Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
One of the "endearing" qualities of modern conservatives is that they seem to think they can say most anything, and a large chunk of the American public will believe them. Sadly, conservatives often are right about this.
Consider the recent actions of Alabama Governor Bob Riley. As his two terms are winding down, he called the Alabama Legislature into special session to address a package of ethics legislation. The seven bills were passed, and Riley is expected to sign them today. The whole process seems to have raised hardly any eyebrows among the masses.
No one in the mainstream press, that we are aware of, raised questions about Riley's past actions regarding ethics bills. No one pointed out that putting Bob Riley in charge of ethics is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank.
Is Bob Riley genuinely interested in ethics reform? His history indicates the answer is no. In 2007, a bipartisan ethics bill was passed in the House and Senate by a combined vote of 131-0. It landed on Riley's desk, and he refused to sign it.
Why? The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black (D-Muscle Shoals), would have expanded the definition of a lobbyist to include people who attempt to influence the awarding of state contracts that are not competitively bid. And that meant Riley's children, Rob Riley and Minda Riley Campbell, would have been inhibited in their efforts to make money off no-bid state contracts. Reported the Associated Press back in '07:
"It is widely held in Montgomery that Governor Riley's children lobby their father on behalf of entities desiring no-bid state contracts," Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said.
"This legislation would have further shined the light of day on the lobbying activities of the governor's family, but Governor Riley vetoed the bill," Little said in a statement Tuesday.
According to a recent report in the Tuskegee News, the package that Riley is expected to sign today does not address no-bid contracts. Gee, isn't that a shock? Perhaps the governor wants Rob, Minda, and other family members to be able to continue sucking off the state teat--even after he's out of office. Our guess is that they will be happy to do that.
What is the real motivating force behind Bob Riley's ethics package? Senate Bill 2 will ban public employees from using payroll deduction to pay dues to the Alabama Education Association (AEA) and Alabama State Employees Association. Critics say that measure is driving the Riley's ethics train, and it's designed as payback for the AEA's efforts to defeat Bradley Bryne, who was to be Riley's hand-picked successor. With AEA's help, Robert Bentley beat Byrne in the Republican primary and then beat Democrat Ron Sparks in the general election.
It's hard to see how payroll deduction of dues to a professional organization can be viewed as an ethics matter, and Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) isn't buying it:
Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill had nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with Riley getting even with the AEA teachers' lobby, which supported Bentley in the Republican primary and runoff for governor over Bradley Byrne, who was Riley's favorite.
"I think that was purely a personal vendetta," Ford said. "All the other bills were a smoke screen just to get that bill passed."