Is it coincidence that Alabama Governor Bob Riley, who reportedly received campaign support from Mississippi casino groups, ordered attempted raids on two Alabama facilities roughly two weeks after the meeting?
According to news reports in Alabama, a lobbyist named Gloria Williamson organized the meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi. Williamson just happens to lobby on behalf of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the group that reportedly spent $13 million to help get Riley elected in 2002:
The group met at Mary Mahoney's restaurant in Biloxi and was organized by a lobbyist for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which runs a casino/resort in Neshoba County, Miss.
The Dothan Eagle cited an e-mail from the lobbyist, former Mississippi State Sen. Gloria Williamson, inquiring about possible joint advertising by the Mississippi casinos. The newspaper said it was not able to reach Williamson but that Mary Mahoney's owner confirmed the Mississippi casino interests did meet there.
Meanwhile, a number of Alabama newspapers are excoriating Riley on their editorial pages. The Mobile Press-Register, normally a pro-Riley paper, called the raids "embarrassing":
THE OMINOUS scene of police headlights as far as the eye could see conveyed the message Gov. Bob Riley wanted to send: A crime was being committed at Country Crossing, a crime so evil it required more than 100 state troopers to halt.
Too bad the troopers didn’t have a search warrant in their pre-dawn raids Friday.
If they had been hunting down bomb-toting terrorists instead of trying to shut down electronic bingo machines, the show of force might have made sense. As it was, the attempted raids of Country Crossing near Dothan and VictoryLand in Shorter looked like an abuse of power more suited to a police state than the state of Alabama.
The Dothan Eagle raised the specter of impeachment for Riley:
Some people applaud Riley’s efforts, citing Article V, Section 120 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901: “The governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Others believe he has no authority to act in such a capacity, particularly since Attorney General Troy King has repeatedly warned him that he’s coloring outside the lines.
That raises the consideration of another constitutional nugget. Article VII, Section 173, enumerates the process of impeachment of the members of the state’s constitutional officers. Whether abuse of power and gross waste of public resources are impeachable offenses isn’t clear.
One thing is: Bob Riley has frittered away hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds in a battle of wills at a time when the state budgets are under severe cuts and workers are facing furloughs or layoffs. Considering that his concerns could be addressed in a civil, understated manner, he should be held accountable for the money he has wasted.