By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Read the document the stories are based on
MONTGOMERY—The Montgomery Advertiser last Sunday, broke a story about the ties between the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) and certain groups and leaders within the Republican party.
On Wednesday evening, they released a story tying Attorney General Luther Strange to PCI money.
The Alabama Political Report has obtained most of the documents that have been the basis for the reporting as well as Ford’s ethics complaint. The “documents obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser” come from an un-named source.
In the documents below, someone has worked hard to follow the flow of gambling money into some GOP campaign coffers.
On Sunday the Montgomery Advertiser story said, “The same day that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians gave a $100,000 check to a national Republican organization, that organization made a $100,000 donation to a group working with former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to fight gambling in the state, according to documents obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser.”
On Wednesday evening the Montgomery Advertiser wrote, “Johnny Ford files ethics complaint against AG Luther Strange.” In the article the Advertiser reports, “Ford accused Strange of threatening raids at VictoryLand, which like Tuskegee is located in Macon County, after taking $100,000 from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians during his campaign in 2010.”
Nothing appears to be illegal only hypocritical. The GOP in Alabama has made a solid stand against gaming yet, they take money from the Indian gaming interest. Most political observers know this already, only out in the real world are voters unaware of some republicans ties to gaming money.
After reviewing the documents given to the Montgomery Advertiser, several questions come to mind and many remain unanswered.
Who is supplying the Montgomery Advertiser with this information and why? Is it a concerned citizen, or is there a deeper agenda?
The stories so far seem to target the PCI, the Riley’s and Luther Strange and to a lesser degree, House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Omitted from the Advertiser’s reporting so far, has been former Lt. Governor Steve Windom, who is alleged in the documents as the man who started the process with the PCI.
Also left out of the reporting is who tipped off Johnny Ford?
The Advertiser has had this information for days, did Ford tell them and then file his complaint? Did someone at the newspaper tip off Ford? How did Ford know about the connection between, PCI money and Strange? The timing is certainly interesting and appears to point to a coordinated effort.
Someone has gone to a great deal of trouble, to show the PCI as a political influence, tarnish Luther Strange and throw certain elements of the GOP under the “gaming” bus.
In politics it is important to “follow the money” a line written by screen writer William Golden and never said to Woodward or Bernstein by Deep Throat.
Another important and less obvious one is to ask is “Who wins when others fall?”
FLOW OF MONEY FROM POARCH CREEK INDIANS TO ALABAMA GOP/CITIZENS FOR A BETTER ALABAMA/LUTHER STRANGE/BOB RILEY
POARCH CREEK LOBBYIST STEVE WINDOM ESTABLISHES RELATIONSHIP (AND CREDIT) WITH REPUBLICAN STATE LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE PAC (RSLC) BY CONTRIBUTING $1000 PER MONTH FOR 3 YEARS (ALONG WITH A SMALL MEMBERSHIP FEE) TO THE PAC
WINDOM ARRANGES FOR THE RSLC TO CONTRIBUTE $250,000 TO EFFORTS TO SHUT DOWN COMPETITORS TO THE POARCH CREEKS THROUGH ANTI-NONINDIAN BINGO EFFORTS OF THE CITIZENS FOR A BETTER ALABAMA (CBA)
RSLC PASSES $150,000 TO CBA VIA THE ALABAMA STATE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND ROB RILEY AND MIKE HUBBARD’S PACS IN MARCH 2010
THE RSLC ALABAMA PAC CONTRIBUTES $100,000 DIRECTLY TO CBA IN JUNE 2010 – MAKES TOTAL FROM RSLC EXACTLY $250,000 AT THIS POINT
IN OCTOBER 2010 THE POARCH CREEKS CONTRIBUTE PRECISELY $250,000 TO RSLC TO PAY BACK THE TWO DONATIONS MADE ON THIER BEHALF
IN JULY 2010 THE POARCH CREEKS DONATE $100,000 TO RSLC SPECIFICALLY FOPR LUTHER STRANGE; THE MONEY IS ROUTED THROUGH THE ALABAMA GOP DIRECTLY TO STRANGE
THE POARCH CREEKS CONTRIBUTE PRECISELY $350,000 TO RSLC DURING 2010
ANTI-BINGO ORGANIZATIONS AND CANIDIDATES IN ALABAMA RECEIVE EXACTLY $350,000 FROM RSLC DURING 2010
WAR ON BINGO FUNDED BY POARCH INDIAN CASINOS
STRANGE GOT BIGGEST DONATION OF CAMPAIGN FROM INDIAN CASINOS;
SPEAKER MIKE HUBBARD MANAGED INDIAN MONEY
During the 2010 election cycle, the Poarch Creek Indians – operators of Wind Creek Casino near Atmore, Tallapoosa Casino in Montgomery, and Riverside Casino in Wetumpka – funneled $550,000 to PACS controlled by then-State GOP Chairman Mike Hubbard (now Speaker of the Alabama House), a PAC controlled by former Governor Bob Riley and his son Rob, and a new PAC chaired by the now former Governor Riley. This money – precisely $550,000 contributed by the Poarch Creek Indians to the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee (see attachment 1) – was then directed by Hubbard and Rob Riley to Citizens for a Better Alabama (the anti-gambling operation used to buy advertising by Bob Riley), and by Hubbard to the campaign of current Attorney General Luther Strange. Every dime contributed in Alabama by the Poarch Creek Indians conduit – the Republican State Leadership Committee – was contributed to PACs controlled by Mike Hubbard and Bob and Rob Riley.
Strange received $100,000 from the Poarch Creeks – his largest donation of the campaign (see attachment 2) – immediately after the defeat of Bradley Byrne in the GOP gubernatorial runoff. The Poarch Creek Indians contributed $100,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) on July 15, 2010 (see attachment 3). (NOTE: This check was sent 48 hours after Byrne’s defeat – Byrne had pledged to continue the bingo raids on the Poarch casinos’ competitors.) The RSLC PAC in turn contributed the $100,000 to the state GOP PAC on July 22, 2010 (see attachment 4). The FIRST CHECK written by the state GOP PAC after the receipt of the $100,000 from the RSLC was to the Luther Strange campaign (see attachment 5).
The commitment by the Poarch Creeks to Strange followed hot on the heels of Byrne’s defeat for a reason. The Poarch Creeks had begun an intense effort to influence the political process in
Alabama following the introduction of legislation in early 2010 that would have allowed expanded gaming at rival non-Indian casinos.
The newly minted Republican nominee – Robert Bentley – had pledged to end the gambling raids on non-Indian casinos that had begun in late January of 2010. In early March 2010 a judge issued an injunction preventing further raids. Immediately after this injunction – and while a highly-charged debate over legalized electronic bingo raged in the state legislature – the favored national money conduit for the Poarch Indians (the 527 group Republican State Leadership Committee) made its first donation to the Alabama Republican Party.
Between March 2010 and March 2011, the Poarch Creek Indians contributed $550,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (see attachment 1). Two of these contributions – one made in mid-July 2010 for $100,000 and another in early October for $250,000 – appear to have been passed through directly to Republican Attorney General candidate Luther Strange (the July contribution for $100,000) and to Citizens for A Better Alabama ($150,000 through the state GOP via Rob Riley’s GOV PAC and Hubbard’s own NETPAC and $100,000 more directly to Citizens for A Better Alabama by the RSLC)) by then-party Chair Mike Hubbard. A third contribution by the Poarch Creeks to the Republican State Leadership Committee – made on January 14, 2011, Bob Riley’s last full business day in office (see attachment 6) as Alabama governor and the day he transferred several million dollars of his discretionary money to the office of incoming Attorney General Luther Strange to conduct raids on non-Indian casinos – provided the remaining $50,000 used to start a new PAC for Governor Riley and his son (Alabama 2014) in March 2011; the first and only check written by the RSLC in Alabama this year went to this PAC (see attachment 7).
The check from the Poarch Creek Indians to the RSLC on January 14 2011 – the exact same day Bob Riley transferred millions to incoming Attorney General Luther Strange’s office to conduct raids on non-Indian casinos – followed immediately by the first and only check from the RSLC Alabama PAC this year to Bob Riley strongly implies a quid-pro-quo deal to support Poarch Creek gaming interests in return for political funding.
In a highly interesting side note, AG Strange’s chief counsel and former campaign manager (and someone intimately aware of the source of Strange’s campaign contributions) Jessica Medeiros Garrison took a job with – who else? – the Republican State Leadership Committee just as news stories broke about the transfer of money from the RSLC to Riley’s PAC in July 2011.
Federal records indicate that the Poarch Creek Indians were the 15th biggest donor to the Republican State Leadership Committee during the 2010 cycle, and that no other Alabama group made sizable contributions to the Republican State Leadership Committee (see attachment 8).
BREAKDOWN OF TRANSFERS BETWEEN THE POARCH CREEK INDIANS, THE REPUBLICAN STATE LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE AND RILEY/HUBBARD PACS:
On March 18, 2010, the Alabama State Republican Party PAC noted the receipt of a $150,000 check from the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC (see attachment 9). The two expenditures by the state GOP PAC closest the receipt of this check are a contribution of $93,000 to GOV PAC – the PAC controlled by Rob Riley, son of Governor Bob Riley – on March 12 (see attachment 10) and a contribution of $57,000 to Network PAC (see attachment 11) – the personal PAC of then-GOP State Chair Mike Hubbard (who also controlled the state GOP PAC that made these contributions). The two contributions (to the Riley and Hubbard PACs) total precisely $150,000. The first contributions made by Riley and Hubbard after receiving the donations directed to them from the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC were to Citizens for a Better Alabama – Riley’s PAC contributed $95,000 to CBA on March 18 (see attachment 12) while Hubbard’s PAC passed on its $57,000 on March 17 (see attachment 13).
The next direct transfer of monies between the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Alabama GOP came in July 2010. Two days after the defeat of hand-picked Riley successor Bradley Byrne (and with GOP nominee Robert Bentley unsupportive of raids on non-Indian casinos) the Poarch Creek Indians wrote a $100,000 check to the Republican State Leadership Committee (see attachment 1). Two weeks later to the day, the Alabama Republican Party PAC received a check for exactly $100,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee (see attachment 14). The first check written by the Alabama Republican Party after receiving this check was a contribution of exactly $100,000 to Republican Attorney General nominee Luther Strange on August 4, 2010 (see attachment 5).
Since taking office, Luther Strange has taken the leading role in raiding non-Indian casinos in Alabama.
The RSLC also contributed $100,000 of the Poarch Creek commitment directly to Citizens for a Better Alabama on June 10, 2010(see attachment 15).
The final $200,000 of the $550,000 contributed by the Poarch Creeks to the Republican State Leadership Committee arrived on January 14, 2011 – Bob Riley’s last full day as Governor of Alabama (see attachment 1). Just over two months later, $50,000 of this money appears to have been contributed by the Republican State Leadership Committee to Bob Riley’s new PAC designed to maintain control of the state GOP (according to a fundraising letter sent out by Riley’s daughter Minda) – the Alabama 2014 PAC (see attachment 16). The check from RSLC to Riley is the first and only check by RSLC in Alabama after the receipt of the $200,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians.
In short, the Alabama Poarch Creek Indians gave $550,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee during the 2010 election cycle. This money then ended up going to prominent figures involved in shutting down non-Indian casinos in Alabama: $100,000 to new Attorney General Luther Strange, $250,000 to Citizens for a Better Alabama, and $50,000 (with $150,000 still to be spent) to Bob Riley’s new PAC that will help him maintain control of the state GOP.
SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS FOLLOW
Alabama Political Reporter did not receive the supporting documentation.
Montgomery Advertiser Articles
Wednesday’s Article–Johnny Ford files ethics complaint against AG Luther Strange
Sunday’s Article–Exclusive: Tracking gambling money – Were Poarch Creek funds used to battle electronic bingo bill?
Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: Buck’s pocket
You voted Tuesday on a crowded ballot.
Historically, in Alabama we have voted more heavily in our Governor’s race year than in a presidential year. That is probably because we were more interested in the local sheriff and probate judge’s races, which run in a gubernatorial year, than who is president. The old adage, “all politics is local,” definitely applies here in Alabama.
We not only have a governor’s race this year, we have all secondary statewide offices with a good many of them open including Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Auditor, and two seats on the Public Service Commission. We have five seats on the State Supreme Court, one being Chief Justice. All 140 seats in the Legislature are up for a four-year term. These 35 state Senate seats and 105 House contests are where most of the special interest PAC money will go. And, yes, we have 67 sheriffs and 68 probate judges as well as a lot of circuit judgeships on the ballot.
You may think the campaigning is over. However, some of the above races have resulted in a runoff which will be held on July 17. So get ready, we have six more weeks of campaigning before all the horses are settled on for the sprint in November.
We have a lot of folks headed to Buck’s Pocket. Last year after the open Senate seat contest, a young TV reporter for one of the stations I do commentary for asked me about Roy Moore and his loss. I told her ole Moore had gotten on his horse, Sassy, and ridden off into the sunset to Buck’s Pocket, which by the way wasn’t a long ride from his home in Gallant in Etowah County. She looked at me with a puzzled look. Probably a lot of you are also wondering what I’m talking about when I refer to Buck’s Pocket.
For decades, losing political candidates in Alabama have been exiled to Buck’s Pocket. It is uncertain when or how the colloquialism began, but political insiders have used this terminology for at least 60 years. Alabama author, Winston Groom, wrote a colorful allegorical novel about Alabama politics and he referred to a defeated gubernatorial candidate having to go to Buck’s Pocket. Most observers credit Big Jim Folsom with creating the term. He would refer to the pilgrimage and ultimate arrival of his opponents to the political purgatory reserved for losing gubernatorial candidates.
This brings me to another contention surrounding Buck’s Pocket. Many argue that Buck’s Pocket is reserved for losing candidates in the governor’s race. Others say Buck’s Pocket is the proverbial graveyard for all losing candidates in Alabama.
One thing that all insiders agree on is that once you are sent to Buck’s pocket you eat poke salad for every meal. Groom also suggested that you were relegated to this mythical rural resting place forever. However, history has proven that a good many defeated Alabama politicians have risen from the grave and left Buck’s Pocket to live another day. Roy Moore may be a good example. He has risen from the grave before. He is only 70, and he may grow weary of eating poke sallet.
Most folks don’t know that there really is a Buck’s Pocket. Big Jim would campaign extensively in rural North Alabama often one on one on county roads. One day while stumping in the remote Sand Mountain area of DeKalb County he wound up in an area referred to as Buck’s Pocket. It was a beautiful and pristine area, but it was sure enough back in the woods. Big Jim who loved the country and loved country folks was said to say that, “I love the country but I sure wouldn’t want to be sent to Buck’s Pocket to live.”
Buck’s pocket is now not a mythical place. If you are traveling up the interstate past Gadsden, on the way to Chattanooga, you will see it. There is a Buck’s Pocket State Park in DeKalb County, thanks to Big Jim.
So the next time you hear an old timer refer to a defeated candidate as going to Buck’s Pocket, you will know what they are talking about.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.
Hubbard’s Lee County Trial Finally Ends in Silence
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The post-trial appeal of convicted felon and former Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, finally expired on September 8, in silence, according to the Attorney General’s office calculations.
For almost four years, Hubbard, aided by his criminal lawyers, used the State House, the Governor’s Office and some within the Attorney General’s office to deny, deflect and delay justice. Hubbard stormed the State House presiding over an orgy of greed and corruption. Those days are over for Hubbard and so is any appeal before the circuit court of Lee County.
Under Rule 24.4 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, Hubbard’s motion for a new trial, dismissal and/or an investigation by the Lee County Sheriff were denied by operation of law because Judge Jacob Walker, III, did nothing.
Under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, “no motion for a new trial or motion… shall remain pending in the trial court for more than sixty days after the pronouncement of sentence.” Hubbard’s sentencing July 8, on 12 felony counts of public corruption, means as of September 8, the calendar has run out for him, with Judge Walker deciding not to rule at all.
Under Rule 24.4: Denial by operation of law. “A failure by the trial court to rule on such a motion within the sixty (60) days allowed by this section shall constitute a denial of the motion as of the sixtieth day.”
At his post-trial hearing, Hubbard’s attorneys made their last stand in Lee County, with Bill Baxley arguing that his client was blindsided, bushwhacked and bamboozled, to no avail.
The Lee County case of the State of Alabama versus Michael G. Hubbard is over. He has a right to appeal his conviction to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals within 42 days, which expires on October 20.
Hubbard’s past efforts show he will seek every avenue available to delay his incarceration.
Every previous motion that Hubbard has set before the Court of Criminal Appeals, was denied without opinion. Many believe this same fate awaits Hubbard’s next appeal before the high court.
Hubbard’s days of freedom are rapidly coming to an end. His appeal was silently denied and most didn’t even notice. He is rapidly becoming yesterday’s news.
Hubbard’s Post-Trial Snoozer
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
OPELIKA—While searching for any thread of an argument that might lead to a new trial for convicted felon Mike Hubbard—once the most powerful politico in the state—attorney Bill Baxley whined, fretted and accused state prosecutors of blindsiding, bushwhacking and bamboozling his client.
Having written about Hubbard’s misdeeds since late 2012, the courtroom drama ending with his conviction makes Baxley’s latest attempt at the September 2 hearing feel like Hubbard trial 2.0 ad nauseam. Only Baxley’s fantastical leaps of legal logic and strained linguistic gymnastics kept the proceedings remotely interesting. Baxley argued several points, only winning on one issue with Judge Walker’s ruling that Hubbard would not be required to pay $1.125 million in restitution, as the prosecution asked.
Before the hearing began, Hubbard’s criminal defense team filed a motion to unseal all court documents related to the case, except one document. Baxley indicated that Judge Jacob Walker knew “the one” he referred too. After some legal wrangling by the prosecution and with Judge Walker, the defense was directed to construct a list of documents to be unsealed. Judge Walker’s decision was followed by Baxley huffing and puffing. Finally, he made reference to testimony given by Professor Bennett L. Gershman a “so-called” expert in prosecutorial misconduct. Hubbard filed to have Gershman’s testimony unsealed in 2015, to no avail.
Testimony given by former State Ethics Directors James “Jim” Sumner is central to Hubbard’s motion to dismiss or grant a new trial, neither of which is likely to occur. But, Baxley and company need to earn the additional $50,000 plus Hubbard recently raised from “friends.” Baxley argued it was improper for the State to present “expert” testimony about what various portions of the ethics statute mean, and whether certain phrases or clauses within those statutes would or would not encompass certain situations or events. The court seemed unmoved by Baxley’s logic since Judge Walker certified Sumner as an expert.
During the two-hour hearing, Baxley’s delaying tactics appeared to try Judge Walker’s patience, especially when the defense claimed they were unprepared to hear testimony concerning jury misconduct. Judge Walker said he set aside other cases to hear Hubbard’s claims of jury misconduct, a surprising claim that surfaced quickly after Hubbard’s conviction.
Hubbard’s criminal defense team citing an affidavit from a panel member filed a motion just days after Hubbard’s conviction calling for an investigation into jury misconduct by an impartial third party. In searching for a neutral investigator, Baxley determined Hubbard’s friend Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones was the best choice.
From the bench, Judge Walker informed Baxley that there is no legal basis for an outside investigation, and that testimony would be taken before his court to settle the matter. Baxley claimed the defense was once again unprepared for such at the hearing, and the juror who reported the alleged misconduct was unavailable.
Judge Walker questioned the two bailiffs and the court administrators who oversaw Hubbard’s trial. Bailiff Bobby Bond testified that he was instructed by court administrator Patricia Campbell, to caution a juror who reportedly was talking under her breath at the beginning of Hubbard’s trial. Bond said he issued the warning, but the juror denied the allegations and no further complaints were noted. Both Bailiffs who rotated sitting next to the jury box during the proceedings testified they never heard chatter from any jurors.
Under oath, Campbell confirmed she had received the complaint and reported it to Judge Walker, who ordered her to address the situation through the bailiffs. Baxley asked Campbell what was said. She remembered the accusing juror of claiming a fellow juror said, “Yes, now the truth comes out.”
Defense co-council Lance Bell rose to claim that Hubbard had not received a fair trial an assertion soon rebutted by the prosecution.
He, along with Baxley said the jury was not impartial, and Hubbard should receive, at least, a new trial. Arguing for the prosecution, Assistant Attorney General Katie Langer cited case law and explained the split verdict showed they were, in fact, impartial because otherwise, the trial would have ended with a hung jury.
As Judge Walker pointed out several times, the clock is ticking with very few days remaining before the 60 day deadline brings all proceeding before his court to a close. The trial judge may rule on these motion or simply wait out the clock.
Photo Credit: Albert Cesare/Montgomery Advertiser/Pool
Attorney General Reacts to Hubbard Loyalist’s Plans for Ethics Reform
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Alabama House Ethics Committee Chairman, Mike Ball (R-Madison), announced his plans (yesterday) to form a commission to review the state’s ethics laws. Ball, a staunch defender of convicted felon and former House Speaker, Mike Hubbard, told WHNT-TV in Huntsville that his committee would “review the State’s Ethics laws and recommend improvements in time for the opening of the Alabama Legislature next year.”
However, just hours after APR published its story on Ball’s plan, Attorney General Luther Strange, sent his comments. “I am strongly opposed to Rep. Mike Ball’s idea of a commission to review Alabama’s ethics law. The whole point of such a commission would be to undermine the law,” said Strange. “Alabamians want our ethics laws enforced, not gutted.”
Ball also said he wanted an “open and honest” process, stating, “Our best chance for success is for it to be carefully looked at, out in the open.” Ball claims he is determined to stop three ethics bills from coming to the House because he didn’t want them “lost in the mix, however, there is a reason to believe other forces are at work, especially given Speaker McCutcheon’s promise of principled leadership.”
It would be difficult to fathom a Hubbard loyalist overseeing a commission to amend laws that landed his former boss in prison.
The day after Hubbard’s indictment, Ball stood by his side at a pep rally proclaiming his boss’s innocence while sporting an “I Like Mike” sticker on his lapel.
Ball regularly appeared on talk radio accusing State prosecutors of conducting a political witch hunt to ensnare Hubbard.
In April 2015, Ball testified in a pre-trial hearing that Hubbard’s arrest was politically motivated. Under oath, Ball said the ethics laws needed amending to avoid prosecutions like Hubbard’s in the future.
Presiding Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker, III allowed Ball to testify, even though he said Ball’s testimony was not relevant to Hubbard’s indictments. Judge Walker ruled that accusations against Special Division’s Chief Matt Hart were not only irrelevant, but unfounded.
Ball is one of the remaining Hubbard loyalists at the State House.