|Wind Creek Casino in Atmore
(Update at 12:15 p.m. on 11/2/12)
A top Alabama Republican twice asked for money from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI), a tribe that legally operates gaming casinos in the state, according to a report at the Alabama Political Reporter Web site. Meanwhile, Republican operatives have responded with threats and bullying to the Web site that broke the story. (See update at the end of this post.)
State Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who was finance chairman for the Alabama Republican Party, visited Poarch Creek headquarters in Atmore to make the requests. Robert McGhee, who serves on the Poarch Creek Tribal Council, makes it clear to reporter Bill Britt that Marsh initiated the transaction. McGhee said Marsh asked for $100,000 on the first visit and $250,000 on the next.
Recent reports show that the Poarch Creeks gave $350,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) in 2010. Records show that the RSLC gave $850,000 to the Alabama Republican Party for the 2010 election cycle. At least $100,000 of the Poarch Creek gaming funds went from Rob Riley, son of former Governor Bob Riley, to Citizens for a Better Alabama, a group run by Birmingham anti-gambling activist A. Eric Johnston.
Rob Riley and Johnston--along with House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who was chairman of the Alabama GOP at the time--have denied knowing any of the funds came from gambling sources. But Britt's reporting shows that Del Marsh, one of Hubbard's chief lieutenants, asked the Poarch Creeks for money--and that means Riley, Johnston, and Hubbard almost certainly are lying.
From Alabama Political Reporter:
In fact the money given to the Republicans by the PCI was solicited from the PCI in 2010 by the head of finance for the Alabama Republican Party.
According to Robert McGhee, who serves on the Tribal Council and Governmental Relations for the PCI, Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) who was then head of finance for ALGOP under then Chairman Mike Hubbard, came to the PCI headquarters in Atmore, Alabama, and requested the contribution. When McGhee was asked if the request for the money came from Del Marsh, he said “Yes,” when asked again McGhee said, “it wasn’t at our request, it was at his [Marsh’s] request.”
According to McGhee, Marsh made such request on two occasions, asking for $100K on one visit and $250K on the next, “We gave the money in the spirit of bi-partisan support for Alabama government,” said McGhee.
Those close to the Bob Riley administration long have insisted that the former governor's crusade against certain gaming facilities in Alabama was based on moral concerns. But Britt's reporting adds to the growing mound of evidence that indicates Bob Riley and his acolytes were not acting out of any moral objection to gambling; they were soliciting funds from one gambling source, Indian tribes, to fight gaming at non-Indian facilities.
In other words, the Riley crusade was all about money and not at all about morals. We will let Bill Britt have the last word:
The GOP has publicly stood firm against gambling in Alabama and yet they have asked for money from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians.
Mike Hubbard has said he did not know of any money from the PCI going to fund campaigns in Alabama during the 2010. This seems harder to believe since Hubbard's second-in-command, Marsh, personally asked and receive PCI funds according to the tribe.
There seems to be a lot more going on during the 2010 takeover by the GOP than just wanting to clean up Montgomery from gaming money.
Update No. 1: In a post this morning, Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Report, writes that Republican operatives have resorted to threats and bullying in response to his story on Del Marsh and the Poarch Creeks.
Derek Trotter, Marsh's communications director, and Phillip Bryan, Marsh's chief of staff, were responsible for most of the nastiness, Britt reports. From today's post:
Many in the GOP have made a big deal out of being anti-gambling. I have never heard this from the Senator. Some take gaming money on a regular basis but hide the money they receive while wailing loudly against gambling.
This is something I have never heard from Marsh.
This is why I was caught by surprise when Trotter called me yelling early last Tuesday morning.
I am a man who doesn’t respond well to yelling, much less at 8:10 a.m. However, I tried to reason with Trotter who said I didn’t give Marsh time to respond. This is patently not true as they had from 10 a.m. on Tuesday until 6 a.m. on Wednesday to call or email me.
Trotter went on to call me unprofessional and more and even accused me of being on the payroll of the PCI.
That's when the threats started:
The howling like a petulant child or the false accusations did not bother me as much as the threats to deny our news organization access and more. Trotter in no uncertain words informed me I would have a difficult time at the Statehouse if I did not pull the story.
Needless to say our conversation did not end well.
A conversation with Bryan went about the same way:
At 8:44 a.m., I received a call from Marsh’s Chief of Staff Phillip Bryan. Bryan got his start in government with Mike Hubbard’s campaign to take over the Statehouse according to Hubbard’s book. Bryan immediately launched into a diatribe about how unprofessional I was and so forth . . .
Britt makes it clear that specific threats were sent his way:
I have been assured that retaliation is in the future and that I should be aware that advertising dollar may be held back.
Of course this is standard fair for some in politics, to hold a news organization’s advertisers hostage because they dare print a story that is unflattering to a politician.
In my email to Bryan I said that I hoped the threats that were made were idle.
It appears that Britt will not back down from the GOP's bullying tactics:
There is a lot more money from gambling that the GOP has taken and it goes back a good ways and to the top. These PAC-to-PAC transfers are full of GOP leadership taking gaming money.
Where are those who will stand up and say enough is enough?