Alabama AG says BP manipulated governor on spill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama Attorney General Troy King and Gov. Bob Riley haven’t spoken to each other in months, but they have a lot of bad things to say about each other.

On Friday, King said Riley has been exploited and manipulated by BP to the detriment of the state, which has lost tax revenue due to the oil spill.

King’s criticism came one day after Riley said a reckless lawsuit filed by the attorney general against BP had thwarted the state’s effort to collect from the oil company.

BP declined to pay any money on the governor’s preliminary claim for $148 million in lost taxes, prompting Riley to announce Thursday that a deep cut in state funds to school systems for the rest of September.

“If that lawsuit hadn’t paralyzed our negotiations, we wouldn’t have to make these additional cuts to education funding,” Riley said.

King said Friday he’s not to blame. He put the blame on poor budgeting and mismanagement by the governor.

“I don’t know why the governor refuses to tell the truth,” King said.

BP spokesman Justin Saia said he is limited in what he can say because of the litigation King filed. He said the company needed more time to review the governor’s claim, but company officials would like to sit down with both the governor and attorney general to try settling the matter.

That may be hard. King said as best he can recall, the last time he and the governor spoke to each other was in June.

“He won’t take my calls,” King said.

King and Riley are Republicans and were once close friends. They split over electronic bingo gambling and other issues. Both leave office in January, when a new governor and attorney general will handle financial and legal matters involving the oil spill.

King said the lawsuit is the only way to make sure BP pays. He said Riley should use the lawsuit to pressure BP into making a partial payment to the state, but by criticizing the suit, Riley is negotiating from a position of weakness.

Riley has criticized King for lining up private attorneys to work on his lawsuit on a contingency fee, and has said he opposes them getting a share of the $148 million claim without doing any work. King said the lawyers he has secured — former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley’s law firm in Montgomery and Bob Prince’s law firm in Tuscaloosa — have agreed not to accept any money related to the governor’s $148 million claim.

But Riley said Friday that’s just the beginning of claims the state will file with BP for lost revenue and those could enrich King’s lawyers.

“So under his plan, lawyers will be getting tens of millions of dollars — possibly even more — whether of not the litigation is actually required,” Riley said in Montgomery.