After two years and $50 million taxpayer dollars wasted, the Alabama bingo trial has finally come to an end. This investigation was an unprecedented abuse of federal authority.
The purpose of this investigation was always about influencing the outcome of the 2010 elections. That is why no arrests or indictments were made until one month before the election.
Recorded conversations that came to light during the trial proved that this conspiracy was always about politics.
Republican Senator Scott Beason, who brazenly referred to African-Americans as “aborigines,” recorded a conversation with other Republican leaders where they openly expressed their fear that having a bingo amendment on the ballot would increase African-American turnout and hurt the Republicans’ chances of taking over the legislature.
In the end, not one, but two juries – 24 people – saw through this blatant act of political espionage and delivered a verdict that proved the justice system still works in Alabama.
So what lessons can we learn from this experience?
First, we have learned that the same people who claim to be for smaller government and state’s rights were more than happy to use the power of the federal judicial system to attempt to steal the rights of the voters and the state government to decide the fate on bingo in Alabama.
Unfortunately, this is not the only time the Republican Supermajority has attempted to use the power of the government to take away the rights of the people of Alabama.
Just a few weeks ago, Republican Senator Clay Scofield introduced legislation that would force women to undergo a “transvaginal ultrasound” against their will, even if they have a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or are the victim of sexual assault.
Secondly, we have learned that the Republican leadership is more than happy to prosecute Democrats, but the Republican Supermajority is not interested in applying the ethics laws to their own members.
During the first trial, Rep. Barry Mask, a Republican from Wetumpka, testified that he had received thousands of dollars from lobbyist Steve Windom for referring lobbying clients to Windom, while Mask served in the legislature. Though ethics complaints have been filed, Mask has never been investigated.
Mask is not the only Republican who has avoided investigation while the Republicans have controlled Montgomery.
Last year, Republican Attorney General Luther Strange refused to investigate former Governor Bob Riley, who is now being investigated by the Montgomery County district attorney for lobbying for several firms that received lucrative state contracts during his tenure as governor.
The third lesson we have learned from the bingo trials is that the Republican Supermajority will go to any lengths to keep the people of Alabama from expressing their will. The Republicans robbed the people of their right to be heard and to vote on bingo because the Republicans feared it would cost them at the voting booth.
The bingo trials were an abuse of justice and of federal authority. From this ordeal, we have learned that the Republican Supermajority will happily violate their own principles of small government and states’ rights to suppress voter turnout and prosecute anyone they see as a potential threat.
But we have also seen that the jury system in Alabama still works, and that the people of Alabama are not going to be fooled by the Republican Supermajority’s dirty politics.