Everyone hates the special interests. When you or someone with whom you agree lobbies a legislature, that’s simply petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, as explicitly protected under the First Amendment.
When the other guys lobby the legislature, they’re those dirty, rotten, no-account “special interests,” and something should be done to rein them in.
State Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, introduced a bill last week that he says will do just that. His proposal would prohibit gambling interests from giving money to candidates for the Alabama Legislature, as well as to the governor and lieutenant governor. And just to make sure, it also would ban candidates for those offices from accepting money from gambling interests.
“The purpose of this legislation is to get things in Alabama back in balance,” McClendon said while touting his bill. “There is a multibillion-dollar international corporation that has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Alabama Senate candidates. This corporation owns casinos in three countries, three states, and has four locations in Alabama and they want more.”
No need to be coy, Sen. McClendon. Everyone knows the “multibillion-dollar international corporation” here is the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
The Poarch Band has a gambling proposal and has been lobbying heavily to promote it.
McClendon last year introduced a competing proposal for a state lottery.
McClendon likens his proposal to a restriction already in state law that bans public utilities from contributing to candidates for the Alabama Public Service Commission, the regulatory body that oversees them. McClendon’s proposal, however, is much broader, and it is certain to run into a legal challenge should it become law.
In the first place, the Poarch Band could make a plausible, one might say convincing case, that the bill specifically targets them, even if it doesn’t mention them by name. Courts tend not to look kindly on laws aimed at a single person or group.
In the second place, some “gambling interests” have interests that go beyond gambling, and the Poarch Band, which is the only federally recognized Native American tribe in Alabama, is an obvious example of a group that has interests that go beyond gaming.
In the third place, there are groups with an interest in gambling that are not “gambling interests” under McClendon’s bill. Groups with religious or other moral objections to all gambling leap to mind. They would still be able to support candidates that oppose all legalized gambling in Alabama.
This is not about which gambling or lottery proposal is best, although we support a state lottery with most if not all of the revenue going into the state’s General Fund, where it can be used for mental health, Medicaid and the Department of Corrections, all of which are in a state of crisis.
It’s about avoiding a fight the state will almost certainly lose, against what McClendon admits is a well-funded opponent, that won’t be resolved before this legislative session is out, anyway. If the Legislature does its job, a constitutional amendment for a state lottery will already be heading toward the November ballot before McClendon’s bill, if passed, could even take effect.