Governor Riley has high interest in Indian gambling

Published 4:39 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

By By Steve Flowers
In last year’s U.S. Senate investigations surrounding the convictions of the infamous duo Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, it was revealed that Bob Riley’s 2002 Election Campaign received at least $600,000, and probably close to $2.5 million, in contributions from out of state gambling interests. This is a lot of money, even in today’s political environment. It would easily be the largest contribution to Riley’s campaign, if not the largest to any campaign in Alabama history.
The investigation was called for by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs chaired by Senator John McCain. The investigation was conducted by numerous federal agencies, including the Justice Department and the FBI.
It would appear by Riley’s actions over the last six years that he has pretty much done the bidding of the Indian gambling interests. The chairman of the Poarch Creek Indians in Alabama was quoted in the Mobile Press Register as saying that Riley was recently a special guest at the opening of their Wind Creek Casino and Hotel near Atmore.
This cozy arrangement between Riley and the Indian gambling interests is similar and reminiscent to another scenario in Alabama politics. In 1970, the State was in the throes of one of the fiercest and closest governor’s races in history. The Albert Brewer vs. George Wallace gubernatorial contest is one of the most pivotal battles in Alabama political history.
One of the most tantalizing stories that emerged from that epic 1970 Governor’s Race was the fact that $400,000 was delivered to the Brewer campaign in a brown paper bag. It was given to Brewer by the Richard Nixon for President Campaign for only one purpose, to defeat and end the career of one George Corley Wallace. Nixon had been elected President in 1968, but would have won in a much easier fashion if Wallace had not run as a third party candidate and carried the five Deep South states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The Republicans had captured these states in 1964. If Wallace had not been on the ballot in 1968, Nixon would have garnered these states’ electoral votes. Nixon was looking toward the 1972 race and wanted Wallace out of the picture. Wallace was indeed planning to run again and actually had never stopped running. A Wallace defeat at the polls in his own home state would have rendered him as hapless as the assailant’s bullets did in Maryland in the 1972 Democratic Presidential Primary.
The legendary political journalist Bob Ingram, who was Brewer’s good friend and campaign finance director, became an integral part of the 1970 Brewer Campaign and later told the details of the story in his book, “That’s the Way I Saw It.” It was a made for movie espionage escapade that had intriguing twists and turns that are better than fiction. Ingram was chosen to be the clandestine courier by the Brewer inner circle. His story of how he picked up the money at a New York hotel is priceless.
The Watergate hearings confirmed the rumors that the $400,000 was in fact given to the Brewer campaign by the Nixon Reelection for President Campaign. It was also revealed that the deliverer of the Nixon money was Watergate conspirator Herbert Kalmbach. However, Ingram argued that this $400,000 contribution to defeat Wallace was the cleanest campaign contribution ever made. He makes a very valid point. Most large contributors donate $10,000 to $25,000 with hopes that their donation to the cause will bring them favor with the administration. They expect to reap the spoils of victory. There are old political sayings that have been around for a while, “To the victor goes the spoils,” and “Those that help bake the pie get to eat it.” Indeed Ingram was right. This probably was the cleanest contribution ever made. The Nixon campaign wanted no state business or favorable contracts. They simply wanted to defeat George Wallace and keep him out of the 1972 Presidential Race.
Much like the Brewer/Nixon Watergate money, the Riley/Indian gambling money is strikingly similar. There may be no real compromise by Riley in his acceptance of the benevolent campaign gift. The marriage between Riley and the out of state gambling interests is a marriage made in Heaven. They are simply using Riley’s position on gambling to protect their monopoly and avoid paying any taxes in Alabama.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at

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