Alabama Scene

Riley’s deals in his final days in office

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

The details of the deals engineered by outgoing Gov. Bob Riley will slowly be revealed in full over the next several months, many of them concocted during the waning weeks of his official tour of duty as our governor … and at least one in the final days.

Perhaps the most significant of them all is the meeting he called in his office in mid- December with Attorney General-elect Luther Strange. It was the last week of the special session Riley had called to deal with his proposed ethics enhancements. We will have more to report on Riley’s deal-making later, but for now here is what is known about that meeting.

Riley called Strange to his office to lay out what he wanted from the new attorney general … and what he would do in return … a classic quid pro quo offer. The governor of the State of Alabama told the incoming attorney general that he wanted him to “protect” his children and also direct any business he could to them. For that Riley told Strange he would support him for governor in 2014 and raise $2 million for his campaign.

Is this attempted political bribery? I don’t know. I suppose that would be the case only if Strange performed his part of the offer … it’s called “acceptance” of the deal in legalese.

Riley also pressed Strange to hire his legal advisor at the time, Sonny Reagan, and put him in charge of all issues involving gambling in the office of attorney general. “I want you to hire Sonny to be your Kenny Steeley,” Riley told Strange. Steeley was the lawyer in Troy King’s office who handled gaming issues. Riley also predicted the term of his successor, Dr. Robert Bentley, would be “a disaster,” making it easy for Strange to be successful in 2014.

I am told there were six witnesses to this conversation.

State financial records show that just prior to Riley’s departure in January, a $65,000 check was cut from the governor’s office to the Birmingham law firm of Bradley Arant, the recipient of over $10 million in fees paid by the Riley administration in the past two years. By the way, Riley’s son-in-law is a shareholder in the law firm. The strange situation over the appointment of a U. S. attorney

Leura Canary is the U. S. attorney in the Middle District of Alabama. She is the spouse of Bill Canary, the head of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). Appointed by George W. Bush with the help of Karl Rove, she is now in her third year of serving under Barack Obama. She is one of the longest holdovers in the Obama Administration. Her tenure is an exception to the rule that presidents, when elected, quickly fire the U.S. attorneys appointed by the previous administration, particularly if it was the opposite party.

Not so with Obama, because I am told that our U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions cut a deal with the Obama Administration to keep Canary in office. The quid pro quo in return would be no serious opposition by Sessions to Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. Gosh, our guy Sessions surely wouldn’t cut a deal against his own values to protect those liberal Obama appointees.

In order to calm Democrats, at least what few of them are left in Alabama, the administration for months has vetted Montgomery lawyer George Beck for the U.S. attorney position as Canary and her office keep investigating Democrats for various political issues. It has set a record as the longest “vetting” period in U.S. history. But now we know that it was a ruse and that Sessions now pretends he is not happy with Beck after initially agreeing to his nomination. Beck, a Democrat, is one of only a few members of a prestigious Montgomery law firm of mostly Republican partisans.

So now the White House is vetting former Montgomery Mayor and U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright for the position. That should give Canary another year in office, long enough to indict and prosecute more Democrats courtesy of Sen. Sessions.

The truth about this whole situation is that the Democrats are now an inept entity in Alabama … not even skillful enough to get a U.S. attorney appointed by a President of their own party. They are at the lowest ebb since Reconstruction and may be forced to morph into Whigs.