Democratic Rep. MIchael John Gray has issued a statement on the report that former Democratic legislator Hank Wilkins, soon to resign as Jefferson County judge, had told FBI he’d taken bribes from a lobbyist now under indictment. Wilkins has not been charged.

“What we’ve seen come out about Hank Wilkins is unfortunate and frustrating. And it gets to the heart of the issue of corruption in the political scene. For instance, take the General Improvement Fund, which was intended for lawmakers – especially those in rural communities – who know their areas best, to provide necessary funds to their schools, fire departments, and other vital community services. From the Ecclesia scandal to Sen. Files’ kickback scheme, we’ve seen these funds misused, which I think does a real disservice to those actually out there trying to better their communities.

“Any lawmaker, regardless of party, that has been found misusing GIF funds or taking part in kickback or bribery schemes should resign immediately.”

Yeah, Chairman Gray, Republicans (lots of them) can be crooked, too. It’s not time for that. And it’s certainly not time to defend the General Improvement Fund and its unconstitutional money laundering to pay for small town projects, however worthy you might think they were. If schools, fire departments and other community services need money, it’s their responsibility to raise it, not the state legislature. The GIF fund was wrong — bribes or no bribes, kickbacks or no kickbacks. And Democrats were in the thick of the boodling.


One good Democrat, former state Rep. Mike Wilson of Jacksonville, stopped it. Three times. But legislators keep looking for ways to keep the pork coming.

Gray could have at least added that what Wilkins did was not only unfortunate and frustrating but wrong.