According to a new report from Bob Martin of the Montgomery Independent, Strange wrote to lawyers for VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor just before raiding and closing the facility last month. Here, in part, is what Strange said:
"You likely are aware of the situation with regard to Class 2 gambling on Indian land. Federal law governs those facilities, and I do not have jurisdiction to enforce federal or state laws against them."
So what gives? Strange announced his lawsuit against the Poarch Creeks on February 19, the same day he executed a search warrant at VictoryLand, seizing gambling machines, money, and other equipment. Both moves came only a few days after Strange had acknowledged in writing that he had no legal standing to take action against the Poarch Creeks.
Is Luther Strange a liar of mythical proportions? Is he so ethically compromised that he no longer cares if the public can figure out his transparent games? Is he so lacking in a conscience that he happily wastes taxpayer dollars on a legal case that he knows has zero merit? If he has no conscience, is Luther Strange a sociopath?
A reasonable Alabamian might have decided that the answer to all four questions is yes. As for Bob Martin, he provides important background, plus his own insights about what really is driving the attorney general. First, Martin tells us what prompted Strange's letter:
This correspondence was written to McGregor’s attorney Joe Espy after Espy asked him to file a declaratory judgment action against VictoryLand so the matter could be settled once and for all in court, and not force VictoryLand to close until a court ruled the bingo machines there were illegal.
Martin then comes to a logical conclusion about Strange's motives:
Several questions arise from Strange’s actions. If Strange now deems the Poarch Creek machines illegal, how has he suddenly gained jurisdiction over the Indian casino equipment? And why didn’t Strange seize the Poarch Creek machines when he filed suit against them? The answer seems obvious. The Poarch casinos, as I reported two months ago, made a $100,000 campaign donation to Strange in 2010 and the suit is a sham, obviously filed in an attempt to dupe the public.
Is it as simple as that? Has Luther Strange been bought and sold like a common streetwalker? Multiple experts, to be sure, are baffled by the AG's actions. Reports Martin:
“I’ve just never seen anything like this,” said Nelson Rose, author of “Gambling and the Law” and an expert witness who has testified on behalf of pro-gambling interests before. “It’s a public embarrassment for a state official to be doing this. I mean, he doesn’t have any lawyers who know anything about federal law, gaming law, Indian law or any combination thereof,” Rose told The Birmingham News.
G. William Rice, a professor with Tulsa University’s Native American Law Center, told the News that, generally speaking, states have no authority to intervene on Indian lands. “States simply have no jurisdiction over Indian Country,” he said. “I’m afraid that the attorney general’s lawsuit is on very tenuous grounds.”
Translation: These experts seem to suggest that Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer is losing it, to the point that he has become a "public embarrassment." But I suspect Luther Strange is not a loon; he's a man under duress.
Consider a recent column by Alabama political commentator Steve Flowers. He hints that Strange and his staunch political ally, former Governor Bob Riley, are seriously compromised. From Flowers article, dated March 21:
Indeed the closing of VictoryLand created quite a bonanza for the Alabama Creek Indian casinos. For the fourth year in a row they have experienced record setting growth. According to the Indian Gaming Industry Report released two weeks ago by Casino City Press, revenue for Alabama’s Indian casinos grew by over 26% in 2011. The report says Alabama leads the nation in revenue growth for Indian gambling. All of this is a direct result of the continuous havoc being played on the private constitutionally granted casinos by Bob Riley and now Luther Strange.
Have Riley and Strange been wreaking havoc simply because they have been bought off by Indian gaming interests, including the Poarch Creeks in Alabama and the Choctaws in Mississippi? Flowers notes that public records show Riley received more than $400,000 from Indian casinos for his 2002 gubernatorial campaign.
I suspect, however, that the peculiar actions from Riley and Strange go beyond dollars and cents. GOP felon Jack Abramoff admitted in his 2011 book that he funneled some $20 million into Alabama to help Riley beat Democrat Don Siegelman in 2002. That means Riley was the beneficiary of a widespread criminal enterprise, one that never has fully been unearthed.
A number of prominent journalists, including Scott Horton of Harper's, have reported that Congress and prosecutors pursued only a fraction of the criminal wrongdoing in the Abramoff affair. Does that mean Indian gaming interests have plenty of damning material to hold over the heads of Bob Riley and his associates, including Luther Strange? Could this information, if made public, be strong enough to put members of Team Riley in federal prison for years? Does that explain why Riley and Strange are quick to do the bidding of their Indian benefactors?
The answer to all of those questions, I suspect, is yes.
My guess is that dollars and cents, in part, are driving Riley and Strange. But so, in all likelihood, is blackmail.