Rebecca Abrahams helps remind us of that with a piece at Huffington Post titled "Governor Bob Riley Gambling With Alabama Politics."
Our recent focus has been on Riley's efforts to shut down the electronic-bingo pavilion at the new Country Crossing development near Dothan. But Abrahams notes that Riley's obsession with gambling in Alabama stems from his associations with convicted felons--specifically disgraced GOP lobbyists Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff.
Can you imagine the stink that would be made if former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman had ties to unsavory characters such as Scanlon and Abramoff? But the somnolent, right-wing Alabama press tends to ignore the fact that Scanlon used to be Riley's press secretary when the governor was a U.S. Congressman. And the Alabama press ignores all together Riley's well-documented ties to Abramoff.
Perhaps it takes a reporter with a national perspective to provide clarity on the criminals who helped put Riley in the governor's mansion in the first place. Abrahams is that kind of reporter, and she writes:
During his 2002 campaign, Riley viciously attacked former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman's state lottery proposal to fund schools and create jobs. But why wouldn't Riley want the stream of revenue from legalized gambling coming into Alabama?
Country Crossing Casino developer Ronnie Gilley has gone to battle with Riley's Task Force and told the Montgomery Advertiser, he believes the Governor's crackdown on gambling suggests ulterior motives to eliminate competition for the Mississippi Choctaw Indian casinos.
Is Gilley on target? Abrahams writes that the answer probably is yes:
Gilley may not be too far off. According to a 2002 US Senate Indian Affairs Committee report, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff boasted the Choctaw tribe spent $13 million to elect Riley in 2002. The report states Abramoff told William Worfel, the former Vice Chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, that Mississippi Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin spent the money to protect the Choctaw's gaming enterprise.
"to get the governor of Alabama elected to keep gaming out of Alabama so it wouldn't hurt . . . his market in Mississippi."
Just how sleazy was Michael Scanlon? And how closely tied to Scanlon was Riley? Writes Abrahams:
The report further notes, convicted lobbyist Michael Scanlon, Bob Riley's former congressional press secretary, received $4.5 million over two years to protect the Choctaw's gaming interests through the scheme known as "Operation Orange."
Records show in October 2002, Scanlon sent $500,000 to Riley during his gubernatorial campaign. The funds were filtered through the Republican Governors Association and the Republican National State Elections Committee. Documents indicate the funds were increased to $600,000 when Riley received payment.
Clearly Scanlon benefited from the Mississippi Choctaw casino revenues and since millions were spent to elect Riley, there's no way the Governor could ever allow gambling in Alabama, which is only an hour away from the Mississippi Choctaw casinos.
It's hard to imagine the picture getting much uglier. But it does, thanks to former Riley cabinet member Bill Johnson:
Riley continues to deny such allegations despite recent charges by his former cabinet member Bill Johnson that hid did accept money from the Choctaws during his gubernatorial election.
Johnson, a Republican candidate for Governor, says in 2002, Riley's Chief of Staff Dan Gans, told him that he was coordinating the Mississippi Indian contributions for Riley's campaign. Johnson says it wasn't until the Governor formed his anti-gambling task force and began raiding bingo halls across the state that he began to realize that outside money could be influencing public policy in Alabama.
"I knew about the Abramoff stuff and knew about Mike Scanlon when the Congressman (Riley) was wrapped up in all of that but it never seemed like it was getting close to the Governor until it started to become quid pro quo."
Hmmm, quid pro quo. That's a term we've heard associated with the Siegelman prosecution. It means a "something for something" agreement that helps constitute a criminal charge of bribery.
The public record shows such an agreement clearly was not in place in the Siegelman matter. But a former member of Riley's cabinet has voiced concerns that such an agreement was in place between Riley and the Mississippi Choctaws--that he would accept campaign support in exchange for protecting the tribe's market share by keeping legalized gambling out of Alabama.
Rebecca Abrahams paints a disturbing picture of "politics as usual" among Republicans in Alabama. Bob Riley took office with the help of convicted felons, and seven years into his governorship, he still is taking official actions that appear to be based on an unlawful relationship with Mississippi Choctaws.
Pathetic Alabama newspapers aren't likely to cover the story. But Rebecca Abrahams has shown that Huffington Post will.