The son of former Governor Bob Riley was the middle man in a transaction that funneled Indian gambling money toward a campaign to fight non-Indian gaming facilities in Alabama, according to a report yesterday in the Montgomery Advertiser.
Rob Riley, a Homewood attorney, received notification from the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) that it had contributed $100,000 to Citizens for a Better Alabama on June 10, 2010. Records show that the RSLC received a $100,000 check that same day from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Records also strongly suggest that Indian gambling money played a major role in the Republican takeover of the Alabama Legislature in 2010, the Advertiser article states.
Finally, the $100,000 check from the Poarch Creeks involves possible tax irregularities. Reports the Advertiser:
The donation was not reported on the RSLC’s filings with the Internal Revenue Service until August 2010, when it was reported as a donation made July 15, 2010, over a month after RSLC records show the check arrived.
Rob Riley acknowledged that he was helping Citizens for a Better Alabama raise money at the time. But he claims he did not know the source of money sent to the RSLC. Reports the Advertiser:
“I have never had any contact with anyone in the Poarch Creek Indians about giving money to anyone at any time. And I certainly didn’t on this occasion,” Rob Riley said. Rob Riley and the director of Citizens for a Better Alabama said all they knew about the money was that it originated with the RSLC.
Citizens for a Better Alabama, directed by Birmingham lawyer A. Eric Johnston, lobbied against legislation that would have let voters decide whether to allow electronic bingo in certain areas of the state. Johnston acknowledged receiving money from the RSLC but insisted he had no idea it came from the Poarch Creeks:
“We were assured, and we were told at the time by Governor Riley that this money did not come from the Indians,” said Eric Johnston, the director of the group. . . .
Rob Riley said he was not aware that the RSLC received money from gambling interests, including the Poarch Creeks. When asked if that would have affected accepting the contribution, he said the decision about that money would have been made by Johnston.
“From everything I know from the person that ran Citizens for a Better Alabama, they took great efforts to make sure they were not getting money from gambling interests,” Rob Riley said.
|A. Eric Johnston|
Johnston also served as treasurer of CALL, a group that fought Gov. Don Siegelman’s 1999 lottery campaign. Campaign finance records for the group show it received $300,000 from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), headed by Grover Norquist, in October of 1999. About $300,000 was routed through ATR by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians “because the Tribe wanted to block gambling competition in Alabama,” according to a 2006 Senate report concerning kickbacks lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s received from Indian lobbying money.
As for the GOP takeover of the Alabama Legislature, that also appears to be tainted with Indian gambling money:
RSLC was heavily involved in the state’s 2010 legislative campaign, routing money from entities from Citigroup to the Greater Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce into Alabama’s campaigns. The RSLC accepted $350,000 from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in 2010, according to 2010 forms the Republican State Leadership Committee filed with the IRS. The RSLC contributed $850,000 to the Alabama Republican Party in 2010, according to those forms filed with the IRS.
“From the beginning, I told the RSLC in no uncertain terms that we weren’t interested in accepting any money (from gambling interests), and though gaming interests were among their hundreds of contributors, the RSLC staff assured us none of the money that came to Alabama was gambling-related,” said House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who was chairman of the Alabama Republican Party in 2010.
The Montgomery Advertiser has been on the sidelines for the past 10 to 12 years, largely ignoring signs that Alabama's capital city has become a cesspool of corruption. Why did the newspaper suddenly awaken from its slumber? We aren't sure, but it's interesting to see the paper treat this story as if it's breaking news.
We reported almost exactly one year ago on clear signs that the RSLC had funneled Indian gaming money to the GOP effort to take over the Alabama Legislature. We reported earlier this month that the RSLC played a prominent role in funneling Poarch Creek money to the campaign of Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who now is threatening potential competitors for the Poarch Creeks in our state.
It's nice to see that the Montgomery Advertiser finally is doing its job, but I have one question for the paper's reporters and editors: Where have you been for the past decade or so?
By the way, this is not the first time the public has heard Alabama Republicans cry, "We had no idea all that money came from gambling sources!" Johnston went so far as to claim his organization had been "hoodwinked" by the RSLC. But no one was whining louder than the former governor's son:
Rob Riley acknowledged that people have alleged that Indian gambling interests have influenced the fight against gambling in Alabama, but said “I am telling you I have never spoken with anybody who was ever involved with any Indian gaming organization and asked them to give any money to any group at any time.”
How long will the public continue to buy that line? We have no idea. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican war on non-Indian gambling in Alabama has been driven by . . . Indian gambling money.