By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Monday, politico.com published a confidential report revealing that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, in collusion with the Republican State Leadership Committee, (RSLC), funneled over a million dollars into Alabama “improperly.”
The investigation was led by notable D.C. law firm, Baker Hostetler.
Many elements of the memo have been previously reported by the Alabama Political Reporter. However, the Baker Hostetler internal investigation conducted at the request of the RSLC is yet another round of evidence of a still, very hot smoking gun.
The report concludes that Hubbard, along with senior members of the RSLC, violated Alabama law, in an attempt to hide “Toxic” campaign funds through a “one-for-one” money swap.
The 2011 report titled, “Investigation Into Alabama Activity During The 2010 Election Cycle,” was initiated by the RSLC Board of Director, and according to its authors, “Based upon our interviews with RSLC staff and our review of RSLC’s public and private financial records.” The report says that, “it appears that current and former senior RSLC staff, Tim Barnes and Scott Ward in particular, engaged in improper activities that, taken together, would lead an outside observer to conclude that RSLC had made contributions in the name of another. In particular, it appears that RSLC, with Tim and Scott’s full knowledge and approval, entered into an agreement with Mike Hubbard, State Party Chair and Speaker of the House in Alabama, under which Hubbard raised money for RSLC from Alabama donors which RSLC then contributed, on a ‘one-on-one’ basis, back to PACs and candidates controlled or supported by Hubbard.”
The scheme revealed in the report shows Hubbard raising money for the RSLC, which would then be transferred back to Hubbard completely cleaned of its original donors.
The report concludes that, “It would appear, then, to an outside observer, that Hubbard was raising money for RSLC that was either politically toxic or in excess of Alabama contribution limits, and then channeling that money through RSLC back to himself in order to get around the governing Alabama campaign finance laws.”
On Monday, Hubbard, went on the offensive saying that he had no deal with the RSLC and did nothing improper. However, RSLC staffers interview for the report contradict Hubbard’s assertion. Scott Ward, identified as Chief of Staff, reveled, “that Mike Hubbard originally approached him with the one-for-one deal, under which Hubbard would raise money for RSLC in return for which RSLC would contribute the same amount of money back into Alabama.” Ward, said in an interview with the investigators that he took the proposal to Tim Barnes, then CEO of the RSLC, and that they, “agreed to make the deal,” with Hubbard. Staci Goede, Margee Clancy and Ben Cannatti, all staffer at the RSLC at the time of the report also confirm, Ward account. However, then RSLC, CEO Tim Barnes, denied any such arrangement with Hubbard.
Barnes was terminated by the RSLC Board after the Baker Hostetler report, which was the recommendation of the investigating attorneys. As for Ward, the reported recommended his termination as well because he had been, “Hubbard’s go-between with Tim in making the ‘one-for-one’ deal. RSLC cannot afford to continue its association with him.”
The report makes clear that they investigating attorneys believed that the action taken by Hubbard and the RSLC, “implicate violations of two sections of the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act: 1) making a contribution in the name of another, and 2) violating the PAC-to-PAC transfer law.”
Another, more interesting accounts of one-on-one money transfers was $850,000 to the Alabama Republican Party.
In 2010, Hubbard also instructed John Ross, his executive director at the ALGOP, to enter into a sub-contacting agreement with Florida based Majority Strategies.
In 2010, the ALGOP at Hubbard direction entered in to a contract with Majority Strategies of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, was for $848,687. Majority Strategies, then in turn, sub-contacted the printing of “hundreds of glossy and colorful campaign flyers for GOP candidates,” to a Hubbard business interest Craftmasters Printers, Inc. It is quite possible that the some of the money once cleaned by the RSLC, landed back into Hubbard’s own pockets, which in itself could be a felony act of embezzlement.
According to the attorney’s report, the worry for the RSLC was “the question of what might be revealed by any sort of investigation or additional scrutiny as a result of the PAC-to-PAC transfer controversy. By themselves, RSLC’s public financial disclosures appear to raise serious questions about RSLC’s financial activity in Alabama.”
The report focuses heavily on the transfer of funds from the Poarch Creek Indians’ (PCI) casino operation to fund the Republican takeover of the Alabama State House.
Alabama Political Reporter was the first to report that then ALGOP, Finance Chairman, Sen. Del Marsh was the man who approached the Poarch Creek Indians for campaign contributions in 2010. When first reported Marsh and Hubbard denied, that the request was ever made. But after confirmation from Robbie McGee, of PCI, confirmed the request from Marsh, a slow acknowledgement was made by Marsh. Former Lt. Gov. turned lobbyist is also mentioned in the report as a lobbyist for the Tribe and contributor along with the PCI.
The report concludes that the revelation of “toxic” money from the gaming industry would have a devastating effect on the State’s Republican Party.
“If these events are made public, the resulting media frenzy will be a political disaster for Alabama Republicans, a disaster with which RSLC will forever be associated,” the report stated of the alleged scheme.
However, barely a ripple was seen, because the mainstream media failed to delve into the controversy.
In fact, Alabama Political Reporter received threats and were denied access to legislator as punishment from the Speaker’s office as well as the Senate President Pro Tem., for reporting on the events surrounding the PCI money scheme.
The attorneys who prepared the report also feared the illegal nature of the cleaning of the toxic money, might have been illegal on the part of Hubbard and RSLC.
“These records show, among other things, that RSLC received several hundred thousand dollars from politically-toxic sources in Alabama, including the Poarch Creek Indians, who have sizable casino/gaming interests, and their lobbyist, Steve Windom.”
“The records show that RSLC’s Alabama-registered entity (“RSLC-AL”) made contributions of almost the same amount to PACs controlled or supported by Mike Hubbard. This includes $523,000 in contributions to 136 Years PAC, NET PAC, and Citizens for a Better Alabama; and $850,000 in contributions to the Alabama Republican Party,” the lawyers said of the actions of the RSLC.
They also believed that, “Any journalist or investigator who reviewed these records would conclude, fairly or not, that RSLC made contributions in the name of another at least in part to hide the fact that Republicans were taking money from Indian gaming interests.”
Yet, the response to reports of these allegation by the Alabama Political Reporter were met with denial, personal attack against its staff, and backlash from radio talking heads.
Even now the talking heads are spinning the report as “nothing new.”
Perhaps most troubling according to the RSLC internal report are contributions made to Citizens for a Better Alabama. “The $100,000 contribution to Citizens for a Better Alabama (“CBA”), which is not controlled by Hubbard, is particularly troubling. CBA is not a Republican PAC, and it is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for RLSC to contribute money to a non Republican group. Worse, CBA appears to be the renamed “Citizens Against Legalized Lottery (“CALL”),” one of the Christian groups through which Jack Abramoff funneled Choctaw Indian-money to help Ralph Reed rally social conservatives against.”
A 2013 report by the Alabama Political Reporter reveled that then Gov. Bob Riley was the driving force behind Citizens for a Better Alabama.
Director for CBA, A. Eric Johnston, a Birmingham-based attorney and anti-gambling advocate, explained in the 2013 story the operational relationship between Bob Riley, Mike Hubbard and his 501c(4). According to Johnston, efforts by then-Governor Bob Riley allowed over a million dollars to flow through his nonprofit, Citizens for Better Alabama, into to the hands of Mike Hubbard. “Someone from the governor’s [Bob Riley’s] office would call and say you’re getting a check for $200,000 and you’re going to get a bill at the same time from [Mike] Hubbard’s deal and you need to pay that, that is what that money is for.”
After aligning with Riley and Hubbard in 2010, CBA raised and spent over $1 million after never receiving over $50,000 in donations in any previous year.
Based on 2010 campaign finances and other records, the CBA was a crucial conduit for passing campaign cash through the 501c(4) into a potentially lucrative aspect of Mike Hubbard’s financial bottom-line.
According to the IRS Form 990 tax return filed by CBA for 2010, the tax-exempt 501c(4) group took in a little over $1 million in donations. Of that amount, $413,750 came from Hubbard’s personal leadership PAC – the Auburn-based Network PAC – between February and October 2010.
Riley’s Gov PAC gave $292,000 and $314,500 was contributed directly to CBA through individuals at Riley’s request.
Johnston said that the money that his organization received was almost entirely for advertising, he said, “Mike was in that business and I thought it appropriate for him to handle it.”
According to the RSLC internal report, “We do not know why RSLC-AL made this contribution, though it appears to have been at Hubbard’s direction. Nor do CBA’s financial disclosures reveal where this money went. In fact, CBA’s November 2010 financial disclosure does not report the contribution at all.”
They also concluded that this revelation, “would cause a political firestorm in Alabama if made public. Both Hubbard and his ally, Governor Riley, have made a political cause out of eliminating non-tribe gaming in Alabama. Now, it would appear to an outside observer that this has been a hypocritical effort funded by Indian gambling interests in order to keep non-Indian casinos out of Alabama. RSLC was reckless in making a contribution to a group historically affiliated with Jack Abramoff.”
As the report shows, Hubbard has been the lead actor, in what may be some serious legal issues for him and the RSLC. Alabama Political Reporter, over the past two years has documented not only Hubbard’s role in this another questionable matters, but also the involvement of Marsh and Riley.