By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In August, The Alabama Political Reporter published findings that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard had spent over $30,000.00 on furniture, paint and carpeting for a legislative cloakroom.
In a follow-up story by the Montgomery Advertiser, reporter Sebastian Kitchen found that republican lawmakers had spent over 2 million in taxpayer’s dollars on refurbishing the Alabama Statehouse.
In his report, Kitchen cites Hubbard as saying that the $2 million was “not a lot of money,” and that none of the work was “extravagant.”
But for most Alabamians whose yearly income in under $30,000, a million dollars here or there is a whole lot of money.
Hubbard and the majority Republicans came to Montgomery pledging to end wasteful spending and make government live within its means.To most working families in the state, spending thousands on fancy furniture and a couple of million on repairs and sprucing up the meeting rooms at the StateHouse would not be considered government tightening its belt.
Perhaps most telling is that the State of Alabama paid almost $2,600 for some silk plants to adorn the Speaker’s office. No doubt, Hubbard is used to a certain lifestyle, with boxed-seats at Auburn games, a state financed body guard and state furnished black SUV. But to anyone outside the Montgomery Country Club thousand dollar silk plants are the stuff of Hollywood actors and liberal elites.
Hubbard told The Advertiser that he had meant to personally pay for the plants, but something went wrong. So, for two years the lavish plants sat in the Speaker’s Office at taxpayers expense. In his report, Kitchen refers to an April 2011 letter in which Hubbard says he intended the plants to be a “donation of personal property” to the State.
Hubbard, blames the vendor, Spurlin Builders, for the “billing snafu” or “billing mistake.”
Spurlin Builders has gone out of business since selling the State over $2,000 in fake plants.
Kitchen reports, “In August, Hubbard wrote a personal check for $2,576.32 to reimburse the state for all of the costs and noted the ‘reimbursement of funds to state paid in error,’ according to a State cash receipt form dated August 13th and obtained by The Advertiser.”
However, Hubbard’s August FCPA fillings with the Secretary of State show he reimbursed the state $2,576.32 not from a personal bank account but from his personal campaign account, “Friends of Mike Hubbard.” This is the same amount that Hubbard claims he wrote to the state with a personal check.
Most people, when they think of writing a personal check, mean they used funds they had earned to pay a debtor or purchase something. In this case, Hubbard used campaign contributions given to run his political campaign to pay for over $2000 in silk plants to decorate his Statehouse office.
Hubbard and other politicians may not see the difference, but most voters in Alabama do.