Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange received a $100,000 campaign contribution from the Poarch Creek Indians in 2010 and now seems to be making sure that the tribe's investment pays off.
Strange's office in late July seized electronic-bingo machines in Houston County and threatened similar raids on VictoryLand if it reopens in Macon County. In a not-so-subtle way, Strange seems to be wiping out the Poarch Creek's competition. And that raises this question: Are Strange and the tribe engaged in an illegal quid pro quo ("something for something" deal) that would be a violation of federal bribery laws.
The cozy relationship between Strange and the Poarch Creeks is at the heart of recent articles in The Montgomery Independent, and Editor/Publisher Bob Martin suggests a multi-pronged investigation is needed. From Martin's September 27 editorial:
A question which has been circling around Goat Hill in recent weeks is whether or not the State Ethics Commission or the U.S. Attorney's office will initiate a probe into the documented evidence that the Attorney General Luther Strange campaign received a $100,000 donation from the Poarch Creek Indians in 2010 and is now facing pay-back time.
The suspected quid pro quo is that the attorney general would lay waste to the Poarch Creek gambling competition in Alabama. Sure enough, in recent months Strange has conducted raids closing electronic bingo operations in Houston County and continues to threaten the reopening of VictoryLand in Macon County.
Substantial cash took a roundabout trip from the Poarch tribe to the Strange campaign in 2010. Martin spells it out in a September 6 article:
Some have suggested that Strange, in going after the non-Indian gambling houses in Alabama, is attempting to give the Poarch Creek Indian gambling operation the ability to further monopolize gaming in our state. Indeed, the Poarch Creek tribe laundered $100,000 to the Strange Campaign for Attorney General in 2010.
The money trail for that $100,000 contribution went like this: from the Poarch Leadership Committee to the Republican Leadership Committee on July 15, 2010; from the Republican Leadership Committee to the Alabama Republican Party on July 22, 2010, then from the Alabama Republican Party to the Luther Strange Campaign on August 4, 2010.
Bribery, money laundering, ethics violations? All apparently involving the man who is supposed to act as Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer?
The contribution to the Strange campaign took a circuitous route, much like the one described in the Don Siegelman/Richard Scrushy criminal prosecution. The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals broke with legal precedent in the Siegelman case and found that a jury could "infer" an illegal quid pro quo, based on the fact a campaign contribution took an indirect route from donor to recipient.
In fact, Siegelman currently sits in a Louisiana federal prison because of this novel interpretation of federal bribery law--and the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to review the ruling.
If that version of the law applied to Don Siegelman, it surely applies to Luther Strange.
The Alabama Attorney General's office is emitting a foul smell under Luther Strange. The stench will grow even stronger if the U.S. Justice Department and the Alabama Ethics Commission fail to investigate.