MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - For some politicians, taking campaign money from gamblinginterests carries a huge political downside. Just ask those mostly Democraticstate legislators who were indicted a few years ago when they were accused oftaking funds from gambling moguls trying to get casino-style gambling legalizedin the state. They were not convicted, but some of them still took hugepolitical hits.
But the pots of money gambling interests seem all too willing tofill are just too big for many politicians to resist.
Now it appears that about the time that some non-Indian gamblinginterests were wooing Alabama legislators with big campaign bucks, Indiantribal gambling interests were doing the same to protect their interests in the2010 election cycle.
The Washington-based news organization Politico reported a fewweeks ago that an internal memo from the Republican State Leadership Committeesuggests that the RSLC, a national campaign committee, may have broken the lawwhen it helped the Alabama Republican Party get donations from the Poarch Bandof Creek Indians, which operates casinos in Montgomery, Wetumpka and Atmore.
At the time, the state Republican Party was chaired by state Rep.Mike Hubbard, who is speaker of the Alabama House.
The flow of more than $500,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians tothe RSLC and then back to the Alabama GOP has been reported before, startingback in 2011.
But what had not been reported was the conclusion drawn by RSLCattorneys in the memo first reported by Politico.
The memo raised the possibility that laws were broken when themoney was routed to the national RLSC and then back to Alabama.
"If these events are made public, the resulting media frenzywill be a political disaster for Alabama Republicans, a disaster with whichRSLC will forever be associated," the report said.
It also said that it was "common knowledge and wisdom inAlabama that taking a contribution directly from the tribe is political suicidefor a Republican candidate or public official."
The reportthen stated, according to Politico:"Here RSLC appears to have served as both a recipient of the funds inquestion and as a donor of the funds back to Alabama, thereby permitting MikeHubbard to do indirectly that which he could not do directly."
The then-president of the RSLC, Scott Ward, denied that he had anarrangement with Hubbard to funnel money back to Alabama and also denied theconclusions of the RSLC report. Politico reportsthat Ward is no longer connected to the RSLC. Current RSLC officials andHubbard also deny such an arrangement existed.
So what does this all mean politically back in Alabama?
Despite the predictions by RSLC lawyers that it would be "politicalsuicide" for GOP candidates to be shown taking political contributionsfrom Indian gambling interests, I doubt if going forward the allegations in theRSLC memo will have much overall political impact on the Alabama GOP. Too muchtime has passed. For most candidates who received the money, any political harmalready has been done.
Also, because many Alabama Democrats have their own history withnon-Indian gambling money flowing to their campaigns, they are notwell-positioned to take full political advantage of the allegations.
But there is one Republican who could take a hit from the RSLCrevelations -- House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Hubbard recently survived a strongchallenge in the GOP primary, but he still faces an ongoing Lee County grandjury investigation that already has resulted in a guilty plea by former Rep.Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, and a perjury charge against Rep. Barry Moore,R-Enterprise, who is fighting it.
Under normal conditions, I would think that the politically savvyand powerful Hubbard could shrug off the allegations in the RSLC memo. Butcoming on top of the Lee County investigation, they could hurt him politically.The latest allegations have even raised the possibility that he will havetrouble retaining his role as House speaker.
Usually dependable sources in and around the Legislature areunusually mum about Hubbard's political future.
Personally, I believe that Hubbard's political fortunes -- andpossibly the political fortunes of a couple of other legislators -- all boildown to that Lee County grand jury. If the grand jury issues indictments, thenall bets are off. But if it doesn't, the odds are in favor of Mike Hubbardsurviving as a political power in the state.
KenHare was a longtime Alabama newspaper editorial writer and editorial pageeditor who now writes a regular column for WSFA's web site. Email him at email@example.com.