Connect with us

Bill Britt

A villain still at large

Bill Britt

Published

on

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

October 21 of this year marked the third anniversary of former Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard’s indictment on 23 counts of felony public corruption. The day passed without notice except to wonder about his legacy and to question, “Why is he not in jail?”

Hubbard was found guilty of 12 of the 23 indictments and was sentenced on July 8, 2016, to four years in state prison, eight years probation and ordered to pay a $210,000 fine.

To this day, Hubbard remains free on bond awaiting a ruling on his appeal. Given the state of the criminal appeals court and the state’s supreme court, Hubbard will likely see another anniversary of his indictment before he sees the inside of a state penitentiary.

Lawyers will say there are not two justice systems; one for the rich and connected and another for the poor and friendless. Try telling that to a penniless man convicted of stealing over a million dollars like Hubbard.

Advertisement

What is the legacy of Hubbard’s conviction?

A building on the Auburn University campus still bears his name, as does Mike Hubbard Blvd. Why do the city of Auburn and the university resist erasing its most notorious felon’s name from these sites? Are Hubbard’s friends at the university and city hall afraid of offending him or do they hold out hope that Hubbard will escape justice? His name brings shame and doesn’t deserve to remain on a public road or building paid for with tax dollars. What are Auburn’s board of trustees and the city council thinking?

Perhaps adorning public property with a conman’s name is the least egregious reminder of Hubbard’s corruption.

Efforts to clarify and strengthen ethics laws under the leadership of the attorney general’s office died with the appointment of Steve Marshall by debased former Republican Gov. Robert Bentley. Marshall, a former Democrat appointee of another disgraced governor, Don Siegelman, has accepted campaign contributions from those who would see Hubbard be the last amoral politician convicted under the state’s ethics code. Marshall is also accepting large donations from those who would see Hubbard set free on appeal. Marshall, a thin-skinned neophyte, continues playing with fire while shunning adult advice as he seeks to hold onto a position he doesn’t deserve and is ill-equipped to handle.

Another troubling reminder of Hubbard’s petty rule over state politics lives on in Republican State Rep. Mike Ball’s efforts to reshape state ethics laws to protect dishonest lawmakers like Hubbard. Ball remains chair of the House Ethics Committee. He continues to press the idea that he will use his power as head of ethics committee to pass legislation to alter state ethics laws to favor the corrupt political class.

Ball, a former law-enforcement officer, has for nearly two years falsely accused Special Prosecution Division Chief Matt Hart of criminal activities. Ball continues to claim Hart tried to suppress his political activities. A claim that was soundly rejected by Hubbard’s trial judge, Jacob Walker III.

Ball Claims Political Suppression

Is Ball merely a stooge shilling for Hubbard, or is he actually a deranged troglodyte intent on changing state ethics beyond enforcement?

There was hope that after Hubbard’s conviction the state ethics commission might perform its duty as envisioned at its creation. Instead, select commissioners like Judge Jerry Fielding place political cronyism above the strict interpretation of the laws. So dishonest is the ethics commission that Hart’s team must monitor its every action to keep commissioners from turning it into a wholesale bazaar for political favoritism and special interest lobbying.

There are, however, some bright spots that manifested after Hubbard’s banishment.

One of the most shining examples in the Secretary of State’s Office is Secretary John Merrill, who is leading a revival of good government and accountability. Not only has Merrill and his team brought great efficiency to the office, but he has also worked tirelessly to hold those who abuse campaign finance laws responsible for their actions.

Hubbard’s legacy might well be summarized in a cautionary sermon given by Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925.

“The Seven Social Sins are:

Wealth without work.

Pleasure without conscience.

Knowledge without character.

Commerce without morality.

Science without humanity.

Worship without sacrifice.

Politics without principle.”

Until Hubbard is finally behind bars and his henchmen dispatched from government, there is little hope for a new day in our state.

Of course, wishing, hoping and even sometimes praying is not enough. Good government demands watchers on the wall who, without fear or favor, stand athwart history to call wickedness by its name.

Hubbard, who at this hour remains free, worked to build a government in which he and his cronies could prosper by favoritism; passing laws to enable them to plunder the state, accepting bribes to make them rich while holding hostage every man, woman and child they were elected to serve.

Those of us who believe in what is right and good must remain vigilant to protect against the next Hubbard who will surely come, because villains are always at large.

 

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

Continue Reading

Bill Britt

Opinion | DC’s political pornography keeps voters distracted

Bill Britt

Published

on

While Alabama’s voters breathlessly bask in the bodice-ripper soft porn that is the daily press coverage of the President Donald J. Trump administration here at home, some elected officials are disregarding and dismantling the very laws that Republicans rode to victory in 2010.

Ethics reform and the Fair Campaign Practice Act are under attack, not from Democrats, but by Republicans who control every branch of state government.

Voters, in general, are blinded by the R after a politician’s name because Alabama is considered a Republican state. The jersey seems to matter more than the character of the player who’s wearing it.

Billionaire industrialist and Republican megadonor Charles Koch recently said, “I don’t care what initials are in front or after somebody’s name — I’d like there to be many more politicians who would embrace and have the courage to run on a platform.”

When Republicans ran in 2010, they had a platform. It was pro-business, fiscally conservative with a heavy emphasis on a stringent code of ethics and transparent campaign laws.

Advertisement

Since the indictment of then-Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard in 2014, Republicans have tried to weaken the Ethics Act they championed in 2010. They did it first to help Hubbard, but now in 2018, they want to rewrite the ethics laws to help themselves to the perks of office once enjoyed by Democrats.

Many Republicans don’t want to go back to the Wild West days of lawlessness before 2010, but they remain silent.

Recently, Alabama’s appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted $735,000.00 from a dark money PAC controlled by the Republican Attorney Generals Association in violation of the state’s FCPA ban on PAC-to PAC transfers, but Republicans lawmakers haven’t uttered a word.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s campaign says she has cleaned up corruption in Montgomery, but within sight of her office, a so-called Ethics Review and Clarification Committee is rewriting the ethics laws to include allowing a public official to solicit things from a lobbyist.

A template for strengthening and clarifying the ethics laws was written under the watchful eye of the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Unit. But the committee that is rewriting the ethics laws didn’t even use that plan as a starting point. Instead, they decided to arbitrarily let associations and the Alabama Legislative Services Agency undertake a wholesale rewrite.

Why?

The reality is – far too many public officials don’t want to be policed or held accountable.

As for the money Marshall received in violation of FCPA, he says there’s a loophole.

However, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September 2016, found the 2010 Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) made it “unlawful for any political action committee … to make a contribution, expenditure, or any other transfer of funds to any other political action committee.” The only exception to the rule is that a PAC can donate to a PAC set up by a candidate, but full disclosure is required by both parties.

Also in 2016, a Lee County Jury found that Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation ethics laws worked when it convicted Hubbard.

What has changed since 2010? The Republican supermajority has found that running on ethics reform and campaign transparency sounds good, but trying to live by the law isn’t as easy as talking about it.

Frankly, the citizens should care more about integrity than initials, but for the most part, they don’t even know what is happening in their own backyard. The seduction of 24-hour cable news has left most voters knowing everything about the hookers in D.C. and nothing about the pimps in Montgomery.

 

Continue Reading

Bill Britt

Opinion | Only one candidate skipped debates; he had something to hide

Bill Britt

Published

on

Only once in the last two decades has an Alabama candidate for governor refused to debate their opponent, and he had something to hide.

Gov. Ivey plans to be the second Republican gubernatorial candidate in a generation to dodge debating her Democrat opponent. Why?

Every four years, since at least 1998, a Republican and a Democrat have stood on a public stage to debate the merits of being the next governor of Alabama. Disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley is the only exception, dissing Democrat rival Parker Griffith in 2014, saying there was no need to debate. But the real reason Bentley refused to stand on a stage with Griffith was because his campaign staff was worried about what Griffith knew and how he might use it.

Ivey, is doing the same to her Democrat rival Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox that Bentley did to his. Do her campaign operatives have a reason to worry?

When the sordid details of Bentley’s lifestyle and leadership were exposed, voters would learn why he wouldn’t debate Griffith. What if Griffith had raised those questions during a debate? Could the state have been spared the embarrassment of another foolish, inept and cruel governor being chased from office?

Advertisement

Gov. Ivey is not a weakling like Bentley; she is experienced, battle-tested and by all accounts ready to lead. So why all the silly excuses for not facing Maddox one-on-one?

Recently, Gov. Ivey said that only the media and her opponent care about debates. She also said she saw no need to debate Maddox until he stopped debating himself.

This notion that Maddox is somehow wishy-washy merely is not right, and no matter what her campaign staff tells her, repeating this nonsense makes the governor look foolish and weak, not clever or strong.

Gov. Ivey is right that the vast majority of eligible voters do not care about debates, they also don’t care enough to vote. Even a majority of registered voters aren’t concerned about her positions versus Maddox because come November they won’t vote either. Also among the small minority that will go to the polls on Election Day, a majority of those voters may not care about what they might see or hear in a side-by-side appearance. But there are a few who care a lot, care deeply because they are the ones who must be the eyes and ears of those too busy or too lazy to bother. And yes, that’s the media.

Many in the media thought there were severe problems in the Bentley administration during his 2014 reelection bid. But solid proof about Bentley’s antics was challenging to check out because his staff was doing an excellent job of keeping a blanket over the mischief that was going on behind Wanda’s desk.

No such suspicions surround Gov. Ivey. Oh, there are questions about her health, which she said is fine. There are worries about the number of former Gov. Bob Riley’s cronies on her staff and in her cabinet, but there are no grave concerns about personal corruption as with Bentley.

If things hold, Gov. Ivey will be elected in the coming general election by a wide margin.

Most likely, her campaign is worried that a debate may produce a gaffe that might raise questions, that is always a risk in any live performance.

But for the good of the state and to assure the voters, and yes, the media, that she is still ready to serve, Ivey should stand shoulder to shoulder with her Democrat opponent and answer a few questions.

Enough already with the ribbon cuttings and seven-minute press outings, the voters deserve better, and Gov. Ivey is better. Over the last 20 years, only Bentley ducked debates, and thank goodness Gov. Ivey is not Robert Bentley.

Continue Reading

Bill Britt

Opinion | Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals fails

Bill Britt

Published

on

The shocking failure of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to rule on former Speaker Mike Hubbard’s felony conviction is a travesty of justice.

Here, the legal maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied” applies to the people of Alabama.

When Hubbard was indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison, these acts were carried out in the name of The People of Alabama. It is the people who are being denied justice by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Justices Samuel Henry Welch, J. Elizabeth Kellum, Liles C. Burke and J. Michael Joiner continue to refuse to carry out their sworn duty by letting Hubbard’s appeal languish in a legal limbo because they lack the political courage to act.

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is most commonly attributed to former British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone. The idea is that if legal redress is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no remedy at all.

Hubbard’s crimes were against the citizens of the state, not the Ethics Commission, Attorney General’s Office or some arbitrary third part; he committed acts that harmed the state, therefore his crimes injured the people.

Advertisement

Why Justices Welch, Kellum, Burke and Joiner choose to rob the state’s citizens of their right to justice is beyond comprehension unless it’s viewed through a very narrow lens of self-serving political interests.

Hubbard’s appeal is thought to be in the hands of Justice Welch. He was elected to the court on Nov. 7, 2006, and his current term expires on Jan. 13, 2019. Is Welch a lame duck justice who is biding his time to hand the case over to someone else to avoid offending the moneyed and political class still pushing for Hubbard’s acquittal?

Justice Burke is expected to receive a federal judgeship, but how can the U.S. Senate approve the appointment of a man who lacks the leadership to guide his fellow judges to a conclusion in the Hubbard case? Burke says it’s not his case, but is he incapable of motivating his colleagues to complete the court’s business?

Court spokesperson Micheal Scott continues to say the court is working on the matter, but just how much time must pass before the people lose confidence in the process?

Yes, Hubbard’s attorney’s filed numerous motions, and it was a lengthy trial, but as several legal minds have noted – Hubbard’s appeal has gone far beyond any reasonable time for a ruling to have been handed down by the court.

Well into the second year of Hubbard’s appeal on 12 felony counts of violating the state Ethics Act, and Welch, Kellum, Burke and Joiner deny the people justice.

The only conclusion that makes any sense is that the Court of Criminal Appeals is waiting for a politically convenient moment to set Hubbard free.

And then, once again, the courts of Alabama deny the people justice.

Continue Reading

Bill Britt

Opinion | Civil trial will spotlight Bentley’s shame

Bill Britt

Published

on

To date, the state has spent at least an estimated $300,000.00 defending former Gov. Robert Bentley, and the meter is still running on the legal tab in the wrongful termination civil suit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier. There are currently three lawsuits in which Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration is defending Bentley.

In campaign commercials, Gov. Ivey claims she cleaned up Bentley’s mess, but still her administration continues to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect him. Far from putting an end to Bentley’s shameful chapter in state history, the Ivey administration’s lawyers are fighting to preserve Bentley’s image while denying Collier the compensation he deserves.

If Collier’s lawsuit goes to court, the state will not only suffer a humiliating defeat, but Bentley’s abuse of power, his sordid acts of moral turpitude and his arrogance in the face of facts will once again dominate headlines across the state and nation.

Imagine how Bentley’s tale of how he became involved with married aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason will play with a jury and late night talkshow hosts.

“I recognized in Rebekah things that I couldn’t find in Montgomery… Rebekah was one that I could trust; I could totally trust her. I could tell her things that I could not tell anybody else,” recalled Bentley under oath. “So because of the development of the friendship, and I felt safe with her, I felt comfortable with her when we would be together and talk; and, you know, with the closeness that developed, an affection
developed.” Bentley goes on and on, “I may still have not seen her but two or three times a week; but when she would come, you know, she would come. I would embrace her; I would kiss her because we really cared about each other.”

Advertisement

According to Bentley, they still enjoy a special non-sexual love affair while she works for him at his Tuscaloosa clinic where he pays Mason $5,000.00 a month as office manager. Mason is also the beneficiary on his life insurance policy.

Collier’s case revolves around his claim of unlawful termination. Collier was fired from his position at ALEA after he refused Bentley’s order to lie in an affidavit to the court in former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s trial. After his firing, Bentley’s paramour, Mason and Collier’s replacement, Stan Stabler, launched a smear campaign against him that, with the Ivey administration’s assistance, still exists today.

In a nearly six-hour deposition, Bentley admits to most of the allegations brought by Collier, except he blames Stabler for the dirty deeds.

Along the way, the Ivey administration’s lawyers have sought to smear Collier’s reputation, belittle him in a continuation of Bentley’s terrible legacy of abuse.

Anyone with half a brain realizes that Bentley fired Collier for doing his job. Anyone with half a heart knows what Bentley did was wrong and Collier should be compensated.

Now, why the Ivey administration can’t understand this is beyond comprehension.

Perhaps Gov. Ivey should watch Bentley’s deposition. She’ll be embarrassed, but that’s what’s coming to a courtroom and late night TV shows should the Collier case go to trial.

 

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

A villain still at large

by Bill Britt Read Time: 4 min
0