A high-profile member of the Alabama Attorney General's Office faces disciplinary action for allegedly leaking information to suspects under investigation by the Lee County grand jury. At first glance, the story might seem like a ho-hummer to many citizens. But we think it has the potential to be one of the most important stories in modern Alabama history, perhaps with national implications. It even could represent a watershed moment, when a state that long has ranked among the top 10 for corruption slowly starts climbing out of the muck.
We will call the story "The Unmasking of Sonny Reagan." It could be historically important because of its potential to unmask some of Alabama's most powerful political figures, bad actors who have brought a virulent strain of conservative corruption to the state over the past 20 years or so.
We are quick to acknowledge that the white elites who control Alabama--attorney Donald Watkins calls them a conservative oligarchy--are a slippery bunch. They are capable of making payoffs or concocting cover ups that limit their damages--or make their problems go away altogether.
That certainly could happen with the case of Henry T. "Sonny" Reagan. But we think it might be hard for key players to wriggle out of this mud hole. For one, the charges against Reagan strongly hint at criminal activity. Two, Reagan is unusually well connected, serving now under Attorney General Luther Strange and previously as chief legal advisor to former GOP Governor Bob Riley.
In both of those roles, Reagan has been point man on efforts to close non-Indian gaming facilities, such as Milton McGregor's VictoryLand in Macon County. That means Reagan likely is deeply knowledgeable about the flow of Indian gaming money--both from Mississippi (thanks largely to Jack Abramoff and the Mississippi Choctaw tribe) and from inside Alabama via the Poarch Creek Indians--that has helped turn Alabama's political landscape into a cesspool.
Given the ugliness that Indian gaming cash has wrought around the country . . . well, you can see how the Reagan story could become national in scope if the deputy AG is forced to answer tough questions under oath.
The Lee County grand jury reportedly is focusing on House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), a longtime Riley ally. The plot thickened last week when court documents showed that Special Prosecutor Matt Hart has stated he expects the case to take down both Hubbard and "the Riley machine."
Ironically, those documents involved Reagan's efforts to avoid testifying before the grand jury. The irony deepens when you consider that one of Reagan's attorneys was Rob Riley, the former governor's son.
How ugly could all of this get? Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter, provides clues with a piece out today titled "Unmasking the Jackals: Inside the AG Conspiracy." Writes Britt:
Last week, Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney J. Mark White tried to insulate his client from the Reagan scandal by saying, “...there has been no communication between the two men [Hubbard and Reagan] in person, by phone, letter, email, carrier pigeon, or smoke signal. For anyone to suggest otherwise would warrant a diagnosis of 'factual deficit disorder.'”
White is juggling like a circus clown attempting to distract everyone away from the main attraction in the center ring. Reagan’s actions are linked to his relationship with former Gov. Bob Riley, not Hubbard. The Reagan affair cuts to the heart of the matter: it is the Riley Machine at work to save itself.
This is family business for this pack of jackals.
Britt makes special note of Rob Riley's presence--and his connections to a man who now stands accused of trying to subvert justice:
The former governor’s son is Reagan’s attorney, which clearly shows a bright-line connection to the Riley Machine. And if the Reagan/Riley connection is not bright enough, the fact that Rob Riley has been Hubbard’s attorney of record since the late 90's should start to illuminate the truth.
So it is that Reagan, owes his career to Gov. Riley.
Hubbard is Riley’s second son and Rob represents them all.
This dark alliance should come as no surprise, but the fact that Rob Riley is the shadow attorney for Hubbard and Reagan, is definitely an unholy Communion.
Acting Attorney General Van Davis announced Friday that Reagan had been placed on administrative leave. In so doing, Davis clearly hinted at the possibility of criminal charges. From Mike Cason of al.com:
Davis said he informed Strange on Wednesday that Reagan has had "undisclosed communications with individuals affiliated with people indicted or under investigation by the Lee County Special Grand Jury."
"Reagan also took other action to impede the investigation," Davis said in a statement released by Strange's office.
Where could this be heading on the criminal front? We will examine that question in an upcoming post.