Monday, February 22, 2010

Looking Back: Troy's Gambling Problem

As previously noted, last week Troy King had his much-anticipated press conference to outline his position on Gov. Riley's anti-gaming task force. The end result was a lot of sizzle with no steak. Although the AG reasserted his authority to be able to shut down the task force, he did not take any action, 'criticizing' the actions instead.

In today's Birmingham News, Joey Kennedy provides a good analysis of the issue which you can read here. Kennedy acknowledges that King's conflicts of interest with the gaming interests make it difficult for him to step in. The Decatur Times Daily provides another detailed look at the issue which highlights Gov. Riley's position on the issue which you can read here.

I think it's worth pointing out that the point of this blog is not to defend every action Gov. Riley has taken. Although we are of the opinion that large-scale casino gambling would be a social and long-term economic detriment to Alabama, that does not mean that there aren't conflicts of interest on both sides of the issue. It also does not mean that Riley's task force may have overstepped its bounds in certain points.

The point of this blog is to highlight the difficulty of these problems and the need for an AG with strong conservative principles to take them on. King is approaching this issue with his hands tied behind his back because of his connections to gaming interests. His 'criticisms' fell on deaf ears, as John Tyson (the task force leader) immediately announced that he had no intention of taking King's criticisms seriously.

As Kennedy rightly points out, it's difficult to find credibility on the gambling issue right now. King is definitely not the right guy moving forward, either.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Troy King: Nothing if Not Indecisive

Troy King just had his big moment--a major press conference he had trumpeted for days as his opportunity to wade into the gambling debate in Alabama. King has been doing it subtly for some times, through angrily-worded letters and quotes in media stories through him or his spokesman. Throughout this time, Troy King has tried to have his cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, he wants anti-gambling conservatives behind him, so he has promoted the idea of a statewide vote on gambling. On the other hand, he needs pro-gambling interests like Milton McGregor and Ronnie Gilley behind him, so he has talked about raids on legitimate businesses and the need to bring jobs to these parts of Alabama.

When finally given the opportunity to choose his side, King again fell flat. You can read the Press Register's highlights here. King has criticized, even condemned, Riley's task force on gambling for several weeks now. However, when given the chance, he recommended changes while refusing to enforce them or shut the task force down.

This is a really interesting situation, in which the incumbent attorney general basically calls a press conference to say nothing. He renewed his concerns, expressed his frustrations, and at the end of the day opted to do absolutely nothing.

I echo a theme which I have expressed many times on this blog--when given the choice between talk and action, King always chooses the talk. Action is difficult, and it can create disagreement. There is nothing easy about action, whether that is reducing the crime rate, investigating political corruption, or taking on the issue of gambling. Troy King was given yet another opportunity to give order to an extremely confusing issue, and he decided instead to just prolong the confusion.

Perhaps this is smart politics, I don't know. Holding two opposing sides at arm's length seems pretty risky to me. Either way, I know it's bad government, and this is yet another reason it's time for a change in June.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Troy King's Abortion Oversight

On Thursday, I read an interesting piece in the Birmingham News on Planned Parenthood in Birmingham, which you can also read here. Turns out, the Alabama Department of Health put the Birmingham branch on a year's probation for a number of major health violations. These violations included 9 of 9 cases where officials did not authenticate a parent's signature providing consent for a minor's abortion. One instance even used an expired driver's license with a different last name from the parent. In other cases, officials didn't look into possible cases of abuse, and we all remember the UCLA college student who produced a video of the abuses at the Birmingham center which included an official's agreement not to report statutory rape as required by state law.

Well, after the probation, the Attorney General's office commented, and they gave us this:
Alabama Attorney Gen­eral Troy King looked into the case, but the 12-month statute of limitation on the offense had expired by the time King's office knew of the tape, said Chris Bence, King's chief of staff. Public Health, however, took the tape as a complaint and started an investigation.
I understand Troy King's response in this particular case, but this raises a larger question: why was Troy King, a so-called 'social conservative' overlooking possible abuses earlier? It is true that King could not act on the tape, but one must wonder by Public Health is doing a better job in making sure that Alabama's laws are enforced than our state's top law enforcement officer.

This returns us to a concern long-made on this blog. A good attorney general should be proactive, and not reactive. King is always reactive, waiting for the media to surround a crime, or a tape, and then he holds glitzy press conferences with officials around him to appear 'on the job.' However, the 'job' in actuality is part of a perpetual fight against crime when the cameras are off. There have been suspicions about Planned Parenthood practices for a number of years in different states and raised by different individuals. Instead, Troy King never considered taking proactive action and was instead caught in a trap once the tape was released.

The Birmingham News piece demonstrates yet another reason for an assertive, proactive conservative attorney general who will actually address real problems in this state.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Condolences to the UAH Family

I want to briefly interrupt normal postings to offer heartfelt condolences to the UAH family after the tragic shootings on Friday. All of our thoughts and prayers should be with those who lost their lives and their families, as well as those who remain hospitalized from this heinous attack. I can only hope that Dr. Bishop is brought to justice for her actions.

Godspeed to all affected.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

King and McGregor's Scare Tactics: Two Sides of the Same Coin

The Birmingham News had an interesting piece this morning on gaming magnate Milton McGregor. McGregor has asked AG King to shut down Riley's task force on gambling. You can find the story here.

Interesting, McGregor actually says "it's time for King to 'come out of his office' and stop Riley." This quote is interesting because it underscores something frequently emphasized on this blog, that both sides of the gambling dispute deserve an attorney general willing to make his position on gambling clear instead of hiding between half-truths and clever maneuvering. Troy King has devised a way to support the expansion of gambling in this state when it comes to his supporters like Ronnie Gilley, but he continues to hide in his office at risk of exposing himself politically.

However it is also interesting that McGregor and King seem to have resorted to the same scare tactics on the gambling issue. In a way, it's like they are borrowing lines from the same source.

The News story offers the following on McGregor:

The owner of the state's largest and oldest electronic bingo casino said Monday that Alabama Attorney General Troy King should shut down Gov. Bob Riley's task force on illegal gambling before 'somebody gets hurt.'

Milton McGregor, owner of the VictoryLand casino in Shorter, in Macon County said Riley's task force and its commander, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, are behaving like 'storm troopers moving across the state, intimidating legal businesses and putting people out of work.'
Notice the veiled threat 'before somebody gets hurt.' Now, look at Troy King's letter to Governor Riley which he wrote back on January 29:

Aside from the possible disregard of private property rights and due process, I am deeply concerned that you may be exposing Alabama's taxpayers, your Task Force Commander, the Director of Public Safety, the Director of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, and yourself to liability.

You can read the full letter from a link here.

Am I the only person starting to notice a trend? When McGregor and his folks are cornered, they resort to making arguments about property. Now, I agree that property rights are important. It's probably one of the most sacred rights of the American tradition. However, using that right to hide behind illicit and socially degrading activities is just not right, nor is it upheld by the law. It's also interesting here that both McGregor and King are making the same vague threats about taxpayers or others 'getting hurt' or being 'liable' for particular actions.

It seems to me that both the AG and the gambling bosses are trying to use scare tactics on this issue. It's time to let them know it's time to stop.

Inside the Numbers: New Polls in AG's Race

What's an election without some early political polling?

Public Strategy Associates, an Alabama-based political firm released a poll this morning. There are a number of interesting results, including Huckabee leading Sarah Palin in a key early Presidential poll. The part about Huckabee and the Presidential race turned into a national story in today's Politico in Washington which you can read here.

However, the interesting results for our purposes are within the AG's race. The tag-line is that Troy King and Luther Strange are running neck-and-neck, and that much is true. However, the trouble for Troy is that he is polling at just 27%. Strange, his opponent, has 24%, and a full 49% are undecided. If you think back to 2006 with folks like Gov. Riley on the ballot, support for the incumbent was a whole lot higher. It should certainly be unsettling for an incumbent who has served more than one full term to be polling at under 30% in terms of support.

The race to June is going to be an interesting one. Troy King can't consider this a great start, as an incumbent AG with an obviously superior bully pulpit.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Top of the Week: Read the Open Letter

For those of you who have read the blog and those of you who are new, I encourage you to make a stand this week by encouraging those you know to read my Open Letter to ALGOP calling for action against AG King. The case is a simple one; in 2008, ALGOP took on AEA-bankrolled school board candidates who were seeking to oust respected conservative candidates. It seems only reasonable to make the same stand against someone with similar connections to trial lawyers and gambling interests. You can see a summary of those actions outlined in the letter.

Ultimately, what we're seeking is pressure on ALGOP to at least investigate and issue findings related to these claims. Conservatives could have a big year in 2010--it doesn't make sense to have those actions derailed by a major scandal. The truth needs to come out about Troy, and we're depending on you to help make that happen.

The letter has gotten attention, including from RS McCain's "The Other McCain" blog. You can read his posting on the letter here. We have also been picked up by Citizens for a Better Alabama. You can find their link to the blog by clicking above and looking for the twitter feed on the right-hand side of the screen.

Conservatives are starting to get the message, and I hope that many of you will get on board this week to spread the word. Have a great week.