Some much needed light is shining on Alabama Governor Bob Riley and his ties to disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. For that, we can thank Sam Stein of The Huffington Post.
Stein's work also should raise serious questions about Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
Huffington Post reported last week that in the summer of 2006 McCain hid an e-mail that showed Riley's ties to the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal. McCain kept the e-mail out of his Senate Indian Affairs Committee report, and Riley was re-elected a few months later.
McCain on Monday received Riley's endorsement for president. That leads Stein to follow up with another post about McCain's actions to protect his GOP colleague.
How does McCain explain his 2006 actions regarding Riley?
At the time, McCain acknowledged that there were some public officials with Abramoff connections, but insisted that it was not his job to investigate them.
"There's strong evidence that there was significant wrongdoing, but I'm not a judge or jury," he told Meet The Press. "I will not [investigate], because I'm a chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. This was brought to our . . . attention by some disgruntled tribal council members in a small tribe in Louisiana, and we took it as far as we thought was our responsibility, which is where the money ends up."
From here, it seems the public understands that McCain was not a prosecutor, a "judge or jury" as he puts it. But why cover up the e-mail implicating Riley? That's not his role either, is it? Stein tells us just how far McCain went:
And yet, McCain took steps beyond merely protecting Riley from his Abramoff probe. Despite knowing that there were questions surrounding the ethical conduct of the Alabama governor, McCain actively supported his campaign. McCain's Straight Talk America PAC contributed $10,000 to Riley's reelection coffers. The Arizona senator attended Riley's inauguration and touted him as having "every potential to be a national figure."
Why take these steps? For starters, the two men do have past history. While they clashed on the topic of campaign finance reform, they served together in Congress on the Joint Armed Services Committee. And months before the 2006 campaign, they traveled together to Iraq.
There are personal ties as well. McCain's Alabama legal advisor, Matt Lembke, was a Riley confidant during his controversial 2002 race against then Gov. Don Seigelman (who has since been arrested on a highly-controversially, politically tainted, corruption charge). Troy King, meanwhile, was appointed the state's attorney general by Riley and now serves as McCain's Alabama chairman.
Those aren't the only personal ties between McCain and Riley. Dax Swatek, Riley's 2006 campaign manager, signed on as Alabama advisor to the McCain campaign before being let go when the campaign hit financial rough waters. Swatek's father is Pelham, Alabama, attorney William E. Swatek, who filed the fraudulent lawsuit against me that is at the heart of this blog.
Bill Swatek has an almost 30-year history of unethical activities in the legal profession. But Republican judges repeatedly have made unlawful rulings in his favor, and U.S. attorney Alice Martin (a Bush appointee) has taken clear steps to keep wrongdoing by Bill Swatek and his judicial buddies under wraps.
Makes you wonder about the company John McCain keeps.
Stein reports that McCain might have had his own career in mind when he took steps to protect Riley:
Around the time that McCain sat on the Abramoff email and was making donations to Riley's gubernatorial campaign (as well as other Alabama GOP officials), the governor was signing into law legislation that moved Alabama's 2008 primary from June 3 to February 5 (Super Tuesday). At the time, the move made the state - alongside South Carolina - a southern barometer for any Republican White House candidate. Since then, however, other states followed Alabama's lead, diminishing its impact. And following Riley's reelection, much talk in political circles centered on him being a viable vice presidential choice.
All told, there was a political balance in Alabama which McCain likely did not want to disturb.
"If you are fixing to run for president, you don't want to step in the own [shit] you've created," said a source close to the Riley-Abramoff-Siegelman case. "You don't want to be the guy who is known for the downfall of Bob Riley."