Rep. Bobby Bright (D) has received campaign donations from at least three of the 11 individuals indicted this week in an FBI bribery probe in Alabama, while a fourth defendant was a key supporter during his 2008 Congressional campaign.
Brights connection to some of the defendants dates back to his previous service as mayor of Montgomery. The freshman lawmaker is currently in the middle of a tough re-election fight in the battleground 2nd district, which is a top target for national Republicans this cycle.
Brights campaign said Wednesday that the past donations have nothing to do with the scheme to buy and sell votes of state lawmakers in an effort to make electronic bingo legal in the state.
In 11 years in public office, Congressman Bright has received thousands of contributions from people across Alabama, many of whom contribute to both Republicans and Democrats, spokesman Lewis Lowe said Wednesday. They are supporting Congressman Brights policies and leadership, not the other way around. Congressman Bright does not condone illegal activity of any kind and believes the jury will be the ultimate arbiter of innocence or guilt for those recently indicted.
The FBI probe also swept up state Rep. Harri Anne Smith (I), who threw her support behind Bright in his 2008 race after losing a bitter GOP primary. Bright has been supporting Smith for re-election this year. Shes running as an Independent because Republicans denied her access to the GOP line in large part because of her decision to endorse Bright.
Earlier this week, Bright was asked about the indictment of Smith on local television, and he called the timing of the charges suspicious.
Of those who have been indicted, Bright received a $1,000 donation from influential Alabama lobbyist Robert Geddie in 2003 and a $500 donation from Geddie in 2007. Alabama gambling magnate Milton McGregor gave Bright a $1,000 donation in 2007, while lobbyist Tom Coker cut Bright a $1,000 check during his 2008 Congressional bid.
Bright was not the only one to receive money from those indicted this week. Brights GOP challenger, Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby, took a donation in 2003 from a political action committee for which Geddie served as the treasurer. Meanwhile, at least six of the 11 defendants in the case have made donations to other federal candidates in the past two cycles, according to Federal Election Commission records. Several of those individuals gave to both Republicans and Democrats.
Coker was one of the most active contributors of the group. Hes given about $24,000 to federal candidates and political action committees since 2007, including donations to 5th district Democratic candidate Steve Raby and both of the states Republican Senators.
Despite Brights ties to some Republican candidates, state GOP officials didnt miss the chance to take a shot at Bright for his connections to the FBI probe.
Bright certainly doesnt mind taking money from people he claims he doesnt agree with like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, state party spokesman Philip Bryan said. He has a history of enjoying their money but saying he doesnt agree with them. Brights fence-sitting days are hopefully coming to an end.
Earlier this week, national Democratic strategists were quick to blast out a story about how one of the men caught up in the Alabama case was a top strategist for Georgia Republican candidate Mike Keown, who is challenging Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) in the Peach States 2nd district.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.