Former Sen. Steve French (R-Mountain Brook) said today that Sen. Harri Anne Smith (I-Slocomb) offered him a contribution if he would vote for pro-bingo legislation.
French, a witness in the bingo corruption trial in which Smith is a defendant, said Smith made the offer three times in the same conversation. According to French, the conversation began when Smith approached him on the floor of the Senate on March 11, 2010. There, Smith asked French if he was serious about getting a contribution from her, and he said yes. She then asked if he would vote for the gambling bill, Senate bill 380.
French, who is currently senior vice president of public finance at Stern Agee, said the conversation made him uncomfortable.
“We’re not going to talk about any official act,” French said he told her. “She said, ‘Of course not, but if you would vote for the gambling bill, I’ll give you a contribution.’”
“There’s a new bill, Senator, I’ll go read it,” French said he told Smith. A new version of SB380 was being re-drafted after a procedural vote on it failed on March 3. French said he’d offered to read the bill because that’s part of his job.
According to French’s testimony, Sen. Smith told him to come back to her after he’d read the bill, and “’if you commit to voting for the bill, I’ll give you a donation or a contribution.’”
After that, French said he walked off.
French testified that in his 12 years in the Senate, no one had “linked up” campaign contributions with legislation.
“No one. No one had even come close,” French said.
That conversation followed a dinner French said he had with Smith just two days before, on March 9, 2010.
“She was not one to socialize often, but occasionally,” French said.
The dinner was at the Olive Room, a Montgomery fine dining restaurant. Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and some local beer distributors were also present.
There, French said “Sen. Smith made a comment that made some of us react.”
Smith told the guests that other Senators had been coming to her for campaign contributions–French said Senators typically don’t go to other Senators for contributions.
“But when she reminded them that she had endorsed Bobby Bright for Congress, they typically ran away from her.”
French was under direct examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Kang for about 15 minutes. Cross examination is expected to begin this afternoon.
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