Reaction to Hobby Lobby Case

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, June 30 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 verdict that Hobby Lobby and other employers did not have to pay for health insurance plans which provide services which they find morally abhorrent on religious grounds.

Reaction to this decision came quickly.

The Alabama Republican Party said that this landmark case was first presented to SCOTUS on March 25 of this year in hopes of addressing “the constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.” The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, stating that the government cannot require closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage.
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SCOTUS Rules In Favor of Hobby Lobby: Strange Hails Supreme Court Decision as Protecting Religious Liberty

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Monday, June 30 the United States Supreme Court struck down Obamacare rules which stripped employers of their religious freedom not to fund health insurance plans which provides services including abortion drugs and sterilizations that are contrary to their religious beliefs.  Craft supply seller, Hobby Lobby, which is owned by Christians, faced hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for their defiance of the Administration of Barack H. Obama.
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Claims of Political Prosecution: A Dishonest Rendering Of The Facts

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
 
MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, his attorney J. Mark White and even some journalists would have the public believe that the Grand Jury investigation in Lee County is politically motivated.
 
It has been suggested—and in some cases stated as fact—that Attorney General Luther Strange has devised a diabolical plot to have Hubbard disgraced, perhaps imprisoned, in order to propel himself to the Governor’s Office.
 
The assertion of a political motivation driving Strange is a dishonest rendering of the facts.
 
These statements are simply political and judicial subterfuge, fostered by those who wish to protect Hubbard or curry his favor.
 
If the Attorney General’s investigation into alleged criminal activities by Hubbard leads to greater political gains for Strange, it will be because he honored the oath of his office and ignored politics.

Strange’s actions were not the result of political calculations, but rather a willingness to uphold the law, regardless of the political consequences.
 
The investigation into Hubbard was initiated by orders from Matt Hart, the head of the Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Division of the State’s Attorney General’s Office, not Luther Strange. Strange only fully learned about the investigation after he was shown Hart’s preliminary findings.
 
Strange did not try to quash the investigation—which would have been the best choice politically— but rather recused himself from the case because of certain personal knowledge  concerning Hubbard’s activities.
 
Research by the Alabama Political Reporter has led to the belief that Hubbard embezzled money while Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. (This is only one of many suspect action by Hubbard APR has uncovered) During his time as Chairman, Hubbard would direct funds to political campaigns with the caveat that a portion of the funds be spent with his business interests; according to several individuals involved in a number of campaigns.
 
(All have spoken anonymously and wish not to be identified at this time)
 
In 2010, Hubbard also directed money from the ALGOP to the Florida-based company, Majority Strategies, who then in turn subcontracted work to a Hubbard business interest.
 
On May 24, Luther Strange received $20,000 contribution— for his Attorney General race—from Hubbard’s Political Action Committee, Network PAC. On the very next day, the Strange campaign spent $20,000 with Hubbard’s Network Creative Media. This action could make the Attorney General a potential witness against Hubbard, if he were to be charged with embezzling campaign funds.
 
It is not certain that this is why Strange recused himself from the investigation, but it might be the answer. It is important to remember that recusal from a prosecution is not the same as refusal to see an investigation go forward. This is why Supernumerary District Attorney W. Van Davis was appointed to act on the Attorney General’s behalf.
 
In 2011, Strange appointed Matt Hart to head the Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Division of the office of the Attorney General. This was seen by many as a sign that Strange was not going to shy away from prosecution of public corruption in high reaches of government.
 
Hart, who is a special forces trained intelligence officer, is not a man of trifling convictions, according to those who know him best. To believe that Hart would succumb to the petty whims of politicians is to not understand the nature of the man, behind the investigation of Mike Hubbard; according to closes associates.
 
St. Clair District Attorney Richard Minor,—who has worked closely with Hart over the years—had this to say about his appointment in 2011:
 
“I am pleased to hear that Attorney General Strange has hired Matt. His extraordinary record as a public corruption prosecutor and his commitment to public service will serve the citizens of Alabama well. As the former Director of the North Alabama Public Corruption Task Force, Matt’s leadership led to the foundation for ethics reform. This hire reaffirms the Attorney Generals pledge to root out public corruption at all levels of government in our State.”
 
Minor is one of the most highly respected District Attorneys in the State.
 
Minor has a sign in his office that reads, in effect,  “If you are not willing to take the case that might end your career, then you have no business being a prosecutor.”
 
When Hart decided to pursue an investigation into Hubbard, he took the case that might end his career, as politicians and operatives have said that threats against Hart are real and numerous.
 
But Hart has a history of fighting wide and winning big, on cases wrought with political danger.
 
From 2003 to 2009, Hart served as Director for State and Federal Joint Public Corruption Task Force for the Northern District of Alabama. During this period, he supervised the investigation into the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, which would lead to the conviction of the former Chancellor, several State Legislators, contractors and State employees.
 
He was also responsible for overseeing the investigation that ended with the conviction of Jefferson County Commissioners in the sewer debacle. Add to this the conviction of Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, and a picture begins to emerge of a career prosecutor who will take the tough cases without fear of reprisal or political pressure.
 
Over a year ago, Hubbard’s White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney began to spread various versions of Hubbard’s innocence and claims of political persecution.
 
White is known to seek out friendly news reporters who will give his clients favorable coverage in the media. Spending hours granting exclusive interviews with friendly journalists who will write stories in a sympathetic light. These stories follow a line of reasoning supplied by White, without risking questions that might probe into Hubbard’s actions.
 
A political prosecution by Luther Strange, or anyone else involved in the Hubbard investigation is not consistent with facts or with the prosecutors involved.
 
Claims of a political prosecution have the smell of a cover-up, being aided and abetted by those who either fear Hubbard or favor him.

 

Ethics Director Changes Tune on Knowledge of Hubbard Malfeasance

By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY – In a recent interview, Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission Jim Sumner says the agency has garnered undue criticism in regard to their role – or lack thereof – in investigating public corruption allegations surrounding Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. This criticism, Sumner says, is unfounded because the Ethics Commission never had knowledge of the accusations against Hubbard and never received a complaint on the issue.

As Alabama Political Reporter has covered extensively, however, Sumner and the Commission were well aware of questionable actions taken by the Speaker, particularly in relation to monopolizing language added to the medicaid section of the 2013 General Fund budget, even as they were occurring. In addition, APR published in full a 204-page ethics complaint against the Speaker dated December of last year that was properly filed with Sumner and the Ethics Commission. However, Sumner had this to say in his interview;

“We never had any knowledge of many of the things that are being alleged… we never had a complaint,” Sumner said in the interview. “So the critics can certainly take whatever criticism they want of that, but first for some agency to be able to do something, that have to know something. And we have always operated based on the information we knew at the time. I won’t go beyond that, but that should go a long way toward answering the critics.”

One of the main facts disseminating from the grand jury investigation – through court documents in the criminal cases of both Rep. Barry Moore and former Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery – is that Speaker Hubbard “endorsed” language inserted into the 2013 budget that would have provided a monopoly on most Medicaid prescriptions to APCI, a pharmaceutical co-op for which worked as a consultant, receiving an undisclosed amount of compensation monthly.

Speaker Mike Hubbard himself has admitted that though he knew “walking into the chamber” that the budget he was about to vote for – over a dozen times – contained that language benefiting a group from which he received a paycheck, it was only after that he claims he visited Jim Sumner at the Alabama Ethics Commission, to be sure he did not do “anything wrong.” Sumner, though, apparently may not recall the event, or at least not consider it important, as now says he did not know of such actions by the Speaker.

Indeed, in an interview with APR, Director Sumner said that though he knew of Hubbard’s contract with APCI, he had neither seen or asked to see the agreement, approving it off hand.

As for Sumner’s second claim that “we [the Ethics Commission] never had a complaint,” APR has published the entire text of an over two hundred page ethics complaint filed particularly against Speaker Mike Hubbard outlining not only the language inserted into the Medicaid portion of the budget, but excessive funds being funneled into Hubbard business interests, and much else, all of which has been reported here on APR.

The full text of the December 2013 Ethics Commission complaint can be seen here.

Sumner’s comments on Speaker Hubbard’s contract with APCI can be heard here.

Who’s Buying Education in Alabama

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

When the curtain closes on this 2014 election cycle, the most significant thing we may learn is not who will occupy the governor’s office or control the legislature, but who is trying to control education.
A hint– it ain’t the folks who send their children off on a big, yellow school bus each morning.  Rather, it’s millionaires who don’t know Red Bay from Red Level and have taken it upon themselves to dictate what happens to neighborhood schools all across the country.
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Bentley Announces that Alabama Will Open Red Snapper Season in State Waters Every Weekend in July

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, June 26 Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division announced in a written statement that Alabama State waters will open for the harvest of red snapper and gray triggerfish on all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in July.

Governor Bentley said, “The state red snapper season will be open during three of the biggest weekends for fishing: The Fourth of July weekend, the Roy Martin Dauphin Island Young Anglers Tournament and the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.  Red snapper fishing is popular along the Alabama Gulf Coast, and the extra fishing days are good for the Gulf Coast economy. I welcome fishermen to take advantage of the additional opportunities for red snapper fishing in our waters.”
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Action Needed to Lower Energy Costs

Bradley Byrne

By Representative Bradley Byrne (AL-1)

Actions always speak louder than words. President Obama has talked a lot about lowering energy costs, but in reality his policies only make things worse. From shutting off land for energy production to his continued stalling on construction of the Keystone Pipeline to his self-declared war on coal, President Obama’s energy policies are hitting families where it hurts: their pocketbook.

As the summer months draw on, we are all experiencing the pain at the pump. Today, gas prices are double what they were when President Obama took office. Around the Gulf Coast, we feel the squeeze not only on our pocketbooks when we put gas in our cars, but higher gas prices also reduce the bottom line for many of our tourism-driven businesses.
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Study Shows Significant Reduction in Uncompensated Care in Expansion States

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—A recent study by the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) found that states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, saw a 30 percent decrease in uncompensated care.

“Uncompensated care is the total amount of health care services… provided to patients who are either unable or unwilling to pay. Uncompensated care includes both charity care and bad debt,” according to Apprise Health Insight.
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Hospital Association and Realtors Endorse DeMarco

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

State Representative Paul DeMarco’s campaign got welcome news this week when both RPAC, the political arm of the National Association of REALTORS®, and the Alabama Hospital Association announced that they were endorsing Paul DeMarco’s candidacy in the Republican Primary Runoff to represent Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.

In a prepared statement, Alabama Association of REALTORS® President, Pam Segars-Morris, cited Mr. DeMarco’s hard work on housing issues during his tenure in the Alabama State House as the primary reason for their support.  President Segars- Morris said, “Paul DeMarco has been a strong leader for REALTORS® and homeowners during his tenure as a public servant in Alabama, but particularly as a legislator in the State House. In Congress, I have every confidence Mr. DeMarco will continue to stand up for REALTORS®, homeowners, and private property rights. Mr. DeMarco is exactly the type of person we need representing us in Washington.”
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Shelby Demands Special Prosecutor to Investigate IRS Scandal

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, June 25, 2014 U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama at a hearing on the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s annual report to Congress, stressed the need to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the growing IRS scandal.  Sen Shelby’s comments were made after revelations that the IRS claims to have lost all of disgraced IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails from 2009 through mid-2011, the timeframe during which inappropriate targeting of conservative groups is alleged to have occurred.
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