Governor Kay Ivey’s campaign on Friday said it had refunded a $100,000 donation from a Greene County electronic bingo casino tied to a state investigation.
The donation from The Palace Entertainment, located in Knoxville, was reported on Ivey’s daily finance report on Thursday. APR and other media outlets inquired about the donation Friday morning, and William Califf, Ivey’s campaign manager, confirmed late Friday that the donation had been refunded.
Califf did not respond to an email asking for clarification on why the donation was originally accepted or why the campaign felt the need to refund it.
APR reported in May that The Palace was involved in an investigation into donations sent from the casino and others sent to Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison. Campaign finance records showed Benison accepted donations from a political action committee funded by The Palace, its accountant and the charity organization The Palace’s gambling funds go to support.
The donations raised a number of problems. Most notably, a conflict of interest.
As the sheriff, Benison is tasked by the state constitution to oversee bingo operations in the county and ensure the casinos and their associated charities are following all laws.
Also, each casino operating in Greene County must be tied to a charity organization. In fact, the Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that the charity must be the entity conducting the electronic bingo. The Palace’s charity, TS Police Support League, issued a campaign donation – an act strictly forbidden for 501(c)3 charities.
Such actions have, in the past, resulted in charities being stripped of their nonprofit status.
In May, Secretary of State John Merrill said he believed that “some laws have been violated” and told APR that he had been in contact with both the AG’s office and the Alabama Revenue Department. Merrill said that both entities would investigate.
Where that process stands at this point is unclear. Likewise, it’s also unclear if Ivey returned The Palace’s donation because of the potential investigations.