Monday, March 5, 2018

With indicted Balch Bingham partner apparently still on payroll, and Luther Strange checking want ads, B'ham Superfund probe seems to be stuck in neutral

Luther Strange
(From Associated Press)
An attorney indicted in the North Birmingham Superfund scandal appears to still be on the payroll at a major downtown law firm, according to the Web site Meanwhile, former U.S. Senator Luther Strange -- reportedly a central figure in the scandal -- is looking for a new gig in Washington, D.C.

A reasonable person might figure that Strange, Balch Bingham partner Joel Gilbert and others connected to the Superfund scam would be in a state of high anxiety. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Makes you wonder if Trump appointee, Jay Town (U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama), is pushing the case forward in a serious manner. Perhaps he has let it be known that white, conservative corporate and legal types will be provided a soft landing -- with the one black guy involved, former State Rep. Oliver Robinson, absorbing most of the punishment.

If Gilbert is quaking in his boots, he has a funny way of showing it. From

Infuriating other attorneys at the once prestigious firm, FEC filings show that Joel I. Gilbert, the indicted Balch Bingham partner who allegedly funneled $360,000 in bribes to disgraced former Alabama State Representative Oliver Robinson, is still on the payroll at Balch Bingham as of December 30, 2017.

After being indicted on September 28, 2017, Gilbert donated, what appears to be four automatic payroll withdrawals, on October 16, 2017, November 16, 2017, December 22, 2017, and December 30, 2017, to Balch Bingham’s federal political action committee. The contributions total $388.42.

When Gilbert and Balch partner Steve McKinney were indicted in September, Balch issued a public statement saying, “…the charges allege actions that, if proven to be true, are contrary to the ethical values that guide our firm’s attorneys and staff. We take these issues very seriously. Both Mr. Gilbert and Mr. McKinney are on an indefinite leave of absence.”

If Balch really took these issues seriously, you might expect indicted partners to be fired, pronto. Instead, it seems they are on paid administrative leave. The firm doesn't seem to care much about ethics -- or appearances. From banbalch:

Why would any client of Balch want to be subsidizing these alleged bribery conspirators who allegedly suppressed African-Americans from having their toxic and contaminated property tested by the EPA?

While some observers believe that Balch could be preventing Gilbert from cooperating with federal prosecutors by keeping him on the payroll, others believe this magnifies the alleged hypocritical, unethical, and unscrupulous two-sided pattern of behavior at Balch.

As for Luther Strange, reports have him present when State Rep. John Roger was offered a bribe in the Superfund case. But if Strange is shivering with fright, he's not letting it keep him from angling for various jobs in Washington, D.C. From a report at Politico:

Voters sent Luther Strange back to Alabama last year, but the former senator is quietly plotting a return to Washington.

Strange, who had been appointed to the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions but was defeated by Roy Moore in the Republican primary in September, has been on the hunt for a job in Washington over the past few weeks, according to three people familiar with his plans.

He’s been sounding out professional contacts and weighing whether he can get a job at a federal agency or set up his own consulting shop. Those close to him say he’s increasingly likely to land at a law firm, where he’ll split his time between Alabama and D.C.

Strange has been interviewing with several firms in Washington over the past couple of weeks, including Venable, according to two people familiar with the issue.

While he is not expected to land a job in the administration in the near future, some White House aides have nonetheless been eyeing him for a position, believing that, as a former senator and former Alabama attorney general, he’d have little difficulty getting confirmed.

It would figure that a half-way competent and tough-minded prosecutor would instill at least a little fear in those he has indicted, or should be investigating. If that's the case, Jay Town seems to be failing big time.


Anonymous said...

Luther ran one of the most inept political campaigns in history, but he's a hot property in DC. Figures.

Anonymous said...

John Rogers needs to start running like a scalded dog and start opening up to authorities, the press -- somebody -- about Luther Strange's involvement in the attempted bribe.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to say "John Rogers needs to STOP running like a scalded dog."

Anonymous said...

Luther Strange has no discernible talent, so why would anyone in DC want to hire him?

Anonymous said...

Luther has a Teflon coating, provided by the modern-day "Big Mules."

Anonymous said...

I found an LS post from a few months ago that said there are so many ethics complaints against Lutha that state official hardly can keep up with them all. Are potential employers in DC aware of this? If they are Republicans, do they care?

legalschnauzer said...

@4:32 --

Thanks for bringing up that post from 12/17. I remember it well. Here is some of the key material:

Strange's corruption-fighting column came roughly six weeks after APR reported there are so many complaints against Strange the Alabama Ethics Commission can't keep up with them all:

A formal complaint was filed by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill last spring regarding transfers of campaign funds that Strange made between his various campaign accounts. The issues were similar to the charges filed against former Gov. Robert Bentley, leading to his conviction and resignation.

The Ethics Commission was expected to take up the matter by late summer but it still hasn’t found its way onto an agenda. There was plenty of speculation about the cause – with most guessing the Commission was bending to political pressure, since Strange was facing a Republican primary in a special election this fall. That speculation grew when the Ethics Commission mysteriously delayed its July meeting until a day after the primary.

But multiple sources familiar with the Ethics Commission’s investigation say it was additional allegations that led to the long delay. Those allegations run the gamut, including that Strange violated ethics laws by accepting the appointment to the U.S. Senate from Bentley, that he broke multiple campaign finance laws and that he used his office for personal gain in several instances.

The allegations also have tied Strange to the ongoing bribery scandal surrounding the north Birmingham superfund site. However, U.S. Attorney Jay Town, earlier this month, stated that no elected officials other than Oliver Robinson were being investigated in that matter.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is a summary of Luther-related sleaze from the 12/17 post:

For those keeping score, let's count the Strange-related scandals mentioned in the above passage:

(1) Improper shifting of funds from one campaign account to another;

(2) Accepting a U.S. Senate appointment from former "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley, who was the subject of an investigation by Strange's attorney general's office;

(3) Violations of multiple campaign-finance law;

(4) Using his office for personal gain;

(5) Connections to the North Birmingham Superfund scandal.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Luther Strange. I butchered the Alabama AG's office, I had a gift-wrapped U.S. Senate seat and blew it to a clown named Roy Moore, and I love political prosecutions. I turned a blind eye on maybe the most corrupt governor in state history (after Bob Riley) because it would benefit me politically (didn't work out so well). Oh, and I had an extramarital affair with my campaign manager that I hid so well only 15/16 of the state population knows about it. Just ask Lowell Barron about that; he'll tell you.

I was so bad that Alabamians actually elected a Democrat. How do you turn a bright-red seat into a blue seat -- with a weak-ass Democrat like Doug Jones? Only I know the answer to such questions.

Won't you hire me -- pretty please.

Anonymous said...

JMG sure knows how to pick 'em. Her first husband was famous for wearing a penis nose. The man she wants to be hubby No. 2 would be taken more seriously if he did wear a penis nose.

At least first hubby had a sense of humor. Lutha doesn't have that -- and he certainly has no morals or ethics. Ask his wife.

Anonymous said...

Lutha needs to get a big-time DC job, with a big-time DC salary, in order to maintain the perception of power and to keep his former campaign aides -- Kevin Turner and JMG -- silent about all the sleaze they have on him.

Anonymous said...

Luther totally screwed up by accepting the appointment as Senator. He should have declined the appointment, continued to investigate Bentley, brought charges against him and Becky, and he would have been easily elected (unless the appointee was Brad Byrne, who would have been a formidable opponent). Instead, he got tempted by the power of the incumbency, and thought he was going to have 2 years to make people forget about selling out for the appointment. He didn’t count on Kay Ivey overturning the apple cart and setting the special election just months, instead of years, away. I have know Luther (primarily as a friend, and have known his wife for nearly 50 years). I have to say I was disappointed in his accepting the appointment and knew he was pretty much screwed running against Moore, whose one issue mantra appeals to about 30% of Alabama VOTERS. Luther had his dream job, was on Fox News as a conservative darling and had every advantage going into the primary and run-off. Except for one thing... several conservatives chose to stay home instead of voting for Luther. Other Republicans held their nose while voting for Moore thinking his extreme right/religious conservatism was what the state wanted. As a practical matter, I think Alabama and the country is better off with Dog Jones in the Senate than Crazy Roy. I know that LS has serious concerns about DJ. I am not here to argue for or “agin” those opinions. Bottom line is that I hope our representation ub Washington levels out to the point that they are debating and passing bills that deal with GOVERNANCE of the country’s and not trying to micro-manage our communications or free-speech rights

legalschnauzer said...

@8:41 --

Thanks for a superb comment -- very well stated.

Anonymous said...

I see where Kevin Turner, after a short stint as Lutha's chief of staff in Senate, has landed as "senior VP and general counsel" at the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. That's quite a title for such a worthless little twit. I bet he has not one clue what he's supposed to do on that job. Strange must have some pull at Export-Import Bank, per the Politico article:

"In addition to CFPB director, Strange has been talked about as a possible head of the Export-Import Bank. Strange’s former chief of staff is now a senior aide at the bank. But people close to Strange have cautioned him against accepting that job because senators are deeply divided over the future of the agency and could block any White House nominee to it as a result."

The "former chief of staff is now a senior aide at the bank" is Kevin Turner. Lutha made sure to quickly line up something for Turner after "The Tall One's" implosion against Roy Moore. Lutha can't afford to have Kevin Turner or JMG unhappy for long.

(To be continued)

Anonymous said...


The public needs to understand that Kevin Turner and Jessica Medeiros Garrison know the dirt around Luther and can bring him down at any moment. LS wrote a post roughly a year ago that summed up the hammers Turner and JMG hold over Luther:

"Turner landed at the Venable LLP law firm in Washington, but his bio already has disappeared from the firm's Web site, and his LinkedIn page already shows him as Luther Strange's chief of staff. Boy, that happened in a hurry.

"How did it happen? Well, blackmail -- or fear of blackmail -- might have played a big role. Consider these words from an August 2014 Legal Schnauzer post, that drew heavily on a report by Bill Britt at APR. The title of our post was "Top Aide To AG Luther Strange Might Be Using "Secret" To Derail Alabama Corruption Probe." How underhanded can Kevin Turner be? The following provides an idea:

"The chief of staff to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is trying to derail a corruption probe of House Speaker Mike Hubbard, former Governor Bob Riley and his children, and more, according to a new report at the Alabama Political Reporter.

"Bill Britt reports that Chief of Staff Kevin Turner is leading an in-house plot to have chief prosecutor Matt Hart removed from the case. Turner, who used to be at the Bradley Arant law firm in Birmingham, IS HOLDING A SECRET OVER STRANGE'S HEAD AS LEVERAGE to get Hart off the case, Britt reports."

I think we all know what that "secret" is; it's intimate knowledge of the Strange-Garrison affair and the unseemly shuffling of money to her company. Turner and Garrison both can bring down Luther in a heart beat, so he is highly compromised.

Turner wants a snazzy job in DC, and Garrison wants her big-time home in Mountain Brook, so her son can see and be seen with the proper people. Luther must keep them satisfied.

legalschnauzer said...

@8:57 --

Thanks for some fascinating comments, very insightful. On the subject of Luther Strange being compromised, we addressed that in a story about Lowell Barron's interview with Marcus Echols, back in 4/16:

"Barron said he's seen evidence firsthand that the Garrison affair affects the way Strange does his job. During the trial in DeKalb County, Barron's lawyers filed a subpoena, seeking to have Strange testify about his relationship with Garrison and payments he had made to her. The judge in the case did not immediately rule on Barron's efforts to have Strange testify, and the issue still was on the table when the AG's office asked to have the case dismissed.

"In the Echols interview, Barron suggested any investigation of Gov. Bentley will have to come from the U.S. Department of Justice because Luther Strange will be unable to do it at the state level, In fact, Barron said he is surprised the AG's office pursued an investigation of House Speaker Mike Hubbard, which produced a 23-count indictment on alleged ethics-law violations."

legalschnauzer said...

Here are direct Lowell Barron quotes, from the Marcus Echols interview noted above:

"Luther Strange is so compromised that he cannot go after the governor. What happened in my case . . . my attorney asked the judge to allow us to get Luther Strange to testify in my case. The judge left that open and didn't rule on it. Once the judge didn't rule on whether we could put Luther Strange on the stand, my case went away.

"Luther Strange cannot stand to be deposed or be put on the stand because his shenanigans with Ms. Garrison would come out in the open. This whole bunch is compromised. You can't have clean government when you are dirty. Nothing is going to happen [in the Bentley case] with the attorney general's office. I'm shocked they've done anything about the speaker."

Anonymous said...

@ 8:41 - nice job of copying and pasting my post from several months ago.