19 Nov 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
This poem attributed to Martin Niemöller is a poignant reminder that if evil is to triumph, good people just need to remain silent.
This should be warning for members of the Press Corps.
President Pro Tem Del Marsh has decided that the Britts are not journalists. If you are a reporter, and write articles that he doesn’t like, you could be next.
Marsh recently told Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star, "I've never considered the Britts to be true journalists.”
This is an odd statement coming from a man who, in 2010, spent hours in our Press Room in St. Clair County, even breaking bread with us and our staff.
This is also peculiar for a man who, in 2012, encouraged us to bring the Alabama Political Reporter to the State House, even allowing us to use his conference room to conduct interviews with various State leaders.
This is an extremely, disingenuous comment from a man who sat with me and my wife in the RSA cafeteria in 2012, and asked us to work “closely” with him to explain his vision for streamlining government.
And even more surprising, all of this, coming from a man who once called us his friends.
Marsh wants the Senate to define who is a journalist so as to determine who may receive Press credentials at the State House. The fact that a partisan elected official should take it upon himself, the sole right to define a journalist, should send warning signs and sirens to every editor, publisher and reporter in this State.
Marsh had no problem with the Alabama Political Reporter until we uncovered his lies about soliciting money from the Poarch Creek Indians. Since then, he has sought to retaliate against this publication for his own personal gain.
Of course, Marsh is also carrying water for his boss, Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Marsh may not be guilty of overtly helping Hubbard with his dirty deeds, but he stood by, silently, while Hubbard lined his pockets using his office for personal gain.
Hubbard wisely does not want to be the face of this coup, especially after being charged with 23 counts of felony public corruption, many which were first reported here at the Alabama Political Reporter.
There is little doubt that Marsh and Hubbard want to ban this publication from the State House. This has been confirmed by several Senators and Representatives who are concerned about the far reaching ramifications of this action.
Perhaps this is not that big of a shock coming from Marsh, who has walked lockstep with Hubbard, a man who stands charged by the State with Felony acts.
Marsh has been so close to the Hubbard indictments that he had to reassure the voters in his district that he himself would not be arrested or charged in connection with the public corruption probe being conducted by the Attorney General’s Office.
Marsh, like Hubbard, has touted “transparency” in government while they pass legislation under the cover of darkness.
Sadly, Marsh, like his boss, will never allow facts to stand in the way of their personal agenda.
Marsh also told the Star that he tries, “very hard to make sure the press room is open to journalists.” This is another questionable statement because, with the $200,000 in renovations to the Senate Chamber, Marsh has actually downsized the space available to reporters. In the redesign of the Senate Chambers, Marsh has taken over one entire Press Box to give Senators a private viewing room from which to watch the proceeding on the floor of the House by video feed.
The members of the Capital Press Corp, who cover the Senate, know that Marsh is not expanding press availability, he is limiting it.
Marsh at Hubbard’s command wants to define journalist in such a way as to deny access to the Alabama Political Reporter. What is to keep them from redefining the rules next year to target the reporters at al.com?
Hubbard, Marsh and others in the Republican controlled Legislature have tried to make the case that we work for the Alabama Education Association. This is a lie.
We received paid advertisement from the AEA, just like we have received paid advertising from, Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama Conservation, PCI, Troy University and others.
Would Hubbard or Marsh say that al.com is a mouthpiece for the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) who runs advertising on its site? SEAGD is named in the Hubbard indictments, as well as APCI, whose CEO has written editorials for al.com.
Would these two accuse H. Brandt Ayers the Chairman and Publisher of the Anniston Star of being in the pocket of ALFA, because they advertise on its pages?
This is just a smokescreen to hide their attempt to control the message by killing the messenger.
Marsh is a disgrace, and if his fellow Senators had any courage, they would oust him from his office as Pro Tem for this and the fact that he has been the faithful lap-dog of Hubbard.
Marsh and Hubbard are sending a message to every reporter in the State:
Cross us and be damned.
You say it can’t happen to us.
That is what Niemöller and others like him thought before they came for them.
10 Nov 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In the immediate hours and subsequent days since Mike Hubbard was reelected Speaker of the House—despite being indicted on 23 counts of felony public corruption—the big question has been, “what were they thinking?”
From the reports leaked from the Republican Caucus meeting held privately, away from voters and the press, 59 Republican House members voted to reelect Hubbard, 8 voted for a replacement, 2 abstained and 3 were absent.
So, we ask, “what were they thinking?”
It was a secret ballot, and unless some feared a handwriting analysis, they were free to vote their conscience.
All of the members present were aware of Hubbard’s legal problems and the potential that in the coming months he may be found guilty of at least some of the crimes with which he is charged.
So, why did they act to reelect?
The eight who voted against Hubbard may have had varying motivates, but the underlying theme was they believed it would be bad for the State and bad for the Republican party to be represented by a man facing felony criminal charges, related to his official position in the House.
Those who voted for Hubbard can be divided in to two basic camps: the "True Believers" and the "Go Along to Get Alongs."
The "True Believers" are around 25 individuals who are part of this cult of personality, of which Hubbard is their leader, no matter what.
The newly-minted legislators who took control of the State House in 2010, were crusaders who accomplished something, in their minds, heroic. They had triumphed in a battle against 136 years of corrupt Democratic rule of State government. Along with their brothers-in-arms they had done something truly historic, something that their fathers, grand-fathers and even great-grand-fathers would not have believed possible.
They were special, they were different and the voters and the press and most especially their leader had confirmed it.
Most of these men had been handpicked from relative obscurity by the leader, Mike Hubbard. He gave them the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves, a calling to many beyond their wildest dreams.
Hubbard was "The Leader,” of the Republican revolution in Alabama. He was “The Man.”
Hubbard’s personality and leadership style follows classic examples of cult leaders who are eventually found to be corrupt.
Former FBI Counterintelligence Agent Joe Navarro, writing for Psychology Today, notes that certain movement leaders exhibit the same personality traits: “They all have or had an over-abundant belief that they were special, that they and they alone had the answers to problems, and that they had to be revered. They demanded perfect loyalty from followers, they overvalued themselves and devalued those around them, they were intolerant of criticism, and above all they did not like being questioned or challenged. And yet, in spite of these less than charming traits, they had no trouble attracting those who were willing to overlook these features.”
In his book, Them and Us, Dr. Arthur J. Deikman identifies four basic behaviors that influence fanatical group thinking: compliance with the group, dependence on the leader, avoiding dissent, and devaluing the outsider.
The "True Believers" within the caucus have fallen into the same pattern of behavior which has allowed dictators and cult leaders to lay waste to moral law across history.
Even, if Hubbard is found guilty of his crimes the True Believer will also remain steadfast in their belief that he was innocent, it is the only way they can keep some seeing themselves as flawed and wrong.
The cult of personality surrounding Hubbard is strong and currently unshakable.
To understand the others it is important to realize that the House Caucus under Hubbard is a type of fraternity, with special rites, privileges and punishments. To rise in the ranks of the House fraternal order, the members must obey, and even those who disagree must go along to get ahead. It was this group that gave Hubbard the majority he needed to remain speaker.
For years there have been rumors and suspicions that Hubbard was a crook, or at least that he played fast and loose with the rules. This is not surprising in government, and is often considered just the way the game is played.
The "Go Alongs To Get Alongs" made the conscious choice to do what was ethically wrong for personal gain or to avoid personal loss, which is much the same thing.
Perhaps, they said to themselves, “If I vote against Mike, I will not be a committee chairman or I can’t do this or that for my district, so I need to put aside what is best for what is good.”
This may seem like a very rational choice, given the current authoritarian state of the House Caucus, but it's a choice that betrays the very notion of Republic and moral law.
According to sources inside the party, a plurality of this group were leaning toward voting Hubbard out as Speaker, until Rep. Barry Moore was acquitted. The fear of Hubbard surviving his trial caused these to run from the moral high ground and fall on their knees, rather than, perhaps, their sword.
However, to compare the case against Moore, case with the one facing Hubbard, is a false narrative invented by Hubbard.
If Hubbard is found guilty of any of the charges the state has accused him of many in the the go along to get along clan will claim to be one of the eight who voted against Hubbard. Never will so many claim to be a part of such a small number.
What will be the aftermath of this vote? What will be the legacy if Hubbard is in fact convicted of the any of the crimes of which he now stands accused?
Alabama is a state that perhaps understands football better than any other, so, the legacy of the Penn State sex scandal might serve as an appropriate analogy.
The Penn State child sex abuse scandal revealed in 2011 was a result of longtime former university football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual assault of at least eight underage boys on or near the university. Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of sexual crimes against young boys.
While the crimes Sandusky was convicted of were heinous, the cover-up and denial ruined the legacy of one of the countries most legendary football programs.
An investigation commissioned by the PSU board and conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh found that Penn State President Graham Spanier, Head Coach Joe Paterno, along with athletic director Tim Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz, had known about allegations of child abuse on Sandusky's part as early as 1998, and were complicit in failing to disclose them.
Freed stated that these men and Penn State had shown a "total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims" for 14 years and "empowered" Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse.”
For now, from Washington, DC to Washington County, not one Republican leader has raised their voice to question the wisdom of reelecting a man who is under felony indictments.
Penn State now lives with the legacy of crimes, cover-up and acquiescence. In the near future, the same may be said about Alabama’s Republican leadership and the Republican House members who reelected Hubbard.
What were they thinking?
The "True Believers" were not thinking.
The "Go Along To Get Alongs" were thinking of themselves.
And those who voted to replace Hubbard...they were thinking about all of us.
Speaker Mike Hubbard once called corruption “an albatross around our neck in the State.”
Now, that storied bird has a name...and it is Hubbard.
31 Oct 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore (R - Enterprise) is a free man once again. He and his family have a great deal to be thankful for, as the system worked, and this time it worked in his favor.
I sat through the trial and I must say, I would have cast a different lot than the 12 good citizens of this jury.
I owe Bill Baxley an apology. I never thought that his incoherent ramblings added up to a strategy, much less a win. I was wrong.
Even though Moore admitted to the jurors that he had been less than truthful, they still saw it fit to set him free.
Naturally, it took Speaker Hubbard about 10 seconds to crow like the cock of the walk, but he should not forget that today’s cock of the walk is tomorrow’s feather duster.
Hubbard faces 23 counts of public corruption. 23 counts that involve big money, State resources and using his office of personal gain and more. These charges can’t be turned into the sort of “he said/she said” style argument, that was key to Moore's acquittal.
Hubbard will have videos, mailers, and a panoply of press conferences to accuse the Attorney General’s Office of a political persecution carried out by a rouge prosecutor.
So what? Lying liars, lie. That’s what they do.
Hubbard will also begin to bare down on House members who have not towed the line during the last few months.
Like the threats against Josh Pipkin who dared run against Hubbard’s chosen one, Barry Moore, Hubbard will “bring down holy hell” and “beat the everlasting sh*t” out of those who even look at him cross-eyed.
Isn’t it a little strange and even a bit sacrilegious to use terms like “holy” and “everlasting” in reference to doing harm to another human being, whose only wrong is opposing your will?
It also seems telling that Hubbard uses biblical sounding nomenclature to speak about destroying a political opponent.
But Hubbard is a bully and a thug, who wraps himself in the Flag and the Holy Scripture while blaspheming against them both.
Hubbard and former Gov. Bob Riley paid for Moore’s defense and they got their monies worth. They can now spin Moore’s acquittal as if it were their own.
It is a sad day for justice in our State, but that was just one battle in a long campaign to clean up public corruption.
This is a fight for the heart and soul of our State. Will it suffer under the corrupt regime of Hubbard and his cronies, or will it be lead by honest men like Gov. Robert Bentley?
After next week's election, Gov. Bentley will have an opportunity to take back our State from the thugs. May God give him the strength to do so.
Oh, and Van Davis and Matt Hart aren’t going anywhere. They are heavy weight boxers who know how to lose a round and come back harder and more determined.
As for me, I am ready for that next round.
04 Nov 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In Matin Amis’s new novel, “The Zone of Interest,” the novelist explores the inner life of some the inhabitants of Auschwitz, in 1942, concentrating especially on the death camp workers.
One of the narrators of the story is a middle-level German officer named Thomsen, who says of gassing Jewish men, women and children, “ We went along, we went along, doing all we could to drag our feet…but we went along.”
Like many others who said they simply obeyed orders, Thomsen could be called a “Good German.”
Nothing is our State has risen to the level of these Nazi atrocities, but the mentality of the "Good German" is alive and well in the Alabama State House. There are some who simply follow orders, while moral standards of ethical behavior are broken with impunity.
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has been charged with 23 counts of public corruption.
He has received support and even cheers from a number of Republican legislators including, Rep. Ed Henry, Rep. Jack Williams, Rep. Alan Harper, Rep. Matt Fridy, Rep. Alan Baker, Rep. Paul Beckman, Rep. Mike Ball, Rep. David Sessions, Rep. April Weaver, Rep. Jim Patterson, Rep. Kerry Rich, Rep. Richard Laird and Rep. Mac McCutcheon. As well as U.S. Representative Mike Rogers.
Yet, there is a resounding silence from those who find Hubbard’s actions reprehensible.
Over the last two years, this publication has asked on several occasions, why do honest lawmakers remain silent when it is obvious that Hubbard has thumbed his nose at the Law? And often, in private, legislators have asked me, “What could we have done?”
Hubbard has been charged with:
Four Counts of using of his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for personal gain.
One Count of voting for legislation with a conflict of interest.
Eleven Counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal.
Two Counts of using his office as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for personal gain.
Four Counts of lobbying an Executive Department or agency for a fee.
One Count of using State equipment, materials, etc. for private gain.
What can legislators do?
Make Hubbard step aside by force of your vote.
Hubbard even lobbied Gov. Bentley on behalf of his client believed to be American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc.
In the near future, the Governor may be called to testify as to what Hubbard said and did for his lobbying client.
Is a jury ready to see Hubbard’s white collar criminal defense attorney J. Mark White try to ridicule Robert Bentley? Would Hubbard’s mouthpieces dare try to denigrate and twist the testimony of the most trusted man in Alabama, to exonerate a man who has used his office for personal gain?
Bentley knows Hubbard is a crook. He's known that for a long time and Bentley is not a "Good German."
Bentley could end all of the spectacle surrounding Hubbard and now, the State government, as a whole, by picking up the phone on the morning of November 5, and calling every member of the House Republican caucus and saying, “Now, Mike is our friend, but he has been accused of some pretty bad things. Now we need to let the justice system sort this out. So, for the good of the party and the good of the State, Mike cannot be allowed a position of leadership until all this is resolved.”
He should further remind each legislator, “I am the Governor. I've been reelected by an overwhelming majority. I have some real plans to make our State even better. You can either be with me or not. But, a vote for Mike, in any position of leadership, is a vote against me.”
Many of our legislators claim to be Bible-believing men and women. To be a believer requires more than lip service. The Word teaches that as Christians, we are to abstain from even the appearance of evil. Is this not a standard that should be applied to lawmakers?
Hubbard has hired one of the best public relations firms in the State to spin his innocence and to lie about the prosecution. From saying that Luther Strange is out to get him, to the machinations of a rouge prosecutor, the spin will continue; especially if Hubbard is allowed to remain speaker.
If Hubbard remains "king of the goat hill," he will continue to embarrass the State and the Republican party. If he is allowed to use the mantle of the speaker’s office to promote his innocence and disparage the State law enforcement, it will harm the State even further.
In Matin Amis’s book, “The Zone of Interest,” after the end of the war, his Nazi protagonist, Thomsen, jokes that the German National Anthem is “Ich Wusste Nicht Uber Es,” (“I Didn’t Know Anything About It.”), this is not a joke we want associated with Alabama.
29 Oct 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
It's been a little over a week since the Speaker of the House was indicted by a Grand Jury of his peers on 23 counts of public corruption. While law enforcement has remained silent, due to legal restraints, Hubbard and company have been in full-throttled spin mode.
Hubbard’s denials, dodges and subterfuge have reached such a frenetic level, that over the weekend he released a campaign flier, featuring a Bible and a compass pointing North.
In other words, Hubbard, in just one week, has gone from denial to the “Full-Scrushy.”
So desperate is Hubbard to hang on to his power, that he is reportedly reaching out to Black lawmakers in the House, telling them he needs their support because his former boss and mentor Gov. Bob Riley has thrown him under the bus.
If Riley has cut a deal with the prosecution, it is almost certain that Hubbard’s life is ruined.
And what about wealthy businessmen like Jim Holbrook, Rob Burton, Will Brooke, Jimmy Rane and Bob Abrams, who are all named in the indictments? Does anyone think for a moment that any of these men would take a bullet for Hubbard? Well, maybe Rane, because he’s all about some fist-fights.
But the rest.....not a chance. Not one of these men will stand by Hubbard, now that his schemes have been revealed.
Does Hoar Construction, Harbert Management Corporation, Sterne Agee or CV Holdings really need the headache of explaining Hubbard to their customers? I doubt it.
Then there is BCA power player Billy Canary, who may just have too many problems with heavy weight association members not wanting to see their company names in headlines.
It is also interesting to note that Hubbard’s most trusted allies, Dax Swatek and Tim Howe, are named in the indictments, but not their partners, John Ross and David Azbell. Hmm....can you say, flipped? Perhaps.
But Hubbard keeps on spinning saying his felony arrest is part of a which-hunt, a political prosecution and that he has done nothing wrong.
What he has not done is sit with those named in his indictments, the press and the public, and refute each count in specific order. Of course, Hubbard hopes that the day he has to answer for his crimes will never come; but it will.
There are many people who believe that Hubbard will never be convicted. These are the same people who just days ago said he would never be indicted. Oh, ye of little faith.
Has our justice system become so politically tilted that we actually believe that there is separate justice for the rich and powerful? Are we to believe the political realities of our courts strip away the blindfold of justice? Heaven, please say it is not so.
The so-called mainstream media has suddenly awakened to the fact, that perhaps something nefarious has been afoot on the fifth floor of the State House. Some have even discovered that all of the facts the Alabama Political Reporter has been revealing for last two years are true.
The news business has always been occupied by two types of reporters: those who dig for the facts and those who try to cover them up. Add to that those who will report the facts once it becomes safe to do so, and a clearer picture of the State’s Press Corps comes into view.
What to make of Hubbard’s latest spin: that he is an honest citizen/legislator trying to make an honest living?
From the indictments, one could readily conclude that Hubbard is a failed businessman whose plan for solvency rested on his ability to bilk his party and wealthy men out of their money. Of course, Jim Holbrook, Bob Barton, Will Brooke, Jimmy Rane and Bob Abrams would have never given Hubbard a nickel, had he not been Speaker of the House.
It is expressly against State law to use ones office for personal gain...period.
Another of Hubbard’s misleading arguments is that the Ethics Commission approved all his business dealings. That is not exactly the truth. The Ethic Commission did review Hubbard’s contract with the Southeast Alabama Gas District, with this caveat: writing for the commission legal council Hugh Evans, III, said, “The only potential issue that we saw 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. Should this happen we would expect that speaker Hubbard would have plenty of notice in which to remove himself from discussions, votes, etc.”
It is not yet certain if Hubbard worked to pass legislation or did other illegal things that “uniquely affected the Southeast Alabama Gas District differently than it affected all other utilities.” But we do know that he did just that for American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (See article here.)
We also know that Evans warned Hubbard: “The general prohibition continues to apply, in that the Speaker may not use his position or mantle of his office to assist him in obtaining consulting opportunities or providing benefits to his consulting business or his clients.”
Hubbard’s indictments would seem to clearly suggest that he did, in fact, “use his position or mantle of his office to assist him in obtaining consulting opportunities.”
As for the Ethics Commission approving the APCI contract...that is nonsense. Former Director Jim Sumner told this publication in 2013, that he never even saw the contract. If he never saw it how could he legally approve it. But this notion of approving or disapproving contracts by the commission is suspect at best. (See article here.)
Lots of ink and a few megabytes have been employed to allow Hubbard to once again spin his web of deceit, but only the Kool-Aid crowd is buying it.
Once the bootlickers see who and how many have turned on Hubbard, they too will disavow him.
And like many in the Press Corps, they will claim they knew there was trouble with Mike all along.