By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In a recent report by Mike Cason, at Al.com, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said they are considering “tighter restriction on former lawmakers working as State House lobbyists.” This is akin to an idiom of improbability, like when pigs fly or cows dance the Tango.
The State House under the leadership of Hubbard and Marsh, has been run like a criminal enterprise subsidized by the republican supermajority. Cason writes that, “In 2003, the state Ethics Commission issued an opinion that a two-year ban on lobbying by former lawmakers applied only to the house they served in. “A former senator can lobby the House during the two-year period after leaving office, and a former representative can lobby the Senate during the two-year period.” Jim Sumner, head of the Alabama Ethics Commission, said, “the law defines the House and Senate as distinct legislative bodies.”
However, Senator Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) recently challenged this opinion in a Twitter post writing, “That would be a bizarre interpretation. 36-25-13a, is pretty clear. You cannot lobby the same ‘department’ for 2 years.” Taylor said that according to “Section 42 of the Alabama Constitution…the legislature, [as a whole] is a [single]‘department.’” Taylor stated that state law “prohibits lobbying the agency for which one worked for two years and also contracts with entities one regulated.” This clearly put Taylor and Sumner at odds over the 2003 interpretation that Sumner advocates.
But Sumner has proven time and again that he is a stooge for Hubbard. Not only did Sumner approve Hubbard’s $12,000 a month economic development (lobbying) contract with the Southeastern Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) but he also approved Hubbard’s lobbying job with the American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc., without even reviewing the contract. With a series of eleven YES votes cast on April 23rd on state House versions of the General Fund budget,
Hubbard actively sought to ensure his public relations client–American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc.–became the sole company eligible to provide Pharmacy Benefits Manager services to Alabama’s Medicaid agency. Though he voted multiple times in favor of the legislation, Hubbard never publicly disclosed his financial ties to American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc., (APCI) the company that stood to profit from the Medicaid provisions of the budget. Nor did Hubbard declare a conflict of interest or abstain from taking official action on the bill, titled SB143.
However, Sumner, doesn’t see any wrong-doing on Hubbard’s part. Of course, the fact is clear that Sumner’s ethical reasoning is tied directly to his paycheck. Sumner, bends the law like a circus ironman and uses truth with grave economy when it comes to Hubbard. Hubbard and Marsh own Sumner, he is their “boy,” and he is more than happy to please his paymasters. Jim Sumner should be tossed from government for dereliction of duty.
In a phone conversation, Sumner said his job was to only investigate ethic violations after there was an officially accepted complaint.
If that is so, why was he given subpoena power? So, Hubbard and Marsh told Cason they “would talk to their caucuses about changing the law.” Once again this is sillness. Jay Love and Barry Mask didn’t leave their House positions without Hubbard’s approval, neither did Barton. Sadly, most of the men (I use this loosely) in the House don’t take a bathroom break without consulting Hubbard.
So, this nod to fixing the lobbying issue has no creditability.