Senate candidate David Northcutt files complaint with Secretary of State about newspaper ads


A battle between local dentist and Republican Senate District 32 candidate David Northcutt and a north Alabama dentist has ramped up to a formal complaint to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office over ads placed in the Gulf Coast Media newspapers.

Northcutt filed the complaint with Secretary of State John Merrill’s office for what he believes were illegal political action committee actions taken by Dugald McMillan III, a dentist from Woodland, who has run several negative ads against Northcutt’s business practices and tenure on the state dental board.

“The gentleman that’s attacking me is running an illegal PAC, and the fact that he’s taking dark money from other like-minded dentists or liberals and entering that money into this election cycle is worrying,” Northcutt said.

Northcutt’s complaint contains three issues with McMillan’s actions.

“He is openly soliciting and accepting contributions for the purposes of electioneering communications, and purchasing advertising space through Gulf Coast Media, with a clear objective of defeating Dr. David Northcutt, Republican candidate for Alabama State Senate District 32,” the complaint said. “As such, he is giving ’in kind’ donations on behalf of Dr. Northcutt’s three opponents and had plans to openly endorse and support any candidate who might advance to the July run-off election should Dr. Northcutt also advance. These is (sic) all evidenced in the included email communications from McMillian. Yet, he has not filed the required Statement of Organization form within the mandated 10 days period of receiving contributions or making expenditures in excess of $1000. Additionally, he has not filed any disclosure reports for his spending on political ads in excess of $1000, as required by Act 2011-697, despite having run three half-page newspaper ads … totaling $2,002.”

Northcutt said he’s not aware what action the Secretary of State’s office may take, but he hopes to see swift action taken.

“I do know that he can be jailed,” Northcutt said. “Any time you interfere with an election cycle in the state of Alabama and break the law, it has very serious consequences.”

Northcutt said the claims made by McMillan in the ads are not true.

“As far as the claims he has made in these ads, they are blatantly false and misrepresented,” Northcutt said. “I purposefully have not responded to them because he has done this type of thing in the past when I was serving on the board. When I respond to one claim, he doesn’t respond to that - he just goes and makes another false accusation. i’m not running against this liberal dentist from north Alabama; I’m running against three people down here. It’s been very hard to focus and do that with these blatant attacks that have been coming from other parts of the state.”

Northcutt’s opponents in the race are former Walker County legislator Bill Roberts, Orange Beach City Councilman Jeff Boyd and Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott.

For his part, McMillan said he feels Northcutt’s accusations are completely false and added he might pursue legal action.

“Dr. Northcutt has now slandered me with the Secretary of State, The Gulf Coast Media and perhaps others,” McMillan wrote in an email to several Coastal Alabama dentists. “Unless there’s an apology printed in the media and with the Secretary of State next week, there will be legal action taken.”

McMillan said he did ask for contributions from several people around the state, but that he had not spent any of the money he had received on the ads placed in the Gulf Coast Media newspapers on the cost of placing the ads.

“I did ask for contributions of $25 to $50 dollars in an email sent out on January 29 and 30,” McMillan wrote. “I never expected the amount of contributions I would receive, nor have I ever mentioned money or asked for it again to my knowledge. I have not spent that money on political advertisements in the Gulf Coast Media or anywhere else.”

McMillan added he did spend $250 in cash to an unnamed woman he asked to assist him in designing the first ad.

“I kept copies of the checks I received and the envelopes they came in so I can return the money,” McMillan wrote. “I did spend $250 of the cash that I received anonymously in an envelope with no return address. It went to a woman who first designed my ads. It’s my understanding that I’m way below the $1,000, so I’ve done nothing illegal. I have complete records from Regions Bank to a separate account I set up to keep the money separated from mine.”

In reviewing the ads placed in the Gulf Coast Media newspapers over the last few months, only one explicitly tells readers not to vote for Northcutt, the April 4 ad. The rest of the ads placed by McMillan do not explicitly state to vote against Northcutt, nor do they encourage a vote for any of his opponents - which could make them advocacy ads rather than electioneering.

McMillan also raised questions about whether Northcutt had violated health privacy laws by sending campaign solicitations to his dental clients.

“I think using personal data for reasons other than health matters is in direct violate of HIPAA rules,” McMillan wrote. “Information Dr. Northcutt has collected over the years in his dental practice should not be used for personal gains. “Northcutt Dental’ is an entirely different entity than ‘Northcutt for the Senate.’ I doubt anyone realized their emails would be used for solicitations by Dr. Northcutt or anyone else in his campaign.”

McMillan said he was aware of at least one formal complaint filed because of the emails.

“A formal complaint has been issued to the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services,” McMillan wrote. “A case number has been assigned and I’m waiting on a ruling. At best, Dr. Northcutt has used poor judgment. At worst, he’s committed a huge violation and could face large fines.”