AP: Riley PAC got $10K from Indian lobbyist

Published 3:12 am Friday, April 2, 2010

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley’s political action committee that is fighting private bingo casinos in Alabama has received $10,000 from a lobbyist for Indians operating federally protected bingo casinos in the state.

Steve Windom told The Associated Press on Thursday that the governor asked him to contribute to the political action committee, called GOV PAC, and that he gave $10,000. But he said the governor did not say what the PAC would do with the money.

A spokesman for the governor denied any improper influence as a result of the contribution.

Ethics Commission filings reviewed by AP show Windom represents Azalea City Racing Club, in which the Poarch Indians hold a majority interest. The Poarch Indians operate electronic bingo casinos at Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery.

Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, said the governor has known Windom for a long time.

“He represents several organizations. If anyone has the idea the governor is doing anything to help any gambling interests, well that’s just ridiculous. He’s always opposed gambling,” Emerson said.

The Times said the biggest donors to the governor’s PAC are the Drummond Company of Birmingham and Dothan businessman John Watson, each giving $20,000. Other large donors, along with Windom, are Scott Bridge Co. of Opelika, $12,500; Scott Investments of Opelika, $12,500; Wellborn Cabinet of Ashland, $10,000; and Opelika businessman Charles Lawler, $7,100.

Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson said earlier that the funds are not sent to the governor but to the PAC’s treasurer, Kay Craig Nimm of Chelsea, and the PAC’s official address is a post office box in Birmingham.

Emerson said the PAC is to help candidates and causes that Riley supports.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it,” he said.

Jim Sumner, executive director of the state ethics commission, said he doesn’t seen any conflict with ethics laws in the PAC’s funding of the anti-bingo group.

But Jess Brown, professor of political science at Athens State University, said Riley should not have allowed himself to be named the chair of a PAC.

“When you start converting the resources of your office, even in a symbolic way, toward fundraising, you should avoid that and get that done through a third party,” he said.Times 10 point copy for briefs.