By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Over the last few weeks, the powerful white collar crime defense attorney, J. Mark White, has been on a public relations offensive on behalf of Alabama’s beleaguered Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard.
Last week, White sent a fawning letter (page 1, page 2, page 3) to many in the state press corps in an effort to solicit their help in painting Hubbard as an innocent man who has been libeled by “others” with malicious intent. According to White, his client is a victim, and in a three-page press release, in the guise of a report, he is turning to those whom he refers to as “the legitimate press” to set the record straight.
So far, most in the press have seen White’s ploy for exactly what it is: An attempt to co-opt journalists into trying his case in the court of public opinion, falsely discredit those who dare speak out against powerful politicians and perhaps the most ominous…taint a potential jury pool.
In the time honored tradition of many criminal defense attorneys, White is determined to not let the facts get in the way of a good defense.
He claims to have had a team of experts look into allegations against Hubbard, and surprisingly, they found nothing wrong.
Since when can’t a well-heeled politician like Hubbard hire a group of attorneys to pronounce he is “free of any wrong-doing.” Of course, in what might be called white-lies, this super-lawyer picks and chooses what allegations are addressed, ignoring the more thorny ones.
So, it is that when so-called conservative Hubbard finds himself in real trouble he turns to the same defense attorney used by gambling Czar McGregor. It was White and his team that defended McGregor against federal corruption charges and against a $64 million civil claim against McGregor’s VictoryLand casino.
This is one of the same attorneys that just a few years ago Republicans like Hubbard railed against as representing crooked politicians and gamblers.
But when Hubbard has some serious problems who does he call? The man who was able to successfully defend McGregor. (White did lose the $64 million civil claim against VictoryLand).
Yes, Hubbard has acquired some high-priced legal power to “investigate, and if appropriate, prosecute claims on behalf of the Speaker.”
Hubbard is a politician…not just a politico. He is a man who has risen to the top of the heap—many say by crushing those who have dared stand in his path to power. A quick read of Hubbard’s vanity publication “Storming the Statehouse” shows that he sees himself as a bare-knuckle political fighter. However, it now appears when anyone dares punch back, Hubbard hides behind a team of fancy lawyers.
But, it is not Hubbard’s willingness to hide behind the coattails of trial lawyers or that his lawyers choose which facts to report and which ones to hide that is worrisome; this is the norm for the rich and powerful. What is most appalling is that White and Hubbard are trying to cajole and threaten certain individuals, while sweet-talking others in the media in hopes they will do their bidding.
In the widely circulated letter to the media White wrote,”Our mission is to investigate the false and malicious rumors being circulated about the Speaker, his family, and his business, and to hold accountable those individuals and organizations creating, circulating, publishing and re-publishing false and malicious statements.”
He is implying legal action will be taken against unnamed individuals or organizations.
White goes on to state that “Our goal is not to challenge fair and honest reporting and fact-based opinions. Instead, our goal is to ensure that statements about our client, both privately and in public forums, are factually accurate.”
Based on White’s statement, Hubbard’s team of lawyers, forensic accountants, forensic computer experts, investigators and others are being paid to police statements about him made “privately and in public forums?” This, of course, begs the questions: What exactly does White mean by “privately?” How will they identify and verify statements made about Hubbard “privately?” And how will they hold individuals accountable for statements made privately?
White goes on to state in his letter that the investigation has, so far, found that “what is being presented as fact in several matters is in reality being published or republished falsely and maliciously.”
White says, “We respect you as a journalist, as well as the work you do as a member of the legitimate press.” White does not define “the legitimate press,” which media outlets comprise the legitimate press, or who determined which reporters are members of the legitimate press.
“Please do not hesitate to contact me if we can provide additional information or if you receive information that is inconsistent with our report above. In fact, I would appreciate hearing from you have a question or concern about information you receive regarding the Speaker.”
This is a transparent effort to get chosen reporters to pass along information, records, and any research given to them regarding Hubbard’s transgressions. Frankly, it’s an odd statement, as most reporters will contact Hubbard, his staff, or White for comment if they are pursuing a Hubbard story.
White spends the remaining page-and-a-half of his letter attempting to debunk stories about Hubbard’s conflicts of interest and questionable contracts.
In White’s so-called report:
• There is no mention of bid irregularities that helped Hubbard gain the his Auburn University athletics contract. As we know, a former Auburn lobbyist stated under oath that he provided Hubbard with a copy of a competitor’s bid documents, giving Hubbard an unfair – and potentially illegal – advantage in the bid process.
• There is no mention of Auburn Network contract with Bessemer-based American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc., a group purchasing organization which represents independent pharmacists. Or the fact that Hubbard repeatedly voted for language placed in the 2014 General Fund Budget that would have greatly benefitted the pharmacy group.
Or many other questionable actions taken by the Speaker which have been document by this news organization under the heading of Stealing the Statehouse.
The lawyer Mark White names as part of the “team of lawyers” is Christopher Weller, an attorney from Capell & Howard in Montgomery.
The Capell & Howard firm has received $59,500 in taxpayer money since March by the Office of the Speaker of the House.
The Capell & Howard firm has received a total of more than $1.2 million from various state agencies, including Hubbard’s office, in fiscal year 13.
White also identifies lawyers from Hare Wynn Newell & Newton and Trussell Funderberg Rea & Bell as part of the legal team, which White says also includes “professional investigators, forensic accountants, forensic computer experts, among others.”
R. Lance Bell of the Trussell Funderberg firm has been paid at least $300 in public money for services to the state. Trial lawyer Jim Pratt of the Hare Wynn firm has a lucrative practice in personal injury/wrongful death cases. He has won some of the largest jury verdicts in state history.
White, in his press release AKA report, has sought to enlist the media as his errand-boys. So far, only a couple of those who work in the field have seen fit to fill the role.
This is just the beginning of the PR blitz that Hubbard and White have in store for the State.