As we reported yesterday, the issue appears to be designed to divert attention from recent charges of corruption connected to Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley.
State Sen. Roger Bedford (D-Russellville), one of three Democrats targeted in the GOP attacks, struck back yesterday after Alabama Republican Party chairman Mike Hubbard called for expedited audits of the nonprofits. Reports The Birmingham News:
Bedford defended the nonprofits Tuesday and attacked his critics. Bedford said he has asked the examiners to perform an audit and he said he looked forward to sharing the results.
"I believe in transparency and accountability. That is why I put in the law that these funds are to be audited," Bedford said. "The people of my district deserve to see how this money is used. What they will find is that 100 percent of these tax dollars go to people of my district for important projects without any overhead expenses like salaries or staffs."
Bedford and two other Democrats started the nonprofits in 2006, and the organizations have received $800,000 in state funds but they have not received annual audits as required by law. The official in charge of the Examiners of Public Accounts (EPA) said audits have not been done because of a lack of resources--and he said the audits would be completed by the end of 2009.
But that was not enough for Hubbard. He said the audits should be expedited and hinted that Bedford, chair of the Senate General Fund Budget Committee, had applied pressure to keep the audits from being done.
That seemed to incense Bedford. Reports The Birmingham News:
Bedford said having Hubbard lecture him on credibility "must be some kind of bad joke. This is like having Bernie Madoff criticize you for the way you handle other people's money. He is the most ethically challenged member of the Alabama Legislature who's made millions of dollars on insider deals with Auburn University and has pushed legislation that benefits his own bank accounts."
Hubbard once owned a company that owned the broadcasting rights to Auburn athletic events, and sold that company several years ago to an out-of-state firm, which employs him. Democrats have accused Hubbard for years of voting on matters related to the state higher education budgets that affect his pocketbook as it relates to those broadcasting rights. Hubbard has consistently denied those charges.
Hubbard and State Sen J.T. "Jabo" Waggoner (R-Vestavia) said any irregularities should lead to a state and federal investigation.
The two Republicans, however, failed to mention that the nonprofits have existed since 2006, and no one had publicly expressed concerns about audits until late last week--just days after revelations about apparent unethical actions by Gov. Bob Riley.
One set of allegations against Riley involve a no-bid, $13-million computer contract that the governor has approved for a Virginia-based company called Paragon Source, even though it has no headquarters, business address, or Web site. A lawsuit has been filed over the Paragon Source deal, but law-enforcement officials have not been able to locate the company, or CEO Janet Lauderdale, to serve the complaint.
The other allegations against Riley involve recent statements by GOP insider Bill Johnson that the governor's 2002 campaign received millions of dollars in funds from Mississippi Choctaw gambling interests, who were represented by disgraced GOP lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon. A 2006 U.S. Senate report quoted one source as saying the Choctaws had spent $13 million to help get Riley elected over Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman.
Have Mike Hubbard and his GOP colleagues called for an "expedited" investigation of Bob Riley's ties to Jack Abramoff? Have they called for an investigation of Riley's sweetheart deal for Paragon Source? Nope.
Gee, wonder why not. Well, let's ponder the headline we used on our recent post about the Bill Johnson's story: "Could Revelations About Campaign Funding Blow the Roof Off GOP Corruption in Alabama?"
Is that what Hubbard and Co. are really concerned about? Is that why they have this sudden urge to conduct audits on nonprofits started by Democrats?