Flaying in under the radar today is a major scandal in Alabama’s state government, where state senators, lobbyists and casino developers were all arrested in a major influences peddling scandal. The Anniston Star newspaper has a good editorial on the matter:
The Justice Department’s 65-page indictment quotes extensively from what are presumably audio recordings of conversations among lawmakers and others. The transcripts from those calls included in the indictment are a shameful display, strongly hinting that, at least in some quarters, public policy is for sale to the highest bidder in Alabama.
Prominent among those charged were VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley of Dothan and four senators — Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega, Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, Larry Means, D-Attalla, and Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb. The remaining indictments were filed against lobbyists (Tom Coker and Bob Geddie and Jarrod Massey), a public relations executive with Country Crossing (Jay Walker) and a legislative staff attorney (Ray Crosby).
A Justice Department spokesman described the alleged efforts to buy gambling-friendly legislation as a “corrupt network of legislators, business interests and lobbyists” engaging in a “wide-ranging conspiracy.” The effect, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department said, was “astonishing in scope.” It had better be, given the charges’ proximity to Election Day, a time when prosecutors are usually wary of influencing votes.
Note that Harri Anne Smith was kicked off the Republican ballot earlier this year, and Jim Preuitt was a Democrat prior to switching parties in April. Be sure and read the rest of the editorial, as it does a good job covering Alabama’s many recent examples of corruption.