By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In the 1948 classic film Key Largo, there is a poignant scene between James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Cagney plays the mobster Johnny Rocco and Bogie plays a weary war veteran named Frank McCloud. They are joined in the scene by Lionel Barrymore who plays Key Largo Hotel owner James Temple. The exchange is as follows:
Johnny Rocco: There’s only one Johnny Rocco.
James Temple: How do you account for it?
Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Sure.
James Temple: What’s that?
Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh …
Frank McCloud: He wants more, don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That’s it. More. That’s right! I want more!
James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won’t.
The Johnny Roccos are still around. In Alabama, a few of them sit at the highest seats in government and they want more.
So is the case with a new bill sponsored by Republican Representatives Chad Fincher and Mary Sue McClurkin. Both Fincher and McClurkin are not seeking reelection so it seems fitting that their last act should be to carry water for the State’s Roccos.
HB558 in designed to expand the contributions an individual can make under the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.
The goal is to allow individuals to make unlimited contributions to the Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) that raise money to fund the AAA program.
The bill also changes the definition of an individual to mean any LLC or Sub Chapter S Corporation.
This expanded definition is meant to widen the pool of donors for the SGOs.
The total yearly cap for the program is still set at a maximum of $25,000,000.
Out of the original eight 501(c)(3) non-profits operating as SGOs under the Accountability Act, the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, LLC, has raised the most money.
In just a few short months, Opportunity Scholarship Fund, LLC, has raised around $18,000,000 of the $25, 000,000 the entire program is allowed to raise.
This SGO is under the control of former Gov. Bob Riley, a man who knows how to make government pay.
The Riley organization’s take of the money donated by corporations and individual donors is 5 percent which means that in the last few months Riley’s group has made around $900,000. A nice windfall for a company that consists of a few employees and a website.
The actual processing of scholarship funds for Opportunity Scholarship Fund, LLC, is handled by the Florida company owned by Riley’s partner, multimillionaire, John F. Kirtley.
All of the donors to the fund controlled by Riley are secret and not even the State can look behind the veil of these secret funds.
Last December, Gov. Bentley told alreporter.com that he never intended for anyone to use the Accountability Act to make money off the SGOs. He said that he and his staff would monitor the SGOs and would seek legislation if the SGOs were not operating properly. Bentley also said that he did not support creating anymore programs that would be funded by tax credits funneled through SGOs.
Of course this has all been part of a carefully crafted plan by Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh to make sure their patrons like Riley are rewarded with a steady supply of cash.
Riley says he is not taking a salary from his SGO. But, there are many more ways to make a profit than by taking a monthly wage.
Sadly, men like Hubbard, Marsh and Riley have used the government as a way to enrich themselves and their cronies.
They are the Roccos and they want more.
Toward the ending of the exchange in Key Largo between Cagney and Bogie, Cagney’s character asks:
Johnny Rocco: You, do you know what you want?
Frank McCloud: Yes, I had hopes once, but I gave them up.
Johnny Rocco: Hopes for what?
Frank McCloud: A world in which there’s no place for Johnny Rocco.
Many in Alabama hope for a day in which there is no place for the likes of Riley, Hubbard or Marsh in government.