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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Family Ties to Riley Pay Off Big Time for Birmingham Law Firm

A Birmingham law firm has raked in bucket loads of cash since Governor Bob Riley took office in 2002. Riley's son-in-law, Robert J. Campbell, just happens to be a shareholder at the firm--Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings.

The Montgomery Independent reported on August 20 that Riley had paid Bradley Arant at least $650,000 in public funds to advise a "task force on gambling" Riley created earlier this year.

But that only scratches the surface of the cushy relationship between Bradley Arant and the governor's office.

Bradley Arant's legal fees for representing the state of Alabama have increased almost 460 fold under the Riley administration, according to a Montgomery Independent story dated March 26, 2009.

Riley took office in January 2003, and Bradley Arant hired the new governor's son-in-law roughly nine months after the inauguration. Rob Campbell is married to Minda Riley Campbell, the governor's daughter.

Have connections to the Rileys paid off for Bradley Arant? Let's do some math, courtesy of the Montgomery Independent and reporter Bob Gambacurta.

Based on numbers from the Alabama Comptroller's Office, Bradley Arant received $7,264 for legal services from the state in the four years before Riley took office. As of March 17, 2009, the firm had received $3,339,258.77 for legal services since Riley took office. That's a 460-fold increase. Reports Gambacurta:

Section 36-25-5 of the Code of Alabama prohibits the use of public office for personal gain by a public official or a member of his or her family. Code Section 36 is the Alabama Ethics law.

Rob Campbell told the Independent that there is nothing improper or illegal about the firm doing business with the state while employing one of the governor's family members. John B. "Beau" Grenier, Bradley Arant's executive-committee chairman, insisted the firm is in compliance with state ethics law.

Grenier, however, declined to provide details about Campbell's compensation package or his contract with the firm.

A member of the Alabama Ethics Commission staff called the arrangement "somewhat problematic." Reports Gambacurta:

Questions have circulated on Goat Hill for years about the relationship between the Riley administration and the firm which employs his son-in-law. Because the Ethics Commission has never received a complaint against Riley, the matter has never been investigated.

Reliable sources tell The Independent such a complaint will soon be forthcoming.

This is the second ethics question to surface against Riley in recent weeks, coming on the heels of allegations that he had improperly contacted members of the Alabama Supreme Court about a pending gambling-related case.

Alabama's two largest newspapers, The Birmingham News and Mobile Press-Register, were all over the story when allegations of unethical conduct arose against former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. In fact, the newspapers pretty much created the allegations with their enterprising reporting.

Has either newspaper reported on the recent signs of wrongdoing from the Riley administration? We haven't spotted the first word. If anyone sees evidence of reporting on these issues--from any newspaper other than the Montgomery Independent--please let us know.

Interestingly, a Bradley Arant partner named Matthew Lembke joined Riley's son, Rob Riley, in submitting affidavits to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee regarding the testimony of Alabama attorney and Siegelman-case whistleblower Jill Simpson.

As we reported here at Legal Schnauzer, the Riley and Lembke affidavits were filled with hedge language that did little, if anything, to counter Simpson's allegations that Siegelman was the target of a political prosecutions.

Was Lembke motivated to file his flimsy affidavit because of the financial boost his law firm was receiving from the Bob Riley administration? It certainly looks that way now.


Anonymous said...

Ironic isn't it..? people complain about corruption in government....but they keep voting these corrupted individuals into office....if only they weren't so easily fooled by the whole (Corporate paid) adverstising package of these politicians and actually do their homework....(why would a Corporation sink millions of dollars into advertising if they thought they would get "nothing" in return?) THINK people...!

Robby Scott Hill said...

And Robert Entrekin Lusk, Tony McClain & Keith Norman at The State Bar got upset because I was laid off from the 4th largest creditor of Enron and couldn't pay off a few credit card debts. The Alabama State Bar's staff is full of themselves, derelict in their duties and they selectively enforce the rules against state employees who tell it like it is. Thank you so much for posting this Roger!