|Dr. Randy Brinson|
Alabamians have been treated to the sight recently of multiple arrests for alleged criminal actions related to gambling legislation.
A federal investigation seems to have focused only on individuals who favored a taxed and regulated form of electronic bingo. But a 2007 lawsuit reveals that aides to Governor Bob Riley played a pivotal role in drumming up opposition, to the point of issuing threats.
The lawsuit is a public document that should have been readily available to federal investigators. So one can only wonder why Riley's aides seem to have avoided scrutiny in the gambling case.
Riley, in the roughly two years leading up to the arrests, had become an almost pathological opponent of gambling, using heavy-handed tactics to shut down facilities that previously had not been declared illegal. The governor's actions, it turns out, were driven largely by some of his closest aides.
According to a 2007 lawsuit filed by the chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, several top aides to Riley played prominent roles in stirring the governor's anti-gambling passion. And that led to what some reporters have called "the bingo wars of 2010," the biggest political story of the year in our state--and that was before the recent arrests. (The full lawsuit can be read at the end of this post.)
Who was behind a crusade that has cost hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars for Alabama taxpayers? A legal document tells us.
Dr. Randy Brinson states in the lawsuit that Riley initially was neutral in 2007 when a bill to tax and regulate gambling was introduced in the Alabama Legislature. But when Brinson and the Christian Coalition threw their support behind the bill, HB 527, several Riley aides took quick action. And their concerns had nothing to do with a genuine opposition to gambling in Alabama. In fact, the aides and Riley were up to their necks in gambling interests.
In the lawsuit, Brinson states:
These persons knew that Riley's connections with Las Vegas and Mississippi gambling entities, combined with his stance against gambling in Alabama that resulted from these connections, would make it easier to enlist his opposition.
Who were these associates? Brinson names them: Dax Swatek, Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, Toby Roth, and Ken Wallis. How did they apply pressure? Brinson spells it out:
Based on information and belief, Dan Ireland, who is executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), contacted Dax R. Swatek, who had been Riley's campaign manager in 2006, and alerted him that Riley needed to be persuaded to oppose HB 527.
Around this time, Swatek was hired by GreeneTrack Inc., a racetrack operation in Greene County, Alabama. Within 24 hours of Swatek being hired by GreeneTrack, a meeting was held between Riley and the following individuals: Dax R. Swatek; Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, who was former deputy chief of staff to Riley and former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and was employed by a lobbying group that represented the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; Toby Roth, who was Riley's chief of staff and is currently a lobbyist for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; and Ken Wallis, who serves as Riley's legal advisor.
Was it a tough sale on Riley? Not exactly:
Based on information and belief, Riley was easily persuaded by these individuals to publicly oppose HB 527 because of the prior financial support he had received from Indian casinos. Again, this has been Riley's consistent position for almost a decade, since he first witnessed the generosity of the Indian casinos.
The Brinson lawsuit essentially provides a road map of right-wing opposition to gaming in Alabama. It lists the key players and shows how far they might go in fighting regulated gambling.
So here is a question that popped into my Schnauzer brain: I don't have the first hour of training in federal law enforcement, but I was able to track down this lawsuit that reads like a playbook for the anti-gambling crowd in Alabama. Why couldn't the brainiacs in the U.S. Department of Justice find it and follow its many leads?
Unless, of course, they weren't interested in following those leads--unless they didn't want to follow a trail that led to Dax Swatek and the rest of the Riley Gang. Maybe they only wanted to follow trails that led to certain people, but not to others.
That is the very definition of a political prosecution--one that pursues people, not crimes. And that is a subject with which we are all too familiar here in Alabama.
Below is the full text of the Brinson lawsuit.
Christian Coalition Lawsuit