That leaves us with this gaping question: Will the new revelations lead to an investigation of possible criminal actions by Republican Party insiders, including those connected to the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman?
Bill Johnson, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, said Riley's opposition to electronic bingo in the state probably is driven by the money he received in 2002 from Mississippi Choctaws to limit the expansion of gambling in Alabama.
Riley's connections to gambling have been a major topic here at Legal Schnauzer this week. (See here and here.)
It has been widely reported that Riley received $13 million from the Choctaws, laundered through disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, for the 2002 race against Siegelman, the incumbent. Riley was declared the winner in a tight race when votes for Siegelman mysteriously disappeared overnight in Baldwin County.
Johnson did not confirm the $13-million figure. But he said Riley's support from the Choctaws was substantial. And it was for a specific purpose. Reports the Dothan Eagle:
Contributions, cited in Sen. John McCain’s “Gimme Five” Investigation of Tribal Lobbying Matters, presented to the Committee on Indian Affairs in 2006, were made in an effort to protect the reservation’s market share in the neighboring state.
“I was in the leadership of the 2002 and 2006 Riley for Governor Campaign,” Johnson said Thursday morning during a press conference he called at the Country Crossing development south of Dothan.
“We received money from the Mississippi Indians — millions of dollars.“
Johnson made his statement in Dothan, site of the Country Crossing development that is set to open in December. Riley has vowed not to allow electronic bingo at the site, which is being developed by Ronnie Gilley. Reports the Dothan Eagle:
Johnson concluded with his belief that Riley’s aggressive opposition to the electronic bingo portion of Country Crossing is because of these outside influences in the form of campaign contributions.
How else, he said, can anyone explain the governor’s opposition to the project, the second largest economic development project in the state, according to Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Parker.
“I’m concerned that those dollars from Mississippi Indian casino owners are manipulating public policy in Alabama and blocking the efforts of good Alabamians like Ronnie Gilley from creating the very kind of opportunities we need throughout this state,” Johnson said.
The former Birmingham city councilman said Riley’s recent attempt to block the shipment of the 1,703 bingo machines coming to Country Crossing, was part of an effort to “circumvent the law and block a legal development that means opportunity for thousands of people in Southeast Alabama.”
Johnson's statements leave many questions to be answered. Perhaps the biggest question is this: Did members of Riley's campaign team commit crimes in making arrangements for the laundered money--and did the governor himself commit a crime by accepting the funds and then protecting the Choctaws' interests in Alabama, in a possible "quid pro quo" deal?
Perhaps now is a good time to look back at a Scott Horton post, published at Harper's.org in June 2007. Could Johnson's revelations lead to an investigation of Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney who oversaw the Siegelman case? Could such an investigation lead beyond the borders of Alabama, perhaps to Karl Rove? Sure looks that way:
Moreover, let’s compare the allegations against Siegelman with Abramoff’s funneling of millions in campaign contributions from Native American tribes in Mississippi into the political coffers of Siegelman’s opponent—Alabama Governor Bob Riley—going on at just this time. In exchange, Riley was expected to intervene to shut down the gambling aspirations of some of his own Alabama constituents. And Riley did just as he was bade to do. Now that’s corruption. And what did the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery, who brought the case against Siegelman, do about that? Well, she seems to have actually been a potential actor in connection with the corruption, having secured appointment to a licensing board which would control the question. And her tight links to Siegelman’s political nemesis, Riley, are uncontested. She is in fact the wife of one of Karl Rove’s bosom buddies, a leading mover in the Alabama GOP, William Canary.