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The Associated Press October 4, 2010, 5:11PM ET

Sparks questions timing of Ala. bingo charges

The Democratic nominee for Alabama governor, Ron Sparks, says the timing of the gambling indictments a month before the election is suspicious and must be questioned.

"Anyone who loves democracy and freedom should be concerned with the timing of these indictments," Sparks said Monday.

Federal authorities rounded up 11 people, including four state senators and two casino operators, on charges of buying and selling votes for gambling legislation. They were indicted by a federal grand jury in Montgomery, where the chief federal prosecutor is a holdover from President Bush's Republican administration.

The Republican nominee for governor, state Rep. Robert Bentley, said the indictments "are an example of what is wrong with Montgomery politics. As governor, I will be a vigilant force against corruption of any kind, regardless of party affiliation."

Sparks, the state agriculture commissioner, said the indictments do not mean the gambling issue is going away and he will continue to push for the regulation and taxation of gambling.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, who lost to Sparks in the Democratic primary, called the indictments "an embarrassing spectacle that only confirms the worst suspicions about Alabama politics."

He said candidates, including Sparks, should return contributions they received from any of those indicted.

Campaign finance reports show gambling interests contributed more than $4 million to candidates in the primary elections in June, with Sparks and legislative candidates being major beneficiaries.

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