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Sunday, August 5, 2018

How Alabama law turns corruption into hide and seek

BLOGGER COMMENTS:   This from AL.COM's Kyle Whitmire.   His editorial concerns lawmakers and how they can dodge disclosing information that we ought to know.   It ain't just lawmakers, folks, it's law enforcers too.  This blog has quoted from Ana's "disclosures" and the gaps in it.  Same difference!  Read on.

Alabama politicians' ethics disclosures can be maddening things. They give just enough information to tell something's there, but not enough to show you what that something is.
So it was with Oliver Robinson.
In 2016, I set out to write about this problem with our ethics laws: The forms the law requires public officials to fill out didn't require those officials to disclose who they do business with.
In particular, "consultants" -- and there are many of those in the Legislature -- must disclose how many contracts they have, what sorts of industries they are consulting, and roughly how much money they get from those contracts.
But they don't have to tell the most important thing -- who's paying them.
When I wrote about this then, I used Robinson as one of my two most egregious examples.
If you looked at Robinson's form, you could tell he had a consulting contract with a bank that paid him between $100,000 and $150,000 a year.
But Robinson's form didn't show which bank he was working for. (We now know it was Regions, no thanks to Alabama ethics laws.)
Robinson also reported another contract under the category "miscellaneous." (We now know this was a bribe from a Drummond Co. vice president and a lawyer at Balch & Bingham -- again, no thanks to the law.)
In Alabama, this is what passes for transparency.
But really, these forms give public officials a shield to use when nosey folks like me start asking questions -- just like state Sen. Jabo Waggoner did when I asked him back then about the 11 contracts on his ethics forms.
Waggoner wouldn't tell me who any of the businesses paying him were. Instead, he insisted he was doing everything he was required to do.
"The Ethics Commission comes up with that form, and we comply with that form," Waggoner told me then" "I feel like I'm complying just like everybody else is."
(Actually, the form is dictated by law, not the Ethics Commission. Waggoner should know that. He's been in the Legislature since 1966 and would have been there when the law was passed.)
But that's the dodge the law gives these folks.
I'm complying just like everybody else.
At least, Waggoner answered his phone then. Every time I called Robinson, nobody answered, and he didn't return my messages.
Now I know why.
Robinson was under investigation by federal authorities who were interested in his consulting contracts, too.
But the cool thing about being a G-man is you have subpoena power, and if someone lies to you, it's a crime. You don't have to rely on those crumby ethics forms to get to the truth.


  1. Ana nor Steven has ever claimed shit on there statement of economic interest. Look it up public database. Zilch

  2. Can you post the website please