic tracking space sensor tracking layer.

Brooks isn’t a prolific or standout lawmaker in terms of legislation introduced and passed into law, but his record is largely in line with other members of Alabama’s seven-member House delegation. He’s sponsored 44 bills by himself since entering the House in 2011, and one of them has made it through both houses of Congress and past the president’s desk to become law.

That law changed the name of a Limestone County post office to honor Scottsboro Boys judge James Horton. Honoring a person by naming a public building, usually a post office, after him or her is a typical piece of legislating for representatives. The other typical legislation is “co-sponsored” bills that can feature dozens of lawmakers who’ve signed on as sponsors.

By contrast, the most successful Alabama legislator in the delegation in terms of legislation passed into law is Aderholt, a Republican in north Alabama’s House District 4. Aderholt has introduced 59 bills as sole sponsor since coming to Congress in 1997. Three of them have become law.

Beyond north Alabama, Brooks said he worked with outgoing Congressman Bradley Byrne of Fairhope to secure authorization funding for two littoral ships to be built by Austal in Mobile.

“That’s not something we boast about,” Brooks said of his behind-the-scenes work on funding issues for north Alabama. “But I do reply when queried.”

Brooks said his motivation for this latest controversy of contesting the Electoral College is “love of country. We are a republic. And elections are the critical underpinning of any republic.”

Brooks, joined by 18 Republican House members including Alabama’s Mike Rogers, in a letter earlier this month to House and Senate leadership seeking “evidentiary and other hearings necessary to fully investigate and probe the anomalies of the 2020 general election.”

Fighting the results of an election that appears settled, that the U.S. Justice Department and intelligence community have said was not based on fraud, is no more controversial than any other issue, Brooks said.

“There is also controversy about virtually everything else we do in Washington D.C.,” he said. “Is it any more or less than a $27 trillion debt or those who seek open borders and amnesty and citizenship for illegal aliens or the COVID-19 spending bill that’s being wrestled with? It’s no more or less controversial than anything else we deal with.”

And remember that Brooks said if you’re not controversial, you’re not doing your job – “quaking in your boots in your foxhole far too long.”

“I try to evaluate what is in in the best interest of my county or state or country, depending on what office I hold and that’s what I do,” Brooks said. “I don’t engage in illegal or unethical conduct. I don’t deceive the voters I represent by saying I’m going to do one thing when I do another. And it’s become quite clear that is something that the voters I represent appreciate. I should also add I do my best to do the homework and studying that is necessary to make an educated decision on these matters.

“Ultimately, I just try to do the right thing. And it’s up to the voters to decide whether they like the approach that I take to public service.”

Source

Related posts