Indicted lobbyist linked to donations

Published 9:04 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

State Sen. “Walking” Wendall Mitchell received $5,000 from political action committees chaired by Jarrod Massey, a lobbyist indicted in connection with the bingo vote-buying scandal earlier this month.

According to information from Mitchell’s campaign finance reports – which Mitchell filled out himself – he received $2,500 each from Reading Initiative PAC and Mantra Government PAC in late December 2009. Massey is the chairman of both of these PACs.

Mitchell, D-Luverne, also received a $250 personal contribution from Massey in August.

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“I don’t know anything about that at all,” Mitchell said in an interview at The Messenger Thursday. “I’m unfamiliar with any PAC Massey chairs. I think Massey represents a whole lot of clients”

Massey is among 11 people, including two casino owners and four state senators, indicted earlier this month on federal charges of vote buying in attempts to legalize electronic bingo in the state.

Mitchell’s state senate opponent, Republican candidate Bryan Taylor, also compiled campaign finance reports stating that Mitchell has received more than $100,000 in contributions linked to Macon County Greyhound Park, Jefferson County Racing Association, Massey and Milton McGregor, one of the indicted casino owners, since October 2009.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Taylor said that there was no way Mitchell did not know where his contributions came from.

“An eighth-grader could look up these reports,” he said. “If Senator Mitchell is truly opposed to gambling, there’s no way so much dirty money would have gotten into his campaign.”

Taylor also has accused Mitchell of receiving $42,500 in contributions tied to gambling during the month of March, the same month Mitchell voted to support gambling bill SB380.

“Senator Mitchell’s campaigning is heavily funded by PACs that are heavily funded by gambling commissions,” Taylor said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Mitchell has spoken out against every count Taylor made, calling them unfounded, deliberate lies.

“He gets to lie, and I don’t,” Mitchell said in a phone interview Thursday. “I’m a lawyer by profession, and when I say something I have to have evidence. He has no evidence at all. He’s completely misrepresenting the truth.”

But Taylor has said that if Mitchell does not know where his PAC contributions come from, he should.

“The truth is, a senator who is a lawyer and the dean of a law school, who has been in the system for 30 years, he should know the clean PACs from the dirty PACs,” Taylor said.

Most of the funds Taylor listed, with the exception of the $5,000 from Massey’s PACs and the $250 direct contribution from Massey, were transferred from Macon County Greyhound Park, Jefferson County Racing Association and Milton McGregor through one or two PACs before they reached Mitchell.

Mitchell said that a PAC-to-PAC money transfer, in which a contribution passes from one organization through several committees until it finally reaches a politician, makes funds difficult to follow. For this reason, Mitchell said he couldn’t trace the origins of all of his contributions.

“We need reform in PAC-to-PAC transfers,” he said. “We don’t have it yet, but we need it, and I’m for it.”

Mitchell said he supports legislation that would ban all PAC-to-PAC transfers except direct contributions to principal campaign committees.

Also, in n 2005, Mitchell acted as treasurer of a PAC called 2006 PAC, which managed about $215,000. The first two contributions in January 2005, each for $5,000, came from Jefferson County Racing Association and Macon County Greyhound Park, also known as Victoryland.

Mitchell said he had forgotten about the PAC, and that it was a short-lived group arranged after the last election for senators to manage personal contributions.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Mitchell said of the contributions from Victoryland and Jefferson County Racing Association. “I just agreed to keep the minutes for that PAC. I never received any money. It’s been dissolved for years.”

According to information from Taylor’s campaign finance reports, Taylor has received $65,125 contributions from 11 PACs: Alabama ACRE, a rural interest PAC; Leaf PAC; Marsh PAC; Big I PAC; Horizon PAC; Good PAC; NETPAC; MAYPAC; CEGGPAC; Grassroots State PAC; BACPAC; American Republican Party; ABC Merit PAC; and Forest PAC.

Of Taylor’s accusations, Mitchell said they are an attempt to skew the truth in order to link the incumbent senator to the bingo indictments. He also stated that his support of SB380 was because it was a referendum allowing his constituents to decide whether they wanted gambling. Mitchell said he did not, and does not, support gambling.

“He’s trying to create a link that’s not there,” Mitchell said.