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Sorting Through the Speaker’s Dirty Laundry

Lee Hedgepeth

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By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY – Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard has dismissed the contents of a recently leaked internal RSLC memo in which the national GOP group assesses dubious and likely illegal activities surrounding Hubbard’s 2010 “Storming” of the State House, saying the report of the document is “rehashing events already reported by the press” – and mostly, he’s right.

The document released by Politico this week, an internal memo of the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national GOP group, analyzes a money laundering scandal allegedly initiated and perpetuated by Speaker Mike Hubbard in which he funneled donations from politically toxic sources like the Poarch Creek Indians through the RSLC in order to avoid disclosure, an action the memo asserts is illegal under state law.

Though sorting through Hubbard’s dirty laundry can be a mess, the Alabama Political Reporter revealed nearly all of what is detailed in the memo through investigative reporting completed as early as 2012.

As laid out in the memo, Hubbard had a dollar-for-dollar agreement with officials inside the national GOP organization under which the Speaker would send contributions to the RSLC and the group would then cut checks for candidates of his choice, to be sent to the Hubbard’s office for personal distribution.

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This is old news. APR’s editor Bill Britt outlined these transactions in December of 2012 in an article revealing that the then newly created special grand jury had subpoenaed records regarding Hubbard’s time as ALGOP chairman:

“There are reports that Hubbard, while head of the ALGOP, took money from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians that was filtered through the RSLC. On October 10, 2010, the Republican State Leadership Committee reported receipt of $250,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians. On October 14, 2010, the RSLC reported an expenditure of $200,000 to the Alabama Republican Party,” he wrote.

The newly released internal memo reflects the same facts:

“Of much greater concern, however, is 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 question about RSLC’s financial activity in Alabama. 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 sizeable casino/gaming interests… At almost the same time, the records show that RSLC’s Alabama-registered entity (RSLC-AL) made contributions of almost the same amount… This includes… $850,000 in contributions to the Alabama Republican Party.”

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APR additionally covered questionable transactions involving Citizens for a Better Alabama, which we revealed had funneled money raised by then Governor Bob Riley through an interview with the PAC’s director, an issue not addressed by the memo.

Also not noted in the document obtained by Politico – reasonably, as they are not RSLC transactions – were the successful efforts of Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh in soliciting around half a million in campaign cash from Poarch Creek through personal visits to the tribe, reported here by APR in October of 2012.

State GOP leaders also used their caucus’s nonprofit to launder campaign dollars as well, receiving contributions from groups like the Alabama Education Association anonymously. The scheme was revealed by Hubbard spokesperson Rachel Adams mistakenly released the group’s IRS documents. APR reported on that story here. 

It’s also not the first time Alabama’s Republican leadership has caused what the memo refers to as “PAC-to-PAC controversy.”

On the day Governor Bob Riley signed the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban, Hubbard awarded several of his top campaign staffers with $38,000 win bonuses that had been transferred from one political action committee to another at the behest of top GOP lawmaker Sen. Jabo Waggoner, a story we reported on here.

Speaker Hubbard is currently under investigation by a Lee County Grand Jury. As all proceedings are secret under law, what APR editor Bill Britt wrote of the RSLC funneling in late 2012 still rings true: “It is not known if this is part of the grand jury investigation, but those close to the proceeding agree it may have some bearing on the case.”

The Alabama Political Reporter has done its part to carefully sort through the Speaker’s dirty laundry, a fact merely reinforced by Politico’s leaked document.

Now, it is the Lee County Grand Jury’s turn.

Rep. Barry Moore, indicted by the Grand Jury in April for lying in the course of the investigation against Hubbard, is set to begin in mid-September.

Further questioned about Politico’s report, Speaker Hubbard said it is “not worth the paper it is printed on.”

Here’s an electronic copy.

 

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Health

Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels

Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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UAB Chief of Hospital Medicine Dr. Kierstin Kennedy.

Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19. 

The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192. 

Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.

The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.” 

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Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.” 

“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.” 

The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.

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As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.

ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.

ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.

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Corruption

Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence

The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was booked into jail to begin serving his four-year sentence for ethics violations in September. (VIA LEE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER)

Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two. 

Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.

Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”   

Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.” 

“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.

Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months. 

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.

“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law.  Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”

Hubbard was booked into the Lee County Jail on Sept. 11, more than four years after his conviction. On Nov. 5 he was taken into custody by the Department of Corrections.

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News

Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”

It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.

Eddie Burkhalter

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday. 

“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.” 

Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game. 

It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.

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National

Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83

The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

Brandon Moseley

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Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton

Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”

Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.

Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.

The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.

While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.

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Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”

His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.

This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

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