Bob Riley apparently cannot help himself.
He became governor of Alabama in 2002 on the "strength" of laundered money from Republican felon Jack Abramoff and an election that almost certainly was stolen from Democrat Don Siegelman. Now, less than a month after Riley left office, we are learning that his final days in office were filled with dubious deals and crony corruption.
Bob Martin, editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent, lays it out in a must-read piece titled "Riley's Final Days Filled With Checks, Deals." Martin describes Riley as running what amounts to a criminal enterprise during his final days in office, one that could have major repercussions in Alabama for years to come.
But this is not just an Alabama story. Multiple sources have told Legal Schnauzer that Riley is making plans for a 2012 presidential run, especially if Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour continues to stick his foot in his mouth about the good ole' days of segregation. A major figure from the Deep South figures to be in the GOP's 2012 field--and that might well be Riley.
The most serious matter in Martin's piece involves a deal that Riley allegedly struck with incoming Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. Here is how Martin describes it:
Perhaps the most significant of them all is the meeting he called in his office in mid-December with Attorney General-elect Luther Strange. It was the last week of the special session Riley had called to deal with his proposed ethics enhancements.
We will have more to report on Riley’s deal-making later, but for now, here is what is known about that meeting.
Riley called Strange to his office to lay out what he wanted from the new attorney general--and what he would do in return--a classic quid pro quo offer.
Riley told the incoming attorney general that he wanted him to “protect” his children and also direct any business he could to them. For that, Riley told Strange, he would support him for governor in 2014 and raise $2 million for his campaign.
The children would be a reference to Homewood attorney Rob Riley, plus Minda Riley Campbell and her husband, Rob Campbell, who works at the Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant, which sucked in millions of state dollars during Bob Riley's eight years as governor.
Martin asks, "Is this attempted political bribery?" The answer is yes, as we laid out the elements of the crime in a post titled Bribery: A Primer. The key statute is 18 U.S. Code 666, which was cited in the Don Siegelman prosecution. Bribery law can be murky, but here is how we described it:
In a nutshell, the four elements of bribery under 666 are:
1. A corrupt act;
2. The offering of something of value;
3. The intent to influence or be influenced in a transaction "involving anything of value of $5,000 or more;" and
4. Federal funding to the entity involved exceeding $10,000 within the year surrounding the corrupt act.
Based on Martin's article, all of the elements are there. And the story only gets uglier. Reports Martin:
Riley also pressed Strange to hire his legal advisor at the time, Sonny Reagan, and put him in charge of all issues involving gambling in the Office of Attorney General.
“I want you to hire Sonny to be your Kenny Steeley” Riley told Strange.
Steeley was the lawyer in Troy King’s office who handled gaming issues. Riley also predicted the term of his successor Robert Bentley would be “a disaster” making it easy for Strange to be successful in 2014.
I am told there were six witnesses to this conversation.
Six people were around to hear this? Sounds like Riley isn't trying very hard to hide his corrupt acts. Why should he, given the Obama DOJ's "look forward, not backwards" policy?
Martin finishes with more information about the fine folks at Bradley Arant:
State financial records show that just prior to Riley’s departure in January, a $65,000 check was cut from the governor’s office to the Birmingham law firm of Bradley Arant, the recipient of over $10 million in fees paid by the Riley administration in the past two years.
By the way, Riley’s son-in-law is a shareholder in the law firm.
Bradley Arant made more than $10 million in state funds in just the final two years of the Riley administration? And let's see, at what firm did Luther Strange used to be a partner? Oh yes, it was Bradley Arant. No wonder Big Bob is trying to strike a deal with Big Luther.
I've had more than one legal source tell me that Bradley Arant and another downtown Birmingham firm, Haskell Slaughter, are a lot like the outfit described in John Grisham's The Firm.
You can count me as one Alabama citizen who is real tired of the corrupting influence these sleazy operations have had on our state. And we are going to be shining some unwelcome light on both firms in the coming weeks.