Recently, Poarch Band of Creek Indians Vice Chair Robbie McGhee told a statewide candidate what many insiders have known for sometime. “We are BCA,” boastfully proclaimed the tribal leader.
McGhee is known as a shortsighted, impulsive leader who uses PCI’s vast riches like a child in a toy store whose reach exceeds his grasp.
For well over a year, many of the state’s largest corporations have sought to replace Business Council of Alabama’s CEO Billy Canary. As the threat to oust Canary became more dire, McGhee seized an opportunity to promise Canary the tribe’s financial backing in exchange for an alliance that gave PCI stealth influence over BCA’s political agenda.
In April, McGhee’s support became more critical as seven of the state’s most recognizable business interests moved to have Canary removed from BCA. The “big seven,” as they have become known, told BCA President Perry Hand and the executive committee if Canary was not replaced by June, they would pull their financial support, essentially starving the money-hungry institution. Now, with McGhee’s promise of unlimited funding from PCI’s billion-dollar gambling operations, Canary and Hand have been emboldened to resist calls for Canary’s removal.
Hand and McGhee, with PCI’s backing, are daring these business interests to make good on their promise to defund BCA. However, PCI’s gambling money is causing concerns among some BCA members, also. Hand thumbing his nose at these business leaders is further troubling say longstanding BCA stalwarts.
Also worrying are recent investigations into certain state contracts awarded to Hand’s company, Mobile-based Volkert Inc., which relies heavily on lucrative state and federal business. According to one report, Volkert may have received two to three times more than a standard construction management fee for its work on the Gulf State Park Project, which is the subject of several fiscal inquiries.
Beyond the backroom intrigue, few find McGhee boasting about being BCA as mere hyperbole given his offer to bail out the state’s Medicaid system in 2016, with $250 million in cash from the tribe’s swollen coffers.
Since McGhee’s efforts to buy a State-Tribe Compact from debauched Gov. Robert Bentley, the tribe has grown richer, and its plan to woo Republican lawmakers with cocktail parties and cash is seeing some modest return on investment.
But the results of tribal elections earlier this month find McGhee’s future influence in doubt as he failed to secure a majority of votes in a three-way race for council Vice Chair. He now faces a runoff on Aug. 4, against Amy Bryan.
Since the conviction of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard on 12 felony counts of violating the State’s Ethics Act, BCA has suffered several high profile defeats, including the recent primary election where BCA candidates suffered several high profile defeats. BCA is synonymous with Canary, who was Hubbard’s most loyal ally as he turned the Speaker’s office into a personal money machine.
Canary could have been indicted for his role in Hubbard’s corruption schemes, but that effort was stymied when Bentley appointed Steve Marshall Attorney General. Marshall is firmly encamped with Canary and PCI.
McGhee’s future as a tribal leader is in question, as are the prospects of Canary’s at BCA. Marshall will face Troy King in July for what could be his last chance at holding his office.
The big seven gave BCA an ultimatum to replace Canary, and PCI members will decide McGhee’s fate in August. As for Marshall, the business community is weighing a shift for King.
For now, it’s wait and see as opposing forces gather to decide who wins the long game.