|Jessica Taylor and Bob Riley|
Citizens already have ample reason to suspect the VictoryLand casino will not receive fair treatment in its application for a liquor license before the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC). That's because Hal Taylor, assistant enforcement director at ABC, used to serve as executive security officer for former Governor Bob Riley. And Riley and his associates have spent the better part of four years trying to shut down non-Indian gaming facilities, such as VictoryLand, while simultaneously accepting financial support from Indian gaming interests.
Concerns about fairness on the VictoryLand issue deepen when we learn that Hal Taylor's wife also has close ties to Bob Riley. In fact, Jessica Taylor's connections to Riley appear to be even stronger than those of her husband.
So a reasonable person can ponder this scenario: Imagine that you had an important issue before a tribunal that just happened to employee an official who used to work for your No. 1 antagonist. Imagine that your antagonist probably helped the official get his new job. Then imagine that said official was married to a woman who still works for your antagonist. Would that create, in your mind, what is often known in the legal world as "the appearance of impropriety"?
It would create more than that in my mind. In fact, I would say, "It looks like the fix is in."
How close is Hal Taylor's wife to the Riley family and all of their political machinations? Well, Jessica Taylor worked for Bob Riley in the governor's office. She now works as an associate for Bob Riley and Associates LLC in Montgomery. In that capacity, she serves as treasurer of Riley's Alabama 2014 PAC.
The PAC role helped land Jessica Taylor in the midst of a controversy in summer 2011. That's when reporters learned that Riley's political action committee had engaged in the kind of PAC-to-PAC transfer that he had pushed to ban as governor. According to an Associated Press report at the time, the Riley team admitted the $50,000 contribution was a violation and returned it after learning of the error.
Mark Kennedy, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, held a press conference to point out the flaming hypocrisy:
"Not only is it a clear violation of state campaign finance laws, it is a violation of the Republicans' promise to bring ethics and transparency to Alabama politics," Kennedy said at a news conference.
That's when Jessica Taylor stepped into the spotlight. From the AP report:
After Kennedy's news conference, the treasurer of Riley's Alabama 2014 PAC, Jessica Taylor, said the PAC mistakenly received the money in March from the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC).
"Once it was determined that these funds should not have been accepted, they were immediately returned on June 24, 2011," she said in a statement released by the governor's son, Birmingham attorney Rob Riley.
Taylor's name popped up in news reports again later that summer when Attorney General Luther Strange announced that he would recuse himself from an investigation of the Riley PAC's $50,000 illegal contribution. From the Montgomery Advertiser:
The RSLC and Alabama 2014 treasurer Jessica Taylor said the money was returned on June 24, three months after the transfer took place.
On Monday, the Democratic Party asked Strange to recuse himself from the investigation, citing the fact that Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Strange’s former campaign manager, had become director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, an affiliate of the Republican State Leadership Committee. . . .
Under the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, a violation of the state’s ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail and a $6,000 fine.
Is the fix in on VictoryLand's application for a liquor license? Will Riley allies in key places help ensure that the Macon County facility is denied a license it has held, in one form or another, for almost 30 years?
A decision is expected within the next week. If the applications is denied, VictoryLand and its supporters will have strong grounds for crying foul.