Who Needs $3.6 Billion?
How's this for irony? A few weeks ago, the Alabama Supreme Court threw out most of a jury verdict in favor of the state and against oil giant ExxonMobil. The case had to do with underpayment of natural-gas royalties, which the facts and law showed ExxonMobil was doing in a fraudulent manner.
Price tag of the Supreme Court's decision for Alabama citizens? A mere $3.6 billion. But Governor Bob Riley did not think it was important enough to even file an application for rehearing. His spokesman said the governor felt an effort to seek rehearing would be futile given the vote of eight Republicans for Exxon and one Democrat for the people of Alabama.
But we know the real reason Riley did not want to go for rehearing. The Supreme Court's ruling was so blatantly unlawful that any halfway honest brief supporting the application for rehearing would have made it clear to citizens just how badly they had been screwed. Riley did not want to blow the cover of his Republican colleagues on Alabama's high court. Our corporate-owned governor was protecting our corporate-owned appellate courts.
So guess who now is looking at dealing with a major shortfall in his upcoming state budget? None other than Governor Riley himself. We learn today that slower economic growth could lead to a drop in state education spending of perhaps $300 million in fiscal year 2009, which starts Oct. 1.
Now get this: Riley staff members are talking about making up for the shortfall by diverting natural-gas royalties paid by companies that pump gas from offshore--companies like ExxonMobil. The diverted royalties could help pay for education, Medicaid, and other services.
And here's more irony: Most of Alabama's natural-gas royalties, 64.35 percent to be exact, go to the Alabama Trust Fund, which state voters approved more than two decades ago. The fund is described as a "giant savings account for the state" and currently has $3.2 billion in stocks, bonds, and other assets.
Hmmm, $3.2 billion. Where have I heard that figure before?
Seems that Alabama's giant savings account would soon be doubling if not for the Alabama Supreme Court's unlawful ruling--the one Riley says we should not bother trying to have reheard.
It's not breaking news that Alabama politicians are shortsighted and corrupt. But it's time Alabama citizens take their share of the blame, too. It's also time a few more of us pulled our collective heads out of dark crevices and realized what happens when we mindlessly elect corporate cronies to run our state.
Alabamians, you can't have it both ways. One on the one hand, you always vote down any tax hike, and you tend to vote for any politician who claims he is going to cut taxes. But on the other hand, you also vote for corporate-owned judges who say it's OK for companies to defraud the state out of what little money it does have.
That's no way to run any enterprise, and Alabamians certainly would not stand for having their major-college football programs run that way.
Campaign-Finance Story Finds Its MoJo
Major news outlets in Alabama steadfastly ignore the story of Governor Bob Riley possibly violating state campaign-finance laws in 2002 and 2006.
But those doggone bloggers just won't let the story die. Left in Alabama reports that the MoJo Blog, at Mother Jones, has picked up on the story.
"This is hardly the first time that the words 'Riley' and 'election' have appeared together in a suspicious way," writes MoJo's Diane E. Dees. "Karl Rove is alleged to have been involved in the 2002 Alabama election, when GOP consultant Bill Canary, an advisor to Riley, worked with Rove to bring Governor Don Siegelman to prison on ethics charges."
And Left in Alabama makes a splendid point:
"So far the print big dogs are sticking with the Riley machine and saying absolutely nothing about this story. That's OK, but if they're going to cherry pick stories to keep their friends happy, the papers should quit the $%#* complaining about declining circulation and how those unprofessional bloggers are just ruining journalism."
Ruining journalism, my fanny. The big papers have exactly the dismal circulation numbers they deserve.