We don't often spotlight a video that appears to be about a year old. But we will make an exception for a piece that recently came to our attention; it's by Skylar Zwick, a reporter for WTVY in Dothan.
Zwick this week posted on Vimeo a four-part investigative series she produced on "The Battle Over Bingo" in Alabama. It appears the series originally ran last February, prior to the arrests of 11 individuals connected to a bingo-related investigation in the Alabama Legislature.
The stories, in a sense, seem dated because they do not contain information about the arrests. But we think Zwick's reporting is worth a revisit because she asks former Governor Bob Riley the kind of tough questions that our state's largest newspapers almost never asked. Also, we suspect the series flew beneath the radars of many Alabamians outside the Dothan area. We hope to spread the word around the state, and beyond, and we hope viewers will pay particularly close attention to Riley's slippery answers when pressed by a legitimate reporter.
Here is the written version of the series from the WTVY Web site:
The Battle Over Bingo
Part II of the series is particularly enlightening, focusing on Riley's ties to out-of-state gambling interests, especially the Mississippi Choctaws, and to GOP felon Michael Scanlon:
In fact, the Governor accepted and according to published reporters, later returned a contribution from an individual with ties to Indian gaming. But it wasn't the only one we found in our investigation.
We also found a paper trail showing Riley's former press aide, Mike Scanlon writing a check for $75,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee "per Bama race" on November 26th of 2001.
Just a few days later, the Governor's campaign accepted more than $300,000 from the group. In a similar situation, Scanlon gave thousands to a Political Action Committee that gave to the Governor's campaign days later.
When Zwick confronts Riley with the evidence, he breaks into serious tap-dance mode:
That's some pretty compelling testimony from people that have known ties, in a Senate hearing, to some questionable Indian gaming facilities
“No ma'am, you, you're absolutely 100%, totally wrong and if you really would, go back and look at this and I think you will understand why you're wrong. I have never had a conversation , I don't know how else to explain this, I have never had a conversation with anyone in Mississippi in my life about Indian gaming there, ever,” Riley said.
Our investigation also found on three occasions in September 2001, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians paid Scanlon consulting fees, totaling more than $4.6 million.
On each occasion, a portion, was wired into a fund Scanlon called "Operation Orange." Within days, the Riley for Governor Campaign accepted funds from PACs and Republican organizations.
A separate ledger within Scanlon's accounting records for Operation Orange details that same check, for $75,000 right alongside Riley's name and the memo "1291 per NCRR"
“It's absurd on its face and it's absurd on its face because that's now what it says, that's absolutely not what it says,” Riley said.
Riley seems to think that Zwick and her viewers are not capable of reading. Here is the four-part series in one video:
"Battle Over Bingo" from Skylar Zwick on Vimeo.