By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Over the last half-year we have published a series of well-documented articles into the misdealing and misleading activities of the leadership of the Republicans in the Alabama State Legislature, primarily the actions of Mike Hubbard, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, and Adelbert Marsh, the President Pro Tem of the Senate. From soliciting campaign contributions from the Indian gambling interest and hiding the information from voters, to money laundering and funneling campaign dollars to personal businesses, these have been topics of detailed reports.
These have not been opinions, nor speculations, but well-researched stories with accompanying public records.
These reports were first dismissed by the Republican leadership by saying that our news organization was not the “real” press, but an online blog.
Then they tried to deny our reports because of some of our advertisers, such as the AEA and Indian Casinos.
Finally, they have sought to discredit our reporting by trying to smear us personally.
The only thing that the Republican leadership has not done, specifically Hubbard and Marsh, is deny the facts of our reporting.
Hubbard, Marsh and their followers promised to bring a new transparency to the state government of Alabama with “Alabama” values and a conservative agenda. Yet, they have brought shame on the Republican Party, dishonesty to state government and have reaffirmed the people’s greatest fears that no party is without its corruptors.
What answers do these Republican elites give when faced with the facts of their misdealing? They offer character assassination and financial terrorism.
For almost a year we had been told that Hubbard had been suggesting to people that they not advertise on our site. Lately, lobbyists, associations, and even large corporations, have been warned us that the Speaker would not be “happy” if their ads appeared on our pages.
A major organization that had once promised that they would advertise on our site during the legislative session, said they could not because, “You are on the Speaker’s hit list.”
This, of course, should not come as a surprise to many Republican legislators. As everyone knows, any GOP lawmaker who dares to oppose Hubbard is threatened with ruin at the polls or worse.
Troy University has been one of our advertising clients with a year long contract. Two days after we wrote a report showing (from http://open.alabama.gov) that Hubbard had increased spending in the Speaker’s office 82.6 percent over his Democratic predecessor, Seth Hammett, the agency for Troy University called and said that they wanted the Troy University ad removed from our site, “Immediately.”
As we were busy, it took us until the next day to reply to the University’s advertising agency in South Carolina. However, during that short time period, the agent sent three emails and made numerous calls to have the ad pulled, “Immediately.”
When we spoke with the agent, she said that Troy was having budget cuts, but they would pay for the ads and whatever appropriate amount was due for cancellation.
We assured her we would accommodate her wishes, also saying we would certainly not charge them for the time the ad remained until we could take it down. In the most harried of tones, she insisted the ad come down immediately.
We have been around the advertising business for years. Most people are happy to have you run their ads as long as they do not have to pay for them, unless there is another reason. That reason is most often a threat they have received.
This is a pattern with Hubbard and his followers, character assassination and financial terrorism.
It is sad, really.
With no less than three special grand juries focusing on Hubbard and Marsh, one in Montgomery, one in Calhoun and another in Lee County, it would seem that they would not want to be so brazen in attacking our media company. Do they think prosecutors do not see that they are attacking the messenger? Do they think people can’t see the facts in front of them?
Hubbard and Marsh have destroyed Democrats and Republicans. Now they want to destroy the only media outlet that has the guts to report the truth about their activities.
After a week of continuing revelations about Hubbard’s spending, David Azbell’s partying, and the sealed bids given to Hubbard to win the Auburn media contracts, the Speaker’s office closed for a “former employee’s wedding” on Friday.
Those who are in contact with the Speaker on a regular basis say he is coming unhinged. Temper tantrums, spells of depression and erratic behavior have all been reported.
Even Hubbard’s fundraising efforts have slowed as big donor checkbooks are closing due to the investigations and fears of what is to come.
Several legislators have been looking for a way to launch an inquiry into Hubbard and Marsh, but the state lacks a real mechanism for such an internal investigation.
Governor Bentley is seen by many as the only man who might have the political power to bring the appropriate pressure on Hubbard to step down before the scandal costs the GOP its supermajority in 2014.
Two Hubbard-backed candidates have taken enormous hits in recent months. First, Hubbard’s candidate for Chairman of the ALGOP, and then Republican Jim Barton in his run for State Senate (District 35). Both lost their races by large margins.
The Tea Party has turned away from Hubbard-backed candidates, and more are learning daily about Hubbard’s brand of big spending, self-enriching style of governing. It is rumored that there is even a $1000.00 silk plant in the Speaker’s office, according to several former insiders. If the office suites occupied by the Speaker of the Alabama House is adorned with a $1000.00 silk plant, then we would like to know who paid for it.
But that is a small thing compared to the weakness of character of the man who now is said to be the most powerful man in Alabama politics.
While Hubbard and his cronies lavished in a lifestyle more in keeping with kings than public servants, the hard-working people of Alabama are given lectures on cutting state services. How many courthouse workers have been laid off while Hubbard has increased his office spending by 82.6 percent? Is there not a courthouse in Alabama that could put the $8000.00 a month paid to Hubbard’s consultant, David Azbell, to better use?
What does a real conservative like Chief Justice Roy Moore have to say when courts are cut to the bone? Yet the Speaker’s office spends lavishly and the Pro Tem’s Office gave someone on his staff a 25 percent raise?
We are certain that the voters of Alabama have more in common with the principles of the Chief Justice than they do with the Hubbard or Marsh types.
Why is it that Marsh and Hubbard are allowed to spend at will, and the judicial branch of government has to come begging to keep the courthouse doors open?
Why has the State House been almost completely redecorated with new marbled tile and luxurious carpet? Why have GOP legislators been given remodeled suites? Why has there been such spending on the State House when the courthouses around the State are closing their doors?
There is more real political power at the courthouse than there is at the State House, but Hubbard does not work at the courthouse. His domain is the newly marbled halls of the State House.
Under SB122, one of Marsh’s “streamlining measures” which has passed the Senate and is now set for a vote in the House, there is no accountability for the office budgets of the Speaker, Pro Tem or Lt. Governor. Why is this? More staff, more remodeling? Why should every other office of government have oversight and not these three?
While Hubbard grows his own office, he has gone on the attack to destroy our very small business. The only reason is we print the facts about Hubbard and Marsh in the light of day. It must truly scare those who live in darkness, knowing that the light will shine sooner or later.
Over the last year, our advertising dollars have been increasing almost monthly. They should have increased greatly during the legislative session because we reach the right people everyday. However, our advertising dollars are shrinking because we are on “Hubbard’s Hit List”.
It is sad, really. In reporting on Hubbard’s contract worries with Auburn University, Paul Davis wrote, “He [Hubbard] was almost tearful when we talked, saying over and over again that he was going to lose his home and his business.”
Hubbard will continue to attack with character assassination and financial terrorism, but we will not bend and we will not bow.
In our world, there is always a forth-man in the fiery furnace of life.
Maybe not today, but soon, advertisers will step forward to replace each one threatened by Hubbard. Good business needs good government and you cannot have good government without a free press.
We have printed the facts, and they have countered not with facts, but with dirty tricks.
Hubbard promised the people of Alabama smaller government, honest government, and that he would dare defend their rights.
He has failed on every point. We dare say, we don’t want such men defending our rights – we will defend them ourselves.
The State of Alabama does not need marbled halls in the State House but men and women with hearts to serve and a will to lead righteously.