Since taking office in 2002, controversy has swirled around Alabama Governor Bob Riley. When his former Congressional press secretary, Michael Scanlon, plead guilty to conspiracy in 2005, Riley was once again thrust into the court of public opinion when details emerged that he signed a letter opposing expansion of gambling casinos in Alabama on behalf of the U.S. Family Network, a shill company fronted by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The U.S. Family Network was admittedly funded by money from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, operators of competing casinos. Though Riley has denied having any knowledge of the source of funding, opponents including former members of the Alabama GOP have questioned the Governor.
During a Congressional hearing by, then, Senator John McCain, the Committee of Indian Affairs seemed to overlook a December 2002 email between Abramoff and Scanlon that identified a need for “…Riley to shut down the Poarch Creek operation, including his announcement that anyone caught gambling there can’t qualify for a state contract or something like that.”
A source close to the GOP provided me with information to delve further and re-open the now dusty case files. What I found was a connection not only to Scanlon and Abramoff that begs questioning, but also a trail of funds between the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) and Governor Bob Riley that travel securely between Scanlon’s consulting firm Capitol Campaign Strategies (CCS) and a shill group referred to as Operation Orange. On six occasions, the MBCI paid Michael Scanlon “consulting fees,” the very same day, a portion of that money was wired into a fund Scanlon called “Operation Orange.” Within a matter of days, the Riley for Governor Campaign accepted funds from PACs and Republican organizations with which Scanlon had dealings.
A separate ledger within Scanlon’s CCS accounting records lists those involved with Operation Orange. A line item titled “Riley” appears next to the denomination “75,000 check num. 1291 per NRCC.” When compared to Scanlon’s cancelled check records, check number 1291 is written on 11/26/01 with the memo “Bama Race.” Within days, Riley’s campaign accepts funds amounting in excess of 75,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
While it’s a tangled web of potential deceit and seemingly coincidental correlations, it’s a question of transparency of government that could not be overlooked. Thus, a nearly year-long investigation was born and it is still reportedly spurring investigations state-wide.