Bob Riley's Abramoff Problem
The whole Abramoff business is pretty sordid and complex. It's been difficult to keep up with all of the details, but it's pretty plain it's not good news for the Republican party, at least at the national level. But whether it is just an inside-the-beltway story or an all-encompassing national embarrassment has yet to be determined.
Since I don't feel knowledgeable enough to break down the complexities of the scandal, I'll take the easy way out and link you to a Wikipedia page with a thorough sketch of the situation with an extensive list of media links of its own.
No Alabama pols have been directly mentioned in connection with the Justice Department investigation, but as I said above, no one really knows just what path the story will take. Previously I mentioned US Rep Robert Aderholt's (R-Haleyville) tenuous connection to tainted Abramoff money and just yesterday US Sen Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) returned a $1,000 contribution he'd received from Abramoff in 2003.
But the Alabama Republicans holding their breath aren't all on Capitol Hill; many are in the Governor's office. During his first term in Congress, Bob Riley's press secretary was Michael Scanlon. After leaving Riley's office Scanlon worked for US Rep Tom Delay (R-TX) and then finally joined the lobbying operation of Jack Abramoff. Fast forward to the present and Scanlon has pled guilty to bribing public officials (including congressmen) and defrauding Indian tribes under the guise of lobbying. Scanlon's decision to plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation is considered part of the reason that Abramoff, himself, found it necessary to pull a Valachi.
Now all this doesn't really reflect directly upon Riley, other than the fact that he hired a crook in 1997. Well, except for this ... "Riley wrote letter on behalf of group tied to Abramoff". The gist of it is that Riley penned a fund-raising letter in the late 1990s for the US Family Network which was basically an Abramoff front group.
With all of these unsavory (but not explicitly damning) details coming to the surface, Riley has quickly gone on defense. Since he'd received a $1,000 contribution from Abramoff in 2000, Riley donated the same amount from his current coffers to a local charity. Riley is also telling anyone who will listen that he's never actually met Jack Abramoff.
Riley certainly doesn't seem to be a target of the federal investigation into the Abramoff/Scanlon corruption ring, but he is a bit player in this sordid drama. His connections to Abramoff may be distant, but his ties to Scanlon are undeniable. Riley's clean image is one of the fundamental tenets of his political appeal and revelations like these, even if not legally damaging, can pose a serious threat to his electoral viability.
If this is all the damage to come out of the Abramoff/Scanlon mess then Riley shouldn't take much of a hit. But if there continues to be smoke surrounding the governor's relationship with these two poster children for public corruption, his re-election prospects will begin to dim.