Thursday, May 20, 2021

With corruption flowing like sewage in downtown Birmingham, it's time for a Phenix City-style cleansing, starting with the Alabama Power money machine

Jay Town and Mark Crosswhite


Has Birmingham become the epicenter of corruption in Alabama, much as Phenix City was in the 1950s? Is it time for a thorough cleansing in "The Magic City"? Should that process start by addressing the free-flowing money spigot at Alabama Power? The answer to all three questions is yes, according to an analysis at Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, pointing to a photograph (see above) of Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite and disgraced former U.S. Attorney Jay Town knocking down cocktails prior to the 2018 North Birmingham Superfund criminal trial:

The photo above of disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town chugging cocktails with the Chairman and CEO of Alabama Power Mark A. Crosswhite at the Moon Shine Lounge at the Elyton Hotel is the epitome of the unethical if not corrupt environment in Alabama.

After the criminal convictions of Balch-made millionaire Joel I. Gilbert, one of the most interesting and insightful comments made to us was from a seasoned federal official who stated that the alleged corruption in Jefferson County and North Birmingham was not caused by Balch & Bingham but appeared to have been caused by the embattled law firm’s sister-wife, Alabama Power.

The mother’s milk of all corruption and bribery is money, cash money.

Alabama Power is a money horse, the most profitable wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Company.

Alabama Power appears to spreads millions of dollars directly or through “pay-through” entities to political allies, political action committees, AstroTurf campaigns, yellow journalists, and of course, law firms like Balch & Bingham or White, Arnold & Dowd.

Folks who know their Alabama history have heard this kind of story before. Write Forbes:

In the 1940s and early 1950s, Phenix City, Alabama, was a hub of corruption and criminal misconduct. As the Associated Press reported:

“Criminals infiltrated local government, rigging elections and paying off officials. The crime figures were meticulous about paying their taxes, which kept taxes for others in Phenix City low. And they made regular donations to churches and civic causes — money that made them part of the fabric of the community.”

But all that changed on June 18, 1954 when the nominee and shoe-in for Alabama Attorney General Albert Patterson, who vowed to clean up corruption in Phenix City, was assassinated.

As Wikipedia describes:

Reaction from the state was swift. Within weeks, Governor Gordon Persons declared martial law in the city, effectively giving the Alabama National Guard the law enforcement duties in the city and the county. The state sent special prosecutors from Montgomery to replace the local judiciary.

Within six months, the Phenix City machine was dismantled.

A special grand jury in Birmingham handed down 734 indictments against local law enforcement officers, elected officials, and local business owners connected to organized crime. 

Three officials were specifically indicted for Patterson’s murder: Chief Deputy Sheriff Albert Fuller, Circuit Solicitor Arch Ferrell, and Attorney General Si Garrett. Of the three, only Fuller was convicted; he was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released after 10 years. Fuller died within the same year as his parole and claimed his innocence until his dying day. Ferrell was acquitted and Garrett was never brought to trial, as he was convalescing in a mental institution for most of the year after Patterson’s murder.

Is it time for similar action in and around Jefferson County? Is the area sullied by corporate entities and law firms -- and their political allies -- who are bad actors? Could a $75-million lawsuit from former Drummond Company executive David Roberson, essentially reopening the North Birmingham case, be the impetus for much-needed change -- and fresh air? Yes, yes, and yes, says Forbes:

Now, today, 67 years later, we see sheer and uncontrolled panic from the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Balch, and Drummond Company) in the rebirth of the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal.

Every political asset, every judicial trick, every tactic of fear and intimidation have been used as crushing weights against David Roberson, but they have backfired. Roberson’s $75 million sealed lawsuit still stands.

These four years of reporting have proven undeniably that Balch & Bingham, Alabama Power and their stooges are utter fools. Their foolish conduct has spiraled out of control.

Like a replication from long-ago Phenix City, we have reported about the manipulation of the judicial branch, an assassination attempt, alleged bribes, staged arrests, alleged prosecutorial misconduct, a mysterious head-on car wreck, judicial fraud, a counterfeit court order, and even when the wrong family was terrorized by Balch boosters.

Forbes points an accusing finger at a corporate behemoth in downtown Birmingham, one perhaps the feds need to cut down to size:

But now the feds need to zero in on where Alabama Power is most vulnerable.

Alabama Power, like Phenix City elements of 1954, may give regular donations to civic causes, but the ugly underbelly, the vile raw sewage from Alabama Power linked to environmental racism and possible corruption needs to be investigated and cleaned up.

Mark A. Crosswhite may be forced to resign or retire.

Unlike the long-ago politico, we don’t believe Crosswhite will be “convalescing in a mental institution” anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

Phenix City? Wow, that's a blast from the past.

legalschnauzer said...

I wonder how many Americans, even Alabamians, have forgotten how bad things once were in Phenix City.

legalschnauzer said...

For those who don't know, Phenix City is just south of Auburn, across the state border from Columbus, GA.

legalschnauzer said...

To bring this closer to modern day, Si Garrett was the uncle of Leura Garrett Canary, who became infamous as the corrupt prosecutor in the Don Siegelman case, essentially doing Karl Rove's bidding to oust a popular Democrat. At last report, Leura Canary had settled into a cushy position with the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA).

legalschnauzer said...

From a 2007 article at Harper's:

I was recently told that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and her husband, G.O.P. campaign kingpin William Canary, have been pursuing a PR campaign to burnish Leura’s reputation, using the resources of the Business Council of Alabama. If that’s true, then their efforts have had a massive payoff in the Montgomery Advertiser on October 14 under the caption “Lady Law,” in which Leura’s family is profiled in the most glowing terms—from a grandmother described as “Aunt Bee” from “Mayberry, RFD,” to her father and grandfather, who are profiled as bigwigs in state government and law enforcement. And amidst all the detailed chronology of the Garrett family, from which Leura hails, there is not even a second to mention her one truly famous relation, uncle Si Garrett, the most notorious Attorney General in Alabama’s history.

I didn’t know, until reading the Advertiser’s hymn to Leura, that she was related to Si. I grew up hearing the tale of Si Garrett, so it’s worth taking a second to recount. Si Garrett was deeply enmeshed in the murder of Alabama’s attorney general-elect Albert J. Patterson and in the massive scandal that subsequently unfolded surrounding organized crime and government in Phenix City, Alabama. Si had supported Patterson’s opponent, and he worked hard to swing the election by reworking some tally sheets in populous Jefferson County. Garrett had tried to convince the Democratic leadership that Patterson was linked to gambling interests; but in fact it was Si Garrett who had tight connections to the Phenix City organized crime nest. Patterson was a clean government candidate, and the organized crime interests were afraid of him. Still, the vote rigging scheme failed, and after some curious phone calls placed to Garrett out of Phenix City, Albert J. Patterson was mysteriously murdered. After he became the prime target of the murder investigation, Si checked into an insane asylum in Texas to avoid prosecution. (All of that story is brilliantly chronicled in Margaret Anne Barnes’s The Tragedy and the Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama, published by Mercer University Press in 1998; alternately, for a less academic and more lurid account, turn to Gene Wortsman and Edwin Strickland’s Phenix City, The Wickedest City in America. The lazier among you can just go and pull out the classic 1955 film noir “The Phenix City Story,” directed by Phil Karlson.)

legalschnauzer said...

Here's more from Harper's re: Leura Garrett Canary and her family ties to Phenix City corruption:

So when Leura tells the Advertiser that “My genetic makeup is chock-full of lawyer and law enforcement genes, so I never had a chance of doing anything else in life,” it’s interesting to think of the whole story. Of course, bloodline aside, the focus really needs to be on how Canary conducts herself as U.S. Attorney. Aside from the Siegelman prosecution, which was essentially an elaborate exercise designed to install Bob Riley in the statehouse and then keep him there, we have the disclosures that Adam Zagorin recently made concerning the Lanny Young testimony. Young, it turns out, provided whopping evidence against two leading Alabama Republicans, Senator Jeff Sessions and then-Attorney General and now Judge William Pryor. Both of these gentlemen were Canary clients. And the U.S. Attorney’s office in Montgomery instantly concluded that the charges against Sessions and Pryor were going nowhere. It reached these conclusions without undertaking any follow-up investigation or interviewing any of the key corroborating witnesses. (Doing that would, of course, have been counterproductive: it could have produced more evidence establishing a crime).

Now further evidence of how Leura wields her powers appears, in the pages of the Montgomery Advertiser. In an article today entitled “Critic Sues Riley for Testimony,” we learn more about the Goff litigation, in which deep and well documented allegations of official corruption have been raised against Alabama Governor Bob Riley, former Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom, Insurance Commissioner Walter A. Bell, and a host of other officials. The most striking allegations, however, have Rob Riley using Goff’s private jet plane to pick up bails of cash from Jack Abramoff and former Riley Congressional aide, now convicted felon, Michael Scanlon, in Washington, for use in the Riley gubernatorial campaign. These allegations stack up with the report issued by Senator John McCain in his examination of the Abramoff fraud perpetrated on Indian gaming interests, and suggest that much of this cash came down to Alabama and played a role in state electoral politics. They also point to Rob Riley as the key interface with Abramoff and Scanlon in the money-laundering process. The allegations are absolutely not “wild” or “unsubstantiated.” Most observers who have looked at them think they’re right on the money and explosive. So now, Goff’s attorney has sought the deposition of Rob Riley, the Governor’s son.

legalschnauzer said...

Any mention of Rob Riley requires elaboration. Scott Horton provides it;

Rob Riley has been out making statements all over the place for the last two weeks. Mostly his statements relate to the Jill Simpson testimony. And he’s contradicted himself a number of times (contradictions which go curiously unnoted in G.O.P. mouthpiece publications like the Birmingham News). None of these statements have been made under oath. So how does Riley react to the prospect of answering questions under oath? Once more, we see Louis Franklin and Steve Feaga, the Siegelman shock troops–the Advertiser reports they’re working hard: to indict Goff.

Goff lawyer Thomas T. Gallion III of Montgomery said he has discussed the investigation with federal prosecutor Stephen P. Feaga. “They’re going to indict him,” Gallion said.

Louis Franklin, criminal division chief in U.S. Attorney Leura G. Canary’s office in Montgomery, said he cannot confirm or deny that Goff is under investigation. But Franklin noted that the congressionial inquiry has made it easy for those who think they are under investigation to go to the media with claims of political persecution. . .

“It’s inexplicable that you don’t investigate something for three or four years,” Gallion said. “Then, a couple of months after a lawsuit is filed by Goff–that mentions Bill Canary–they all of a sudden launch an investigation.”

In Franklin’s view, all these problems have arisen as a result of the Congressional probe into the way Leura Canary and her deputies handled the Siegelman affair. Would anybody be stupid enough to believe that? But attorney Gallion draws the conclusions that any thinking person would draw: the powers of the office of U.S. attorney are being used for a political retaliation. Not for the first time, either.

And what is Canary’s office doing about the allegations targeting Riley, Windom and others? As far as I can tell, nothing. In the meantime, it sure looks like the Montgomery U.S. Attorney’s office has relocated to Phenix City, and moved back the clock to 1954.

legalschnauzer said...

These words from Scott Horton, about Rob Riley, bear repeating:

The most striking allegations, however, have Rob Riley using Goff’s private jet plane to pick up bails of cash from Jack Abramoff and former Riley Congressional aide, now convicted felon, Michael Scanlon, in Washington, for use in the Riley gubernatorial campaign. These allegations stack up with the report issued by Senator John McCain in his examination of the Abramoff fraud perpetrated on Indian gaming interests, and suggest that much of this cash came down to Alabama and played a role in state electoral politics. They also point to Rob Riley as the key interface with Abramoff and Scanlon in the money-laundering process. The allegations are absolutely not “wild” or “unsubstantiated.” Most observers who have looked at them think they’re right on the money and explosive. So now, Goff’s attorney has sought the deposition of Rob Riley, the Governor’s son.

Rob Riley was the "key interface" with Abramoff and Scanlon (perhaps the two most notorious political criminals in modern U.S. history) in the "money-laundering process?

How nice.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. S:

I read your coverage of the Sloan Bashinsky Sr. Estate fallout.

I'm afraid you either were horribly misinformed in that case or you are no longer a progressive. I'm hoping you got some wires crossed and there was a misunderstanding.

The parties you're protecting in your editorials took advantage of Joann to the tune of nearly $30million with $10+ million in loans in the last year- going to her grandson Landon Ash.

Perhaps you should become better informed in regards to Landon Ash. Landon is a staunch Republican and has ridden the Riley Car since Bob ran for office. Landon makes multiple donationss to conservative candidates and lobbyists, as he was trying to get his business affairs in regards to "iK9"- a drug and ballistics dog training company.

Check out this website: is a professional spin doctor firm and one thing they do is appear they're great investigators when they already know the answer they intend to publish: the answer from a paying customer. lays it all out in regards to how Ms. Bashinsky was treated in her later years and where her money went: Conservative Riley/Rowe Politicians and Lobbyists.

Yellowhammer is aptly named in my opinion. Press Releases and Yellow Journalism masquerading as real news. Their Liberty Duke piece should have told you that.

Only Sloan Jr. the Mad is a progressive, some of his side are. The rest are Alabama blue blood washed dark red.

legalschnauzer said...

@4:13 --

I tried to focus my coverage on what actually happened in court with Ms. BSashinsky, the legal issues involved. Really didn't get into anyone's politics. I did write one piece about vindictus, but for now, I'm focusing on other stories. Just not sure I have an objective source on the Bashinsky story. You are welcome to contact me if you have information on the story that might be helpful. Landon Ash and I might not agree on politics, but I really don't know. That's not part of the story in my view.

Anonymous said...

Start above.

Ash paid for expensive visits with our esteemed former POS, pardon me, I meant head of state HOS, at Mar-A-Lago.

Ash with no experience in manufacturing ammunition was awarded a contract to the National Park Service to supply them Ammunition, back under Trump.

Ash iK9. Anniston's PD and the Sheriff's there shielded iK9 from investigation into how the animals were treated. In 2020, iK9 shut doors, Landon went to Mexico and New Zealand hunting, but no one can find out what happened to iK9's dogs. The rumor is that a pet crematorium aka incinerator was delivered to the facility when it reopened to get the Biden incentive to keep your business open and employees paid. That's what happened to the the labradoodles and german shepherds he was training.

The proof is out there.

I went back to law school as an adult because I saw how people like you were getting screwed. You inspired me, I know you have no formal legal background but you impressed a Wake Forest Law dropout(3rd year no less) who decided the whole goddamn system was too corrupt to fix.

I'm not at Wake Forest Law but when I finish clerking I intend to stick it to the man because of what tyrants like the Swateks, Rileys, Rowes, and Bentley have been able to do to baby boomers like you and Carol.

Both parties are corrupt. My will work will stick it to them both. When "Hey Boomer" is the most widely "dis" or show of disrespect you can show a person, the country is irreparably damaged. I may be a 43yo burnout defending old hippies with law degree from a shitty school in KY, but at least there will be someone defending old hippies.

legalschnauzer said...

If I helped inspire someone to become a good and decent lawyer, in a field that so badly needs them, I will take that as a badge of honor. I hope you find satisfaction in the profession; heck, maybe I will need your services someday. I've never really been a hippy; I've actually gotten more liberal as I've gotten older, which is not how it usually happens. But I do still love Creedence Clearwater Revival, and I consider John Fogerty to be a national treasure.