28 Jul 2015
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
What are we to make of the fact that Alabama ranks in the top ten for being one of the most religious states, as well as being near the top in public corruption?
Alabama State government is like a sanctuary city for moral turpitude, a safe haven where the guilty are free from punishment; as long as you are in public office.
Mike Hubbard has been indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption, but he still sits as Speaker of the House.
Sen. Tom Whatley was arrested after Auburn police witnessed him beating his girlfriend, but the charges were dropped.
Rep. Barry Moore was reelected after being charged with lying to a Grand Jury. He was later acquitted.
Sen. Cam Ward was arrested for a DUI, even admitting that he was over double the legal alcohol limit in the middle of the day, and yet, he will keep all of his committee chairmanships.
This is not to say that there should not be forgiveness, or that an appearance of wrong doing should always be harshly punished. But, if there are no negative consequences for one class and sometimes harsh consequences for another, it is a threat to everyone's liberty and equality.
Today, our State officials are treated like little princes, especially if they are Republican.
Politicians ask for us to give them the power to represent us. They asked that we trust them to make decisions that affect our money, property, our liberty and happiness.
All members of the legislature, and all officers, executive and judicial make they following oath, "I, ..., solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Alabama, so long as I continue a citizen thereof; and that I will faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, to the best of my ability. So help me God."
In exchange for the authority to represent us in all matters before our government they have promised to act responsibly on our behalf, following the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Alabama, to the best of their ability. When they fall short we have a right to hold them accountable to a higher standard because they have broken trust with us. But this is not the case with this current political class. There is a lack honor among some of our lawmakers, yet this is an especially vital element for those in public service.
Our country was founded by men who deemed honor a virtue, which meant freedom from corruption, and a devotion to public service. The Declaration of Independence concludes with these words: "We pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
They did not say their lives or fortunes were sacred, only their honor.
The West Point Cadet Honor Code is a simple, but powerful:
"A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”
It would seem that our State government no longer follows a code of honor. And, if they still have one, it's safe to assume that they do not understand what a code of honor means. This atmosphere, which is so lacking in personal integrity, is what has allowed public corruption to be tolerated and to thrive.
Former Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been quoted as saying,
“Undoubtedly, the most harmful consequence of endemic, public corruption in a community, is the apathy that it engenders – the culture of acceptance.”
Recently, Hubbard’s legal team signaled it will challenge the constitutionality of the State’s ethics laws, championed not only by Hubbard, but the entire Republican supermajority, and its party heads.
After learning that Hubbard will seek to have these ethics laws declared unconstitutional, I reached out to a number of lawmakers, and asked this question:
“Do you think the ethics laws passed in the 2010 Special Session were unconstitutional? Of those who replied, two answers distill the gamut of responses.
Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), who, as a State Representative in 2010, helped shepherd the ethics laws through the Special Session, wrote in his reply, “For the record: I believe the procedure was exactly as prescribed by the Rules, and every bill will pass/survive judicial muster.”
Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), who has taken up the cause of ethics, and campaign finance reform, would say the following: “We have to see the specific arguments being made as to unconstitutionality.”
In 2004, the National Bureau of Economic Research commissioned studies on public corruption. In a working paper on Corruption in America, Edward L. Glaeser and Raven E. Saks found, using empirical data that, “More educated states, and to a less degree, richer states, have less corruption." Looking at federal corruption convictions they found, “There is no empirical link between bigger government, or more regulation, and more corruption.”
Perhaps this is a chicken-and-egg situation. Alabama ranks high in poverty, and low in education. But, is this a result of public corruption, and not why corruption is rampant and tolerated?
Republicans who promised to clean-up the culture of corruption in Montgomery, now ignore it because members of their team are the ones accused of breaking the law. This is not simply apathy or the culture of acceptance, it is a willful disregard of facts in favor of faction.
Those who put the Republican Party before principle don’t deserve the badge of Republican, or to be labeled principled.
Perhaps, in their defense, they just do not understand what public corruption actually is?
Then, let me speak plainly: public corruption is when a public official breaks the rules.
If the rules says you can’t be paid to place 23 words in the Medicaid budget, and that you can’t vote on bills that personally profit you. When that occurs, the rules have been broken. When the perpetrator of such an act is indicted, it’s not political, they broke the rules. If the rules say you can’t beat your partner, drink and drive, or except lavish perks from lobbyists, then, when you break those rules, there should be consequence.
Where is the public shame that springs from personal honor?
In Montgomery, the rules are seen as malleable, honor subjugated to gain. In the Capitol, rules are easily twisted to gain advantage or to please a particular patron. The rules are also bent to control and consolidate power. We see this all too often, but frequency of abuse doesn’t make it right or acceptable.
Politicians should be held to a higher standard, because they have been elected to represent us. When they act, they act in our name.
Many in our State government proudly proclaim their Christian faith, and we have thousands of laws to make us keep the Ten Commandments. However, when is comes to our politicos, we offer a sanctuary for moral failings.
Of all the aforementioned politicos, only Ward has had the personal integrity to acknowledge his transgression and say he was sorry.
The rest… silence speaks of their honor.
24 Jul 2015
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
It now appears that there is nothing Speaker Mike Hubbard will not sacrifice to save himself from a criminal trial. Hubbard will soon file a motion to challenge the constitutionally of the ethics laws he championed in 2010.
After five years, Hubbard has suddenly realized that the laws he voted for, laws he said would be Gov. Bob Riley's legacy, laws he said would prove that Republicans were different than Democrats, are not constitutional. This is worse than Gov. Robert Bentley after his reelection suddenly realizing the State had financial problems.
Many in the State legislature were outraged that Bentley wanted to raise taxes to solve the problem he had just discovered. Will any lawmaker dare to publicly voice their outrage that Hubbard’s wants to overturn the ethics laws they voted for to save his sorry neck?
Is there a State Senator who will buy a billboard to denounce Hubbard? How many radio talking heads or opinion writers will point out Hubbard’s dishonesty?
If there are any, I will be surprised. Legislators and radio heads are not afraid of Bentley, but they shudder at the shadow, of this sawed-off dictator.
“Because of the laws passed in the  Special Session and proudly signed into law by Governor Riley, Alabama ethics laws are now among the strongest in the nation,” Hubbard proclaimed in his vanity tome, concerning the ethics laws he now hopes will be overturned giving him a "get out of jail free" card on some of the 23 felonies he faces.
He also wrote of those ethics laws, “It is my hope that future historians will say that this was the legislature that brought the reforms Alabama had needed for so long and that fundamentally changed how state government operates… Most voters in Alabama had become used to hearing politicians say one thing on the campaign trail and do something else once elected. That kind of empty rhetoric and broken promises has given Alabamians a serious distrust of state government for decades. We vowed to change that.”
How can a lawmaker look at Hubbard and not see a dishonest man? He is willing to sellout his signature legislation and his promise to the voters, to delay his criminal trial. This is what honest men do, no, this is how crooks operate. Hubbard continues to deny, deflect, and delay, because he knows he is guilty.
Eighteen citizens of Lee County after hearing from over 150 witnesses and seeing thousands of pages of evidence believed that he had committed 23 felony crimes. Most politicos after reading his emails released at the request of his criminal attorney are convinced that Hubbard is a crook, but they are afraid to call him out.
In his book Hubbard wrote, “Alabamians are, after all, not a corrupt people. They are honest, hard-working, God-fearing folks who deserved to have a government that reflected their values.”
Do Hubbard’s actions reflect the values of the people of our State? He says he wants his day in court, but will trample on the ethics laws to avoid it. Of course these are the very laws he is accused of breaking so, why should he care if they are further ground in the dirt?
Hubbard said, “Politically, strengthening the ethics law and providing the Alabama Ethics Commission with some real teeth was a perfect way for this new legislature to set the tone for the quadrennium.”
The tone for this quadrennium is that House members with the exception of Rep. Alvin Holmes reelected a man charged with breaking laws he championed.
If anyone still believes that Hubbard's indictment was a way for Attorney General Luther Strange to clear the field for a run for Governor, or if they believe this is in any way a political prosecution, please for the sake of your family and friends, get help, you are delusional.
Of course, their leader is delusional. He still tells people that things will be different when he is Governor. Let that sink in: Hubbard still thinks he will be Governor of Alabama.
In his book Hubbard wrote, “Ethics was a subject that set Republicans apart from the Democrats… Unfortunately, Alabama had gained a reputation of being a corrupt state, or at least having a corrupt government. That hurt economic development, created cynicism in the minds of the public and, quite simply, was not fair to the citizens and taxpayers of the state.”
Hubbard’s corrupt leadership, indictments, and now his brazen attempt to have the ethics laws overturned for personal gain, is far worse than any act perpetrated by the Democrats.
Is there anyone brave enough to stand up to him, or do we have a government of political cowards? So far it appears the later is true. The Governor, and the legislature want the prosecutors to do what they know they themselves should do, and that is to remove Hubbard from his seat of power.
Hubbard will sacrifice all of them and every man, woman and child in this State to keep his power, and stay out of jail. I for one will not stand by and watch that happen without speaking out.
Those who stand by Hubbard, and those who do not stand for what is right, are on the wrong side of history. Alabama is the only state in the union with a Speaker of the House charged with felony crimes. We are also the only state with a Speaker that wants to have our ethics laws ruled unconstitutional to save his skin.
This is a shame.
We should be better than that.
06 Jul 2015
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, "Politco" contributing editor, Michael Lind postulated that:
“The United States would be much less exceptional in general, and in particular more like other English-speaking democracies such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were it not for the effects on U.S. politics and culture of the American South. I don’t mean this in a good way. A lot of the traits that make the United States exceptional these days are undesirable, like higher violence and less social mobility. Many of these differences can be attributed largely to the South.”
Lind goes on:
“Some deluded Southerners still pine for secession from the Union. Yet no doubt there are also more than a few liberal Northerners who would be happy to see them go. Minus the South, the rest of the U.S. probably would be more like Canada or Australia or Britain or New Zealand—more secular, more socially liberal, more moderate in the tone of its politics and somewhat more generous in social policy.”
I take great exception to his premise.
Speaking as a Southerner, I think the US is already far too secular, too socially liberal, and too moderate in the tone of its politics.
If the South didn't have to put up with the rest of the country, our last presidential general election would not have been between Barack H. Obama and Mitt Romney. Neither of those guys are from here, have ever lived here, and nothing about their message resonates at all here.
Mitt Romney was a New York City financier turned corporate raider turned very bland Massachusetts Governor. He looks far better on a surf board than any man his age ever should and we love his big family, but seriously, the man could not connect with voters. Robert Bentley would run rings around him in a Governor’s Primary in Alabama. Obama is a failed attorney, turned community organizer, turned State Senator who went to DC, who openly dismisses most of us because we cling to our guns and our religion.
This is America. We were founded by people who sacrificed everything for their freedom of religion and we won our independence because thousands of our forefathers were clinging to the guns they used to hunt deer and turkeys and fight Indians. Ultimately they used those guns to drive the British from the southern half of this continent. The rest of the country may have forgotten all of that; but we in the South certainly have not.
A South-Only Presidential Primary might be between: Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Roy Moore, Haley Barbour and Condoleezza Rice. Sen. Jim Webb or Bill Clinton would be very viable here, but Hillary, probably not. There would be room for moderates and liberals; but I can’t see a Romney, a McCain, a Kerry, or an Obama winning anything here.
We in the South still believe that all men, “Are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Maybe that is too “anti-government” for your Northern sensibilities, but down here we view that as just being an American.
It is not like the South has been well treated in this current arrangement. If the South was given the freedom to run its own affairs abortion would have long been illegal and millions of innocent lives would have been spared. There would be no war on coal needlessly driving up our power bills so Obama’s cronies can cash in on alternative energy schemes. We would have negotiated fair trade agreements that didn’t close all our Southern textiles plants. Our kids would still have daily prayers in our schools and moral instruction based on Biblical norms instead of being pumped full of behavior altering drugs and propaganda about immoral lifestyles, while liberal federal jurists prattle on about ‘separation of Church and State.’ We would have most of the military we have today with far fewer foreign entanglements. We would have an immigration policy that is designed to benefit Southerners as a whole not to facilitate demographic changes that liberal in Washington desire so that they win more elections. Laws would be based on Judeo-Christian principles, the last 1,500 years of recorded history, and what it actually says on paper; not whatever 5 unelected jurists thinks it ought to be at this particular minute. Jeff Sessions would be the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court.
A Southern America would be a Christian nation and if Christians are being martyred for their faith in other parts of the world a Southern President would send in force to aid and protect them; not simply ignore it while insulting American Christians with slams about the Crusades or telling us we need to change our religion to fit whatever immoral conduct is presently in fashion with the leftist professors at Cal. Berkeley.
The Southern central government would be a whole lot smaller and your taxes would take about 20 minutes to fill out. There would be no propping up failed ‘Great Society’ social programs that didn’t work 50 years ago and don’t work today and we would have a balanced budget. Everybody would eat, but everybody who can work would work. We would have the NASA facilities in Huntsville, Houston, Louisiana, and Cape Canaveral so American leadership in Space would be a given. We have the best beaches in the world, the best fishing, the finest hunting, and the best cuisine the world has ever seen.
Everybody would have guns and that wouldn't be controversial. There would be no mass shootings in Southern schools because, to ever get a high school diploma in a Southern School you would have to be able to show mastery of the M1 Garand, AR 15, and Kalishnikov AK-47. Attacking a Southern school would be suicidal. Losers like the little punk that shot up the Church in South Carolina would not only get executed without any of the inane appeals that take 20 years and tie up our courts needlessly; but we would do it on live TV and have Rick and Bubba host the show. Southern TV would have a whole lot less porn, a lot more prayer, no Kardashians, and the Dukes of Hazzard would not only still be on cable, but Bo and Luke would still be making new episodes for primetime. Hank Jr., Willie, Alabama, Darius Rucker, Pam Tillis, and Allison Krause would be performing on Southern TV instead of Miley, Kanye, Jayzee, and Justin Beaver (Beiber???).
Hey, if y’all in California and the North want to go be Canada without the polar bears and the good caribou hunting or France minus the art and the cool history go ahead and do it; because I can absolutely guarantee you that there will NEVER be a War of Southern Aggression to make y’all stay!!!
08 Jul 2015
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
“Public corruption poses a fundamental threat to our national security and way of life. It impacts everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected…to verdicts handed down in courts…to the quality of our roads, schools, and other government services. And it takes a significant toll on our pocketbooks, wasting billions in tax dollars every year.”
Because public corruption is so detrimental to our Nation and State, socially as well as morally, it is important to understand how legal and illegal corruption in government is rooted in Asymmetric Information.
Asymmetric Information generally related to economics can be defined as “a situation in which one party in a transaction has more or superior information compared to another. This often happens in transactions where the seller knows more than the buyer, although the reverse can happen as well,” according to Investopedia.
Politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, special interests, and businesses use Asymmetric Information to their advantage in the political arena. Not unlike the car salesman, real estate agent, or doctor, privileged information creates an advantage for one player over another. While the internet has leveled the playing field in many areas, politics still remains a maze of complicated rules, laws, agencies, and hierarchy, that can leave even an astute observer at a decidedly stunning disadvantage.
Hidden information and actions can, and quite often do, actually cause harm to the very citizens the government is sworn to protect. This abuse is seldom discovered without vigilant watchdogs.
The citizens do feel the effects.
In State’s where Asymmetric Information is used to advance private interest over public good, there are tell-tale signs. They generally manifest themselves in quality of life issues. Poor education, limited health services, crumpling infrastructure, and slow economic grow are all signs of government corruption.
In a representative government, citizens elect others to act on their behalf, and then rarely question how that elected official carries out their duty, until something goes terribly wrong.
Meanwhile, hidden information and hidden action used by these representatives often leads to corruption, both legal and illegal.
In the Harvard University study, “Corruption in America Survey,” authors Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston define legal corruption as, “political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”
Illegal corruption is stated as, “private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”
However, under Alabama law, a quid pro quo arrangement doesn’t have to be proven for a politico to run afoul of the law.
There are many examples of how Asymmetric Information is used in politics to benefit a certain group or individual. Here, we will look at two legislative acts that were influenced by hidden information and hidden acts.
Such a case involves the State Insurance Premium tax. An insurance premium tax is the amount of tax paid on a given insurance policy. According to Lexis Nexis, “An insurance premium tax is a form of gross receipts or excise tax; it is not based on profits or earnings, and is not affected by the cost of ceded reinsurance or other expenditures, of an insurer.”
In 1985, the US Supreme Court held that Alabama insurance premium tax system was unconstitutional in Metropolitan Life v. Ward.
Prior to the 1985 ruling, domestic carriers paid a rate of 3.0 percent while out-of-state carriers paid 4.0 percent.
The Court held the State law violated the equal protection clause, and that a State could not charge out-of-state insurance (foreign) companies a higher premium tax than domestic insurance carriers. To address the US Supreme Court ruling, the State passed the Insurance Premium Tax Reform Act of 1993, which set the Premium tax rate at 3.6 on both foreign and domestic carriers.
From 1993 until 1995, the State’s largest insurance business (ALFA) would spend $2.3 million on political campaigns through its two political action committees, according to a 1997 report in the Wall Street Journal.
In 1995, the State legislature passed a new insurance premium tax system that, through a complicated scheme of incentives, would give ALFA a huge advantage over its competition.
According to former Revenue Commissioner under Gov. Bob Riley, and past president of Baldwin Mutual Insurance, Judge Tim Russell, this type of advantage hurt the citizens of the State, as well as companies that would do business here.
“Anytime you have a Premium tax that's not fair to all concerned, you're gonna hurt the citizens of the State, and the companies who can't get that Premium tax,” Russell said.
Data provided from the Department of Insurance reveals that from 2008 to 2013, ALFA would receive over $70.6 million in Premium tax credits from the State.
Other carriers have since learned to take advantage as well, but ALFA’s benefits from the 1995 law are clearly demonstrated by the data.
However, it is important to note that tax credits vary from ALFA’s property and casualty tax of 1.6 percent, to Allstate’s at 3.45 percent, whereas companies like GEICO do not take a tax credit; therefore they pay the maximum of 3.6 percent.
Here is a case, in my opinion, where political contributions led to passage of a set of laws that benefited one particular company over others, while giving one set of customers a benefit at the detriment of others.
A comparison of insurance carriers paints a vivid picture of how Premium tax credits vary between companies. Data provided from the Department of Insurance reveals that from 2008 to 2013, ALFA, and State Farm combined received a total of around $140 million compared to Nationwide, who earned approximately $10 million in premium tax credits or less than 10 percent of the bigger players. From 2008 to 2013, the total for all insurance carriers receiving premium tax credits was $160.2 million.
If one family has ALFA coverage and the other has Nationwide, the one with ALFA will pay less on their premium tax.
Governor Bentley has called this an unfair tax, and had hoped to address this during the 2015 Legislative Session. Bentley’s plan estimated this would increase State revenue by $25 million per year. Most of the insurance premium tax goes to the General Fund Budget, and is, in fact, the single, largest contributor to the Fund.
According to Alabama Department of Insurance (ALDOI), over the last four years, the State’s General Fund has received $1,001,414,336 in revenue from the Premium tax paid in. In the same period, ALFA and State Farm have taken a combined total of $96,230,401 in tax credits, (estimated for 2014). The total for all companies taking advantage of the Premium tax credits was $110,443,705 (estimated for 2014).
Here, I believe Asymmetric Information held by certain business interests, lobbyists, and lawmakers led to passage of incentives that would benefit one company over another, dissuade growth in an industry, all the while creating a disparity in payments by consumers.
Why, after 20 years, should the State continue to incentivize ALFA?
Because, its PACs remain highly active in financing candidates to public office.
In my judgement, this is the type of legal corruption that the Harvard study defines as, “political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements…in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”
Twenty years after its passage, few remained who voted to give ALFA its tax advantage. Most legislators were not even aware of the incentive, or its negative impact on the General Fund Budget. Outside of the insurance community, even fewer average citizen has any knowledge of the disparity that cost many of them money, in the form of higher insurance rates.
After breaking the story on ALFA’s tax advantage in March 2015, two State Representatives claimed they were threatened by ALFA lobbyists. The Governor couldn’t find a single Republican House Member to carry his legislation to reform the insurance premium tax system.
In politics, Asymmetric Information used to pass legislation can lead to various forms of graft, coercion, and fraud.
In October 2014, Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was arrested on 23 felony counts of public corruption. Hubbard was charged with using his office for personal gain, receiving cash and contracts from lobbyists, and business associates, and receiving assistance with his business interests from high-profile individuals and companies, including former Gov. Bob Riley.
After hearing from over 150 witnesses and reviewing thousands of documents, a Grand Jury of 18 citizens from Lee County found probable cause that Hubbard should be tried for these crimes.
The State alleges that Hubbard has committed acts of illegal corruption. In June 2013, this publication was the first to report that Hubbard had not only voted to passage legislation to benefit a business client, but that he had also arranged for 23 words to be inserted into the State’s Medicaid budget to benefit that client.
During the 2013 Legislative Session Hubbard worked to pass law that would have made his client American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI) the sole company to provide Pharmacy Benefits Manager services to Alabama’s Medicaid agency. The resulting contract would have been worth an estimated $12 to $20 million annually.
According to the State, Hubbard, while Speaker of the House, was paid over $700,000 for illegal actions on behalf of various business clients, APCI being one.
At a time when the State was looking to better administer drug benefits to Medicaid recipients, Hubbard was looking out for his client, who was paying him around $7500. a month and himself. Here, Hubbard used the power of his office while hiding Asymmetric Information, which, if known, would have forced him to recuse himself from a vote. But, not only did Hubbard have language placed into the budget, he voted for its passage 12 times.
Once rumors started to surface around the State House that Hubbard had a client who would benefit from the passage of legislation, he arranged a meeting with the State Ethics Director to seek approval for the contract. Again, this was kept secret from other members of the House.
According to then Alabama Ethics Commission Director James L. Sumner, Hubbard informed him after-the-fact of a business agreement between Hubbard’s media company, Auburn Network Inc., and the Bessemer-based APCI. “He said it [the contract] was to provide several services is what I understood. I don’t recall that he went into detail.”
During the meeting, Sumner gave a verbal nod to the contract even through he admitted, “I never saw a contract and didn’t ask to see a contract.”
Hubbard had asked the Commission's opinion on another contract with the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD). In writing, legal council for the commission Hugh Evans, III, warned Hubbard, “The only potential issue that we saw [with the SEAGD contract] would be if something came before the legislature that uniquely affected the Southeast Alabama Gas District differently than it affected all other utilities around the State of Alabama.”
Evans said, that should an issue that directly effected SEAGD come before the legislature, Hubbard "would expect ... to remove himself from discussions, votes, etc.” Evan’s also stated in his opinion that, “the Speaker may not use his position or mantle of his office to assist him in ...providing benefits to his ... clients.”
In the indictments against Hubbard, the State says he ignored the warnings. He is also charged with committing crimes in relation to his work for SEAGD.
On several occasions, Hubbard met with Gov. Bentley, and other public officials were unaware of Hubbard’s financial arrangements which were contrary to the law according to the indictments.
In the case of APCI, or his other clients: Did Hubbard have the State’s best interests in mind or his own? In meetings with high ranking government and business leaders, Hubbard withheld pertinent information. He strategically used the power of Asymmetric Information for his personal gain. Hubbard could dupe fellow legislators, the Governor, and others, because he had hidden information. The real motivation behind his actions was hidden, giving him further advantage because his real agenda was unknown.
Secret contracts, private approvals and hidden payments, led to what the State calls a crime.
Hubbard is the self-proclaimed architect of the Republican take-over of State government in Alabama. He and his fellow Republicans offered transparency as a cornerstone of governing policies.
Rather than real reform, the same use of Asymmetric Information to gain advantage over legislation and the voters is still practiced.
This continues to foster a climate of legal and illegal corruption, which keeps our State at the bottom in almost every metric of progress. Just like the used car salesman, our politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, special interests, and businesses will continue to use Asymmetric Information to their advantage. The public, and especially the press, must demand more tools to end the politicos advantage, which almost always leads to public corruption.
29 Jun 2015
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
As Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard made around $733,848.88 from “consulting contracts,” according to figures supplied by the Attorney General’s Office. This is just a portion of the $2,346,292.88 that Hubbard has fueled to himself, and to his business interests since 2010.
Of course, this does not include his salary as Speaker, his income from his radio holdings, or his paycheck, and State-provided insurance his wife receives from Auburn University. Just in consulting contracts alone, Hubbard was making around 18 times the average income of an Alabama family. Yet, with all of this money flowing into his bank account, Hubbard still cried poverty to investment banker Will Brooke, former Gov. Bob Riley, and others.
As Speaker, Hubbard was paid this money to influence Gov. Robert Bentley, Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, and other State officials, contrary to State law. He was also paid to influence legislators. He even wrote and voted on legislation that would give his lobbying clients millions in State and Federal tax dollars, as was the case with APCI (according to his indictments).
To say that Hubbard has ruled over an orgy of greed and corruption is not hyperbole, because his paydays bear witness to it.
Hubbard wants his fellow House members, the press, and any potential jurors to believe that this was all legitimate "business as usual," for a citizen law-maker.
Would any reasonable person believe that Hubbard would be paid such great sums of money if he were not the Speaker of the House?
Are there any other legislators receiving these astronomical payments from those with business before the State government?
Real citizen lawmakers would be outraged at such payments, even if they were legal, but it was Hubbard, and his fellow Republicans that made these practices completely illegal. Of course, Hubbard ironically said after their passage, “What were we thinking?”
Honest, intelligent voters should be asking “What are they thinking?” to allow Hubbard to remain Speaker.
And still, no outrage has been heard from the Republicans, and only murmurs can be heard among the Democrats.
Hubbard's strategy at this juncture of his criminal case is to delay, deflect, and distract. Hubbard wants to remain Speaker as long as possible, so he can keep raising money for his defense. He wants to delay the trial with the hope that something will break his way. His defense team keeps spinning various reasons the charges against him should be dismissed, and they are constantly trying to change the subject from Hubbard’s guilt or innocence to what others may have done.
But, look at the money he hauled in; look at the contracts; look at how he used his influence to enrich himself. No public official in State history has ever been charged for making this much money from his public office. Hubbard has acted with a ravenous lust for money, and instead of outrage, there is abject silence.
Hubbard’s attorney, J. Mark White doesn’t want us looking at the big dollars Hubbard was paid for official acts. No, he wants us to focus on a conspiracy of prosecutorial misconduct, and an improperly impaneled Grand Jury. White is not arguing Hubbard’s innocence, he is trying to buy Hubbard a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, with false information and far-fetched, irrelevant arguments.
White spins brazen lies wrapped in innuendo, and "lawyerspeak" to confuse and seduce the public. But, the fact remains, 18 citizens of Lee County, after reviewing thousand of pages of documents, and hearing from around 150 witnesses, found that Hubbard should be arrested, and tried on 23 felony counts of public corruption.
Hubbard’s attorneys never want to face a jury because 12 average citizens will never believe that he received millions of dollars just for being a good public servant. He may have cowed and bedazzled members of the House of Representatives with his lies, but it seems doubtful he will succeed in so easily conning a jury of his peers.
So, Team Hubbard will continue to spin a web of deception, parading it around like it's evidence.
At the recent hearing before trial Judge Jacob Walker III on June 24, Team Hubbard presented subpoenaed information from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), which they claims shows that Attorney General Luther Strange sought job opportunities for friends and family. These claims were made to the media by Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney. White intimated that Strange had done the same things as Hubbard.
White, in an interview with Jennifer Horton of WASF News is quoted as saying, “The [subpoena] to the Business Council of Alabama was looking for documents related to the Attorney General and people on his behalf, seeking introductions for obtaining employment for the Attorney General and his family," White said. “As you know, the Speaker is charged with those kind of communications with the Business Council, and we believe the Speaker's conduct is totally legal.”
Of course, Hubbard is not charged with seeking employment for his friends and family, he is charged with seeking and receiving hundreds of thousand dollars for lobbying in violation of State laws, that he, himself championed, and voted for.
However, some in the media report White’s words as fact without ever seeing documents or asking the most basic follow-up questions, as Horton admitted in her report. “WSFA has not been granted copies of the subpoenas to learn which documents were obtained by the defense, despite a request to Circuit Clerk's office and through the state's online court records, but we've been assured the documents are public record.”
Who assured WSFA? White? Hubbard?
Also, Sara Falligant, reporting for Opelika-Auburn News stated, “The subpoena targeted documents related to Attorney General Luther Strange and others acting on the AG’s behalf seeking consideration in obtaining employment for friends and relatives. Hubbard has been accused of similar activity.”
Where is the OA News getting its information? Where is the proof?
Falligant quotes White as saying,“It is the same contact with the same people at the same time as the speaker is charged with in the indictment.”
Again, one thing is not like the other, but Falligant quotes it as fact.
Here, White is dishing dirt to smear the Attorney General, but the circumstances are totally different. The content of the document White refers to from BCA, is not a public record anywhere that we can find.
White is a spinmeister, who is more adept at manipulating the media than actually trying a case in court. Even a practiced fabulist like White cannot argue away that his client took millions while serving in his official capacity as Chairman of the ALGOP and Speaker of the House.
There should be outrage, but the Governor, the ALGOP, the House, and the Senate have remained fearfully silent.
It's pathetic...sad, really.