By: House Minority Leader, Representative Craig Ford
Yesterday morning, Alabama learned that former Governor Bob Riley is registered to lobby our State Legislature on behalf of clients like Austal USA. Austal USA was, of course, the company that was rewarded a $5 million state economic development grant in 2005—while Riley was still governor. At best, this arrangement will create a conflict of interest. Governor Riley is the former head of our state, and his influence as a lobbyist on behalf of Austal USA will always be suspect. At worst, this arrangement is a repayment for Governor Riley’s past generosity and raises questions about the “new” business relationship between the two parties. Any Democrat engaged in an apparent quid pro quo of this nature would already be the target of a full investigation.
In light of this and his recent violation of the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban, it is clear that Bob Riley believes he is above the law. His arrogance is a slap in the face of any Alabamian who believed that the words “ethics” and “transparency” were meaningful and not just tools for political gain.
Our State Ethics Commission is newly empowered. It has subpoena power and it has teeth—largely as the result of the Special Legislative Session on Ethics that Governor Riley called in December 2010. An investigation into this relationship, as well as the illegal PAC-to-PAC transfer that Chairman Kennedy brought to light last month, would show the people of this state that Alabama truly is a more ethical place and that we will pursue and prosecute those who seek to bypass or take advantage of our laws, regardless of their current or former office.
Representative Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2000. In 2010, Representative Ford was elected House Minority Leader by the House Democratic Caucus.