First Gubernatorial Debate: Ethics

John Anderson, Political Editor of the Huntsville Times:

There's been a lot of controversy during your first term about "no bid" contracts that have involved some members of your administration, and friends, and contributors. My question, and I do have a follow up, will you concede that some of the "no bid" state contracts involving some of the high level members of your administration and their friends and contributors, at least have given the appearance of a conflict of interest?

Governor Siegelman:

Let me answer the question this way. Over the last four years, I believe you know, I have worked very hard. I believe we've laid a strong foundation for Alabama's future and we've made some progress. We've made some mistakes too. Whenever a mistake was discovered, we stopped. We found out what was wrong and we corrected it. And I want to say to the people of Alabama that I would never do anything that would embarrass you, the state of Alabama, or my family.

But when we're working so hard at trying to make progress in so many areas, you know, if you work hard, you're bound to make some mistakes. The important thing is to stop and get it corrected. We have over 70,000 contracts. 90% of them are publicly bid. All of them go through a tough competitive bid process. But, certainly if I could go back and do things differently, perhaps there would be some things that I would change.

Certainly, I would focus more on some of these issues. But again, these are issues that I think are being laid out there to distract us from the real issues of this campaign. Issues like bringing in jobs and improving our schools. The differences between myself and Mr. Riley are very distinct and very clear and I hope that after answering these questions about "no bid" contracts that we can move on to the real issues that impact on the lives and future of this state.

John Anderson:

Well Governor, my follow up is, whether the issue distracts or not, it has apparently got the attention of federal and state investigators. And, as widely reported, there are investigations going on about them. Yet, I don't remember your ever chastising any of the members of your administration, whether they're guilty of a crime, or bad judgement. Why not?

Governor Siegelman:

Let me put it this way. First, I have done nothing wrong. Second, If any friends of mine or anyone else for that matter does something wrong, they need to be held accountable for their acts. But, the talk about the investigation that is being conducted by Republican prosecutors. The Republican U.S. attorney was recently forced to step down from her position over this investigation by the U. S. Justice Department because of financial and political ties with my opponent. This is nothing more than a smokescreen to distract us from the serious issues that the race should be about.

Congressman Riley:

This is not about hard work. We think all of our public officials should work hard. This is a bout your administration passing legislation and then laughing about it when the legislature didn't know that there was a "no bid" provision in it. This is about tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars going to your supporters. This is about credibility. Credibility is the one thing we are going to have to have if we are going to move this state forward.

You can't have credibility in your campaign, in your administration, as long as these "no bid" contracts are out there. I've been in business for over 35 years. I can't ever remember a time that I didn't at least take another bid. And when you look at what the Mobile paper has published about the tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars that could have gone for education, that could have gone into transportation(time called by moderator).