First Gubernatorial Debate: Ethics Question III

Sallie Owen, political reporter for the Mobile Register:

Congressman, you found ways to accept campaign donations when state law declares a fundraising blackout and during your fundraising event with President Bush you found a way to skirt the corporate giving limit in Alabama. Is that the way to restore integrity and honesty to Alabama's government as you've pledged to do?

Congressman Riley:

Sallie, thank you for asking the question because I haven't had an opportunity to explain that. I'm going to run my administration just like I ran each of those events. Rather than just saying 'we can do this,' I personally, didn't have a staff member do it, I personally called the secretary of state and said 'this is what we plan to do, is there anything illegal or improper about it?' He said, "Absolutely not."

I then went a step further and called the Attorney General personally and asked him the same things, 'This is what we plan to do, is there anything that is wrong about this. Does this even skirt the law.' And he said, "Absolutely not."

That's the way I'll run my administration. If it is legal, if it is permissible, we will make sure that the highest level of integrity is in the office because until we do something about the cynicism in this state, the cynicism that is being a paralysis in this state, we're not going to be able to make the reforms I want to make in this state.

Sallie Owen:

Would you be willing to support legislation to strengthen Alabama's campaign finance laws to make issues like that abundantly clear?

Congressman Riley:

Absolutely, there's one thing, especially coming from a business background. There's one thing that has (frustrated), I think most people who get into politics late in life and that's raising money. It is the most demeaning thing I've ever done in my life. But if you want to win, if you want to change the state then you're going to have to go out and raise money. The Governor started with about a $5-million head start. We have to work extremely hard to run against the incumbent. But we're going to be competitive when it comes to fundraising.

Governor Siegelman:

I would like to ask Congressman Riley this question. If he believes so much in changing the law to make it clear then would you disclose tonight, or tomorrow, the names of those people that paid $50,000 to get their photographs taken with you?

Congressman Riley:


Governor Siegelman:

And you know the $2.5 million went into his account, or the Republican account from people and corporations that we don't even know who they were. You know the law right now is clear. It says you can't raise money during a legislative session. There's nothing unclear about that. It says a candidate for office, or one holding office or if you intend to run for office can not raise money during a legislative session. Mr. Riley skirted the law as he's done on previous occasions to try to slip by and to raise money for his campaign even though there's a clear prohibition