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MONDAY, JULY 3, 2006
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EDITORIAL

More information needed on Riley campaign receipts

It is certainly outlandish that Mississippi gambling interests claim to have spent $13 million on Bob Riley's 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

That it is "patently false," as a spokesperson for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians asserted last week, is a matter for deeper investigation.

Reports of large contributions from gambling interests making their way to Mr. Riley's campaign fund are not new — nor surprising when one considers the Native Americans gave disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his partner, former Riley spokesman Michael Scanlon, tens of millions of dollars to protect their nearby interests.

But a U.S. Senate committee report issued June 23 quotes a former vice chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana as saying Mr. Abramoff told him that the Choctaws spent $13 million to get Mr. Riley — a staunch gambling opponent — elected governor to protect the tribe's interests in Mississippi. Now that's real money.

While campaign laws make it impossible to trace all the funds Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Scanlon and Ralph Reed funneled through a series of political action committees, non-profit organizations and other groups, Mr. Riley's campaign received at least $600,000 from funds to which Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Reed contributed while Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon were working for the Indians.

Mr. Scanlon's firm contributed $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association in the closing months of the 2002 election — although, due to an accounting error, it went unreported until April 2004.

In October of 2002, the RGA reported two transfers totaling $2.5 million to the Republican National State Elections Committee, a soft-money arm of the Republican National Committee. Also that month, the RNSEC sent $600,000 to the Alabama Republican Party and $600,000 to Mr. Riley's campaign.

The RGA has said that none of the money that found its way to the state GOP or Mr. Riley's campaign was gambling money.

Gov. Riley's spokesman last week said the $13 million claim in the U.S. Senate' Indian Affairs Committee report cannot be correct, because then-Rep. Riley spent little more than that. That's not much of a denial.

At the least, Gov. Riley and the Alabama Republican Party need to answer some specific questions about their campaign receipts.

The people of Alabama deserve to know whose interests their elected officials truly represent.

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