Nobody wins in bingo trial

Published 4:33 pm Friday, February 17, 2012

Few things can disappoint the voters of Alabama like their representatives.

Generally, I don’t follow politics very closely. But, put politics and trial together and I’ll follow it to the waters edge.

I’ve read with interest the updates of what has been dubbed “the bingo trial.”

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The plot reads like a summer blockbuster movie.

All the pieces are there: a multi-millionaire gambling magnate that most people despise, corrupt good ole boy politicians looking for fast cash and a lobbying firm handing out checks and promises like business cards. There’s even a few country music stars in there to fill in gaps.

You have an allegedly racist state senator – or at least he’s accused of making racially insensitive remarks. And you have one man who seems to have been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is intent on knocking the house of cards to the ground.

It makes a fairly interesting movie. The sad reality is this is based on a true story.

Milton McGregor, Ronnie Gilley and a handful of state senators and representatives are firmly in state prosecutors’ crosshairs for their alleged roles in a bribery and vote buying case that would have spread the “legality” of electronic bingo across the state.

Late in his administration, then-Gov. Bob Riley put the clamp down on electronic bingo in the state with his task force playing the role of the bingo Untouchables.

The task force has since been disbanded and Riley now spends more of his time hunting and fishing than breaking up bingo halls. Still his legacy remains.

It plays out on the 6 o’clock news and, occasionally, on national news.

Political corruption has a long history in the United States. You can find it everywhere, in every state.

It’s a sad testament to reality.

But the South has long been the whipping boy for the good ole boy system run by the likes of Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard.

There’s no way to stop it and I’m not ever sure you can contain it without serious, and I mean substantially serious, reform.

As long as lobbyists have easy access to lawmakers in Montgomery, Washington and everywhere else, this will happen.

Hundred dollar handshakes will happen. Votes will be bought and, on occasion, lawmakers will be taken down.

All we can do as voters is keep tabs on our lawmakers (none of ours are involved in this by the way) and hope we’ve elected the kind of men and women who share our goals and ideals, and the kind of men and women who – when faced with this kind of temptation – can rely on their moral compass.

As for the the bingo trial, we’ll just have to let it play itself out and see who plays some of Alabama’s fallen elected officials in the movie.