MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) - Alabama Republicans skirted state laws to help Native American political contributors eliminate "non-Indian gaming" and diverted $7.9 million from the BP oil spill fund to pay for gambling litigation, a mayor and voters claim in court.
Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford and five other residents of Macon County sued Attorney General Luther Strange and Gov. Robert Bentley, in Federal Court.
They claim that Indian casinos were able to "disguise millions of dollars of contributions through Republican-based nonprofit organizations" and that the money was "disguised in this manner to hide from the Alabama electorate that Republican candidates, whom they believed were opposed to all forms of gambling, were in fact taking millions of dollars from Indian gaming."
The plaintiffs, black voters and elected officials, claim that white Republican leaders overrode the will of voters in predominantly black Macon County and brought "economic devastation" to Tuskegee by cutting gambling revenue.
Macon County, pop. 21,452, is 81.5 percent black, according to the complaint, which cites U.S. Census data. Most elected officials and community leaders, including the sheriff of Macon County and the mayor of Tuskegee, are African-American.
"Beginning in 2003, white political leaders of the Alabama and National Republican Party ('Republicans'), including but not limited to Governor Bob Riley, initiated plans to elect white Republicans to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government in the State of Alabama, allegedly referred to as 'Operation 2010,'" the complaint states.
"In order to raise funds to accomplish their goal, Alabama Republican leaders and elected officials entered into a scheme with the Mississippi Choctaw Indians Casino Operators ('Choctaws') and later the Alabama Poarch Band of Creek Indian Casino Operators ('Poarch Creeks') (hereinafter, collectively 'Indian gaming').
"This scheme included eliminating competition to Indian gaming from non-Indian gaming, including 'VictoryLand' located in Macon County, Alabama. Eliminating VictoryLand served the dual goals of both by providing Indian gaming a monopoly in Alabama and shutting off potential non-Indian gaming political contributions that Republican political leaders feared could be used to thwart their political plans.
"The Choctaws, and later the Poarch Creeks, were able to disguise millions of dollars of contributions through Republican-based nonprofit organizations, including but not limited to, the National Christian Coalition, the Alabama Christian Coalition, the Alabama-based Republican Governor's Association and other Republican-based Political Action Committees ('PACs').
"Indian gaming funds were disguised in this manner to hide from the Alabama electorate that Republican candidates, whom they believed were opposed to all forms of gambling, were in fact taking millions of dollars from Indian gaming."
In 2003, plaintiff Johnny Ford sponsored a local constitutional amendment which authorized nonprofit organizations to operate bingo games in Macon County, and appointed the sheriff to make and enforce the rules for it, according to the complaint.
Sixteen Alabama counties have passed similar amendments in the past 30 years, authorizing bingo operations.
Ford's amendment was passed in the Alabama Legislature and approved by 76 percent of the qualified voters in Macon County, according to the complaint.
After the amendment took effect in June 2004, 60 nonprofit organizations began operating electronic bingo games at VictoryLand, with the sheriff's and the attorney general's approval, the complaint states.
The games continued until 2008, when then-Gov. Bob Riley organized an "anti-gambling task force" and sought search warrants to seize the electronic bingo machines at VictoryLand.