Monday, October 4, 2010

Leura Canary's "October Surprise" Becomes Reality

Milton McGregor

We reported on September 8 that Leura Canary, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, was planning to indict a number of legislators and casino operators as an "October Surprise" designed to affect the November election.

That prediction became reality with news that an indictment of 11 individuals was issued this morning, and the FBI began making arrests. VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor, four state senators, and several lobbyists were among those indicted.

Canary, a holdover from the George W. Bush administration, has served under President Barack Obama for more than 20 months. She was a central figure in the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Her husband, Business Council of Alabama President Bill Canary, is a close associate of Karl Rove.

The U.S. Justice Department is spinning today's actions as a legitimate probe focused on corruption connected to gambling legislation. But our sources have been saying for weeks that it is designed to affect the November elections. Polls show Republican Robert Bentley already leading Democrat Ron Sparks in the race for governor, and the arrests could help the GOP take over one or both houses of the Alabama Legislature, a long-stated goal of outgoing governor Bob Riley.

Reports the Montgomery Advertiser:

The indictment, which has 11 defendants, was released Monday as FBI agents made arrests at several locations across Alabama.

It accuses the casino owners and statehouse figures of conspiring to make payments and campaign donations to affect "pro-gambling legislation."

VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor was among those indicted. His casino, now shut down, has more than 6,000 electronic bingo machines. Also indicted was Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley of Dothan and state Sens. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, James Prueitt of Talladega, Larry Means of Gadsden and Quinton Ross Jr. of Montgomery.

Our source said the indictments were scheduled for around October 1, and that date proved to be right on target. The indictments are dated last Friday, October 1, but were not announced until today, as arrests were being made.

The Justice Department, in a statement, said the accused acted "in a conspiracy to offer and bribe legislators for their votes and influence on proposed legislation." Writes the Advertiser:

Also indicted were lobbyists Tom Coker and Bob Geddie, who represent VictoryLand; lobbyist Jarrod Massey and public relations executive Jay Walker, who represent Country Crossing; and Ray Crosby, an attorney for the Legislature who helped write gambling legislation.

The Justice Department said the indictment "alleges that Sen. Means, who had abstained from an earlier vote on the pro-gambling legislation in 2010, solicited bribes from McGregor, Gilley, Massey and others, and, in one specific instance, sought $100,000 in return for voting in favor of the legislation."

The indictments resulted from a federal grand jury investigation in Montgomery.

The probe was announced last spring prior to the final votes on the bill, which died when sponsors could not line up the necessary votes for passage. Backers of the bill, mostly Democrats, accused Republican Gov. Bob Riley's administration of derailing the measure with the announcement of the probe. While Riley's state public safety director was involved with the announcement, federal authorities said the Justice Department was handling the investigation.

Means and Ross are Democrats, Pruett is a Republican, and Smith is an Independent. That appears to be a relatively bipartisan target list. But there is little doubt that Canary and her prosecutors went after Democrats and others who oppose Gov. Riley and his efforts to shut down gaming in Alabama. As we reported on September 8:

Our source, who has close ties to the Alabama legal community, says the plan is set to take flight around October 1 and might include an indictment of Ron Sparks, the Democratic candidate for governor. In other words, plans for a political prosecution that is designed to affect the outcome of an election might be taking place right under the Obama administration's nose.

So far, there is no word of an indictment on Sparks. But what does all of this say about the Obama administration? It already had a dreadful record on justice issues. And yet it backs a process where neither Gov. Riley nor any of his conservative backers who opposed gambling were apparently even investigated. We've seen no sign of a probe into the $13 million in Mississippi gaming money that reportedly was spent to help get Riley elected in 2002. Canary seems to have focused only on pro-gambling individuals, who tend to be Democrats or Riley critics.

And here is the huge question: Why is Leura Canary still in office in the first place?

What is this "investigation" all about? It looks like a thinly veiled effort to pay back Riley's Mississippi gaming supporters--who reportedly laundered money through Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, and Ralph Reed--by shutting down competition in Alabama.

The George W. Bush Department of Justice (DOJ) was a nightmare. But this happened today on Barack Obama's watch. That can only be described as shameful.


Johnny Smith said...

Barack Obama has proven to be a major disappointment as president. I thought he was a stronger leader, but he seems to be no more of a leader than Bush was, who also allowed his subordinates to run the show. Hell, Bush was more of a leader than Obama. He may have been on the wrong side of everything, but he could get things done, and the Republicans NEVER had a 60-vote senate. The Democrats are wanting to lay the blame for their failures during this time on progressives, and also their coming embarrassment on November 2nd, but they have no one to blame but themselves. This is just another example of their incompetence. Canary should have been long gone, but removing her now would smack even worse of politics than what she's doing.

Ginny said...

I thought I heard that this investigation was run out of DC. Do we know that Canary was involved? I heard something about her office being recused.

Redeye said...

I have to agree with you regarding President Obama's leadership or lack thereof in this regard. I disagree that's it's too late for him to remove Canary. He can remove Eric Holder too. President Obama promised "no more Scooter Libby justice". Remember?

Finebammer said...

Oh Ginny, there you go letting the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy.

Now, put back on your tinfoil hat and repeat after me;

Everyone's out to get me

everyone's out to get me

everyone's out to get me

Redeye said...

Speaking of facts getting in the way of a conspiracy theory, this is not President Obama DOJ thanks to Sessions/Shelby's secret holds;
All of the people that are questioning Pres. Obama do not really know about the legal process. All US Senators can place what are called "HOLD" or a block of replacing federal officals. Obama cannot replace Canery because she is being held up by our two US Senators (Shelby and Sessions). Now I think that everyone knows why the holds are in place.

If Obama wants to replace any attorney, he has to send that nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do anyone knows who is the ranking member of that Comiittee? Yes that's right it is Senator Jefferson Bureaguad Session III.

In sense President Obama hands are tied by the action of the Senate.


Laser said...

Great reporting; with an intelligent insight into the Dept of Injustice.

Don't let go of the tiger's tail;
nail them for what they do!

MaxShelby said...

Note to Leura:

How about an investigation into your husband's business "interests" and all the highly unsavory characters (BARD being the first) he is involved with a regular basis?

Let's have a look into all the political contributions and lobbyists actions over, let's say the last five years, and see what that turns up regarding undue influence and possible corruption.

Maybe we could round it out with some releasing of records of meetings that directly affect the public's interest, and perhaps add some financial records in there of how much money is coming from state coffers into the BCAs direct "interests."

The citizens of Alabama who know

PS Any client of Fine & Robert Geddie should come out and announce they are no longer going to use that way too powerful lobbying firm for any business. (Joe Fine has a past history of "corruption" but he evaded a RICO charge on a "technicality." NY Times, Nov 1, 1979 "Legislator and Three Coal Officials Indicted in Alabama.")
Ditto for Thomas Coker.

R J said...

ecusal, Shamusal. What a joke, eh? These indictments came from a MONTGOMERY GRAND JURY in the Middle District of Alabama. This is the same Eve-of-Election scheme we've seen in previous political prosecutions, shackles in the Courtroom and all. Today's spectacle was worthy of a circus act. Obviously Ginny doesn't know much about grand jury practice in Montgomery, Alabama. What exactly was "run out of DC"? Investigated by FBI agents who work hand-in-hand with Canary's office every single day? Indictments prepared by Canary's office by personnel whose careers are controlled by Canary, presented to a Grand Jury completely controlled and coordinated by Canary's office. How long will the people of Alabama stand for these witch hunts? How long will the people of Alabama continue to elect and re-elect officials who care more for political posturing than the best interests of its constituency? In case you don't keep up with the news, the Public Integrity Section (PIS) is under investigation for prosecutorial misconduct. The USA Today article last week had it right. Something stinks at DOJ, in DC and all the way through its ranks. Canary is one of approximately 5 U.S. Attorney holdovers from the Bush Administration. Make no mistake. Powerful political forces are at play in Montgomery, Alabama. Play is exactly what they are doing, playing with people's lives for partisan political gain.

Anonymous said...

Last year Georgia's Republican house speaker, Glenn Richardson resigned after attempting suicide. Besides enduring a broken marriage, several of his Republican friends had died in a plane crash, 2008 and the bank he was involved in was shaky. Jay Walker was once Richardson's aid and consultant and involved in MMV.

Anonymous said...

FACT: Learn to spell. Redeye.