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Last updateFri, 17 Apr 2015 7am

Editorials

Are They All The Same?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Opinion

We hear it all the time: “They're all the same.” That is what people say about Democratic and Republican politicians. Here in Alabama, most people have recently begun to vote Republican to a large degree, because they don’t like the President; but they still believe that all politicians are alike.

So, when Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is charged by the State with 23 Felony counts of public corruption, people just shake their heads thinking, “They’re all the same.”

Now, if Republican lawmakers had called for Hubbard to step down from his leadership position, and even more so, if he had been forced to leave the House altogether, then people might have said, “Hmm, I guess those Republicans are different.” But, no one did and so the collective wisdom of the people is proven right:

“They're all the same.”

When Hubbard and the Republicans of Alabama released their “Handshake with Alabama” in August 2010, they promised, among other things, to, “End[ing] Corruption in Montgomery.” Instead of ending it as promised since April 2014, four legislators have been arrested and one has had to resign in disgrace.

In the “Handshake” promise, they reminded voters that, “Democrats have held the majority in Montgomery for 136 years, and during that time, they created an atmosphere that breeds corruption and encourages graft. The recent criminal convictions of numerous Democratic legislators and other Democratic officials provides ample evidence of that fact.”

What does Hubbard’s arrest and indictment provide ample evidence of?

They're all the same.

In the "Handshake" memo that originated from Hubbard’s office, the Republicans say that they would no longer tolerate, “legislators and other public officials…holding questionable contracts with government agencies and those wishing to do business with the State.”

Most of the Felony counts against Hubbard are related to holding questionable contracts and representing those wishing to do business with the State. Yet, when Hubbard is charged with these offenses, not a word is heard from Republican lawmakers. This again leads people to believe, “They're all the same.”

The editorial board of the Dothan Eagle said it succinctly:

"Hubbard is considered innocent until proved guilty in court. However, we cannot forget that Hubbard crafted an attack on what he called 'a culture of corruption in Montgomery' to lead a sweeping GOP takeover of the legislature four years ago, wrestling control from Democrats who had held the majority for more than a century. Considering that he now stands accused of the same sort of corruption he used as a springboard to power, it’s reasonable to conclude that his ability to effectively lead our State’s governing body would be undermined by both his circumstances and the distraction of his defense preparations.”

(See article here.)

The Eagle also says that for Republican legislator to allow him to remain in his position, “suggests that the perception of corruption is immaterial, which erodes public confidence in the prospect of a productive upcoming session.”

Sadly, the Dothan Eagle is the only publication, other than the Alabama Political Reporter, to call on the State’s lawmakers, to do what is right and remove Hubbard. Where is the Anniston Star, the Decatur Daily, the Gadsden Times, Montgomery Advertiser or AL.Com?

If Republican lawmakers will not stand up to corruption within their ranks, should not at the very least, the fourth estate call them to answer? Since when are editorial boards silent in the face of such blatant disregard for the people's House? The State House does not belong to Hubbard or the Republican Party, it belongs to the citizens of Alabama.

More than once, Republican lawmakers have said they are biding their time to allow the courts to deal with the Hubbard situation. That is a coward’s stance, proving they're all the same.

In the "Handshake with Alabama," Hubbard said, “When you look someone in the eye, give them your word and shake their hand, you make a bond. This Handshake Agenda is our bond with the voters of Alabama, and if Republicans are successful in taking over the Legislature, these are the items we will immediately work to pass.”

The voters gave Hubbard the chance and he failed them. Completely.

But, not all Republicans are the same, but you can't tell that from their actions. The State heard the Republican “Handshake promise” and they believed it. But, as any honest person knows, deeds, not words, are the proof of promise.

So, by leaving Hubbard to run the State, the Republicans have left the people with an example of how they are all the same.

There is time to change that perception, but the clock is ticking.

 

Hubbard Business Interests Real Winners in Fundraising Efforts?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, has been busy raising campaign cash. The latest FCPA reports show that his personal campaign account raised $89,000.00 in September, while his political action committee, Storming the State House PAC, brought in $22,400.00. Storm PAC has shown an anemic ability to raise funds over the last year, due in part to the growing public corruption probe that has cast a shadow over Hubbard’s future.

(See disclosure)

On September 4, Hubbard held a pricy fundraiser to replenish the empty coffers of Storm PAC. Much of the new money raised came from that event.

(See article)

One of the major contributors to Hubbard’s PAC was Software Technology, Inc. (STI) who, in August, announced a partnership with the Alabama Department of Education to provide technology to “enhance school culture by noting and rewarding positive behavior of students…through a program called “Learning Earnings.”

(See article)

Also Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton,  personal injury attorneys, gave Storm PAC a substantial contribution.  A list of usual contributors also includes the Realtors Association, ALFA and Clark Richardson.

The PAC listed $33,941.28 in expenses with most of the money going to the campaigns of Representative Lesley Vance, Tommy Hanes, Nathaniel Ledbetter, and Bob Fincher.

Hubbard’s personal campaign account faired much better than Storm PAC by raising almost $90,000 in cash. Hubbard’s contributors are a whose who of special interests with business before the State Legislature. BCA’s Progress PAC,  Forest PAC and the Builders PAC being the heaviest hitters.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Hubbard's business interests were at the top of expenditures for his campaign fund, with Auburn Network and Craftmaster Printers, Inc., taking $30,741.26 of the 56,996.18 in expenditures.

(See disclosure)

Hubbard faces little opposition in his quest for reelection, however, the ever present specter of the Lee County Grand Jury hangs menacingly over his head.

 

Hubbard To Use “Pledge” To Retain Speaker's Seat Even If Indicted

 

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter  

MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has called a Caucus meeting for Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. in Montgomery.

According to a Caucus email obtained by the Alabama Political Reporter, the stated purpose of the meeting is to “determine, by a vote of the Caucus, our nominees for leadership positions and operating Rules for the upcoming quadrennium.”

The actual, underlying reason for the meeting is that Hubbard is terrified that he will be defeated as Speaker. In 2010, before winning the House, the Republican caucus decided to institute a “pledge” whereby leadership positions were determined by a vote in the caucus, which could not be changed when it came time for the actual process on the House floor.

When the “pledge” was instituted into the process Hubbard and his fellow House Republicans thought they would gain control of the House, but did not realize that they would have a supermajority.  The reason for the “pledge” was to keep Democrats from having any say as to who would be elected Speaker or any other positions. However, by creating a supermajority, the need for the “pledge” was not really necessary.

But now, Hubbard wants to use the “pledge” to ensure that his fellow Republicans can’t vote against him as Speaker.

Hubbard is counting on not being indicted before the elections, with the idea of being elected Speaker before he faces any criminal charges. Hubbard could then hold the “pledge” over his caucus member’s heads as a way to retain his speaker's seat even after indictments were served.

House members who spoke off the record for fear of retaliation are worried that Hubbard’s plan might work. “This is a diabolical scheme, because if he can pull this off we are almost trapped into keeping him as speaker, even while he faces criminal charges.”

Another Legislator says he thinks that the “pledge” would and should be void if Hubbard is in fact charged with committing crimes and using his office for personal gain. “After what the caucus did to Scott [Beason], it would be silly to think we would have to elect Mike, even if he is indicted.”

Many republicans have grown weary of Hubbard’s leadership and the impending threat of indictments and they are forming their own coalition to oust Hubbard from leadership. “If he is indicted he must step-down or be removed, said a long-serving republican House member, we cannot have an indicted Speaker, it is unacceptable.” 

See email below: 

 

Re: Important Caucus Meeting

All elected Republican Members of the Alabama House of Representatives will meet on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. in Montgomery.

The purpose of this meeting will be to determine, by a vote of the Caucus, our nominees for leadership positions and operating Rules for the upcoming quadrennium. Since there will be a brand new legislature elected on November 4, it is imperative that we make decisions on our leadership and organization so that there will be no lack of direction as we head into the Legislative Orientation in December as well as the constitutionally-mandated Organizational Session in January.

Please mark this date on your calendar and if you are successful on Election Day, make certain that you attend this meeting.

The location of the meeting will be determined closer to the date.

Lunch will be served.

 

Hubbard “Obsessed” with $200K Renovation of Committee Room

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—A cavernous room just off the Washington St. entrance to the State House is receiving a six figure facelift on orders from Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

“He is obsessed with renovating that room,” said a State House insider who asked to not be publicly identified in this report. The over $200,000 that is being spent to renovate room 200 comes from a 2006 Bond Issue according to the State’s Finance Department.

Under the Republican lead legislature, to date, over $2 million has been spent to refurbish the State House. The building is now replete with granite-topped tables, expensive leather chairs and faux marble flooring.

The stated purpose for the expensive renovation of room 200, is to offer the legislature a new joint conference committee meeting room. The Legislative Building Authority, which is overseeing the project, has justified the expenditure by saying that many conference committee meetings spill out into the halls due to the number of people wanting to witness the proceedings. Most of those attending conference committees are in fact lobbyists and not concerned Alabama citizens.  In a time of financial crisis, this is just the latest in lavish spending for the comfort of lawmakers and lobbyists.

Beyond the new carpet, faux marble and expensive chairs for the State House,  the Senate chamber is receiving a $200,000 facelift with new hickory desks custom built by State inmates at J.F. Ingram State Technical College in Deatsville.

The renovation of room 200 and the Senate facelift combined will cost State taxpayer around $500,000, at a time when budget shortfalls are estimated at well over $100 million for the coming fiscal year.

This is just the latest spending spree by the Republican Supermajority. (See Article: Hubbard Furnishes Luxury Cloakroom for Legislators at Taxpayer Expense)

During the 2013 legislative session, Hubbard authorized tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to paint and furnish a "cloakroom" for legislators to "relax in" on the fourth floor of the State House.

Information gathered from the Legislative Building Authority shows that Hubbard spent over $30,000.00 on furniture, paint and carpeting for room 402. This does not include built-in-bookshelves, a full kitchen or other amenities and construction costs.

This room, which has never been used, was adorned with expensive furnishings, all with an air of absolute refinement; the likes of which was never seen under the GOP's Democratic predecessors.

There was even a grand, eleven-foot conference table that cost the taxpayers $4,464.00. The hardwood table was surrounded by 20 San Simeon Fabric high-back chair with a price tag of $6,380.00.

Beyond the huge conference table, the opulent space was also decorated with 4 couches costing $6,166.00, chairs and a love seat priced at $6,537.00 and tables, et cetera at $3,051.00.

All this occurring while the State was forced to borrow $437 million from the gas and oil trust fund.

After this publication made its report on Hubbard’s cloakroom, the project was abandoned and some of the furniture was sold.

Speaker Hubbard has wildly expanded State spending on the trappings of power adorning his own office with new carpet, new paint and $2000 in silk plants at taxpayer expense. The Speaker’s suite is also outfitted with multiple flat-screen televisions, one completely dedicated to a continuous rotation of pictures featuring Hubbard with political dignitaries. The Speaker routinely travels with an entourage and personal body guard, many times in two black SUV’s with tinted windows. It is the Speaker's privilege to be provided a State employee for protection; however, few have ever accepted such a high level of security. (See Hubbard Wildly Increases Spending in Speaker's Office)

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh does not use a security person or State vehicle, which would be his privilege as well.

Once again, Hubbard is using his power as Speaker to spend more taxpayer money on luxurious vanity projects.

 

Hubbard Doesn’t Have 9 of 9 Justices In His Pocket

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Friday’s ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court to deny Rep. Barry Moore’s writ of mandamus sent a bold message to the corrupt elite of State politics, “No you don’t have 9 of 9 Justices in your pocket.” In its unanimous decision the court rejected politics and allowed the criminal justice system to move forward, unhindered by partisan politics.

Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorney, J. Mark White, took to the pages of al.com to once again try and spin his losing argument that W. Van Davis and Matt Hart were not lawfully endowed with the power to act in the investigation of Hubbard and others criminal activities.

Hubbard's white collar criminal defense attorney issued a statement saying, “By denying Rep. Moore's petition without opinion, today's ruling leaves unanswered, the fundamental constitutional questions Rep. Moore raised. Those questions remain for another day.”

White’s statement that the court left questions unanswered is either delusional or disingenuous or both. The court’s ruling could not have been clearer: They rejected Moore’s argument completely.

White’s stratagem (not Rep. Moore’s attorney Bill Baxley) to have the case dismissed on the grounds that Attorney General Luther Strange did not have the authority to appoint Davis, was a flawed effort, that depended on the court ruling according to political persuasion and not in accordance with State statute. But White, like his client Hubbard, thinks the courts are tools that can be bent to the will of the well-connected crook.

The Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roy Moore, executed justice, while showing judicial restraint in its simple denial of Rep. Moore’s writ. An opinion was not necessary nor warranted.

But from the beginning, White has carried out a plan to spin Hubbard’s innocence. White’s method is to backslap or bully his way around the media and even the courts. This is his standard operating procedure, which fits nicely with his client's own modus operandi. White is not a trial lawyer, he is a fixer.

The days leading up to the court’s ruling were filled with an abundance of rumors. The most gratuitous was that the fix was in because former Gov. Bob Riley had convinced the court to rule in Rep. Moore’s favor and by extension, quash any pending indictments against Hubbard.

One of the more common rumors wafting like so much dung stench from Goat Hill, was that Davis and Hart had made a deal with Riley and Hubbard to drop the investigation, “for the good the the Republican party.”

Most of the rumors had more to do with the fact that Hubbard was hosting a pricey fundraiser last week than any actual truth about the investigation.

The aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling has generated an atmosphere of jubilation and fear.

The most absurd spin coming from Hubbard loyalists is that Hubbard and Moore were betrayed because White and Baxley are Democrats. The other gem is that the court’s ruling was just the latest in a political battle between warring factions of the Republican party. The fact is that the court did their duty, before the law and the people of this State.

Rep. Moore’s trial is set for September 15, but it is believed that his attorneys will file for a continuance, and that it will most likely be granted.

Even naysayers now believe that Hubbard and others will be indicted, something this publication has predicted all along.

A quote attributed to both Bert Masterson and Earl Wilson states, "Somebody recently figured out that we have 35 million laws to enforce the Ten Commandments.”

It appears the Ten are still present in the court led by Chief Justice Roy Moore.

 

Hart Says Moore’s Attorneys Pinned Hopes On “Hail Mary” Defense

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—On Wednesday, indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, was granted a continuance in his felony perjury case.  Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III granted Moore’s request and has rescheduled his trial for October 27, just seven days before the State’s general election.

During the hearing, Moore’s attorney, Bill Baxley, restated many points of his argument that were rejected by Judge Walker in May and by the Alabama Supreme Court earlier in this month.

According the a report by oanews.com, Baxley told Judge Walker that, “We’re not able to adequately represent our client with the State’s discovery at this time, your Honor.”

In a legal strategy designed by Speaker Mike Hubbard’s white collar criminal defense attorney J. Mark White, the Moore attorneys filed a motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds that Attorney General Luther Strange did not have the authority to appoint supernumerary District Attorney W. Van Davis to represent him in the Grand Jury investigation into possible criminal activities of Hubbard and others.

Answering Baxley’s statement, that he had not had time to prepare for the case, Matt Hart, Chief of the AG’s Special White Collar Crimes Division said, “I think they were pinning their hopes on a 'Hail Mary' without prepping, apparently.”

Judge Walker has not been moved by Baxley’s previous arguments, but is operating his court by the strict letter of Alabama law.

Despite the fact that the prosecutors have turned over all available evidence found in discovery, Baxley continued to request more.

Baxley also made the argument that they need additional time to contact Hubbard, who is “intimately involved” in the case. To this Hart said, “They could pick up a phone and call him, but that’s their issue.” While granting the motion to continue courtroom observers suggested, that Judge Walker did not seem amused with Baxley stalling tactics.

Moore is charged with “knowingly making a materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation, in his answer” to the Lee County Grand Jury. The State has filed two felony complaints of perjury and two felony complaints of making false statements.

These charges are a result of Moore Grand Jury testimony in which he denies making threatening statements to his republican primary opponent Josh Pipkin. However, Pipkin recorded his conversations with Moore and those tapes were in the procession of the prosecution at the time of Moore’s testimony.

The Alabama Political Reporter was the first news organization to reveal the content of these tapes in March of this year. (See link here)

APR was also the first to publish the audio of Moore and Pipkin's conversation. (See audio here)

Over the course of several months, Hubbard and Moore met with various influential individuals in Enterprise, making it absolutely clear that they were determined to kill the new jobs coming to the city if Pipkin would not relinquish the race to Moore. If the deal fell through, the backup plan for EEC’s expansion was to relocate the facility to Oklahoma, a blow to the entire Alabama economy, not just Enterprise and Coffee Counties.

In the audio recording Moore can be heard telling Pipkin, “"I'm waiting to meet with the Speaker... I don't want to put the Australians [EEC] off too long so either way I've got to meet with Mike (Hubbard) this week. This deal is too important to our city. I know some think I have nothing to do with it but they are very wrong. Mike controls this deal and my relationship with him has everything to do with it. Relationships in politics are everything. And Mike is very loyal to his friends. He just is."

In another statement, Moore responded to a question about whether he and Hubbard were going to kill the jobs deal if Pipkin refused to abandon his race. Moore responded, "I got a meeting with the Speaker and he is furious… At the end of the day, yeah, because we were fixin' to land a pretty good deal, and there's a lot at stake, I can assure you, for our City and our community." Moore later told Pipkin, "If you'll give me your word that you'll get out, when I meet with him [Hubbard] next week, I'll tell him... he's going to get out, so we need this deal for him to stay out, but I need your word on that. And I'll talk with the Speaker.”

He also told Pipkin, that Hubbard, “I will bring Holy Hell down on [Pipkin] him,” if he did not get out of the primary race against Moore.

Moore actually won the Republican primary.

Moore’s trial is excepted to last two days and many defense attorneys have told this publication that it should be a slam-dunk for the State. Moore faces up to 60 years in a State prison if convicted.

 

Legislating Morality, Yes, We do That

By Bill Britt

Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Our country was founded primarily by two groups of people, those desiring religious freedom and those wanting to make a fortune.

The Declaration of Independence lays out our cause of freedom with lofty ideals for mere mortals, encapsulating the American soul with, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Like all great writers, Thomas Jefferson stole the idea and phrasing from John Locke.

Locke’s then radical view that government is morally obliged to serve people, namely by protecting life, liberty, and property became the bedrock of our nation's founding principles.

However, our nation has never fully lived up to this noble goal but we try in-spite of ourselves.

The questions never said very loudly is whose life, how much liberty and what property?

Thus, capitalism and religion have always had an uneasy relationship. One works on the bases of self-interest, materialism and even greed and covetousness.

The other is best practiced with love, self-sacrifice, charity and humility among other more noble principles.

While, in conflict on occasions, it is something our country as worked out over time but still does divide us on some very thorny issue. 

Over the last few weeks the State of Alabama has received some very good news on the economic development front. In Mobile, Airbus will be building a huge facility to employ around 1,000 people and in Wetumpka the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) broke ground on a new hotel and casino that will employ another 1,000 Alabamians.

The Airbus became the jewel in the crown of every politician that could get a headline or face time on TV. And it is something the state should crow about.

But for the PCI and the great opportunity for economic development they are providing, not many cheerleaders.

It is obvious that the PCI project is not politically popular because it involves gambling. That is understandable given the feeling of most of our citizens about games of chance.

However, there is polling data that points out that most Alabamians support or do not oppose gaming. These are private opinions not often vocalized too loudly.

I am certainly no fan of gaming but I also know that I live in the United States of America and that according to our founding principles, Americans should be free to throw away their money anyway they choose.

Is there a special place in hell for someone who spends the baby’s milk money on gambling? Probably not but maybe there should be.

Of course, the government can legislate morality, and does—-more so than anyone wants to admit.

As a matter of fact most of the big disagreements among our citizens is about what is moral and how to legislate it.

Drugs, drinking, gambling, who you can sleep with, these are all things we try to control with laws. The war on drugs is a policy born of legislation to regulate behavior, ergo, morality.

Many counties in our state do not let you buy alcohol on Sunday, ostensibly not because of someone like me who is going to be in church on Sunday but for those who are not. But maybe it is also to make sure the deacon shows up on time.

It is again legislation aimed at a desired moral effect.

During the past legislative session almost an entire legislative day was spent discussing what size of beer bottle should be legal in Alabama. Is this a thing we should spend so much time worrying about? Even the worst alcoholics I’ve known knew what amount of booze it took for them to reach the desire state of oblivion.

I worry that politics so greatly out weighs common sense that we can’t see the flaws in our logic.

Like most Alabamians I have witnessed first hand the devastation that comes from alcoholism, drug addiction and all manner of sins.

My older bother was murdered in a drug deal gone bad. I closed the lid on my brothers coffin, gave his eulogy as I looked into the tearless, vacant eyes of our mother.

Yes, I too know what harvest sin bares.

I am not advocating we do not try to legislate some morality but we should try to be intellectually honest.

Heaven forbid a politician with statewide ambitions should be seen as supportive of gambling or that those who run for office saying they would like to see and up or down vote on gaming keep to their campaign rhetoric.

For me what the PCI is doing is capitalism at work, they sell entertainment, in the form of gaming, people who want it buy it those who don’t will not. Is it all good, no, is it all bad, probably not.

But that pesky “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” does get in the way sometimes, and our constitution, it has so many instances that limit government that for almost the first one hundred years of our nation, we couldn’t figure out how to legislate much in the way of moral behavior. But then came the startling revelation that the Commerce Clause gave the Congress almost complete control over every aspect of American life.

But Chief Justice John Roberts in his recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act may have put a nail in the coffin of the dread Commerce Clause.

Like many of the nation’s founders I am in favor of religious freedom and getting out of the way of people who want to make a fortune. But I am also in favor of freedom from religion and prosecuting those who make their fortune dishonestly.

In 1656, John Locke wrote a letter expressing his approval of restrictions the government had placed on Quakers-—whom he called “mad folks.” Locke welcomed the restoration of the Stuart monarchy and wrote eloquently defending the prerogative of government to enforce religious conformity.

So much for the hero of life, liberty and all that jazz.

Unfortunately, It always comes down to whose life, what liberties and who gets the money.

 

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