Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Snakes Alive! A Rift Develops in the Alabama GOP

Have you ever wondered what it's like when two snakes turn on each other? Folks who follow politics in Alabama might be about to find out.

A source tells Legal Schnauzer that a rift has developed in the Alabama Republican Party between Governor Bob Riley and U.S. Attorney Alice Martin.

Evidence of the rift came from a peculiar column written recently by John Archibald of The Birmingham News. The piece, titled "So how did Collins avoid GOP censure," ostensibly was about Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins, who has been under fire from members of her own Republican Party.

Archibald noted that Birmingham lawyer Matt Lembke defended Collins before the Republican Executive Committee. And the columnist stated that both Collins and Lembke had been known to "carry water" for Gov. Riley and that Lembke had worked with Riley's son, Rob Riley, on the bitter 2002 election contest that ended with a concession from incumbent Governor Don Siegelman.

Then Archibald dropped this curious piece of information:

"For what it's worth, the County Commission on Jan. 20 voted to pay Rob Riley's firm $725,000 to represent the sheriff's department.

"For what it's worth."

Strange, very strange. Here was a decidedly conservative, pro-Riley newspaper taking a thinly veiled shot at the governor on an issue--his children receiving plum contracts under his regime--where he is vulnerable.

Our source says the Archibald column is another example of the extraordinary sway Alice Martin has over The Birmingham News. And it's an indication that Martin is sending a threat toward the governor and his son.

Why would she do that? Our guess is that it's because Martin is known to covet a vacant seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Despite her claims that she will cling to her U.S. attorney's spot and force Barack Obama to fire her, Martin knows her days are numbered in the Justice Department.

That means she needs a new appointment--to avoid having to get a real job--and she wants Riley to appoint her to the vacant Criminal Appeals seat.

But our guess is that Riley is reluctant to appoint Martin because of the considerable baggage she has acquired in her eight years in the Bush Justice Department. After all, Martin is under investigation by multiple federal agencies.

Riley probably is concerned that if he appoints Martin, it could turn scrutiny onto him--and his own considerable ethical baggage.

Could Martin be threatening to reveal some of the Rileys' vast dirty laundry if she does not get her way with the court appointment?

Stay tuned. The snakes are coiled up and hissing at each other. This could get fun.

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