By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—From spreading falsehoods about the State’s leading white-collar crime prosecutor, to promising a $100K bonus to each House caucus member who sticks with him through a win in 2014, the Alabama Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, seems to be letting his mouth write checks he may not be able to cash.
Hubbard recently held two clandestine meetings with Republican House members to discuss his promises for I.O.U.s of large bundles of campaign cash and Matt Hart, the head of the Attorney General’s white-collar crime unit. Hubbard said Hart was crazy and that he had been fired from his position with the US Attorney’s Office.
Originally, these statements were leaked anonymously to the Alabama Political Reporter by three individuals who were present at the meetings. The facts surrounding these meetings have been further verified by others who have come forward since our report was published.
Since publishing Hubbard’s statements at these events we have learned that threats have been made against legislators, who were not even our source.
We have been led to believe that others have received warning calls from the Speaker’s office as well.
After the Alabama Political Reporter exposed Hubbard’s comments about Hart, Josh Blades (who serves as Hubbard’s chief of staff) allegedly made phone calls threatening members of the Republican caucus with serious consequences if they were found leaking the contents of the meetings. Blades made certain that the legislators understood Hubbard’s displeasure.
None of the men who were witnesses to Hubbard’s verbal attacks on Special Prosecutor Hart are willing to speak on the record for fear of reprisal from the Speaker’s office.
Recently, Hubbard hired white-collar crime defense attorney J. Mark White to investigate and send letters to those who may have spoken negatively about Hubbard.
Is there a reason to believe that Hart may investigate remarks made about him? Is it fair to a assume that the Attorney General’s office might want to know what legislators were told concerning the head of the white-collar crimes division?
It is one thing to promise money to politicians if they remain loyal, and it may not be all that serious to call a veteran prosecutor crazy. But, to say that a special prosecutor was fired from his job when he was not, and then to try and cover-up the fact that it was said, well, that could be a serious violation of the law.
Earlier in the year, rumors circulated of a meeting that took place between, Hubbard, others-unnamed and Luther Strange. It was said at the meeting that Hubbard tried to persuade Strange to call off Hart and any investigation into Hubbard. These are only rumors. But, in light of Hubbard’s willingness to disparage Hart to legislators and then threaten them if they make it known, is an attempt to have a friendly chat with the republican AG impossible to believe?
For the last few months, Hubbard has been making speeches about how much money he has to insure an incumbent victory in 2014. He has wooed young republicans with tales of $10 million on hand to protect the party from “fake republicans.” He has promised starry-eyed freshmen legislators that he would give them $100K in campaign cash after the elections, if they stay faithful and, of course, win.
The questions we have been asking is, where does Hubbard have the money and (better yet)where is it coming from?
In July, the Storming the Statehouse Political Action Committee, led by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, raked in only $1,000 in campaign contributions; in August that number was zero.
Currently, Hubbard-controlled PACs have less than $300,000, a far cry from the $10 million he said he has on hand.
Over the last few weeks, individuals have come forward with what they say has been Hubbard’s 2014 fundraising plan.
They say that the Speaker has told the State’s professional associations that they would be expected to give at least one-third of their total campaign contributions directly to Hubbard.
The plan is simple: Hubbard, or someone on his team, meets with a professional organization like the Realtor’s Association. The association is told that the Speaker expects them to donate one-third of all their campaign contributions directly to political action committees controlled by Hubbard and that he will then distribute the money to the candidates of his choosing.
A group like the Realtor’s Association regularly lobbies the legislature for laws favorable to their financial business interests and the Speaker is one person who has ultimate say on what bills are presented to the House body.
While some see this as a pay-to-play shakedown, others have come to expect that this is just the way things work under the Republican supermajority.
For example, let’s say that an association like the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) agrees to such a plan. Currently ALFA, has a little over $1,200,000 in FARM PAC, the organization’s political action committee. Under what some have said is Hubbard’s plan, FARM PAC would need to give $400,000.00 of its current campaign cash directly to a Hubbard-controlled PAC. It is reasonable to believe that FARM PAC will continue to put money into its own PAC, and therefore, more money would be given to Hubbard under the “one-third,” plan.
Given the number of associations in Alabama, from realtors to hospital associations, it is not hard to imagine that Hubbard could raise $10 million with ease.
However, as of late, is has been said that the idea of placing that amount of money under Hubbard’s sole control has lost its appeal. This is being driven in part by a growing suspicion that Hubbard may be under investigation by the State’s Attorney General.
Not only are the associations starting to pull back, there have been reported instances were legislators have taken a firm stand against Hubbard controlling their campaign cash.
As one retired legislator put it,
“Mike has been trying to corner the campaign money market for years…in 2010, he pretty much did it. Since then he’s controlled almost everything. Mike, he knows the golden rule alright, he who has the gold makes the rules.”
In light of Hubbard’s weakened position, it is said that he is offering a plan B. Under this scheme, Hubbard would hand-pick the candidates. But, instead of the funds going into a Hubbard- controlled PAC, the “one-third” would go directly to the Hubbard-controlled candidate.
This however, is not sitting well with many incumbents, who have reached the breaking point with Hubbard’s heavy-handed management style.
One legislator supposedly told an association,
“When you come around wanting my vote, you’d better come around and give the money to me. I don’t want it sent through Mike Hubbard. I don’t want him touching my money.”
Once again a retired legislator seems to have a pulse on the general feelings coming out of the House caucus,
“…through the whole quadrennium, he’s controlled everything and thrown scraps to them. They’re like a bunch of hungry dogs: He throws them the bones after he’s picked all of the meat off.”
He further stated,
“…And beyond that, they should know by now that if he gets all the money, he’s also gonna send it over to Craftmaster and Network Creative Media and they’re gonna have no say in how the money is spent. Mike is gonna get richer all the time.”
It is not certain if this is the only plan or even if this plan is in the works, but it is the one that insiders say is happening.
As for the threats to sitting legislators who speak about things Hubbard has said or done, that has been confirmed.
Men like Josh Blades, who might be tempted to aid their boss by delivering threatening communications to legislators or others who have knowledge of Hubbard’s action may want to be clear on what the laws are on such matters.
Just as it was with Watergate, and the many cases that have followed, it is more often the cover-up that lands subordinates in jail and not the crime being investigated.