Rift between AG, Governor widens over bingo

Attorney General Troy King believes the governor's actions are stripping him of his constitutional powers.
Attorney General Troy King believes the governor's actions are stripping him of his constitutional powers.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - There's a rift between Governor Bob Riley and the man he once appointed Attorney General, and it was caused by bingo, electronic bingo. Governor Riley and AG Troy King have differing opinions on what is legal and what's not and now the difference of opinion has deepened.

The attorney general says the governor and his illegal gambling task force are intruding in AG territory and King is taking the issue to court.

There is no disagreement that the reason for the early morning raid at White Hall last month was so the governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling could use it as a test case. The governor and the attorney general both agree on that. That lawsuit has yet to be filed.

There are other filings, however, that have the attorney general in a stir.

"Filing a brief was not something I wanted to do, but it was something I felt I didn't have any choice but to do," King said. He was appointed to his current position by Governor Riley five years ago, but even though they are both conservative republicans, they have serious differences of opinion on gambling.

The governor thinks if it looks like a slot machine it must be a lot machine. The attorney general disagrees. "I don't think it is a correct statement to say that there is no way to have an electronic version of bingo. I have an electronic version of solitaire on my computer at my house, and it's solitaire just as sure as I'm sitting here. I'm not playing it with cards. I'm playing it with my computer," King explained.

Now, Attorney General King says the governor has gone too far in his appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court about a lower court ruling. "State law entitled 36151 says that the attorney general, the attorney general shall attend to all appellate matters on behalf of the state. I believe that means that only the attorney general can decide if the state is going to appeal a case," King stated.

In his brief King he takes no position in the dispute over gambling. He just wants to make sure the powers of the office of the attorney general aren't taken away. "All I'm here to say is I have been entrusted with the office of the attorney general and what is occurring right now is an attempt to strip away powers that have belonged to the attorney general since 1819," King explained, "and I can't sit on the sidelines and allow the attorney general's authority to be taken away in this argument over gambling."

King wants to convince the supreme court that the governor has no authority to make the head of his task force, David Barber, an assistant attorney general. King says only he has the power to do that.

Governor Riley's office responded saying, "If the attorney general doesn't enforce the law, then who will if not the governor?"

Governor Riley says he doesn't want to take away the AG's powers, just enforce the law.