The eight most ridiculous defenses of UAS hiring Rep. Bonner

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 17, 2013

The University of Alabama system hired Rep. Jo Bonner as its lobbyist just months after he was reelected to the U.S. Congress. He is the brother of University of Alabama President Judy Bonner.

UAS employees and political supporters have lined up in defense of hiring Bonner, suggesting his relationship to Judy Bonner was not a consideration. They’ve used several different talking points, some of which appeared in news and opinion articles in newspapers across Alabama.

Here are the eight most ridiculous talking points used to defend what UAS did.

1) Judy Bonner works for the University of Alabama. Jo Bonner works for the University of Alabama System. The two institutions are totally different.

UA spokeswoman Kellee Reinhart makes this argument the most, but I’ve seen it parroted by others.

To believe this argument you have to pretend UAS employees never interact with UA employees, don’t receive the same sources of funding and have two different missions.

The University of Alabama System and the University of Alabama might have different acronyms, but claiming they’re completely independent of each other is like saying Coca Cola is totally unaffiliated with Diet Coke. They’re apples from the same tree.

2) Judy Bonner won’t supervise Jo Bonner.

I’d imagine not, since Jo Bonner is going to be a Vice Chancellor and Judy Bonner is a University President. When you get that far up in the ranks, there isn’t a whole lot of supervision going on. The Bonners will both hold senior management positions within their respective, affiliated (see No. 1) organizations.

Senior managers as a general rule don’t spend that much time getting managed. They’re expected to handle things without a manager breathing down their necks.

This argument is a red herring. The real problem is the same institution hiring two siblings for executive level positions.

3) Jo Bonner spent 10 years in Congress. He’s uniquely qualified for this job.

Well then by that standard, he’s the least qualified of the potential candidates.

Other Alabama congressmen outrank him.

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt has been on the job since 1997.

U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus has served since 1993.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers has served since 2003, as long as Bonner which makes him just as qualified.

There are numerous former congressmen with long tenures as well. Were they not interested in making $350,000 a year? Did anyone ask them?

4) Jo Bonner has served the state so well. He deserves this.

I’m sorry, but people who run for public office shouldn’t expect anything in return, aside from their congressional salaries.

(Fun fact: Bonner will also be making $65,000 per year as pension from the federal government. As homer Homer Simpson would say, “Woohoo!”)

This is probably the most morally bankrupt argument I’ve heard. I know Americans have all become so accustomed to political back scratching that we almost expect it.

But did we ever stop to think for a second that we should expect something better of our public officials and political system? Did we ever consider that ignoring, trivializing or dismissing this sort of thing only serves to perpetuate and worsen it?

5) These accusations of nepotism are insulting to the Bonner family.

The Bonner family is no stranger to politics. Judy’s and Jo’s father was a probate judge. They’ve lived much of their adult lives as public figures, and public figures receive a higher degree of scrutiny than most. It comes with the territory.

I’m more insulted that tuition rates for students are going up while Jo Bonner will draw a $350,000 salary.

Why are people more concerned about defending the honor of Alabama’s political elite than looking out for the interests of the taxpayers who fund their lavish lifestyles?

6) It doesn’t meet the definition of “nepotism,” therefore it isn’t!

I had someone use the dictionary defense on me the other day. The writer was responding to a recent letter to the editor I submitted to the Tuscaloosa News.

He claimed to have looked the word up in the dictionary and said hiring Rep. Jo Bonner didn’t meet that definition.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume we can use dictionary entries in support of our opinions.

I looked up the definition of “nepotism” on

“Patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship.”

That’s a fairly broad definition and it can be applied here.

It frankly doesn’t matter.

The University of Alabama System, all three of its campuses and the state government all have policies on nepotism, or more accurately, policies on hiring immediate family members. These polices also are about as solid as a stale stack of crackers. You can easily get around the rules.

Now how often has that happened within UAS? I am mystified that no one seems to be asking that question of our university officials.

I’d like to know the answer.

7) The worst thing about this is Alabama losing an effective congressman.

As I’ve said, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Rep. Bonner’s service to Mobile. But when you look at the totality of this and consider all the facts, is that really your conclusion?

You will get another congressional representative, even if the special election costs taxpayers an obscene amount of money.

The Bonner family could be in charge at the UA system for decades. If you think that’s OK, then what else do you think is OK? Should Jo and Judy Bonner be able to hire their children? Should all of the UAS Trustees be able to get nice jobs for their wives, siblings and offspring whenever they please?

At what point does this become a problem for you?

Based on the recent Alabama politics, the only thing I’m pretty sure Alabama voters won’t tolerate is a Democrat. Beyond that, I have no clue where the boundaries are.

8) The UA campus has a dire need for more economic development.

I honestly have no idea where this is coming from. It sounds like a nice piece of rhetoric, but is there any factual basis for it? I keep asking but no one can come up with the answer.

Alabama’s football team has won three out of the last four national championships. Enrollment continues to surge. Whatever the university lacks financially is being made up in the form of increased student tuition.

We are a known commodity. You don’t have to sell us. Jo Bonner shouldn’t be lauded as some economic genius because he knows how to sell fireworks in July.

What is this dire need for economic development? What in God’s name are you people blathering about?


So those are the eight I have so far. If people keep asking questions, I’m sure we’ll hear defenses even more ridiculous than the ones I’ve listed here.

If our football team had used such flimsy defenses, we’d have fired Coach Nick Saban a long time ago.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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