State auditor should stick to bean counting

Published 11:46 pm Friday, December 18, 2015

Alabama’s state auditor is required to report annually to the governor on receipts and disbursements to the treasury, audit the treasury and revenue departments and keep tabs on state property.
It’s the beaniest of bean-counting positions, and traditionally draws little attention except at election time.
Jim Zeigler, the current auditor, is changing that profile – not for the better.
Zeigler, a Mobile attorney, served one term on the Public Service Commission in the 1970s, then became a frequent (and unsuccessful) political candidate. He lost six races – three each as a Democrat and a Republican – before winning the auditor’s post last year on the GOP ticket.
His platform always has been stamping out waste in government. We have no issues there, and bean-counting is a good way to accomplish that goal.
However, Zeigler’s declaration before taking office that “there’s a new sheriff in Montgomery” has gone beyond saving nickels.
Zeigler blasted Gov. Robert Bentley’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds. He drew criticism for addressing a meeting of the League of the South, which has advocated “a free and independent Southern republic” and has been tagged as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Following this year’s shootings at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C., he advised Alabama churchgoers to “pack” (guns) when attending services.
And last week, Zeigler issued a press release warning that three United Nations investigators were launching “a major assault on Alabama laws protecting children.”
He said the trio met with a doctor and an ACLU attorney at a Montgomery abortion clinic to discuss Alabama’s restrictions on abortions, the unavailability of contraceptives to young people and the state’s chemical endangerment law under which pregnant women or new mothers can be prosecuted if drugs are found in their babies’ systems.
Zeigler said the UN may be about to “dictate to Alabama” what it must do on those issues, that he had no confidence in the president or governor’s ability to “block that agenda” and that he’d be “monitoring this developing situation.”
Uh, yeah.
We doubt there’s any cabal hidden away at UN headquarters in New York, furiously working on a plan to conquer Alabama. UN forces have their hands full elsewhere on the planet, so it’s unlikely the organization can spare any personnel for that assignment.
What happened in Montgomery probably was a meeting of like-minded advocates for specific positions – as when anti-abortion folks gather to talk strategy.
Zeigler is carrying on a familiar Alabama political tradition – stirring people up with visions of outsiders coming in to change our way of life (although the UN hasn’t been invoked since the glory days of the John Birch Society).
It generally works, and we’re under no illusions that Zeigler’s views are that far out of line with Alabama’s electorate at this point. Green House Cat Republicans (we just made that up) have replaced Yellow Dog Democrats here.
We just think the state would be better served if its auditor stuck to bean counting.
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