By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Since early August 2013, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) has engaged the law firms of White, Arnold & Dowd and Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell to represent him, in what lead attorney J. Mark White characterized as an investigation into individuals or groups who were making false statements against the Speaker and his family.
Since December 2013, Hubbard has used his personal campaign account to pay the two law firms $146,610.77 for their services. Hubbard is represented by J. Mark White and Lance Bell.
It has been assumed that Hubbard had a right to use his campaign funds in accordance with a June 2000, opinion issued by then Attorney General Bill Pryor.
This was referenced in a January 2014 story by al.com that followed on the heels of the report by the Alabama Political Reporter, that revealed Hubbard’s use of campaign funds to pay his attorneys’ fees.
AL.com stated that, “A 2000 opinion by the Attorney General’s office advised that elected officials can also pay criminal legal fees out of excess campaign finance funds if the accusations were related to how the person performed in office.”
This seems to make a case that Hubbard has a legal right to use “excess campaign finance funds” for legal fees. However, Pryor’s opinion states, “Excess campaign funds may be used by an incumbent office holder to pay legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment if the indictment is related to the performance of the duties of the office held.” The key words here being “pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment.”
Hubbard and his attorneys have steadfastly maintained that their work was related to an investigation of those who were disparaging Hubbard or his family.
Therefore, Hubbard would not be allowed to use these funds to pay White or Bell because their services are not “legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment.”
Hubbard and White continue to maintain that Hubbard has committed no wrong doing and is not a part of any investigation, much less, has he been indicted.
In fact, after the plea agreement entered into by Rep. Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) in which he disclosed that he had worked in concert with Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard to place language into the 2013 General Fund Budget which would have given American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. (APCI) a monopoly over the right to administer the State’s Medicaid Pharmaceutical Benefits Plan (PBM), neither Hubbard or his attorneys have acknowledged that their work for Hubbard involves criminal investigation or criminal indictment.
However, Wren confirmed under oath in his plea agreement that, “Among the meetings Wren participated in while attempting to obtain legislative support for the Co-op Exclusive language were meetings attended by the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.” Hubbard has denied Wren’s statements saying he was not involved.
The question remains as to how Hubbard can pay his legal team from his campaign funds, if he is not under investigation or indictment for a criminal offense?
Pryor’s opinion also states that the use of campaign funds to pay for a legal defense must be “related to the performance of the duties of the office held.”
If Hubbard conspired to place language into the General Fund Budget to help a client, how is that related to his job as a legislator?
Would taking a bribe be considered a part of his official duties as Speaker of the House?
A careful reading of Pryor’s opinion would seem to indicate that Hubbard is using his campaign funds contrary to that opinion or that White and Bell have not been forth coming about the reason they were engaged by Hubbard.
Over the weekend, Bell who is the Chairman of the St. Clair County Republican Party took to his Facebook page to say, “I am proud to represent the Speaker. Fine family man and great leader.”
What is the real reason Bell is representing Hubbard?