It was more like an obituary than a news item.
Maybe that is what it was.
For years, reformers in Alabama have tried to push through legislation that would make it hard for candidates and causes to hide the sources of financial contributions. Everyone — and we mean everyone — says that to discover who or what is behind any campaign, all you have to do is “follow the money.”
But in Alabama, you can’t. The state Legislature is full of politicians who make a big deal about transparency in government, but they won’t pass legislation to end the practice of PAC-to-PAC transfers. Don’t expect it to happen this year, either, since only two days remain in this session.
(In fairness, the Alabama House has passed such a bill, but it always gets bogged down in the state Senate — much to the relief, some say, of House members who would never have voted for it if they thought the Senate would have followed suit.)
Don’t forget the facts: A PAC-to-PAC transfer is the political money-laundering scheme that allows a contributor to give money to a political action committee set up by an organization or individual.
That organization or individual can then give that money to a cause without revealing where the money came from in the first place.
For politicians — especially those as high in stature as the governor — it creates some extremely sticky situations.
What is known is that the Alabama Republican Party contributed $93,000 to the governor’s anti-bingo efforts, and no one is definitively saying where the GOP got the money — though Riley surely knows.
State GOP Chairman Mike Hubbard didn’t tell the Associated Press the original source of the $93,000. But he did say that some people who wanted to aid Riley’s fight against electronic bingo also didn’t want to donate directly to the governor’s PAC.
“It’s money we would not have had otherwise,” Hubbard said.
In other words, it’s money whose origin is hidden from public view.
Thus, there will be doubts and suspicions until Riley or the GOP reveal where the Alabama Republican Party got the money in the first place.
Though Riley is on record opposing PAC-to-PAC transfers, his communications director, Jeff Emerson, told the AP that since the state Legislature has not passed PAC reforms that the governor proposed, the practice is legal and “Gov. Riley is going to follow the law, and he is.”
But he doesn’t have to.
Though the Legislature has not voted to end PAC-to-PAC transfers, the law does not prohibit anyone from revealing the source of the contributions they receive. Since it is unlikely that the Legislature will outlaw the practice this year, it now falls to Riley to take the secrecy out of the scheme by opening the books for all to see.
If everyone would do that, the PAC-to-PAC system would collapse like a house of cards. Here is a chance for Riley to lead the way.