An Alabama journalist raised that question in a compelling letter to the editor, filled with facts and solid analysis--but you aren't likely to read the letter in a mainstream newspaper. Phil Fleming, who has worked as a photographer and broadcast journalist in Alabama and New York City, submitted the letter for publications in our statewide dailies. They apparently consider the topic too hot to handle and have not run the letter.
Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork News & Journal, performed a valuable public service by running the letter in its entirety. We are pleased to follow up by spotlighting a letter that, in a few short paragraphs, gets to the heart of a matter that has been largely ignored in Alabama for the seven-plus years of the Riley administration. Writes Fleming:
Bob Riley must explain to the people of Alabama why he received a specific $500,000 campaign contribution from disgraced lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon in his 2002 campaign for governor.
Abramoff and Scanlon sent the funds to the Republican Governor’s Association, which then added an additional $100,000 dollars. That $600,000 amount was deposited directly to Riley’s campaign account.
Fleming quickly shows how facts tie Riley to a national scandal for which he never has been held accountable:
Let’s review the facts, all easily found posted online.
Abramoff and Scanlon received a total of $66 million dollars from six Indian tribes. Among the recipients of this money included Riley, former National Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and Texas Congressman Tom Delay.
The Abramoff/Scanlon agenda during that election year was to block gambling in Texas and Alabama, which benefited the Louisiana Coushatta Tribe and the Mississippi Choctaw Tribe. They were successful.
Abramoff and Scanlon pleaded guilty to corruption conspiracies, Delay has been in legal limbo with pending criminal charges and a lot of hot air gets floated about who is supporting gambling and who isn’t.
Alabamians have been focusing recently on who does and does not support electronic bingo and other forms of gambling in the state. But that obscures the larger issue, Fleming writes:
One of the most fascinating situations involves some $850,000 dollars that Reed sent to John Giles, then-president of The Christian Coalition of Alabama to block gambling in Alabama. Reed received $4.2 million dollars directly from Abramoff/Scanlon. That happened during election year 2002, and both men had to resign in the end.
I’ve followed this closely for years, and believe Bob Riley owes us an explanation about that specific net $500,000 dollar contribution he received from Abramoff and Scanlon, both now convicted felons. There is online email correspondence between Abramoff/Scanlon making reference to Riley, so it should be easy to prove a quid pro quo existed.
An alleged quid pro quo was at the heart of the Don Siegelman prosecution. But Fleming says no one has taken a serious look at Riley's actions that have the appearance of true "something for something" deals--involving millions of dollars:
Michael Scanlon worked for Riley when he was a Congressman. He also worked for Congressman Tom Delay. Just “connect the dots.” Delay was indicted by a Texas grand jury, in 2005. To this day, the case has not been brought to trial.
In the end, I predict we’ll see this is not about gambling. The real issue is about money for results in politics, or quid pro quo.
Those of us in Alabama all remember how Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy were convicted for something similar. With the U.S. Justice Department ranking Alabama as the fourth most corrupt state in the nation, the people need and deserve a transparent explanation.
Will the mainstream press in this state investigate? Or will they get beaten to the truth by the Web Press, again?
The Web press, indeed, is on the story. But this issue might eventually test the mettle of the Obama Justice Department. Riley has avoided scrutiny, so far, largely because the DOJ was run by his fellow Republicans who were loyal to the George W. Bush administration. They were not about to shine a spotlight on the shady transactions of a GOP governor who was a strong Bush supporter.
But the game, at least in theory, has changed. Obama appointees eventually will be in place at most Justice Department outposts, including in Alabama. Will they be inclined to examine a Riley administration that has not been particularly adept at covering its ugly tracks?
Sounds like the subject for another letter from Phil Fleming.