11 Arrested in Alabama Vote Buying Operation

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By Jason Beahm on October 05, 2010 11:52 AM

Four Alabama legislators are facing charges in a massive vote-buying operation. Democrats Larry Means and Quinton Ross as well as Republican James Pruiett and independent Harri Anne Smith stand accused of serious crimes by the Justice Department. U.S. authorities have charged the legislators as well as three lobbyists and two businessmen who owned casinos, in an attempted conspiracy to pass legislation expanding electronic bingo.

The charges are a full on political crime buffet: conspiracy, bribery, extortion, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements. The crimes are so vast that there isn't enough time to dig into all of them, but let's quickly go over conspiracy and bribery:

A conspiracy exists when two or more people form an agreement to commit a crime, followed by an overt act to carry out the agreement. The forming of the conspiracy is charged as a separate crime. In order words you can be charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Bribery is a simpler crime to discuss than conspiracy--it's the offer or exchange of something of value for influence of a government official.

These days, no shady bill comes without an innocent or even uplifting name. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the bill itself came with a nefarious sounding name: the "Sweet Home Alabama bill."

Legislators allegedly received bribes ranging from the garden variety campaign contribution to off the wall gifts like arranging campaign appearances by music stars. Senator James Preuitt was given $2 million in campaign support as well as being provided music stars for campaign events, according to page 46 of the indictment.

"The alleged criminal scheme was astonishing in scope ... The defendants' corrupt conduct infiltrated every layer of the legislation process in the state," Breuer said at a news conference regarding the Sweet Home Alabama Bill in Washington. "They are charged with having offered huge sums of money and other benefits in exchange for the legislators' votes," he said, Reuters reports.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley, who opposed the "Sweet Home Alabama bill," did not mince words, calling it the "most corrupt piece of legislation ever considered by the Senate ... [the arrests were] disappointing but hardly surprising," Riley said.

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