One of the "endearing" qualities of modern conservatives is that they seem to think they can say most anything, and a large chunk of the American public will believe them. Sadly, conservatives often are right about this.
Consider the recent actions of Alabama Governor Bob Riley. As his two terms are winding down, he called the Alabama Legislature into special session to address a package of ethics legislation. The seven bills were passed, and Riley is expected to sign them today. The whole process seems to have raised hardly any eyebrows among the masses.
No one in the mainstream press, that we are aware of, raised questions about Riley's past actions regarding ethics bills. No one pointed out that putting Bob Riley in charge of ethics is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank.
Is Bob Riley genuinely interested in ethics reform? His history indicates the answer is no. In 2007, a bipartisan ethics bill was passed in the House and Senate by a combined vote of 131-0. It landed on Riley's desk, and he refused to sign it.
Why? The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black (D-Muscle Shoals), would have expanded the definition of a lobbyist to include people who attempt to influence the awarding of state contracts that are not competitively bid. And that meant Riley's children, Rob Riley and Minda Riley Campbell, would have been inhibited in their efforts to make money off no-bid state contracts. Reported the Associated Press back in '07:
"It is widely held in Montgomery that Governor Riley's children lobby their father on behalf of entities desiring no-bid state contracts," Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said.
"This legislation would have further shined the light of day on the lobbying activities of the governor's family, but Governor Riley vetoed the bill," Little said in a statement Tuesday.
According to a recent report in the Tuskegee News, the package that Riley is expected to sign today does not address no-bid contracts. Gee, isn't that a shock? Perhaps the governor wants Rob, Minda, and other family members to be able to continue sucking off the state teat--even after he's out of office. Our guess is that they will be happy to do that.
What is the real motivating force behind Bob Riley's ethics package? Senate Bill 2 will ban public employees from using payroll deduction to pay dues to the Alabama Education Association (AEA) and Alabama State Employees Association. Critics say that measure is driving the Riley's ethics train, and it's designed as payback for the AEA's efforts to defeat Bradley Bryne, who was to be Riley's hand-picked successor. With AEA's help, Robert Bentley beat Byrne in the Republican primary and then beat Democrat Ron Sparks in the general election.
It's hard to see how payroll deduction of dues to a professional organization can be viewed as an ethics matter, and Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) isn't buying it:
Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill had nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with Riley getting even with the AEA teachers' lobby, which supported Bentley in the Republican primary and runoff for governor over Bradley Byrne, who was Riley's favorite.
"I think that was purely a personal vendetta," Ford said. "All the other bills were a smoke screen just to get that bill passed."
Throughout Riley's tenure, he has been protected by Leura Canary, a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney in Montgomery. But if historians ever uncover the truth about the Riley years, he probably will go down as the most corrupt governor in Alabama history. Powerful evidence suggests that Riley:
* Benefited from election-night vote theft in Baldwin County, Alabama, giving him a razor-thin edge over Democrat incumbent Don Siegelman in the 2002 election;
* Benefited from $13-million of Mississippi gaming money that was laundered through GOP felon Jack Abramoff;
* Benefited from millions of Mississippi Choctaw gaming money that was distributed directly to the Riley campaign, according to public statements from former aide Bill Johnson.
* Misspent more than $340,000, which was intended to help elect candidates and instead went to anti-gambling initiatives.
* Saw his term winding down in 2010 as a string of mysterious deaths cropped up on Alabama's political landscape.
That's just the tip of a rather large iceberg. But Bob Riley is Alabama's Teflon governor. And quite a few of our citizens seem to believe he truly is interested in ethics reform. Of course, these same Alabamians have been buying GOP lines that originated with Ronald Reagan some 30 years ago.
You know the ones:
* We can cut tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and increase defense spending and have no problems with deficits.
* Deregulation is the way to free up businesses to drive the American economy. We can count on companies like Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns to do the right thing.
Those two tenets of the GOP gospel, adopted by George W. Bush from 2000 to 2008, are among the leading reasons we now are experiencing the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Here is one other reason that Bob Riley might be pushing ethics reform: We are hearing from multiple sources that the governor seriously is considering a run for president in 2012. One source says GOP kingmaker Karl Rove long has been fascinated by Riley because of the latter's resemblance to Ronald Reagan. With the GOP torn in one direction by Sarah Palin and in another direction by Mitt Romney, Riley apparently sees an opportunity to step in, with his poofed up 'do, and assume the role as "heir to the Reagan legacy"--such as it is. We even hear that Riley, like Reagan, insists he never dyes his hair. Gee, what a set of genes that guy's got!
Closing out his term with "ethics reform" might be an effort by Riley to paper over all the sleaze that has marked his term in office. For the rational folks who have witnessed Riley's actions in office, the notion of him running for president is laughable. He should be getting fitted for an orange jumpsuit on his way to federal prison. But with Eric Holder heading the U.S. Department of Justice, that isn't likely to happen. And if Riley were to run for the nation's highest office, God only knows how many people might vote for him because he he has . . . such nice hair. And he looks like . . . you know who.
Based on the 2010 midterm-election results, many Americans continue to fall for the same conservative con game, so who is to say that Bob Riley can't become president
Maybe modern conservatives are right about at least one thing. Maybe Americans really are stupid.