Thursday, February 6, 2020

Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who once trashed Alabama political foes for allegedly taking campaign cash from gambling interests, now cozies up to casino operators in Las Vegas to pitch facial-recognition technology

Jessica Garrison addresses gambling execs in Las Vegas

Alabama GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison is committing acts of political hypocrisy that might make U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blush. No kidding.

What have we learned about Garrison's role as vice president of public affairs for a shadowy facial-recognition company called Clearview AI? For one, the company -- with Garrison as its PR face -- tends to take actions that contradict its public statements. Consider this from a report at BuzzFeed News:

Despite its claim last week that it “exists to help law enforcement agencies,” Clearview has also been working with entities outside of law enforcement. [CEO Hoan] Ton-That told BuzzFeed News on Jan. 23 that Clearview was working with “a handful of private companies who use it for security purposes.” Marketing emails from late last year obtained by BuzzFeed News via a public records request showed the startup aided a Georgia-based bank in a case involving the cashing of fraudulent checks.

[Last October], a company representative was slated to speak at a Las Vegas gambling conference about casinos’ use of facial recognition as a way of "rewarding loyal customers and enforcing necessary bans." Initially, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, whose title was stated on the conference website as Clearview’s vice president of public affairs, was listed on a panel that included the head of surveillance for Las Vegas' Cosmopolitan hotel. Later versions of the conference schedule and Garrison’s bio removed all mentions of Clearview AI. It is unclear if she actually appeared on the panel.

It no longer is unclear if Garrison appeared on the panel. We reported last week on her comments to casino operators at a panel discussion, including a photo of her just to the left of center stage. The evidence is clear that Garrison is pitching facial-recognition technology to gaming executives. Where does hypocrisy enter that picture? This is the same Jessica Medeiros Garrison -- who, while serving as campaign manager and mistress for former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange -- verbally attacked any opponent who said anything remotely positive about gambling. Consider this from an April 2013 Legal Schnauzer post, which came roughly six months before my "arrest for blogging" in Shelby County:

We know that Strange takes hypocrisy on gambling issues to monumental dimensions. After all, this is the guy who has tried to shut down non-Indian gaming facilities, such as VictoryLand in Macon County and Center Stage Alabama in Houston County, while taking a $100,000 campaign contribution from the Poarch Creek casinos. This also is the guy who used the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to help obscure the donation via a PAC-to-PAC transfer.

That brings us to Jessica Medeiros Garrison. She made news here last week when we reported on a press release she issued in March 2010, calling for Strange's GOP primary opponent, incumbent AG Troy King, to return any campaign funds he had received from gambling interests. That seems curious--some might say hypocritical--when you consider that Garrison now works for the very organization that helped launder gambling funds for Luther Strange in the same campaign.

What are we talking about? Before we tackle that question, let's see just how worked up Jessica Medeiros Garrison became over Troy King's campaign funding. This is from her press release, and the full release can be viewed at the end of this post:
“Gambling interests have propped up Mr. King's campaigns, back to 2006,” said the Luther Strange campaign manager, Jessica Garrison. “If he sticks to his pledge of returning direct contributions from gambling interests, he needs to return at least $190 thousand. If he gives back all of the contributions he has accepted from PACs which have received money from gambling operators, slot machine manufactures and their lobbyists, King needs to return nearly $400 thousand to keep his public pledge.”

As you can see, Jessica Garrison turned into a virtual hellcat when the subject was Troy King and his alleged ties to gambling. But what about her own ties to gambling -- and those of her long-time political benefactor, Luther Strange? Here is more from our April 2013 post:

Jessica Medeiros Garrison, it seems, tried to hold Troy King to a standard that she was not willing to meet herself.

Garrison now serves in an "of counsel" role with the large, downtown-Birmingham law firm Balch and Bingham. But her primary role seems to be serving as director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). What is RAGA? It is an affiliate of RSLC, the organization that helped funnel Indian gaming funds to the Luther Strange campaign.

Translation: Jessica Medeiros Garrison called for Troy King to distance himself from any organization that dealt with gambling funds; Garrison herself subsequently joined an organization that . . . deals with gambling funds.

Here it is 2020, almost seven years later, and Jessica Garrison is cozying up to gaming interests in the most public of forums -- at the epicenter of American gambling, Las Vegas. When dollar signs are floating before Ms. Garrison's eyeballs, her opposition to gaming seems to drift away.

We can only imagine the guffaws that must draw from Troy King.

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