The bingo trial currently underway in Montgomery is revealing the ugly side of state politics and giving onlookers an up front view to the grimy inner workings of politics, campaigns and the buying and selling of influence.
There is nothing new or unique about the contents of the opening day of testimony in Alabama's bingo trial and no revelatory re-invention of the wheel--it’s the same old you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours and it doesn’t apply exclusively to this trial. Influence buying goes on everyday in Montgomery. There is an ingrained dirty process of persuasion that follows the well-worn path carved out by crooked politicians and jump on my wagon shady deal drivers.
If what we are hearing in the first day of testimony is the gist of the whole trial then it’s much ado about nothing. The statements below, recorded from FBI wiretaps, are the crux of the government’s case. The feds might as well pitch camp on Goat Hill and begin a big roundup of the whole herd of they’re all guilty as sin because promises, cajoling and arm-twisting statements like these are as common as dirt in Alabama.
"We need your help, and I promise you this, you won't regret helping us. We don't forget our friends.""These guys can talk about what we can do.""We damn sure support those who support us, and in a significant way.""You're in the catbird seat.""You might miss an opportunity to really cut yourself a good deal,"“I'm going to be very, very supportive of any legislator that is willing to give them that opportunity."You do us a favor and we can “tie you into our public relations firm” with a very handsome six figure salary."We'll get all those bases covered where it's fluid for you and comfortable for you.""We can be harmful for a lot of folks ... We can be helpful for a lot of folks behind the scenes."“Do you want an opponent in the primary or not, or would you rather have the rug pulled out from underneath them last minute?”
You could snatch any lobbyist off the legislative halls at any given moment in Montgomery and ask them if they have ever used any of these lines. If they were truthful, an oxymoron admittedly, they would probably say, “Sure we do, all the time. Is that a trick question son?” We all know they do it. It’s the game. The process. It’s the way things work--vote for this and we’ll remember your support with a big fat check next election and a cushy job when you leave office.
There is not a hairs worth of difference between business as usual in Alabama politics and what we are hearing in court this week.
So why the big press by the federal cavalry?
Maybe the answer lies somewhere back in the dirt trail leading up to this trial when certain political ‘renegades’ decided they weren’t going to let the people vote on statewide gambling, even after a constitutional amendment cleared a senate committee in early 2010.
Proponents of gambling say the idea of a statewide vote went by the wayside because it would take away former Governor Riley’s chance to roundup some political enemies and payback certain previous supporters who “don‘t forget their friends.”
Like those Indians on the Poarch who thanked Riley with generous tokens of ‘appreciation’ in his 2006 second term gubernatorial run. What the Poarch “rainmakers” did sure seems like a kissing cousin to what McGregor is currently accused of to us. Did it buy some influence? It must have because the only legal gambling in Alabama is Poarch gambling. The PCI were firmly against the constitutional amendment claiming it “would lead to an unchecked expansion of gambling.” Read: don't mess with our profits.
In Riley’s first gubernatorial run, the Mississippi Choctaw Indians gaming system came up with millions of persuaders to sweep Riley into office. It came with scandal, corruption and greed that bears an uncanny likeness to the McGregor trial. It’s still a story of legend in southern politics due to the Jack Abramoff connection.
Riley isn’t talking about any of it. He doesn’t have to according to Judge Terry Moorer who blocked McGregor’s subpoena effort calling for Riley to testify. Not wasting any time, Riley and his gambling crusader sidekick John Tyson, mounted their steel horses and took off for Alaska the day of opening testimony in the bingo trial.
We still wonder why he picked Alaska. The land of Palin. The timing of the trip is just a bit too coincidental with the the start of one of the biggest trials in Alabama history and the GOP presidential race still as dry as dust.
Whatever the outcome is of the ongoing gambling trial one thing’s for certain: one hand washes the other in Alabama politics and both hands are just as dirty as sin.
Photo credit:Sweet Love Vintage
Photo credit:Sweet Love Vintage