As I have perused the web looking for more information on the arrests of those arrested this morning for allegedly taking part in legislative vote-buying/selling, bribery and a litany of other charges, I’ve already come across several comments such as this one, gleaned from the comments section on a Birmingham News story:
Unedited and uncorrected: “The public officials who have stood up for whats right and provided jobs to thousands are the ones being arrested? I never thought Id see such a sad day in Alabamas history. I really cant believe my eyes when I read some of the names of the people who are being arrested. These are the only politicians left in the state who tried to stand up against Bob Riley and look whats happening to them. This is a real travesty whats happening today and once these people are found innocent we can all breath easier.”
There were many other comments, far more than I cared to read, expressing outrage and disappointment and sadness that these eleven people, including four state legislators, were arrested for looking out for the interests of the people of Alabama. Really? Seriously? These legislators were allegedly offered exorbitant amounts of cash, some in the form of campaign contributions, some to use at their own discretion, in exchange for their vote in favor of a bill that would have given the two gambling magnates involved in this case practically exclusive rights to run casinos in the state of Alabama. The legislators were also to try and influence their colleagues to support the measure. Each of the eleven people indicted is alleged to have acted illegally in various ways. Extortion, bribery, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement among other charges. This isn’t an episode of The Sopranos, this is real life right here in Alabama. I defy anyone to explain to me, reasonably and logically, how these people were acting in the best interest of the citizens of the state of Alabama. Each of them stood to make an awful lot of money for themselves and I’m quite certain that they didn’t plan on sharing that money with their constituents. For the sake of discussion, though, even if they did plan to send us all a check for our share, what they are accused of doing is ILLEGAL! Therein lies the rub.
It doesn’t matter how honorable their intentions might have been(I say this while trying to suppress a chuckle), if they did what they are accused of doing then they broke the law. Just because they are politicians, lobbyists, or gambling bosses with deep, deep pockets doesn’t give them a get out of jail free card. Just because the casinos they wanted to build might have created jobs doesn’t make the fact that they subverted laws regarding such activity okay. In our country, at least for the time being, we all are subject to the laws which govern us. If we break the law, we must face the consequences. Laws exist so that anarchy doesn’t rule the day and the rich and powerful don’t become the rich and ALL-powerful; above the law.
Let’s be honest, though. This alleged misconduct was born out of raw greed and nothing more. These individuals saw an opportunity to line their own pockets with, as my father calls it, ill-gotten-gain and they jumped at the chance. They sacrificed their supposed morals and values at the alter of the almighty dollar and they got caught. The thing I find hardest to believe is that anyone finds any of this hard to believe. One of the most misquoted verses in scripture is 1 Timothy 6:10. Many mistakenly say it as, “money is the root of all evil.” It actually says “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” There is a difference. There are people who have a lot of money who do things the right way. Plenty of them. Then, there are the lovers of money. These folks’ love of money overwhelmed them to the point that they risked much to get as much of it as they could from Mr. McGregor and Mr. Gilley. These two gentlemen and their intermediaries were more than happy to oblige. This is what money can do to people. This is what greed does to people. This is the kind of havoc that gambling stands to wreak on our state should it ever become even more widespread than it already is. I, for one, want no part of it. We should be celebrating that these so-called public servants were caught rather than lauding them as some sort modern day Robin Hood and his band of merry thieves who only were trying to take care of the less fortunate. Bunk. Well, the thieves part may just be right on the money. No pun intended.