Monday, May 10, 2010

Will Spotlight Turn On Riley in Alabama Gambling Probe?

A former member of Governor Bob Riley's cabinet has asked to testify in an ongoing federal investigation of gambling-related matters in Alabama.

Bill Johnson, a 2010 Republican candiate for governor, delivered a letter last week to U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who apparently is spearheading a grand-jury investigation in Montgomery. The inquiry, Johnson says, should include national Republican figures, such as convicted felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon.

News reports indicate that the investigation has focused on Democratic legislators and lobbyists who favor electronic bingo in Alabama. But Johnson says he has evidence that Riley, a staunch opponent of gambling in his own state, has been improperly influenced by outside gaming interests. And Johnson says Abramoff, who was at the center of a nationwide GOP scandal, should be a focus of the Alabama probe.

Canary, a George W. Bush appointee who so far has remained in office under President Barack Obama, has long been considered a Riley ally--and there has been no sign that her investigation will focus on anti-gambling forces. Johnson, however, intends to change that.

In the letter--which can be viewed in its entirety below--Johnson says he wants to testify about matters surrounding Riley's election over Democrat Don Siegelman in 2002. Johnson was employed by Riley's political organization for a Congressional campaign in 1996 and governor's races in 2002 and 2006. Johnson served in Riley's cabinet from 2005 to 2009:

During the governor’s 2002 campaign, I was personally told by the governor’s former chief of staff and then campaign staffer that he was in charge of managing million of dollars in campaign contributions from Mississippi Choctaw Indian casino operators. I voluntarily took and passed a polygraph examination on this information.

Paul Camp, an Alabama media consultant working for Mississippi Indian casino interests (and who has since filed an affidavit) told me that, with the election of Governor Riley in 2003, the Mississippi Choctaws said they “now own Alabama.”

Johnson also focuses on more recent events:

In February and March 2010, $342,000 of funds raised by Gov. Riley and the Alabama Republican Party for “Campaign 2010,” raised for the stated purpose of electing candidates, went instead to fund anti-gambling initiatives in the 2010 legislative session.

Additionally, you should investigate “Campaign 2010” and the possible use of these unreported campaign contributions to threaten or entice legislators relative to opposing gaming legislation in the 2010 legislative session; be especially vigilant of any “loan repayments” post the June 1 primary.

Johnson provides the names of more than a dozen Riley associates who should be called to testify and provide documents related to the gambling probe. These individuals include some regular characters here at Legal Schnauzer--Rob Riley, a Homewood attorney and the governor's son; Dax Swatek, Riley's 2006 campaign manager and a lobbyist who represents gaming interests; Robert Sigler, a promoter of gaming ventures around the country; and convicted felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon.

The letter, Johnson states, is a formal request to appear before the grand jury:

I feel strongly that the investigation at hand regarding the fight for or against gambling legislation in Alabama and the influence thereof is a serious matter. Gov. Riley has used millions of dollars in Alabama taxpayer funds to finance his Anti-gambling Task Force. If in any way, his concerted efforts to stop gambling in Alabama is pay back for Mississippi Casino money funneled to his campaign and the hiring of his close political allies, this is indeed a serious issue.

Here is the complete letter:

Bill Johnson Canary Letter


Anonymous said...

Without doubting Bill Johnson's revelations, one has to wonder - why now? Bill Johnson may be the one person most responsible for Riley being where he is, considering that he ran Riley's campaigns for congress, then governor, and was paid very well for doing so, including being awarded by being put on both the federal and state payrolls, as were his wives. From what he has said, Bill Johnson has known about all this for a very long time, but chose to remain silent while enjoying payments to and employment of himself and his wife courtesy of Riley. Does that make him complicit? Was it all fine and acceptable to him as long as he was benefitting from the corruption? Didn't he participate and help hide the money? Didn't he only come forward when he told Riley he was running for governor and Riley said he wouldn't support him and insisted that he resign from his cabinet position to run? Nobody in this mess can wear the white hat, including Bill Johnson, who most likely would have gone along with anything if Riley would have supported his run for governor.

Anonymous said...

Nice long post but unfortunately full of more errors then facts.
No he didn't only come forward when he told Riley he was running for Governor. In fact, he had turned the Gov. in on ethics issues months before he decided to run! The problem with your post is your first question... Why now? It isn't now.... Bill Johnson has been turning people in for a long time now. Maybe it is just now hitting the news and the spotlight but this isn't new and certainly didn't just start with his decision to run for Governor. As for the more recent accusations against the Governor. Johnson didn't have reason to suspect anything concerning the gambling money conversation that he overheard until the Governor started his war on Bingo in the state. That is when all the dots started connecting and that is when he starting investigating it and calling him out on it.
I think it is sad that more people seem to be concerned with the messenger and his motivations then the corrupt politicians we have in office.

Thomas said...

I don't think anyone can claim to be the "clean one". If you swimming in a pool of ink you can't jump out and not be a bit dirty.

Hootboyslimm said...

Anonymous hit the "nail on the head".
Johnson is a "Prima Donna" starved for attention.
He and his "Barbie Doll" wife had it "made" while he was on Riley's payroll.
Johnson knew what was going on the entire time and it is self evident he will do anything to get attention.
Like others, I believe Riley should be investigated.
However, in order for the Justice Department to make a case, they have to have corroboration from numerous trustworthy sources.
Johnson is amoral and he is a sociopath.
His Ego is writing checks his abilities can't cash.
In short, Bill Johnson is a "Joke".

mikkrikk said...

I would say that Johnson sees the investigation exactly for what it is- a charade to get rid of a few Democrats so that Republicans can have the majority in the Alabama legislature. Canary can use the flimsy testimony from people like Sanford to keep her out of hot water with the Office of Professional Responsibility (not that she need worry about them anyway.) But when it becomes completely obvious that she is ignoring what could very well be legitimate testimony in order to protect her buddies, she could then have some serious "'splaining" to do. I suspect that Johnson, like Lucy, has a plan.