Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alabama's First Family Believes in Self-Enrichment

Alabama Governor Bob Riley recently summoned his inner Vito Corleone to warn those who might "get too close to the families."

Why would Riley make such a threat? Possibly it's because members of his family have treated Alabama like their personal piggy bank for the almost eight years of the Riley regime.

Recent news reports provide the latest evidence of the Riley family benefiting financially from having Big Bob in the governor's mansion. Even the mainstream press in Alabama, long a cheerleader for Bob Riley, is starting to question the governor's actions.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the governor's office has spent more than $500,000 in legal fees in its effort to shut down electronic bingo in the state. Those fees went to the Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings, where Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, just happens to be a partner. Writes the Advertiser's Sebastian Kitchen:

Riley formed his task force in December 2008 in an effort to rid the state of the machines. He incorporated the legal help of attorneys Matt Lembke and Michael Pennington of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, which has its headquarters in Birmingham.

The total paid to Bradley Arant to help the task force is $536,115, according to numbers released by the governor's office on Monday following a verbal request from the Montgomery Advertiser in early February and a written request Feb. 16. The governor's office originally requested a contract with Bradley Arant for up to $250,000 and then amended it twice to increase the total to $650,000.

Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, is a partner at Bradley Arant. Spokesmen for Riley have insisted repeatedly that Campbell does not handle work associated with state business and that he does not benefit financially from work his firm performs for the state.

Rebecca Abrahams writes at Huffington Post about Alabama GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Johnson and his efforts to shine light on the Riley administration's questionable activities. Specifically, Johnson says Riley received money from Mississippi gaming interests for his 2002 campaign against Democrat Don Siegelman. That money apparently was funneled through disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Writes Abrahams:

It is interesting to note, many of Riley's business associates and former staffers either worked for or have ties to the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Tribe. Dan Gans left Alabama to work for the Alexander Strategy Group, (ASG) alongside Jack Abramoff. The Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe was one of ASG's main clients. Riley's former governor's office chief of staff Toby Roth, took a lobbying job at Capitol Resources, which represented the Mississippi Indian casino interests and his former deputy chief of staff Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, also worked there.

Johnson went on to file a formal complaint against Riley with Alabama Attorney General Troy King, including a 500-page dossier of alleged wrongdoing. The complaint focuses on four areas, Abrahams reports:

* Complaint #1--Conflicts of Interest between Governor Bob Riley, his son Rob Riley and the Jefferson County Occupational Tax;

* Complaint #2--Conflicts of interest between Governor Bob Riley, his son-in-law Rob Campbell and the law firm Bradley, Arant, Rose & White LLP., where Campbell is a senior partner;

* Complaint #3--Governor Bob Riley's attempts to revise state law to ethics statutes by altering clauses regarding "family members." Riley attempted to change statute wording to "household" members, which would exclude his son Rob Riley and his son-in-law Rob Campbell from being considered conflicts of interest; and

* Complaint #4--Governor Rob Riley received illegal campaign contributions during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign from the Mississippi Choctaw Indian Tribe. Johnson says, according to Dan Gans, the campaign was to receive some $3 million dollars from Choctaw gambling interests.

You can check out a summary of Johnson's complaint against the Riley administration at the Bill Johnson for Governor Web site.

What is the status of Johnson's complaint? Writes Abrahams:

Johnson has yet to receive a response from King and says his lawyers had hoped the Alabama attorney general would have found probable cause and taken the complaint to a circuit judge who would then appoint a special grand jury to review the documents.

When reached for comment, King's office responded, "It is a general policy of this office to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation." An odd response considering attorney generals across the country routinely hold press conferences to announce major investigations and indictments. The Alabama attorney general is no different. In December 2009, King publicly announced he was leading an investigation into Senator Ben Nelson's trade off for health care reform vote. King also seemed to violate his office's policy when he announced his ban and subsequent investigation of those using "immoral sex toys."

Johnson said the U.S. Department of Justice also has shown little interest in investigating Bob Riley. Joyce White Vance, President Obama's new U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, has been quiet on the subject. Writes Abrahams:

The Department of Justice's seeming lack of interest in Johnson's complaints could be related to Governor Bob Riley and Karl Rove's ties to Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder's former law firm Covington Burling represented George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount and the Republican National Committee during the White House email scandal. Rove used the RNC email system for 95-percent of his email communication. This may also explain why Holder's solicitor general Elena Kagan filed a petition, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to deny hearing Siegelman's appeal.

Bill Johnson's circumstance is not the first case of political injustice in Alabama and many critics suspect, won't be the last. Johnson points out, not all Alabama Republicans support such chicanery but few take action:

"Republicans are not holding other Republicans' feet to the fire for ethics violations. Even if it was a conflict of interest, Governor Riley is on our team and he's making us look bad. What I did is first of all, morally right and what I'm legally obligated to do. It's an absolute injustice. It's government for sale."

1 comment:

Robby Scott Hill said...

If you run a family as you do a state, you destroy
the family. Running a state as you do a family destroys the
state: ties of kinship and friendship will always trump the
rule of law.