Alabama should be proud.
Our very own Milton McGregor was one of the best paid corporate chieftains in the country in 2009, and, for all we know, many years preceding.
Mr. Big Hair's eye-popping $28.3 million in income in 2009 -- a precious nugget reported yesterday from the bingo trial -- would have placed him fourth among the country's highest-paid CEO's that year. According to CNN/Money, Oracle's Larry Ellison took the top spot ($84.5 million) in 2009; followed by Ray Elliott of Boston Scientific ($33.4 million); Ray Irani of Occidental Petroleum ($34.1 million); and Mark Hurd of Hewlett-Packard ($24.2 million).
Hurd would have been bumped a spot if the Alabama dog track/electronic bingo magnate's gaming company were public. Hard to believe, isn't it, that there was that much left over from his "electronic bingo" operations after all those payments to charity. (WINK! WINK!)
Among those trailing the chief defendant in the ongoing electronic bingo corruption trial was media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who's also swimming in hot water these days. Murdoch ranked 17th in 2009, with $18 million. He fell $10.8 million short of Alabama's pride.
If McGregor's $28.3 million take in 2009 isn't the result of a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich then there's no such thing. I continue to be befuddled by the intense and broad support McGregor and his gaming operations receive from state Democrats and Alabama's blacks, especially black leaders.
And not just befuddled. Disgusted as well. (Probably his money has something to do with it, you think?)
Here's a quote from my book, "The Governor of Goat Hill":
"McGregor is a major supporter of Democratic politicians, because in Alabama, taxing the poor through gambling is not only consistent with Democratic principles, but is among the state party’s only objectives."
Certainly this trial has done nothing to alter that opinion.
None of which means McGregor will be found guilty. From the start, one of the most dangerous charges, from McGregor's perspective, seemed to involve the $72,000 in payments to Ray Crosby, an attorney for the legislature whose job involved drafting legislation. According to a report on Al.Com, on Wednesday morning, trial judge Myron Thompson indicated he wasn't sure the prosecution had proved a crime on those counts.
Thompson's comments were of course made out of earshot of the jurors, as were responses to his questions about the Crosby counts and other issues.
I don't think anyone ever expected McGregor to testify, but an answer by one of his lawyers to one of Thompson's questions would appear to settle the matter for good.
This, from Press-Register reporter Brendan Kirby's story:
Thompson had tough questions for lawyers on both sides today. While he grilled prosecutors over the intricacies of bribery law, he demanded to know why McGregor was paying $3,000 a month to Ray Crosby, who at the time worked for a government agency that was in charge of drafting legislation for lawmakers.
“I don’t know,”(McGregor lawyer Sam) Heldman said.
Thompson asked if a jury could not infer the worst, given the lack of explanation.
Heldman said that the burden is on prosecutors to prove a corrupt intent. He acknowledged that Crosby worked with McGregor on gambling legislation but pointed out that state law authorized that as long as the bill’s sponsor approved it.
“Merely paying him is not a crime, not a federal crime,” he said.
If McGregor's own lawyer doesn't know why McGregor paid Crosby, and at this late stage of the proceedings, it's fair to infer that he's not going to let his client get in the witness chair and let a prosecutor ask the question.
It would also seem unlikely that Crosby will testify, since, if he were to, he's sure to be asked why McGregor paid him; why he failed to report the payments on his ethics disclosures; and much else as well.
What many people don't realize is that prosecutors face a substantial burden in proving a bribery charge, or a quid pro quo. It's not enough to show money going from one person to another, and the other using his public position to help his benefactor. They must also prove that the payments and the public acts were part of an illegal agreement. If neither Crosby nor McGregor testify, the prosecution may come up short on these charges even if guilt seems obvious, as it does to me, on the Crosby counts.
Heldman may believe his client guilty as well. That he doesn't know why McGregor paid Crosby suggests that he didn't ask his client and that his client never took it upon himself to explain. Heldman's failure to ask his client about this important matter suggests that he suspects the worst and, by not asking, can truthfully answer to the court that he doesn't know why the monthly $3,000 payments were made.
Milton McGregor's Lawyers
I'm not entirely sure of the relevance to the charges to yesterday's revelation of McGregor's 2009 income, but I trust that the lawyers on both sides and the judge worked that out. In any event, I'm glad to know. One of the great benefits of public corruption trials (Siegelman/Scrushy comes to mind) is that all manner of scrupulously concealed facts, figures and relationships finally see the light of the day.
One example among many: That McGregor paid $300,000 to a company owned by the chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama. Randy Brinson, the Christian payee, had in recent years given media quotes supportive of McGregor's efforts in the legislature.If you're reading this, those payments probably don't come as news to you. And I don't have anything to add to what you know. But it is amazing, isn't it?
Randy Brinson, Milton McGregor's "$300,000 Man"