Other states have far stricter rules on gift expenditures. In Arizona, lobbyists can spend just $10 a year. In California, it's $10 a month. Some states take a more moderate stance, allowing lobbyists to spend $50-100 annually before having to disclose. Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and South Carolina are considered "no cup of coffee states," where lobbyists cannot give a legislator anything -- not even a cup of Joe.
Jim Sumner, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, called the lax environment "outlandish" and said he has long advocated for a reduction in the spending limit. "It's far above the norm," he said.
Even before the arrests, though, authorities in Alabama said it was becoming clear that the lobbyists seeking help with bingo legislation were pressing the limits.
"If you're going to be in politics you're going to have to raise money but when it gets to the point that there's a quid pro quo -- I will give you this if you do that, then I think it's gone too far," Alabama Gov. Bob Riley told ABC News.
Riley first began waging a campaign to stop the spread of electronic bingo machines in 2008. He argued they were nothing more than slot machines. "I [think] anyone who has ever played bingo understands you can't play it in six seconds," he told ABC News.
After an electronic bingo bill passed in the state senate last spring, with several lawmakers switching their votes in the final hours, authorities began to harbor suspicions. Federal agents received permission to eavesdrop on suspects using wiretaps and convened a grand jury.
Reacting to the news of indictments, the governor's office released a statement calling the arrests "disappointing but hardly surprising."
Many are hoping the arrests will prompt real change to Alabama's statehouse.
"It's an opportunity to push through some meaningful reform so we don't put ourselves in this situation again," Sen. Sanford said.