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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alabama Republicans Are Eating Their Young

As we noted in our previous post, a rift appears to have developed between two prominent camps of the Alabama Republican Party.

Now it looks like Alabama GOPers are about to eat one of their own. This should be fun.

Bob Gambacurta, of the Montgomery Independent, reports that a grand jury met last week to hear testimony from witnesses in an apparent investigation of Alabama Attorney General Troy King.

King, who was appointed by Governor Bob Riley, is Republican through and through. But now we discover that Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is investigating "Rapid Troy the AG Boy" (a tip of the hat to the late, great Jim Croce). Martin, of course, is a Bush appointee who owes her position to Karl Rove and Business Council of Alabama honcho Bill Canary.

So what gives with this investigation of Troy King? The folks at Doc's Political Parlor, a prominent Alabama political blog, are baffled. And so are we.

But one thing is for certain: Any investigation of Troy King, like most everything else Alice Martin has done during her tenure, probably is about politics, not facts and the law. I'm not one to defend Troy King, but I find it hard to believe that he committed some kind of wrongdoing that only now came to Martin's attention. If King did something remotely unlawful. and Martin is just now taking action, it's probably for political reasons.

What might those reasons be? Let's take a few guesses:

* Alice Martin's career arc--This almost certainly is driven by the fact that Alice Martin is obsessed with her next career move. If the Obama administration ever gets around to booting Alice out on her conservative fanny, she's going to need another job. Doc's Political Parlor wonders if Martin is going after King in an effort to stay on as U.S. attorney, by showing the Obama folks she can nail a Republican. I think this is unlikely. A source tells us that Martin craves the Alabama AG job. And what better way to get it than by running off Troy King? That sounds more likely to us.

* The gambling angle--Gambacurta reports that the investigation involves King's relationship with gambling interests in the state and allegations of selective prosecution of some electronic-bingo operators. The Birmingham News notes: "King has butted heads with Gov. Bob Riley on gambling--particularly over the question of whether some electronic bingo machines in operation around the state are legal." Riley has appointed a task force to shut down electronic bingo machines within the state's jurisdiction, but King has said those machines are legal under state law. Riley's hypocrisy on gambling is boundless, considering that he and several close associates have clear ties to gaming. But the governor has been known to sic the feds on those who cross him (see Goff, John W.), and perhaps that has led to King's difficulties.

* The gay angle--Rumors have persisted since last summer that King has a gay problem. The story goes that King's wife caught him in a compromising position with a male aide. Is it possible that Riley, Martin, and others have decided those rumors make King a political liability?

* The Riley/Martin rift angle--This is perhaps the most delicious angle of all. News accounts indicate that Riley and Martin might be ganging up on King--and that certainly is possible if they have repaired their rift. But what if the rift has not been repaired? What if this is a warning shot from Alice Martin to Riley: "If you don't appoint me to the position I want on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, I'm going to do to you what I'm doing to Troy. I'm going to drag you in front of a grand jury and expose all of the dirty laundry I know about you."

Wouldn't that be something? Heck, I actually would be rooting for Alice Martin in that one.

A recent column from Bob Martin at the Montgomery Independent hinted at the kind of dirty laundry Bob Riley is sitting on. Martin also notes the irony of Riley pushing ethics reforms as his term is winding down:

The governor leaves office in 2010 and many Democratic lawmakers believe he is trying to set up opposition-party lawmakers who will continue in office. In retaliation they point to Riley's political use of his office, charging that he raised campaign funds from Mississippi casinos and other pay-for-play schemes. One of those schemes was in 2005 when Riley committed $50 million in taxpayer funds to help build the Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology at Cummings Research Park in Huntsville.

Soon afterward, on December 16, 2005, a Political Action Committee (PAC) was created and immediately was infused with $325,000 in cash. It was a 527 PAC, named for the section of the law permitting it, which means it could make unlimited contributions to political candidates. The two founders and an executive of the institute provided $300,000 to the PAC. On December 19, 2005 the PAC gave $300,000 to Riley's re-election campaign. Not much subtlety there was there....but now the governor appears to want to culminate his governorship as a champion of ethics.

Was this little caper legal? I don't know, but had the Ethics Commission had the powers then that the governor wants them to have now, perhaps they could have made that determination.

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