Jeff Sessions, the GOP, billionaire donors and Samford University: A religious pipeline straight to Washington, D.C.

Samford University — and its Cumberland School of Law — is a small private Christian university in Birmingham, AL.

It’s affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention.

Jeff Sessions was on the Board of Overseers at Samford from 2006–2016.

81% of the students and 88% of the faculty are white.

Of its nearly 5,500 students, two-thirds come from families that make at least $110,000/year.

It’s ranked the most conservative college in the state of AL.

And the 17th most conservative college in the U.S.

Samford has become a farm team of sorts for the Republican party.

Martha Roby (R-AL) is a 2001 Cumberland graduate.

She sits on the House Committee on Appropriations and the House Judiciary Committee.

Roby has a 93% NRA rating, is pro-life, doesn’t support sanctuary cities or amnesty for “illegal immigrants,” against same-sex marriage, wants to repeal the ACA and is against fed regulation of greenhouse gases.

Roby’s dad, Joel F. Dubina, is a sr. circuit judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. He was nominated by George H.W. Bush.

Joel F. Dubina

Their work has overlapped.

Robert Aderholt (R-AL)

Robert Aderholt (R-AL) graduated from Cumberland in 1990. He too is a member of the House Comm on Appropriations. He’s also a member of the congressional Tea Party Caucus.

Aderholt has a 93% NRA rating, is pro-life, doesn’t support amnesty for “illegal immigrants,” is against same-sex marriage, wants to repeal the ACA and is against regulating greenhouse gases.

Aderholt believes the allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election are fake.

His dad, Bobby Ray Aderholt, was an AL circuit judge for 30 years.

Dennis A. Ross (R-FL)

Dennis A. Ross (R-FL) graduated from Cumberland in 1987. He’s a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Ross has a 93% NRA rating, is pro-life, doesn’t support amnesty for “illegal immigrants,” is against same-sex marriage, wants to repeal the ACA and is against regulating greenhouse gases.

Gary Palmer (R-AL)

Samford has donated to the campaign of Gary Palmer (R-AL) for the upcoming 2018 AL 6th Congressional District election.

Palmer’s the former president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank.

He’s a member of the Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He sits on the House Budget Comm and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

William Pryor, Jr. is an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judge. He was a recess appointment by George W. Bush in 2004. He’s an adjunct professor at Cumberland.

Pryor was most recently on Trump’s SCOTUS nominee short list.

Kevin Newsom graduated first in his class from Samford in 1994. He was nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by Trump and confirmed by the Senate on Aug. 1, 2017.

He replaced Dubina, Roby’s dad, when Dubina became a senior judge on the court. Newsom served for 3.5 years as AL Solicitor General.

Newsom’s recorded Q&A during his Senate nomination.

Current AL Supreme Court Justices Michael F. Bolin and Greg Shaw graduated from Cumberland.

4 of 5 judges on the AL Court of Civil Appeals are Cumberland graduates: William Cooper Thompson, Craig Pittman, Terri Willingham Thomas and Scott Donaldson.

Lee Ann Pusey, considered “one of the top lobbyists in Washington, D.C.” by The Hill publication, is a Samford graduate.

There are many other politicians, lawyers, judges, lobbyists and business people with Samford connections.

Samford also has a history of hosting political events.

Prior to Roy Moore defeating Luther Strange in the AL Sen runoff, the two were scheduled to speak at Samford.

Marco Rubio made a campaign stop there during the last presidential election.

There have also been multiple judicial hearings hosted at Samford.

Samford is well funded.

Its 2016 budget was more than $166 million and its endowment was at least $270 million.

In 2015, it wrapped up a 2-year endowment that raised $200 million. It garnered donations from 17,000 individuals.

It’s currently in the midst of a new $300 million fundraising effort called Forever Samford.

These endowments have allowed the school to grow into a top-ranked U.S. private Christian institution.

They also provide schools like Samford enormous tax breaks for itself and wealthy donors.

The Charles Koch Charitable Foundation has donated at least $55,000 to Samford. While that’s a pittance when compared to the Koch foundations’ donations to other post-secondary schools, it may be an entry point into better understanding the Koch philosophy.

Consider this leaked 2015 Americans for Prosperity prospectus.

Koch and his groups have long believed college campuses are at the core of their grassroots efforts to evolve their conservative movement.

Their donations can be considered a “veiled political weapon.”

Since 2005, the Koch Foundation has given nearly $145 million to universities; a majority to Southern schools.

The DeVos family is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars to push its views into public and private education.

Betsy DeVos views on education can be traced, in part, to her own experiences in school.

She has a powerful position as the Sec of Ed. and is using it to bend the system to her way of thinking.

DeVos has reversed regulations on for-profit colleges.

And reversed Obama’s policies on campus sexual assault investigations.

Earlier this year, Samford was in its own campus spat over the divisive issue of inequality. The news made international headlines.

The Samford faculty had recommended approval of “Samford Together,” a student organization meant to provide a forum for students to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in “an open-minded and accepting environment.”

This raised the ire of the Alabama Baptist State Convention and it said it wouldn’t be making its annual $3 million allocation to Samford.

In July, Samford announced it wouldn’t accept the money.

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland has set up a group to “lead discussions of sexuality issues on campus.”

But “Samford Together” has yet to be formally recognized by Samford.

Citizen Journalist

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