Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: June 2011 Archives

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June 29, 2011

Campaigning, country music and ... bingo

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley said Monday he offered to pay for high-priced campaign events featuring top country music talent like Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire that could raise $500,000 if the state senators he reached out to supported legislation that would help casinos in the state. One of those senators, Wendell Mitchell, was ill, but Gilley pushed a campaign consultant to get him to the Senate that day for a vote.

Gilley also said, on conversations secretly recorded by the FBI, that he was using country stars Randy Owen of Alabama and Jamey Johnson to call senators and push them to vote for the pro-gambling legislation. Owen, who Gilley said was like an ambassador for the project, is a potential witness in the case.

Prosecutors also, in the ongoing federal corruption trial, played a secretly recorded conversation in which a lobbyist for Gilley said Sen. Larry Means is shaking them down and wants $100,000 for his vote.

Means, a former Democratic state senator from Attalla, is one of nine defendants in the federal corruption case that accuses gambling interests of bribing state legislators to support pro-gambling legislation.
-- Read the whole story --> Gilley says he offered campaign events featuring country musicians | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

June 27, 2011

"Gambling trial shines spotlight on fees paid to legislators"

AP reports on payments by lobbyists to legislators for "referral fees." (AP does not want to be quoted. I hope they don't object to the link.) -- Read the whole story --> Gambling trial shines spotlight on fees paid to legislators | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

A longer story on the same subject is here.

June 22, 2011

Colbert County studying redistricting criteria

The Times Daily reports: COLBERT COUNTY - Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to wait a couple of weeks before voting on a resolution that sets forth criteria that will be used to guide the county through the process of redrawing commission district boundaries based on the 2010 census.

Nathan Willingham, the community planning director for the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments, said population changes will result in changes to the boundaries of three of the six districts.

Willingham presented commissioners with a resolution. He said the resolution was not required to complete the redistricting process.

According to the 2010 census, Colbert County?s population is 54,428, meaning each of the six districts should ideally have a population of 9,071, Willingham said. District populations can deviate by plus or minus 5 percent. -- Read the whole story --> Commission delays vote on redistricting | TimesDaily.com | The Times Daily | Florence, AL

June 21, 2011

Former Montgomery judge indicted on 74 charges

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Just days after Patricia Warner suddenly stepped down as a family court judge, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary issued a 74-charge complaint that accused her of taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from gambling interests and then deciding questionably in a child custody case involving VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor's daughter.

The complaint also mentioned that 27 of 29 of her cases that were appealed were reversed.

Much of the complaint involved the case of McGregor's daughter in which Warner refused to recuse herself even after the Judicial Inquiry Commission advised her that she should do so for cases in which someone involved in the case has filed a complaint against a judge, and even after she recused herself in other cases where someone filed a complaint against her.

During Warner's re-election campaign last year, the judge accepted $20,750 in campaign contributions from political action committees that were controlled by John Crawford, who is a lobbyist for McGregor and the father of Warner's staff attorney, according to the complaint. These contributions amounted to more than half of Warner's total campaign contributions last year. -- Read the whole article --> Warner accused in 74-charge complaint | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

"Alabama legislator testifies in bingo trial that Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote"

The Birmingham News reports: Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, testified today that VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote for a gambling bill when he promised Mask "significant help" if he voted for the bill.

But Mask conceded on cross-examination that he was the one who first mentioned his upcoming fundraiser during a conversation with McGregor. He also said the Poarch Creek Indian casino in his district likely benefited from the failure of the gambling bill. ...

Mask also conceded on cross-examination by McGregor lawyer Joe Espy that he first mentioned fundraising in the conversation with McGregor. Mask testified that before McGregor called he had told a bill supporter that his chief concern was that the gambling bill being considered didn't ban gaming interests from making political contributions. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama legislator testifies in bingo trial that Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote | al.com

June 20, 2011

Mobile city and county in different state school board distircts

The Mobile Press Register reports: The city of Mobile, along with a long and narrow stretch of land to the north, will be lopped off its state school board district and transferred to another district that stretches as far as Macon County, under a plan approved by the Legislature.

The finger-like protrusion of District 5 into District 1 ? and the carving up of Mobile County ? has generated surprise and criticism.

Lawmakers who helped draw the lines said that they were complying with federal rules that mandate districts with a majority of black voters.

"The rest of the state just didn?t have the minority population," said Rep. Randy Davis, a Daphne Republican and member of the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. -- Read the whole story --> City of Mobile separated from county in Alabama school board redistricting | al.com

June 18, 2011

Huntsville: mayor's redistricting proposal has rough going

The Huntsville Times reports: Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle may not have fond memories of his first redistricting attempt.

During a public hearing Thursday, three City Council members -- Will Culver, Mark Russell and Richard Showers -- each expressed serious doubts about Battle's proposed changes to council and school board election lines.

Culver, one of two African-Americans on the council, was upset that the mayor's plan would flip the demographics of his west Huntsville district from majority black to majority white.

"I know we can do better," he said. -- Read the rest of the story --> Huntsville City Council not happy with mayor's redistricting plan | al.com

June 14, 2011

First day of testimony in bingo corruption trial

The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor told a state senator last year that he would never regret it if he voted for a gambling bill because McGregor had a habit of supporting friends.

The comment was caught on a recording that Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, made as casino owners courted his vote for a gambling bill and that was played Monday to jurors in the State House vote-buying case.

Beason testified Monday that he believed casino interests were offering to buy his vote. He also said Sen. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb, assured him in an earlier conversation that gambling interests would give him $500,000 for a statewide race.

"You need some new friends ... and we've got a bad habit of supporting our friends," McGregor tells Beason in one of the recordings played in court.

McGregor and eight others are on trial on charges of buying and selling votes on a gambling bill in 2010. They are accused of offering legislators campaign contributions, a job and re-election assistance in exchange for yes votes on the legislation. -- Read the whole story --> McGregor on tape in the Alabama bingo trial: 'We don't forget our friends' | al.com

Happy Flag Day

Bennington-Battle-Flag

June 12, 2011

"Shrinking the vote"

Daily Kos has a national roundup of trends that include Alabama: As the U.S population grows and the number of eligible voters continues to climb with each election cycle, a disturbing trend of limiting voter access to the polls is taking place. With 2012 on the horizon, states are already gearing up to ensure that barriers are installed across the voting process, from restrictions on voter registration to strict requirements at the polls. It's been called ?the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.?

Legislators justify the vast majority of this legislation by claiming they are merely attempting to prevent widespread voter fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice conducted the most extensive analysis of voter fraud allegations and concluded that proponents of voter ID laws could not find "a proven example of a single vote cast at the polls in someone else?s name that could be stopped by a pollsite photo ID rule."

Combating "voter fraud" is a red herring. It doesn't take more than a passing glance at the 2008 results map to understand why Republicans have been working so diligently to decrease the vote, especially in states where President Obama won by a slim margin. -- Read the whole post --> Daily Kos: Shrinking The Vote: Using Election Reform To Decrease Turnout

"Unprecedented" change for Tuscaloosa in redistricting

The Tuscaloosa News reports: A good portion of Tuscaloosa County will be in a congressional district that stretches north and east, instead of south into the rural counties of the Black Belt, under a reapportionment plan passed by the Alabama Legislature earlier this month.

Currently, Tuscaloosa County is divided between the 7th Congressional District, which includes much of the Black Belt and which remains little changed by lawmakers, and the compact 6th District, which includes the north part of Tuscaloosa County and all or most of vote-rich Jefferson and Shelby counties.

But the portion of Tuscaloosa County that is now in the 6th District was moved into the 4th, a sprawling, 13-county district that stretches completely across the state from Lamar, Marion, Franklin and Colbert counties bordering Mississippi, to Dekalb County and part of Cherokee County on the Georgia border. It also includes Tennessee Valley counties including Marshall, Lawrence, and Colbert counties.

Bill Stewart, professor emeritus at the University of Alabama and former head of the political science department there, said that to the best of his knowledge, including Tuscaloosa County in such a district is unprecedented. -- Read the whole article --> District changes called unprecendented | TuscaloosaNews.com

June 11, 2011

Bribes or campaign contributions: federal jury to decide in Montgomery

The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor is a wealthy man, but he got greedy and bribed state legislators in the hopes of making hundreds of millions more dollars for himself, a federal prosecutor told jurors Friday.

Justin V. Shur told jurors in opening statements of the highly anticipated corruption trial that McGregor and the other defendants bought and sold State House votes in exchange for campaign contributions and business opportunities. ...

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in their opening statements painted contrasting pictures of the defendants and campaign contributions at the heart of the case.

The defendants alternately were described as greedy criminals and honest, upstanding business people. What prosecutors told jurors were bribes and conspiracy, defense lawyers described as legal campaign contributions and legitimate political maneuvering. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial revolves around greed, US says | al.com

June 8, 2011

Alabama congressional redistricting map has "minor changes"

The Birmingham News reports: The state's seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives appear likely to face the voters next year with new congressional districts that don't overtly threaten their re-election chances.

The Alabama Legislature, after a bumpy process with a flurry of proposed maps, finally settled last week on a redrawn congressional map that makes mostly minor changes to the demographic makeup of the districts. ...

While some of the boundary lines are significantly altered -- entire counties moved from one district to another, for example -- the net effect of the changes means that the six Republicans still will represent vastly white and largely rural populations, and the one Democrat still will have a district that is almost two-thirds black and even more urban than it had been. The new Census data also distinctly documents, for the first time, the Hispanic population of each district. ...

In the Birmingham area, the 6th district seat now held by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, will become less white and more black and Hispanic, with the loss of parts Tuscaloosa County, all of St. Clair County and the addition of most of Blount County and the eastern half of Coosa County. The 6th District goes from nearly 90 percent white after the 2000 census to about 81 percent; from almost 8 percent black to 13.5 percent; and to almost 5 percent Hispanic. During the last Census, the "other" racial category selected by residents accounted for about 1 percent in the district. -- Read the whole story (with a before & after map) --> New Alabama congressional map friendly to incumbents | al.com