By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
For weeks now, anticipation of public corruption indictments in Lee County has bubbled over in Alabama’s political community. The upcoming grand jury indictments, which will reportedly surround Republican Speaker of the State House Mike Hubbard, and may involve both lobbyists and politicians, have provided good reason for close scrutiny of Alabama GOP finance records.
As the Alabama Political Reporter and the Voice of Alabama Politics has extensively reported, Secretary of State filings by the GOP reveal money from big business–from tobacco, booze, and pharmaceuticals as Hubbard consultant and book coauthor David Azbell might have called it. Our reporting has also shown that analysis of the Speaker’s records in particular usually do not go undeserved.
Earlier this month, the Alabama Political Reporter posted a short article casting light on a recent $500 donation to Hubbard’s campaign by none other than Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn; not all his finances, though, come from such clearly benign, possible beneficial, sources.
The Secretary of State-required finance report that contained Malzahn’s donation included over $91,000 in other donations to Hubbard for the month of November, bringing the GOP Representative’s war chest to just over $255,122 a little under a year out from the 2014 general elections.
Cash from individuals, including that of Auburn’s Malzahn, amounted to under 2% of total contributions: a mere $1600.
Money from sources classified as businesses donated approximately 16% of the funds. Of these sources, all except two are large corporations or companies: a far cry from the small businesses Hubbard verdently claims to defend. Among them, unsurprisingly, is big oil (Exxon-Mobil) and booze (Adams Beverage’s, a Budweiser distributor). The largest contributing business, accounting for more than a majority of this portion of contributions, was not a single business at all, but the Alabama Credit Union Coalition, who gave $10,000.
As for the two exceptions that could be considered “small businesses,” APR has uncovered evidence that brings the funds’ source into doubt. The businesses, Premiere Entertainment and Suntime South, while being listed independently on the report, both show the same address: reportedly “#C” in a Montgomery-area commercial duplex adjacent to a chiropractic facility. In addition, APR identified another business called Palm Beach Tans also claiming to be located at the same physical address. No listing exists for any of the three business names with either the Small Business Association or the Better Business Bureau. Premiere and Suntime did, though, donate a combined total of $2499.
By far, however, the great majority (82 percent) of Hubbard’s campaign cash came from Political Action Committees: the ever-more-ethereal electioneering bodies of Citizens United fame. Totalling over $75,000 for the November period, PAC contributions to the Speaker’s House campaign came from a wide variety of sources. Included were Boeing PAC, $1000, FedEx PAC, $5000, General Electric PAC, $1000, Comcast PAC, $1000, and $5000 from AL Lenders PAC. The inventing company of Cialas, Prozac, and Methadone also got its hands in the offering plate with a $2500 contribution.
Many have complained about the average Alabamian’s ability to have a voice in election process in a world of such large monetary players. However, the fact is that even large corporations like Boeing, FedEx, and GE are being edged out in directly giving to campaigns by an even larger, more invisible force: the force of super PACs of the LEG PAC, NEW PAC, MAX PAC, and FAX PAC variety.
Speaker Mike Hubbard’s FEC filing listed four different PACs, each with a three-letter, nearly rhyming name, that had donated at least $10000 between November 1st and 30th. In total, these PACs gave $50,000: almost 55 percent of all of Hubbard’s cash for the period.
While this was somewhat surprising, it is only the tip of the iceberg.
The Alabama Political Reporter found upon investigating the November report that all 4 PACs listed above have the same “mission” listed on file with the Secretary of State: “to promote candidates who share a common philosophy for pro-industry, pro-development business and education environment in Alabama.” Furthermore, each PAC, which is required to have a Chairperson and Treasurer, has listed some combination of Charles “Bob” Geddie and Joe Fine.
Although in name these PACs are run by Fine and Geddie personally, their actions are on the behalf of such clients as Drummond Company (a Birmingham based oil and coal company) and Yella Fella, whose expenditures on electioneering have been a topic of much analysis here on APR.