By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— A recent disclosure of top donors to a secretive money machine operated by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) has revealed a troubling pattern of quid pro quo.
The 2012, 990 IRS forms for the Alabama Republican House Conference—a supposed non-profit/non-partisan 501(c) (4)—show a pattern of activities, whereby, a price tag seems to have been placed on legislative favoritism toward big donors.
The documents show that the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association (AWBA), contributing at least $15,000 to Hubbard’s dark money nonprofit in 2012.
An examination of AWBA’s own PAC disclosures indicate that the amount contributed to Hubbard’s nonprofit is actually at least $17,500. And there was plenty of additional money from the beer lobby to Hubbard in 2012, as well. In fact, Hubbard and his allied PACs received at least $30,000 from the beer lobby in the time period bracketing a very favorable action for the AWBA by the Hubbard-controlled legislature in 2012.
In 2012 the AWBA was set to oppose a bill that was to be presented in the 2012 Regular Legislative Session by the Alabama Farm Wineries. The bill would have allowed wineries to sell directly to retailers – cutting the beer distributors out as a “middleman” in the process, and cutting millions in profits from their ledgers.
In preparation of the fight to defeat the Alabama Farm Wineries bill, the AWBA’s PAC contributed $10,000 to Mike Hubbard’s “nonpolitical nonprofit” on January 24, 2012. Covering all bases, the AWBA gave $2500 to Del Marsh’s Senate “nonpolitical nonprofit” 12 days earlier on January 12, 2012.
On April 18, 2012, a House committee met to consider the fate of the Alabama Farm Wineries bill opposed by the AWBA. The lobbyist representing the wineries was veteran government affairs specialist, Claire Austin. The bill in question was defeated by a single vote in committee, and the AWBA got their way.
After the hearing lobbyists Allison and Phillip Kinney – who represent the Alabama Beer Association, a group that split from the AWBA —both of whom have contributed heavily to Hubbard’s political operations – reported “inappropriate language” by Austin directed at State Representative Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery) who had supported the AWBA position.
Immediately Speaker Hubbard sought to punish Austin with a reprimand – even though the supposed “victim” (State Representative Joe Hubbard) asked Speaker Hubbard not to pursue any disciplinary action. When Joe Hubbard asked Mike Hubbard to drop the matter, Speaker Hubbard reportedly said “That train has left the station.”
The day after Austin was reprimanded per the Speaker’s instructions – April 26, 2012 – the AWBA contributed $1,500 to the Alabama Republican Party to distribute to candidates supportive of their position. That amount, $1,500, was matched the same day by a contribution to the Alabama GOP from Commerce Networks in Auburn – a company closely aligned with Mike Hubbard and designs his “Friends of Mike Hubbard” website.
On April 28, 2012 – two days after Austin’s reprimand at Hubbard’s insistence – seven (7) wholesale beer distributors gave over $10,000 ($10,801.17 to be exact) to the Alabama 2014 PAC formed by Bob Riley and Mike Hubbard.
And one week later – on May 4, 2012 – The AWBA PAC paid an additional $5,000 to Mike Hubbard’s “nonpartisan, nonpolitical” nonprofit.
That payment looks a lot like a bonus for successful completion of work.
In total, from a few days before the beginning of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session until days after the defeat of legislation opposed by the AWBA, Mike Hubbard’s nonprofit and Mike Hubbard-allied PACs received $29,801.17 directly from the AWBA. Most of this money was delivered within hours of the punitive action against Claire Austin, lobbyist opponent of the AWBA.
Similar questionable actions have occurred regularly and repeatedly throughout Speaker Hubbard’s reign over the Alabama House of Representatives.
On numerous occasions during the 2013 Alabama Legislative Regular Session, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard received large coordinated contributions to his personal PAC from groups with important legislation pending in the body he led. By the close of the session, a clear pattern had emerged: Hubbard received large contributions either immediately before or after significant legislative action – such as introduction, amendment, passage, or enactment into law – from big-money donors who had compelling interest in the passage or defeat of the legislation.