By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
The biggest problem with Bryan Taylor serving as general counsel to the governor of Alabama – which he is as of Monday – isn’t so much that he’s tied to former Gov. Bob Riley and the spring from which so much political corruption in this State has flowed.
Don’t get me wrong. Taylor is absolutely connected to the Riley Machine – is one of the main cogs, in fact – but that’s not the biggest problem.
The biggest problem also isn’t that Taylor has traditionally viewed politicians less as public servants and more as prostitutes serving the highest bidders in an all-out cash extravaganza.
He has viewed politics in such a manner, as evidenced by his work upending campaign finance laws and opening the flood gates of corporate money. Hell, he once tried to pass legislation that specifically would have allowed Alabama Power an exception to donation laws so it could contribute without limits.
But that still isn’t the biggest reason Taylor shouldn’t be Gov. Kay Ivey’s top legal advisor.
Nor is the reason related to Taylor’s obsession with gambling, both Indian and non-Indian. And make no mistake, it is an obsession for him. He’s sued the Poarch Creek Indians on numerous occasions. He’s written and sponsored and pushed numerous anti-gaming bills, including one that reportedly would have made possessing lottery tickets and scratch-off lottery cards in Alabama illegal.
But again, that’s not the biggest problem.
Because while all of that is certainly troubling enough, and likely more than enough reason to deter most from appointing Taylor as a high-level legal advisor, there’s still one bigger reason.
Taylor’s pretty bad at law.
But don’t take my word for it, take Taylor’s history, starting with his time as a legal advisor to Riley.
If you believe Riley, it was Taylor who concocted the entire premise for Riley’s push against electronic bingo that started in 2009.
Riley has told this ridiculous story of a “young staff attorney named Bryan Taylor” discovering that all bingo machines in Alabama were illegal, a “discovery” based solely off a statement made by former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb in a 1997 ruling.
Of course, like most of the positions Taylor has taken in legal matters, the foundation was flimsy and lacked even basic support. For starters, that 1997 case also plainly stated that an amendment to the Constitution could alter the definition of legal gambling devices. Just as constitutional amendments legalize assorted alcohol sales in some counties but not others, voters could pass an amendment at any point to legalize all sorts of gambling.
As it specifically relates to electronic bingo, Taylor’s “discovery” has been shot down by essentially every circuit court judge to hear an electronic bingo case involving Macon, Greene and Lowndes counties – the counties in which voters specifically went to the polls to legalize electronic bingo machines – and also by the federal courts and numerous other states’ courts.
The only court that has agreed with him has been the Alabama Supreme Court – a group also not fit to advise anyone on legal matters.
Speaking of bad advice, let’s talk about Taylor’s advice to the state Legislature in 2013, when he was spearheading the efforts to “strengthen” campaign finance reporting laws.
Taylor’s legislation removed a $500 cap from corporate donations, because those corporations were just circumventing the rule anyway by going through PACs. Which is sort of like cops removing speed limits because people won’t stop speeding.
The changes also imposed penalties on candidates who didn’t file required documents on time. Except, small problem: According to an AG’s opinion at the time, the secretary of state lacks authority to impose those fines.
So, at the end of the day, Taylor managed to remove caps on donations, muddy the water on PAC-to-PAC transfers and fail to strengthen reporting laws.
That’s top notch legal work.
And it gets worse.
Once out of office, Taylor was free to pursue full time his passion project: Filing absurd lawsuits against the Poarch Creek Indians.
Taylor has repeatedly gone after PCI on behalf of the Escambia County Commission, claiming the tribe isn’t properly federally recognized and owes millions in back taxes to the county.
It was an incredibly ignorant lawsuit for the county, because if it won, the only real money-producing business in the county would have been forced to close its doors. And instead of winning millions, it would have lost billions.
But then, there was little chance of that.
The Tribe prevailed. And it wasn’t close.
Oh, did I mention that Taylor began this little endeavor while still in the Legislature in 2012. While he was still passing anti-gaming, anti-tribe legislation? While he was still pushing incredibly petty bills, such as trying to prevent the Poarch Creeks from serving alcohol at their Wetumpka casino?
Did I mention that Taylor, so outraged by the accurate reporting of his attempts to undermine ethics laws, has sued The Alabama Political Reporter? It is a worthless lawsuit filed only in the hopes that Taylor might learn reporters’ sources simply because he doesn’t like what they’ve said about him.
Oh, and did I also fail to mention that Taylor was dragged into the mix in former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s trial, because of his close ties to Hubbard, Riley and ousted former assistant AG Sonny Reagan?
Yes, this is the Governor’s new legal advisor: A young attorney with questionable skills, even more questionable acquaintances and the disdain of most of Montgomery.
Gov. Kay Ivey has apparently decided that stocking the war chest for a 2018 gubernatorial run is more important than honest, good government.
And the first casualty of that decision is sound legal advice.