By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY – Given all the circumstances, it seems that Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard may have already been indicted by the Lee County Grand Jury currently investigating public corruption in the State.
Hubbard was named in both the plea bargain and statement of facts associated with convicted former Representative Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, as well as in the indictment of Representative Barry Moore, R-Enterprise. Both Wren and Moore’s adjudications came in relation to the Lee County Grand Jury’s investigation, which has now been ongoing for nearly a year.
Since December of 2013, Speaker Hubbard, R-Auburn, has spent nearly $150,000 on legal fees from his campaign fund. In fact, earlier this week, Representative Moore spent $25,000 on attorney fees from his campaign coffers after receiving two transfers totaling that amount from a PAC controlled by Hubbard – one $10,000 contribution on the day Moore was served his indictments by the AG’s Office and one $15,000 contribution just days after.
Whether or not campaign contributions meant to support a candidate’s election effort can be used to pay legal defense fees had been an unclear area of the law until then Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor issued an official opinion in June of 2000 aimed at clarifying the matter once and for all, though clarity is hardly what we have today, at least in this case.
Pryor’s opinion, the chief legal interpretation available on the topic, is relatively clear. It’s conclusion states the following:
“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.”
So, in short, legal expenses can be paid from campaign contributions if:
1) It is “pursuant to a criminal indictment,” and
2) “the indictment is related to the performance of the duties of the office held.”
Under this interpretation – presumably the best, direct authority on the matter – while Moore would meet at least the first prong, Hubbard certainly would not, as far as the public knows. In effect, his use of money from his campaign funds is legal only if, in fact, Hubbard has already been criminally indicted.
Indictments issued by a grand jury can be sealed for an amount of time, usually to prevent the accused from fleeing or destroying evidence or, as might be the case here, to prevent the indictment from interfering with an ongoing public corruption investigation.
While all grand jury proceedings are kept secret, court documents relating to the criminal case against Rep. Barry Moore filed by the AG’s Office revealed that the Lee County Special Grand Jury is indeed convening this week, May 13-15.