How nuts has Governor Bob Riley become over electronic bingo in Alabama? So nuts that he has launched a public attack on one of the most beloved figures in our state.
We're talking about Randy Owen, lead singer of the mega-successful country band Alabama.
Why would the governor of Alabama insult the man who sang and co-wrote "My Home's in Alabama"? That's like Walt Disney going after Bambi with a rifle.
We have some theories about Riley's motivations. But first, let's examine what possessed the governor to sling arrows at Randy Owen--of all people.
Owen has a financial stake in Country Crossing, the Dothan entertainment development that Riley's anti-gambling task force tried to raid last week before a judge issued a restraining order. A spokesman for the governor says Attorney General Troy King, the state's top law-enforcement officer, was not informed about the planned raid because Owen had appeared last week at a fund-raiser for King's re-election campaign.
In so many words, the governor's office was questioning Randy Owen's integrity, all because the singer has agreed to serve as an "ambassador" for Country Crossing, which features an electronic-bingo pavilion.
How stupid is Riley's move in terms of politics? If a survey was conducted about the most revered individuals in Alabama history, the No. 1 spot almost certainly would go to Paul "Bear" Bryant, the legendary football coach at the University of Alabama. A number of folks probably would be in contention for the No. 2 spot, with Randy Owen near the top of the list.
Not only is Owen a talented and famous entertainer, but he seems to be a genuinely good-hearted fellow. He and his band mates have invested considerable time and resources to supporting worthy causes in their home state.
The only bad thing I can say about Owen is that he's a Republican--which makes it even more stupid for Riley to go after him.
No one ever will mistake Bob Riley for an intellectual giant. But even he has to know that his assault on Randy Owen and Country Crossing is a political loser.
So why is the governor doing it? Well, that brings us to our Legal Schnauzer theories.
It's well established that Riley benefited from Mississippi gambling funds, laundered through Jack Abramoff, for his 2002 gubernatorial campaign--which he "won" over Democrat Don Siegelman when vote totals mysteriously changed overnight in Baldwin County. A U.S. Senate report said Mississippi Choctaws spent $13 million to help get Riley elected.
Some have suggested, half jokingly perhaps, that the Choctaws are getting quite a return on their investment because of Riley's determination to protect their market share by keeping legal, regulated gambling out of Alabama.
But we doubt that Riley is following through on his commitment to the Choctaws out of some sense of honor. It's a proud tradition in America to cheat Indians out of their real and personal property--and we have little doubt that Bob Riley would continue with that tradition if he could.
After all, it's clear that Bob Riley has no genuine moral opposition to gambling. Heck, Dax Swatek, the governor's campaign manager in 2006, has ties to gambling. Even Rob Riley, the governor's son, is up to his eyeballs with ties to gambling.
So what's the real reason that Bob Riley is almost pathologically determined to protect the Choctaws' market share? Our guess is that the governor is doing it only because the Choctaws have some serious dirt on him--and if the governor doesn't come through, that dirt becomes public. And if that dirt were to become public, Bob Riley and some of his associates might want to start pondering how they would look in orange jumpsuits--or whatever color they wear in federal prisons these days.
What kind of dirt could the Choctaws have? Oh, let's consider just a couple of juicy possibilities:
* Perhaps the Choctaws know about Bob Riley's role in the bogus Don Siegelman prosecution; or
* Perhaps the Choctaws know the secrets behind the changing vote totals in Baldwin County that gave Riley the 2002 election over Siegelman.
It's also possible that the Choctaws have dirt on Riley of a kind that hasn't even entered our imagination.
If we've learned anything about Bob Riley over the past eight years, it's that he is not an honorable guy--and his associates are not honorable people. It's highly unlikely that Riley is fighting legalized gambling in Alabama because he wants to honor a deal with the Mississippi Choctaws. It's much more likely that the Choctaws are holding a serious hammer over Riley's head--and the governor doesn't want it to come crashing down upon his well-coiffed noggin.
While we're on this subject, let's check out Randy Owen and his band mates with "My Home's in Alabama." You can see why Governor Bob Riley thinks this man simply must be stopped: