The Bradley Arant law firm, of Birmingham, has contributed $21,000 to Attorney General Luther Strange during and after his 2010 campaign. In return, the firm has received $364,000 in public dollars to help Strange's office with gambling-related issues.
If my math is correct--and that's always a big "if"--Bradley Arant has experienced a 1,730 percent return on its investment with Luther Strange. By most any standard, that is a tidy profit--and it's about to get even better.
According to a recent report from Mary Sell, of The Decatur Daily, Bradley Arant is about to rake in even more taxpayer dollars. Earlier this month, the attorney general's office entered into another $100,000 contract with the downtown Birmingham firm. If that contract is paid in full without another donation, it would run Bradley Arant's return on investment up to about 2,200 percent.
How is this happening? A review of recent Alabama history probably explains it.
Before leaving office in early 2011, former Governor Bob Riley cut a deal with Luther Strange. Riley was to support Strange for governor and raise $2 million for his campaign, while Strange was to "protect" Riley's children and direct any business he could to them. The flow of public dollars from the AG's office to Bradley Arant appears to be one way Strange is holding up his end of the bargain. After all, Riley's daughter (Minda Riley Campbell) is married to Bradley Arant partner Rob Campbell--and Riley's son (Homewood lawyer Rob Riley) has strong ties to Bradley Arant, especially to partner Matthew Lembke.
Lembke and Michael Pennington are among the Bradley Arant lawyers to work on electronic-bingo issues. That reminds us of the federal Alabama bingo trial, for which Bob Riley managed to escape testifying, in part, by taking a curious motorcycle trip to Alaska. That trip, of course, concluded with Riley having a crash near Fairbanks, and we recently discovered that the accident report is available online. (See report at the end of this post.)
Who tried to ensure that Bob Riley was excused from testifying after his motorcycle crash? It was our friends from Bradley Arant, as we reported in June 2011:
Attorneys for Bob Riley did not waste any time in notifying a federal court that the former governor would be temporarily unavailable to testify in the ongoing Alabama electronic-bingo trial. . . .
Michael Pennington and Matthew Lembke, of the Birmingham firm Bradley Arant, represent Riley and filed the post-crash motion. Bradley Arant employs Rob Campbell, Riley's son-in-law, and received millions of dollars in taxpayer funds during the Riley governorship. Dave Stewart, Riley's former chief of staff who has been quoted in news reports about the motorcycle crash, now works at Bradley Arant.
The story of Bob Riley's motorcycle crash never has added up. But the story of Luther Strange's cash pipeline to Bradley Arant is crystal clear. That probably is why the law firm itself declined to take questions for The Decatur Daily's report. The chairman of the firm's Political Action Committee (PAC) did take questions and, not surprisingly, he found absolutely nothing wrong with Strange's former law firm raking in piles of taxpayer dollars.
How to summarize the PAC chairman's response? It was more or less this: "Hey, we've got great lawyers, so we must be worth it." Here are the specifics from Mary Sell's report:
The Birmingham law firm has been sought out to help the attorney general’s office represent the state in the ongoing “electronic gambling dispute.” That assistance has cost Alabama more than $364,000 since 2011.
A representative for the firm said it makes contributions to causes and candidates around the state and files the proper paperwork.
“We don’t see a conflict,” said Mike Denniston, partner and chairman of the firm’s PAC. “The attorney general’s office, like any other agency, has the ability to choose outside counsel.
“We feel like if we weren’t doing good work, they wouldn’t continue to hire us and keep us on.”
Are Bradley Arant lawyers really doing good work on the "electronic gambling dispute," from a taxpayer's perspective? Is the firm's sweetheart arrangement with Luther Strange unethical, maybe even criminal?
We will take a look at those questions in an upcoming post.
Meanwhile, let's check out the accident report from Bob Riley's infamous motorcycle dump in the Alaska wilderness: