By Bill Britt, Susan Britt, and Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, October 17, Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R from Auburn) was indicted on twenty three counts for alleged misconduct that occurred in his roles as Speaker of the House and formerly the Chairman of the Republican Party.
The indictments could be a serious blow to the re-election efforts of the Republican Super-majorities in both Houses and threatens to upset the leadership of both Houses prior to the November general election. For many citizens of Alabama the indictments are shocking news. but, loyal readers of The Alabama Political Reporter and viewers of our television program, The Voice of Alabama Politics, have been aware for months that this was coming. The Lee County Grand Jury has been investigating these shocking allegations about Speaker Hubbard and his fellow alleged co-conspirators literally for years now stretching out as early as 2012.
Since The Alabama Political Reporter has been the only news source in this State who has been willing to report on almost anything about the Speaker, other than what his paid political operatives spin and package in news releases and sound bites, we have taken a moment to recap the reporting which led up to today’s shocking indictments. Today, their allies in the media are spinning tales about supposed leaks and whining about unfair investigative grand juries. What they should be talking about is the evidence of a vast conspiracy of corruption involving elected officials and powerful corporations who were using the state of Alabama for their own ill gotten gains.
On December 7, 2011, The Alabama Political Reporter went online with our first edition. The purpose of the premiere Alabama political news site was to chronicle the events, issues, and happenings of the Alabama political scene, the Alabama Congressional Delegation, Alabama Governor’s office, and Alabama legislature in unprecedented detail.
This has never been a “gotcha site” that manufactures scandals to prop up readership or a gossip site that reports on legislators’ affairs and sexual misadventures. Anyone who knows Montgomery, knows that slander merchants and private investigators peddle every such tale (real or invented) to all the journalists and most of the lobbyists and political operatives.
We have never been interested in destroying people’s marriages, careers, and reputations for the sake of drawing a few, voyeuristic readers. This is a hard, news site, not some partisan “Drudge-lite” fan site for ALGOP members or Alabama Democrats who want to hear that their “team” is totally brilliant and wonderful and the other side is full of criminals and brain dead zombies. When we receive real evidence of unethical or even illegal conduct by public officials, whether they are Republicans or Democrats we have and we will investigate it as far as our resources will allow.
Within just a few short months of reporting, we began to receive troubling stories about Speaker Mike Hubbard and the leadership in the state legislature. Many of the reports were entirely unsubstantiated or we could not publish the information without revealing the source; but what we were learning was making us increasingly uncomfortable.
There are two schools of thought in journalism. The first is that exposing wrongdoing can build credibility; but exposing the sleazy underbelly of politics also can lead to blow-back from elected officials and retribution from their corporate allies. As a small internet start-up we needed friends to help us grow our advertising base and to generate content. Our original thinking was that we would let the mainstream media expose most scandals and we would just sort of ride along: there being safety in numbers. It rapidly became apparent that the current generation of old media reporters and news-talk radio personalities were perfectly willing to ignore any hint of scandal anywhere in the state of Alabama. Early on we weren’t hearing anything that had not already been presented to the more accomplished members of the Alabama Capital press corps; but in exchange for limited access from the Montgomery powers that be, they were perfectly willing to be absolutely silent on just about everything no matter how reliable the source. Throughout this investigation we have been shocked and dismayed by how far our brother and sister journalists in the corporate media were willing to go to pretend that there was no scandal coming out of the Speaker’s office…….or anywhere else for that matter.
Finally, with reluctance and great trepidation we were forced by sheer disgust to lead this hunt for truth completely by ourselves (to this day, the rest of the media hounds are apparently still resting in their comfortable corporate offices counting down the days until they get their pensions or some plush spokesperson job somewhere).
On October 31, 2012 we reported that in 2010 Senator Del Marsh (R) from Anniston was sent on a mission, presumably by then House Minority Leader Hubbard (then also doing double duty as the Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party) to collect funds from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) for Republican candidates.
Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) denied any knowledge of the funds being from gambling organizations.
The Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) legally operate gaming/bingo casinos in Alabama.
Sen. Marsh solicited the money from the PCI in 2010 when he was the head of finance for the Alabama Republican Party.
According to Robert McGhee, who serves on the Tribal Council and Governmental Relations for the PCI, Senator Marsh came to the PCI headquarters in Atmore, Alabama, and requested the contribution. When McGhee was asked if the request for the money came from Del Marsh, he said “Yes,” when asked again MaGhee said, “it wasn’t at our request, it was at his [Marsh’s] request.”
According to McGhee, Marsh made such request on two occasions, asking for $100K on one visit and $250K on the next, “We gave the money in the spirit of bi-partisan support for Alabama government,” said McGhee.
Campaign finance laws do not allow for a donor to specify where money is spent once it is given, the PCI says that they were told the funds would be used to finance state GOP senate races.
This means that the state GOP leadership was coordinating the flow of gambling money after carefully laundering it, not the PCI. It is important to follow the $350K that was given by the PCI from in the 2010 election cycle. It entering into the system and how and to whom it was distributed.
Over the 2010 election cycle the PCI gave $350K to the Republican State Leadership Committee, (RSLC).
According to the IRS records on July 15, 2010, the RSLC recorded the contribution of $100K from the PCI. However, according to McGhee the PCI wrote the check on June 8.
‘The Montgomery Advertiser’ reported that there is an error in the RSLC reporting, they reported, “A check log from the Republican State Leadership Committee shows the group received a $100,000 check from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on June 10, 2010. That same day, the RSLC made a $100,000 contribution to Citizens for a Better Alabama,” according to state campaign finance documents filed by the RSLC.
The donation was not reported on the RSLC’s filings with the Internal Revenue Service until August 2010, when it was reported as a donation made July 15, 2010, over a month after RSLC records show the check arrived. This is supposedly based on private information given the Advertiser, by the RSLC.
The Advertiser also reported that, “The Republican State Leadership Committee shared the news of the contribution to Citizens for a Better Alabama with a letter addressed to Riley’s son, Rob, an adviser to his father who helped manage Gov. Riley’s two runs for that office. The Advertiser obtained a copy of the letter, which is dated the same day as the contribution from the Poarch Creek Indians to the RSLC.”
Some have speculated that the first $100 the PCI gave was funneled to the campaign of Luther Strange (R) for Attorney General, in July.
According to McGhee the first check Marsh requested was written on June 9, 2010. This time line would seem to point to the money flowing in to the Citizens for a Better Alabama as reported by the Advertiser and not to Strange.
The Citizens for a Better Alabama (CBA) is headed by Birmingham lawyer A. Eric Johnston. Johnson has been a champion of the anti-gambling movement in Alabama. The CBA website says, “We engage the legal and political culture on a range of issues, including gambling, traditional marriage, and the sanctity of life.”
ALGOP has publicly stood firm against gambling in Alabama and yet they have asked for money from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians.
Mike Hubbard has said he did not know of any money from the PCI going to fund campaigns in Alabama during the 2010. This seems harder to believe since Hubbard’s second-in-command, Marsh, personally asked and receive PCI funds according to the tribe. (See article here.)
Retribution for daring to report anything negative was both harsh and swift. We were informed by a key aide to the Pro Tem, Derek Trotter, and Marsh’s Chief of staff, Phillip Bryan, that the Republican Super-Majority was cutting us out for daring to report the truth. No longer would we receive press releases or notices of press conferences from either the Republican Senate Caucus or the House Republican Caucus. How the legislature supposedly benefits from even less distribution of their spinned and canned press statements is anybody’s guess, but the rest of the press corps got the message. (See article here.)
On November 25 and 26, 2012 we exposed that a Chairman Bill Armistead ordered review of Republican finances had revealed that that while he was still the Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party Mike Hubbard’s personal business interests were paid over $1,000,000 in campaign expenditures from at least 18 GOP candidates and at least 4 Political Action Committees (PAC). On top of that almost $800,000 spent with Majority Strategies for GOP printing was then sub-contracted to Hubbard owned Craftmasters Printing. The Craftmasters printing link was originally reported by the Alabama Media Group’s Chuck Dean. The widely respected Dean was later relegated to working on special projects by his Alabama Media Group corporate masters.
Speaker Hubbard said that “the contract with Majority Strategies was negotiated by then GOP executive director John Ross,” who answered directly to Mike Hubbard. Ross is now a partner in the high-powered lobbying group Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross. Ross along with Dax Swatek, and David Azbell are key lieutenants of Speaker Hubbard and have been reported as receiving lucrative contracts from Alabama state government. To this day most establishment Republican campaigns in Alabama are run by Swatek’s well-connected firm. (See article here.)
Also in November, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter,’ reported that Senator Del Marsh (R) from Anniston had requested and received at least two campaign contributions from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) in Atmore in 2010. Marsh, then served as the Chairman of the Alabama GOP Finance Committee (while Speaker Hubbard was ALGOP Chairman), solicited and received first $100K and then $250,000 from the Poarch Creeks. These facts have been confirmed by Robert McGhee, who serves on the Tribal Council and Governmental Relations for the PCI. The Tribe was told that the funds they contributed would be used to finance state senate races.
The funds were then funneled through the RSLC then to the ALGOP before being handed out to candidates across the state. The GOP leadership used the PAC-to-PAC transfers to disguise the real contributors from the public, its own party members, and obviously their candidates Democratic opponents. By hiding the money’s source, the GOP could rail against Democrats for taking gaming money while doing the same thing behind the voter’s back. (See article here.)
On December 12, 2012 we reported that a special grand jury had subpoenaed records concerning Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Three sources with intimate knowledge of the investigation told us that, a Special Grand Jury led by the Public Corruption Unit of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office was gathering documents related to Hubbard’s time as Chairman of the ALGOP. The quid-pro-quo arrangements between campaign contributions and Hubbard-owned businesses was part of the investigation, as well as money that was filtered through the RSLC. We also reported that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has recused himself from the investigation. Speaker Hubbard said, “I have nothing to hide and that, whatever it is – and it’s not an audit – shows we did nothing improper. Nothing.”
ALGOP’s audit revealed over $800,000 of questionable ALGOP spending with Hubbard owned companies, but when the money from Majority Strategies of Florida, is added to the money directly spent by GOP candidates with Hubbard-controlled companies the total reaches nearly 2 million dollars. Much of the direct money flowed into Network Creative Media which is a Hubbard-owned advertising agency. According to the company’s website they specialize in radio, TV, print, outdoor, direct marketing and web strategies.
In the 2010 election, Hubbard controlled or influenced PACs included: 136 Years PAC, NETPAC, Alabama Republican Party and Alabama Republican Party (Federal PAC). PAC-to-PAC transfers were made between the four Hubbard-controlled PACs involved in these transactions including: 136-Year PAC $50,000 from ALGOP PAC and $100,900.00 from NETPAC, 136 Years PAC then spent $15,334.55 with Hubbard-owned companies. NETPAC received $158,000.00 from ALGOP PAC, $150,000 from Friends of Mike Hubbard, and $85,000 from 136 Year PAC. NETPAC then spent $16,020.29 with Hubbard-owned companies. Hubbard, while head of the ALGOP, also took money from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians that was filtered through the RSLC. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) received $250,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians and then reported an expenditure of $200,000 to the Alabama Republican Party. (See article here.)
Most of the rest of the Alabama media remained utterly silent.
Hubbard and his minions then began contacting our advertisers directly. Lobbyists have told us that they were told that if they advertise with ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ then the Speaker would prevent their bills from ever appearing on the legislature’s calendar for a vote, regardless of the merits of the bill.
On January 16, 2013 we reported that Hubbard had opened a new PAC, the Storming the Statehouse PAC, or “Storm PAC.” The new PAC was filed with the Alabama Secretary of State on October 12, 2012 listing Hubbard as Chairman, and Charles Hines as treasurer. This coincided with the timing of various news reports questioning campaign activities by Hubbard during the 2010 election cycle. Hubbard said the new PAC was formed “in order to protect the incumbents in our Republican majority in their re-election efforts.”
A Republican insider with knowledge of Hubbard’s tactics told us, “Mike is going to try and control all the money to insure loyalty, to himself, well, maybe not loyalty but obedience for sure.” Even in his book “Storming the Statehouse,” Hubbard emphasized that those Republicans who did not tow the line for him would be “punished.”
Hubbard uses his controlled PACs to bring money into the lone control of the Hubbard machine. During the 2010 campaign season, Hubbard used PACs under his control to feed millions of dollars into campaigns and also into his own businesses. A study of campaign finance records for the 2010 election cycle shows that Hubbard’s business interests were paid over $1,000,000 in campaign expenditures from at least 18 GOP candidates and at least 4 Political Action Committees (PAC). This does not include the almost $800,000 spent with Majority Strategies for GOP printing that was sub-contracted to Hubbard’s Craftmasters as reported by AL.com.
Hubbard, said that Storm PAC would raise money to let “our members… know that I’m firmly in their corner, watching out for them and committed to protecting them.” Is Hubbard using his money to “protect” legislators or is he using his money to buy the loyalty of those legislators? He will need their loyalty if he intends to remain the Speaker of the House while he is under indictment.
Lobbyists have constantly complained to us of Hubbard’s insistence on pay-to-play fundraising. It has been widely circulated to high profile donors that campaign contributions be directly given to Hubbard for distribution and not given to individual candidates. One North Alabama business person complained about a legislator from the Huntsville area who delivered that message only to be reminded that they would need the legislature in the future and that they had better follow the new rules. The legislator said, “There are consequences for making Mike unhappy.” (See article here.)
Hubbard and his minions responded by unleashing their jackals on talk radio on ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’, our advertisers, and us personally. Regular listeners of some talk radio shows in Alabama have heard a steady stream of verbal assault on ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ and the Britts personally for the last ten months. Listeners of those shows should ask themselves if they can ever remember those same ‘radio personalities’ talking about the investigative grand jury that every political operative in the state has been aware of for well over a year or any of the allegations that led to today’s indictments. If the answer to that question is “No” then you know that that radio show is not a credible news source.
On, February 15, 2013 we reported that as the legislative session was opening Speaker Mike Hubbard was the apparent subject of an Attorney General’s probe into whether state laws were broken when perhaps millions were funneled from the Alabama Republican Party and other PACs to companies owned by Hubbard during his tenure as ALGOP chairman.
The Tuesday session was the first official gathering of legislators since the Special Grand Jury began hearing evidence, including financial records from the Alabama Republican Party during Hubbard’s reign.
One Freshman Republican told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter,’ “When I came here I was new to how I believed in the leadership operated,” said a freshmen representative, who did not want to be identified, “now, that I know what is really going on, I am keeping my distance [from the speaker], frankly I’m scared that I may be somehow involved and didn’t know it.”
As the state investigation proceeded, the Alabama Political Reporter has continued to examine the flow of cash from the state Republican Party, various political organizations and legislative candidates to businesses and PACs controlled by Hubbard. We have identified hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Hubbard’s companies – transactions that are in addition to those currently being examined by investigators. But it remains unclear exactly how much money Hubbard profited, personally, and to what extent his businesses were propped up by political money during the historic 2010 elections.
In 2010, Hubbard allegedly used PAC-to-PAC transfers to funnel more than $400,000 to an anti-gambling group linked to Indian gaming casinos in Alabama. The group, Citizens for a Better Alabama (CBA), in turn hired Hubbard’s private companies to create and saturate the Alabama airwaves with anti-gambling ads – some or all of which were produced by one of Hubbard’s privately owned companies.
Citizens for Better Alabama (CBA) was a Birmingham-based, tax-exempt group that was the public face of opposition to Sweet Home Alabama, and to shut down legal casinos operated at VictoryLand and Country Crossings. According to archived versions of its website, the CBA – run by Birmingham lawyer A. Eric Johnston – has “been an advocate for the family since 1991, but its origin, funding and objectives were never quite transparent.
According to the Associated Press, CBA started out as “Citizens Against Legalized Lottery” but changed its name in 2001 after an investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs disclosed the group was “a vehicle by which Mississippi casino interests opposed legislation in Alabama that threatened their market share on gaming.” CBA resurfaced in 2010 in a bitter and expensive campaign against VictoryLand and Country Crossing. Again, it used Indian gaming money, in part, to fund its political battle. The Montgomery Advertiser reported late last year that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians gave $100,000 in 2010 to a national Republican organization the same day that organization donated $100,000 to CBA. The Advertiser reported that “a check log from the Republican State Leadership Committee shows the group received a $100,000 check from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on June 10, 2010. State campaign-finance documents filed by the RSLC show the GOP group made a $100,000 donation that same day to Citizens for a Better Alabama.”
For Speaker Hubbard, opposing gambling was good politics because VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor supported the campaigns of numerous Democratic incumbents (incumbents which the Alabama Republican Party under Hubbard were targeting in 2010.)
The CBA group was also a potentially lucrative aspect of his financial bottom-line. According to the IRS Form 990 tax returned filed by CBA for 2010, the tax-exempt 501c4 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.
On February 2, 2010: Alabama Republican Party (controlled by Mike Hubbard) sent $50,000 to Network PAC (controlled by Mike Hubbard). NETWORK PAC shows receipt of the $50,000 from the Alabama GOP THE SAME DAY and immediately wrote a check to CBA THAT SAME DAY On February 1, 2010 Sanford P. Brass, the CEO of Gulf Coast Asphalt (who now employs Hubbard’s political mentor. Bob Riley as a lobbyist) wrote a check for $50,000 to NETWORK PAC. The next day that $50,000 was passed on to CBA
The $155,000 that passed through NETWORK PAC to CBA on March 1, 2010 is a truly remarkable example of political money laundering. Mike Hubbard ran precisely $155,000 through 5 PACS (three of them controlled by Bob Riley’s nephew and niece-Johnny Adams and wife Kim Adams, one controlled by Riley’s political consultant Dax Swatek, and one controlled by Hubbard himself) back into NETWORK PAC and then sending that exact $155,000 to CBA.
Hubbard ran as an opponent of PAC-to-PAC transfers. But while PAC-to-PAC transfers were legal, and practiced by Democrats and Republicans alike, the Hubbard transfers were unique because an unknown amount of the money ended up with Hubbard businesses. The CBA does not disclose in its tax returns, or in state filings for the Political Action Committee it operated at the time, where it spent more than $1 million in contributions. However, Hubbard has acknowledged that the advertising wing of his family of businesses was hired by the CBA.
CBA raised and spent over $1 million in 2010 after never taking in over $50,000 in a year ever before. In an April 2010 story in the Huntsville Times, Hubbard said that his media companies were placing anti-bingo advertising for the CBA. The Times reported that “even though his company is benefiting financially from placing the anti-gambling ads, Hubbard said “that would not stop him from voting” on the bill to allow voter referendum on legalized gambling.
According to the waka.com website, in February 2010 (when Hubbard’s PAC money began flowing to CBA) the group began airing the first of its statewide ads. “CBAs spots accuse gambling interests of misleading Alabamians to approve a tainted casino bill,”
Those close to the Attorney General’s office say that these types transaction between Hubbard and CBA are part of the on going investigations, into allegations that Hubbard enriched himself using campaign contributions. (See article here.)
Speaker Hubbard and his paid hacks apparently grew up on similar playgrounds to the ones that we did. When somebody hits you….you hit them back; never backing down or retreating until someone is a bloody pulp. They responded to this article by launching an e-mail campaign to every member of the Republican Executive Committee attacking ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ and us personally. We tracked the alleged writer of the voluminous email campaign to a Texas lounge singer who plays the Mississippi casino circuit. She likely never knew that her name was used in such a way. How a lounge singer in Texas would have the personal email address of every Republican Executive Committee member is another question entirely. This was clearly a personal attack by Hubbard’s paid hacks in Montgomery, possibly by someone at Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross. Similar tactics were used against ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead when the Hubbard faction attempted to replace the popular party Chairman in 2013. Of course our response to the lies directed at us was to just keep on researching and reporting.
On February 21, 2013 we interviewed CBA head Eric Johnston. Johnston told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that, “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.”
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. Citizens for Better Alabama (CBA) was a Birmingham-based, tax-exempt group that was the public face of opposition to Sweet Home Alabama, and to shut down legal casinos operated at VictoryLand and Country Crossings.
According to Johnston, when Riley became interested in ridding the state of bingo gambling he was contacted by the Governor who said he wanted to help Johnston raise money. “I don’t know why he [Riley] decided to do it [fight gambling] other than it was a propitious time to do it,” said Johnston. “Whatever he was doing was good. He was stopping illegal gambling.”
After aligning with Riley and Hubbard in 2010, CBA raised and spent over $1 million after never taking in over $50,000 in a year ever before.
Based on 2010 campaign finance 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.” Bob Riley told the head of the 501c(4) how the money was to be spent. Not just the large amounts but even the so-called small donation. “I would be informed by the governor’s office that I would be getting a check for 2 or 3 thousand dollars and we would have ad bills that cost that much and that money would be for those bills.” “We ran a zero balance campaign. Whatever money came in was spent, a lot of it was coordinated through Mike Hubbard’s company.”
Johnston said that Mike Hubbard, directed the Media, “I would just get the bills.” Johnston said that he, Riley and Hubbard, while not close, “worked together as a team.” This type of coordination would seem to violate Citizens for Better Alabama tax-exempt status.
Johnston told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter; “I didn’t raise any money.” Johnston said that Gov. Riley would call high net worth individuals around the state to ask for contributions, “I recognized many of the people that sent money. It was the businessmen from around the state.” The bulk of the money came from two PACs where the donors presumably thought that their money was going to finance campaigns not anti-gambling ads. Eric Johnston has made it clear that Riley raised the money, along with two PACs and that Riley directed payments to Mike Hubbard and Hubbard handled whatever media was developed or purchased. (See article here.)
On March 12,2013 we reported that Mike Hubbard has increased spending in the Speaker’s office over his Democratic predecessor by 82.6 percent while bragging about cutting over a $billion in spending from the rest of the state budget, including the schools.
In 2008, under then-Speaker of the House Seth Hammett (D), the Office of the Speaker spent $2,880 on “Services” provided by outside consultants. Mike increased that to $135,820.74 for “Information and Research”
Between the fiscal years 2008 (when Democrat Seth Hammett was Speaker) and fiscal year 2012 (the most recent complete year of spending under Hubbard), total taxpayer dollars spent on running the Office of the Speaker of House nearly doubled. Total spending for the Office of the Speaker of the House increased 82.6 percent– from $488,638 under Hammett to $892,492 under Hubbard last year.
The office payroll increased 54.5 percent under Hubbard, from $364,014.30 in ’08 to $562,511 last year. Of the $135,820.74 in public money spent on outside contracts in Fiscal Year 2012, $96,000 of that was paid by Alabama taxpayers to Azbell Communications, the one-man operation run by David Azbell. Azbell was the co-writer of Hubbard’s book, ‘Storming the Statehouse.’ What type of ‘information and research’ does Azbell conduct for the Speaker, hit jobs on reporters, other republicans? It is widely known that Azbell saw a big increase in pay when he was writing Storming the State House, yet, the book is finished and Azbell is still living large off the taxpayer’s dime.
In 2012, Hubbard’s Chief of Staff Josh Blades was paid a shocking salary of $105,000 for what is meant to be a part-time Speaker. Salaries for the Speaker’s office went from $364,014.30 in 2008 to $562,511.11 in salaries in 2012. That is a 54.5 percent increase.
None of the double digit-growth of the Speaker’s Office includes the tremendous amount that has gone into remodeling the State House and especially the Speaker’s suite of offices. Construction cost and decorating expenses have been hidden and the Speaker’s office has not responded to our multiple requests for information.
The Speaker’s Office now has new carpet, new paint and expanded spaces and multiple flat screen televisions one completely dedicated to a continuous rotation of pictures featuring Mike Hubbard with political dignitaries. The Speaker routinely travels with an entourage and personal body guard, many times in two black SUV’s with tinted windows. Transportation more suited to the President or the Governor not the people’s representative. It is the Speaker’s privilege to be provided a state employee for protection, however, few have ever accepted such a high level of personal security. (See article here.)
On March 14, 2013 we asked the question: How did the son of a humble Georgia postman somehow win ownership of the ‘Auburn Network’ in the first place? For years, it has been speculated that Mike Hubbard was given an unfair advantage in obtaining an Auburn University media contract worth millions of dollars. It had been rumored that Hubbard was given the sealed bids of other media companies vying for the lucrative multimedia rights to Auburn athletics.
Hubbard worked at Auburn University for six years as an assistant sports information director before leaving in 1990 to work for Host Communications, Inc., which held the multimedia rights to Auburn athletics. Then Hubbard who was an employee of Host somehow wrestled the contract away from Host through a no-bid contract in 1994 and formed the Auburn Network.
In the late 1990s, the Auburn Network began experiencing financial difficulties. Trying to rebuild and facing what he apparently perceived as possible retribution from the school’s then athletic director, Hubbard turned to then-Auburn University chief lobbyist Buddy Mitchell for assistance. Mitchell said that Hubbard first acknowledged to him his that company was on the verge of going bankrupt. Auburn forced Hubbard to go through a competitive bid process for the first time. According to Mitchell, Hubbard was given access to all of his competitor’s proprietary proposals prior to making his winning offer for the contract.
Hubbard’s five-year, $8.5 million deal in 2002, was accepted over a competitor’s bid that offered $12.5 million over the same period. That meant Auburn received $4 million less under Hubbard’s proposal than under the bid more financially beneficial to Auburn.
Mitchell detailed in his affidavit how Hubbard approached him numerous times in 2001 and 2002, “desperately” seeking his help in obtaining copies of his competitors’ proposals. “Hubbard wanted to evaluate his competitors’ proposals because he was concerned about his financial future if he lost the contract,” said Mitchell.
Hubbard and Mitchell had become good friends because Mitchell had helped steer Hubbard through his rookie season in the Alabama House, starting in 1999. Mitchell said he often met with Hubbard at his Auburn Network office when he was in Auburn for routine meetings with university officials, and in Montgomery. “Hubbard said that the Athletics Department had never asked for a RFP (Request For Proposals) prior to this time and he wondered if the athletic director was attempting to severe the relationship with his company,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said that Hubbard asked him if he could bring him copies of the proposals submitted by the other companies. As a favor to a friend, Mitchell said he finally consented to help. “I provided Mike Hubbard with his competitor’s proposals early in the review process,” Mitchell stated. “He told me that having the proposals allowed him to clarify or amend his proposal and to raise doubts to Auburn Athletic Department officials about the other proposals.” Mitchell said that he obtained the copies of the other proposals from an Auburn trustee and passed them on to Hubbard. Hubbard has denied the allegations. (See article here.)
On April 8, 2013 we reported that Speaker Mike Hubbard has a suspect consulting contract with the Southeast Alabama Gas District. The contract with SEAGD signed January, 2012, pays Mr. Hubbard $12,000.00 a month for economic development. SEAGD is a public corporation created on January 29, 1952, under Act Number 762, General Laws of Alabama. It was established to provide natural gas service to domestic, commercial and industrial customers located in 32 communities in the southeast portion of the state.
The company said in a written statement that, the “Board Retains Auburn Network and Mike Hubbard to help market [the] region to site selectors, prospective companies.” According to the same press release, “Ozark Mayor Billy Blackwell, who served as chairman of the SEAGD board, said the District is well-positioned to be a catalyst for regional economic development.”
The stated reason for hiring Hubbard was to, “increased efforts to recruit new jobs, support local industries and better market natural gas.” Blackwell also said that the gas district wanted to, “partner with state and local leaders to move our region forward.”
A former prosecutor who asked not to be named said, “This contract stinks on its face. Who is going to believe that the Speaker of the House is going to be seen as just another businessman?” (See article here.)
On May 6, 2013 ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ reported Montgomery’s well-heeled lobbyists and Big Business donors were invited to attend a May 7th soiree, even though legislators are forbidden to raise money while the legislature is in session. The invitation read, “The House Republican Conference Cordially Invites You to the 2013 Alabama Legislative Review … A Reception with Remarks by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Republican Members of the House of Representatives.” Obviously for corporate special interests were still waiting for a bill to be passed this was a must attend event.
Nothing about this fundraiser appears to be in violation of the letter of the Fair Campaign Practices Act, which regulates how politicians and political groups can raise and spend money. The Fair Campaigns Practices Act prohibits lawmakers from soliciting donations for their campaigns during a legislative session, however, the Alabama Republican House Conference can technically have a massive cash-call even with important items including the budget still to do.
The Alabama House Republican Conference, Inc.is not technically a PAC, even though it is raising big money from lobbyists and businessmen, and Speaker Hubbard and his top lieutenants are the officers of the group, the invitation wants you to know the Alabama House Republican Conference is not a Political Action Committee. The Alabama House Republican Conference is registered as a non-profit organization (whose directors are Speaker Hubbard, and Reps. Jay Love and Micky Hammon) with tax-free status. Its’ stated mission is to “discuss” and “educate” the public on “public matters”………..whatever that is supposed to mean. (See article here.)
On May 30, 2013 Hubbard struck back against his critics. Lee County voters received a campaign-style push-card, paid for by the Friends of Mike Hubbard. The mail drop was a direct response to a stinging flyer branding the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as “The Graftmaster.”
The “Graftmaster” label is a play on words on Hubbard’s prized business holdings, the Auburn-based Craftmaster Printers Inc. ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that state grand jury is hearing testimony regarding an investigation into how more than $800,000 was secretly funneled from the Alabama Republican Party to a Florida vendor and then to Craftmaster Printers Inc. during the 2010 election cycle. Hubbard was chairman of the ALGOP at the time.
The Hubbard high-production quality direct mail piece, likely produced by Craftmasters Printing insists he is a “conservative leader” who “works for us.” The printed address for the Friends of Mike Hubbard campaign committee uses is, naturally, the headquarters of his other lucrative business, Auburn Network Inc.
Exactly how Friends of Mike Hubbard paid for the mailer and postage costs is unclear. State campaign finance laws require political communications state clearly who pays the costs. The mailer states that is was paid for Paid for by Friends of Mike Hubbard. Yet, Secretary of State records showed that Friends of Mike Hubbard only had $607 dollars in its account as of January 31, 2013 and it is illegal for him to raise or transfer money until June, after the legislative session ends. Where did the money come from to pay for a mailer that could cost anywhere between $20 and $30 thousand dollars to produce?
Hubbard’s card reads: “Under Attack: Liberal special interests are at it again.” Hubbard’s mailer goes on to say, “They want to protect the status quo, To keep their grip on Montgomery, to stay in control and do what is right for them, not us.” “When the attacks come from the left, you know you’re doing something right.” (See article here.)
On June 10th, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ reported the revelation that Alabama Ethics Commission Director James L. Sumner had approved a shockingly lucrative contract between Speaker Hubbard and a company seeking favorable Medicaid legislation, even though Sumner never saw the contract and relied entirely on Hubbard’s verbal characterization of the business arrangement.
Sumner claimed that Hubbard informed him after-the-fact of a business agreement between Hubbard’s media company, Auburn Network Inc., and the Bessemer-based American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI). Sumner said, “He said it (the contract) was to provide several services is what I understood. I don’t recall that he went into detail.”
APCI is a advocacy group for independent pharmacies, providing government lobbying services, as well as bulk purchasing of prescription drugs. APCI pushed aggressively this spring for a General Fund budget that allow APCI to become the Pharmacy Benefits Manager for Alabama Medicaid Agency, an arrangement potential worth millions of dollars in federal and state Medicaid funds. Budget language pushed by APCI would have made the company the only qualified PBM in Alabama. Major pharmacies across the state – as well as some critics in Gov. Bentley’s administration – were concerned that PBMs might cut reimbursements, making it harder for Medicaid recipients to get their medicines.
Even though APCI was actively lobbying the state for a share of $600 million-a-year in state and federal Medicaid money, Sumner told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that he saw no need for the Ethics Commission or its lawyers to examine details of the business arrangements between the Speaker of the House and APCI. “No, I never saw a contract and didn’t ask to see a contract,” Sumner said.
Did APCI solicit Hubbard because they were impressed with his ability to lobby legislatures in other states or was it intended to influence his favorable votes? Did Hubbard’s multiple votes on the APCI/ Budget bill present a clear or potential conflict of interest?
Hubbard’s Statement of Economic Interest form on April 30, 2013, does not disclose any agreement with APCI. Tim Hamrick, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI) would not return phone calls from the Alabama Political Reporter, but did confirmed that they did have a relationship with the Auburn Network.
Hamrick said in his email, “Our group is pleased with the Auburn Network relationship, which supports our membership growth strategies in 23 other states. Additionally, although not required, the relationship has been reviewed and blessed by the Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission.” APCI represents more than 1,300 drug stores across the country. In Alabama, APCI uses high-powered Montgomery lobbyist Bill Eley. Auburn Network is a private company, 100-percent owned by Hubbard. The Auburn Network held the broadcast rights to Auburn University sports for years until Hubbard sold that division of the company for undisclosed terms to International Sports Properties, now known as IMG Sports.
Hubbard also has another consulting contract with the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) located in Dothan. Since January, 2012 Hubbard has represented SEAGD in the area of economic development, according to Chairman of the Board Billy Blackwell. For these services Hubbard is paid $12,000.00 a month. The Alabama Ethics Commission did review the contract that Hubbard signed with SEAGD. Legal council for the commission Hugh Evans, III, wrote in his opinion, “The only potential issue that we saw [with the SEAGD contract] would be if something came before the legislature that uniquely affected the Southeast Alabama Gas District differently than it affected all other utilities around the State of Alabama.” Evans said that should an issue that directly affected SEAGD come before the legislature that Hubbard, “would expect … to remove himself from discussions, votes, etc.” Evan’s also stated in his opinion that, “the Speaker may not use his position or mantle of his office to assist him in …providing benefits to his … clients.” (See article here.)
On June 11, we reported that Speaker Mike Hubbard cast repeated votes in favor of House versions of a bill giving exclusive rights to manage Alabama’s Medicaid prescription drug purchasing to a company (APCIO) that employs Hubbard under a lucrative public relations contract.
In a series of eleven YES votes cast on April 23rd on state House versions of the General Fund budget, Hubbard actively sought to ensure his public relations client – American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. – became the sole company eligible to provide Pharmacy Benefits Manager services to Alabama’s Medicaid agency. Though he voted multiple times in favor of the legislation, Hubbard never publicly disclosed his financial ties to American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), the company that stood to profit from Medicaid provisions of the budget. Nor did Hubbard declare a conflict of interest or abstain from taking official action on the bill, titled SB143.
While the details of Hubbard’s contract with APCI are unknown, Hubbard’s official actions favoring APCI appear to violate state ethics laws regarding conflicts of interest.
Hubbard’s repeated votes on the House versions of the 2014 General Fund budget came as the Gov. Bentley administration strongly objected to adding the pharmacy language which several officials said was designed to exclusively benefit APCI.
The Vice Chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, Steve Clouse (R), who sponsored the bill said, “Yeah, I understood that it would only benefit one particular group, based on the language that was put in there,”
State Health Officer Don Williamson had a similar understanding. “It was my understanding that there was only one company in Alabama that would meet that criteria.” Asked if that company was APCI, Williamson said, “Yes, sir, that was my understanding.”
When state Senators sent the budget (SB 143) to the House, there was no language benefitting APCI. But by Feb. 23rd, the House had re-crafted the budget adding a section that would have forced the state into using a Pharmacy Benefits Manager to administer the Medicaid prescription drugs purchased. The bill included the language, “The Alabama Medicaid Agency, in order to implement a pharmacy benefit manager program, must seek a pharmacy benefit management organization or manager that will: (i) act in fiduciary capacity and perform its duties in accordance with standards of conduct applicable to a fiduciary, including the allocation of all drug manufacturer rebates, discounts, and incentives to the State General Fund; (ii) establish a maximum allowable cost list; and (iii) operate a group purchasing function with a purchasing base for generic drugs consisting of at least 30% of the retail pharmacies in Alabama.”
Those 23 words requiring the PBM have a purchasing base of 30 percent locked in Hubbard’s client, APCI, as it is the only company that fits the description, officials said.
Clouse did not recall talking to Hubbard about the PBM language being added to the bill. Clouse said. “You know we (Clouse and Hubbard) talk about a lot of things with the budget. I don’t remember in particular.” Clouse said he recalled Rep. Greg Wren suggested the passage benefiting APCI. Wren was “concerned about independent pharmacists and he wanted to add language in there… Greg wanted to put the language in there, so I told him to go ahead and write it up.”
Speaker Hubbard, Rep. Wren, and G. Ferrell Patrick, APCI’s lobbyist in Montgomery all refused to return ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’s calls for comment.
Williamson, the state Health Officer, said he grew increasingly concerned that the PBM provisions limited the state’s ability to find an appropriate PBM. Indeed, the state’s options were limited to a single company – Hubbard’s client. Williamson, as the governor’s point-man on Medicaid worked until the last days of the session to find a compromise to the language inserted into the House budget.
Sen. Orr said that just days before the end of session, “This was one of the last things hanging out there that was not going to work for [Medicaid]. Williamson, got engaged and worked diligently for what I call compromise language…that would leave him with flexibility to issue a RFP [Request for Proposal] for PBMs effective next year. Williamson categorized the negotiations as tough and confrontational. Williamson said that the language inserted in the House — language favoring Hubbard’s client—was the biggest problem with the bill. It “was the issue we had concerns about, if there were others [problems with the bill] I didn’t know about them.” (See article here.)
Speaker Hubbard and his faction of Republican legislators responded to our hard work by drafting a provision in a comprehensive legislature reorganizing bill that would give the Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem the power to decide who would can receive media credentials to cover the state legislature. Looking around the rapidly depleting press room, the only organizations actually still present are: the Alabama Media Group (al.com), the Associated Press, Alabama Public Television, ‘The Anniston Star, sometimes Politico, ‘The Montgomery Advertiser,’ four or five local TV stations that come and go, and ‘The Alabama Political Reporter.’ We wonder who they were talking about when they complained on the House Floor, ‘We don’t even have control of who sits in our own press room!”? Why should an elected official even expect to control who sits in the legislature’s press room……..in a free country with representative government? How is the public supposed to grade their representatives without a vibrant, independent and robust but then again the Hubbard faction has always been more about power and their own personal perks, than about expanding freedom or government accountability. That bizarre proposal passed in the Hubbard controlled Alabama House but got caught in a log jam in the state Senate on the last day of the 2013 session.
By July, it had become apparent that the Corporations and big money interests which had fueled Hubbard’s meteoric rise to becoming the most powerful man in the state were not happy with their investment. On August 6th we reported that even though Speaker Hubbard had shepherded legislation through the session allowing corporations to give unlimited contributions to their friends in Montgomery the Speaker of the House’s own Storming the Statehouse PAC raised only a pathetic $1000 in July. Hubbard’s Network PAC which was his big fundraising vehicle in 2010, didn’t raise a dime.
In June, Hubbard told the Young Republicans in Birmingham that he had $10 million for “incumbent protection.” That money never came. For years, Hubbard has built his reputation on his fundraising prowess. As speaker, he has used money as a weapon to keep state legislators in line. From threatening to cut off financial support to promising lawmakers the moon if they did his bidding, Hubbard has used money as both carrot and stick.
Financial reports show that the truth is that Hubbard has no power to protect incumbents or destroy them because he doesn’t have the money-muscle he claimed. Hubbard doesn’t have enough money to protect his own seat much less anyone else’s and then there is the fear that any money donated to a Hubbard controlled PAC will be rerouted to his defense fund rather than the Republican incumbents it was intended to help.
Fellow Republican House members claim that Hubbard’s own appetite for personal riches and the trappings of power have threatened the gains that the GOP has made over the last decade.
The lobbyists, with few exceptions, complain of Hubbard demands for greater and greater amounts of cash, others loath him for stealing their clients for his cronies.
The big donor’s complain about his pay-to-play schemes, are tired of his demands for tribute and, most of all, they are wary of giving big-campaign dollars to a man who is under the harsh-light of a criminal investigation.
We wrote in August that Hubbard is on his way out. It is now safe for the press and the Republicans to stand up to him. Just as donors are by withholding funds. (See article here.)
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ reported on September 9th that the Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard had taken extraordinary steps to rearrange his business, political and legal affairs. In a flurry of activity he has shuttered one of his most potent political action committees, terminated a consulting contract worth over a hundred thousand dollars a year and retained a prestigious white-collar criminal defense attorney, who also happens to be a big Democrat donor.
On Friday, the Alabama Political Reporter confirmed that Hubbard has engaged super lawyer J. Mark White as council. White, a former President of the Alabama State Bar, has represented an impressive list of corporate and private clients, including Macon County Greyhound Park (“Victoryland”) and Milton McGregor Enterprises. White is generally considered to be one of the best white-collar criminal defense attorneys in the state.
White told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter,’ “I can only speak to the fact that we are representing Mr. Hubbard, generally, [pause], investigating—and we’re still in the initial stages of investigating—various false or misleading statements that have been made about Mike or his family or his company. That is all I can say.” “I’m capable of saying [more] but that’s all I will say at this point.”
White also confirm that one letter had been sent to an individual concerning remarks that person had made about Hubbard. He did not disclose the name of the person or any details concerning the letter’s content.
Hubbard also shuttered his political actions committee, Network PAC. The official filing (Statement of Dissolution) termination papers were filed with the secretary of state was on September, 3, 2013. Network PAC was created on October 16, 2001, by Hubbard and his wife, Susan Sorrells Hubbard. Susan Hubbard has served as chairperson and Hubbard as treasurer since the PAC’s inception.
In the June report, Hubbard reported moving large amounts of cash from the PAC. The largest recipients were long time Hubbard consultants at the SAHR Group whose partners are Dax R. Swatek, David Azbell, Tim Howe and John C.M. Ross. These political operatives were paid $26,000 by Hubbard from his Network PAC. Other recipients included: Jim Barton’s campaign ($10,000), the Committee to Elect Matt Friday ($1000), photographer Sidney R. Braigel ($398.74), Gov. Robert Bentley’s Re-Election Campaign ($10,000), Sandy Stimpson for Mayor of Mobile ($1000), Representative Bill Poole ($8,250) for polling conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, political consultant Michael Joffrion ($7,000), and political operative Ryan Adams ($4,500), a political operative. Adams is married to Hubbard’s House communications director, Rachel Adams.
In August, Hubbard transferred $17,797.44, into his personal campaign account, Friends of Mike Hubbard. He also gave contributions of $5000 each into the campaign accounts of Representatives, Ken Johnson, Jim Patterson, Wayne Johnson, Wes Long Campaign, and Becky Nordgren. Hubbard also donated $5000 to the Kay Ivey Campaign for Lt. Governor. The last entry on the disclosure form was a contribution to Friends of Mike Hubbard for $2,797.44.
Also in August, Hubbard’s communications director Rachel Adams announced to WSFA’s Max Reiss that Hubbard had finally terminated his controversial consulting contract with Southeast Alabama Gas District, (SEAGD). Adams told Reiss, “Auburn Network, Inc. recently asked the Southeast Alabama Gas District to void their agreement with our company because of unfounded criticism being generated by politically-motivated liberal groups in Montgomery. Auburn Network is confident that the economic development contacts, leads and prospects it developed while working with SEAGD will soon lead to more jobs, industry and opportunity for the citizens of the Wiregrass region.”
SEAGD paid for both Hubbard and his wife, Susan, to attend the Paris Air Show, for what Hubbard described as an economic development opportunity. The SEAGD contract, which was first reported by ‘The Alabama Political Reporter,’ had been paying Speaker Hubbard $12,000 per month over the last two years.
This trio of events appears closely related to the Special Grand Jury being convened in Lee County. (See article here.)
On September 12th, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that the embattled Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has been barnstorming the state in an attempt to hold together his fragile House coalition. Hubbard’s attorney meanwhile is threatening to sue anyone who dares speak ill of the Speaker.
Hubbard met with the Madison County Area House Republican Caucus and then had dinner with the caucus for the surrounding Birmingham area. Caucus members present at both events told us the message was, “Stick with me and big money is coming your way. Oh, and that Matt Hart guy is crazy.”
The hastily arranged meetings followed on the heals of the revelations that Hubbard had hired famed white-collar criminal defense attorney J. Mark White, terminated his lucrative consulting contract with Southeastern Alabama Gas District (SEAGD), and shuttered his longest running political action committee NETPAC. At this point it appears he is keeping his other consulting job, with American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc.
Meanwhile White has mailed cease and desist letters threatening litigation to prominent Hubbard critics. To date, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ has not received any such letter…..likely because White has told his client that suing this internet newspaper and exposing himself to depositions about matters he is facing prosecution on could potentially be detrimental to his criminal defense.
Hubbard reportedly has promised every legislator who sticks with him for a win in 2014, $100,000 in campaign contributions. But the catch is that the legislator only gets the $100K bonus after he or she wins, not before. For months Hubbard has been promising Republican legislators who stay with the Hubbard faction that he has $10,000,000 hand for incumbent protection, however in recent meetings, Hubbard has been reciting a list of groups from which he holds promises or IOUs.
What these IOUs are actually worth after today’s indictments is highly questionable.
Hubbard has begun referring to Alabama Attorney General’s White Collar Crime Division Head, Matt Hart, as “crazy.” Hubbard also has been saying that Hart was fired from his job as a federal prosecutor because he was unstable.
Over the last year, Hubbard has also called Bill Britt crazy, wrong and out to get him when reporting on alleged his misuse of campaign funds, using his office for personal gain and leading an almost single-handed effort to corrupting state government.
Hubbard has also told supporters that AG Luther Strange is overly-ambitious and out to get him because he wants to be governor in 2018. (See article here.)
On September 16th, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that the Republican House caucus is in a growing state of turmoil. Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard shocked many with the hiring of Super Lawyer J. Mark White, known as one of Alabama’s best “white-collar” criminal defense attorneys.
Despite this some Hubbard friendly news reports have made it seem as if White is only looking to send letters to those who have allegedly made slanderous or libelous statements about Hubbard. One criminal defense attorney who is intimately familiar with White’s work questions that characterization: “No one hires Mark White to send out letters…White is a criminal defense attorney…you hire a man like White when you believe you are going to be charged with a crime.”
With the hiring of White, the realization that Hubbard’s legal problems are a growing distraction, and because the flow of campaign dollars into Hubbard’s war chest has been slowing to a grinding halt members of the House Republican Caucus have been holding private conversations on who would replace Hubbard as Speaker in the House.
Current political thinking says that now that Hubbard has been indicted, he should step down as Speaker for the good of the party. Some question whether Mike would ever voluntarily give up the Speaker’s chair. If that is the case then a coup would need to be launched against Hubbard’s speakership.
Several names are being bantered about, but there is no apparent heir-apparent.
It is also likely that the Senate Republicans will want a replacement for Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.
Marsh has served faithfully as Hubbard’s right-hand man for many years, and played an especially prominent role in the 2010 GOP takeover. (See article here.)
On September 17th, we reported some good news for Speaker Hubbard when the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a ceremony in Auburn to dedicate the Mike Hubbard Center for Advanced Science, Innovation and Commerce at Auburn University.
Speaker Hubbard wrote on Facebook, “Deeply humbled to have Auburn University’s Center for Advanced Science, Innovation, and Commerce named after me today. This new facility will enhance research and help attract new jobs to our community. Great day to be in Auburn.” “Susan and I are eternally grateful for their friendship. Yesterday, was a great day, and hopefully today will be even better – War Eagle!”
The Georgia native promoted both University of Georgia running back Hershel Walker and Auburn running back Bo Jackson in their ultimately successful Heisman trophy winning efforts.
The Mike Hubbard Center is an 84,000 square foot $28.8 million research facility that was designed to support multidisciplinary research in bio energy, water quality, food safety and engineering, genomics, information science and ecosystem health. The new lab includes 20 high-tech laboratories with specialized equipment, a super computer, seminar rooms and outside features such as two 5-ton cranes for bio fuels work. The lab was partially financed by a cost-share award of $14.4 million from the NIST’s Construction Grants Program which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009….the economic stimulus package passed by the Obama administration during the President’s first term.
Mike Hubbard became a statewide personality as host of the Auburn Football Coach’s show. Later he went on to manage and then own the rights to the Auburn Sports broadcasts. The successful broadcaster got involved in politics helping his good friend, then Congressman (and later Governor) Bob Riley (R). Hubbard then was elected to the Alabama House representing Lee County and rose quickly to House Minority Leader while also serving as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. As ALGOP Chairman he engineered the historic 2010 election which gave Republicans control of both Houses of the state legislature and every statewide elected office on the 2010 ballot. (See article here.)
Then on September 18th we reported on another Mike Hubbard victory when a Montgomery judge dismissed a lawsuit implicating Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) in an alleged bid-rigging scheme.
The suit file by attorney and Democratic state representative Joe Hubbard (no relation to Mike) alleged that DSI Security Services was awarded a contract to perform security services for the Statehouse because Speaker Hubbard had an ownership interest in the firm.
Mike Hubbard took the stand and denied any involvement with the company or the company’s bid with the state. DSI board Chairman Alan Clark and his son stated under oath that Speaker Hubbard had no interest in the company. Joe Hubbard did not produce any evidence to support his earlier claims, even passing on an opportunity to cross examine the man he accused.
Joe Hubbard later said he had “no problem admitting I had bad information” concerning Mike Hubbard’s involvement in the company.
Through his attorney, Speaker Hubbard said, “Joe Hubbard apparently runs his law practice like he operates in the Legislature, he shoots off his mouth first and determines facts later,” while the Speaker’s Office dismissed the suit as a “dishonest attempt to grab headlines.”
The suit named the Alabama Legislature, DSI Security Services and the sergeant at arms of the Alabama House of Representatives as defendants. (See article here.)
On September 23rd we reported that Mike Hubbard’s Chief of Staff Josh Blades, angered by revelations made anonymously to ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ telephoned members of the legislature and made threats to them.
After the Alabama Political Reporter exposed Hubbard’s angry comments about Hart, Josh Blades according to multiple sources made phone calls threatening members of the Republican caucus with serious consequences if they were found leaking the contents of their meetings with the embattled Speaker. Blades made certain that the legislators understood Hubbard’s displeasure.
None of the men who were witnesses to Hubbard’s verbal attacks on Special Prosecutor Hart are willing to speak on the record for fear of reprisal from the notoriously vindictive Speaker’s office.
We also reported that Hubbard had hired white-collar crime defense attorney J. Mark White to investigate and send letters to anyone who may have spoken negatively about Hubbard.
On the same day we reported that rumors were circulating about an alleged meeting that took place between, Hubbard, powerful Republican Party fundraisers and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. Hubbard asked AG Strange to call off Hart and shut down any and all investigations into Hubbard. Strange refused according to the rumors which are being widely repeated in Republican circles.
Lobbyists have told us that they have been informed by the Speaker that the state’s professional associations are expected to give at least one-third of their total campaign contributions directly to the political action committees controlled by Hubbard and that he will then distribute the money to the candidates of his choosing. Since the Speaker controls which bills make to a vote on the House floor, and associations regularly lobby for or against legislation that affects their industry so have little choice but to yield to the Speaker’s demands. Some see this as a pay-to-play shakedown, others have come to expect that this is just the way things work under the Republican supermajority.
Many legislators have objected to Hubbard controlling their campaign cash.
As one retired legislator put it, “Mike has been trying to corner the campaign money market for years…in 2010, he pretty much did it. Since then he’s controlled almost everything. Mike, he knows the golden rule alright, he who has the gold makes the rules.”
One legislator supposedly told one association, “When you come around wanting my vote, you’d better come around and give the money to me. I don’t want it sent through Mike Hubbard. I don’t want him touching my money.”
The disgruntled retired legislator told us, “…through the whole quadrennium, he’s controlled everything and thrown scraps to them. They’re like a bunch of hungry dogs: He throws them the bones after he’s picked all of the meat off.” “…And beyond that, they should know by now that if he gets all the money, he’s also gonna send it over to Craftmaster and Network Creative Media and they’re gonna have no say in how the money is spent. Mike is gonna get richer all the time.” (See article here.)
On September 30, 2013 we reported that the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard had announced his reelection bid for 2014 in a short, seventeen second video posted on Instagram and distributed on facebook.
Speaker Hubbard said, “Alabama is getting stronger and I am proud of our State’s progress. But, there’s more work to be done. I am Mike Hubbard, Alabama’s Speaker of the House, and I am running for reelection because I believe that by working together, Alabama’s future is brighter than ever.”
According to his official website, mikehubbard.com, “Speaker Mike Hubbard is not accepting donations at this time. We appreciate your continued support and look forward to connecting with you throughout the year. Check back soon for ways to be involved and contribute to the efforts of Speaker Hubbard.”
Several prominent attorneys who spoke on background said that this could mean that Hubbard is receiving legal advice not to commingle present and future funds with possible tainted funds in other PACs. The attorneys see this as a defense strategy should any of Hubbard’s PACs come under investigation or seizure.
Hubbard has closed his longest standing political action committee, Network PAC. This has caused much speculation because it was Network PAC that saw perhaps the greatest amount of questionable activity over the years.
Some in the legal community the closing of such an influential PAC has sent up an undeniable red flag.
In his reelection video, the usually dapper Speaker appears wearing an unbuttoned pale-blue oxford shirt without a tie. Hubbard stands to the side of a small framed poster of his book, ‘Storming the State House.’ Hubbard’s attire in this video is a departure from his trademark suit, tie, French cuffs and expensive cuff-links. Also absent is the usual marquee setting of a big event or elaborate visual.
Hubbard, told Drew Taylor of the Opelika-Auburn News of the video, “I just wanted to do it because it is cutting edge, utilizing technology and no Alabama candidate has ever done it before, so I thought I might as well do it.” “I just want to be a part of the leadership team that continues to move Alabama forward.”
The apparent change in style is believed to be an intentional rebranding of the Hubbard image prior to re-election.
Taylor asked Hubbard about his engaging famed white-collar crime attorney J. Mark White to investigate “potentially libelous statements against him,” Hubbard said he had been advised not to address the progress of that situation: “I’m going to let those guys handle all that stuff…I’m concentrating on being the Speaker of the House…That’s what they’ve told me to do and that’s what I’m doing.” (See article here.)
Around this time, Speaker Hubbard held a meeting with members of the Capital Press Corps on how to restrict press credentials and access to just the mainstream media in the upcoming 2014 legislative session. We were not shocked that we did not receive an invitation to his private party.
On October 2 we reported that in his most recent filings under the Fair Campaign Practice Act, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard reports giving $17,797.44 to the state in an act of disgorgement. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, disgorgement is “the act of giving up something—such as profits illegally obtained—on demand or by legal compulsion.” Hubbard’s campaign report for September 1, 2013, shows that he gave the almost $18,000.00 in campaign funds as “Disgorgement per Ala. code 17-5-7(a)(3) per 9/12/13 letter.”
The letter referred to in Hubbard’s campaign filing was not attached to the other documents provided at the Secretary of State’s website, a request has been made for the letter. A review of Hubbard’s August FCPA filings show that in that month Hubbard made two transfers to from his Network PAC to his personal campaign account, Friends of Mike Hubbard. On 8/07/13 he transferred $15,000.00 and on 8/30/13 he transferred $2,797.44 from his PAC to his personal campaign account totaling $17,797.44. This is the exact amount Hubbard expensed back to the state.
Why did Hubbard decide to give the money to the state? Disgorgement carries with it the idea that the money involved has the taint of an unethical and/or illegal enrichment. What is it about the money from Network PAC that caused such actions?
Several attorneys have suggested to ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that Hubbard’s closing of Network PAC was a political calculation to separate the PAC should any legal proceeding that might be on going against the beleaguered Speaker. However, the idea of returning money that has been somehow tainted would be a move a criminal defense attorney would recommend. The first being a political strategy the latter being a legal one. While returning tainted funds probably helps Hubbard with the court it doesn’t remove the underlying crime.
Hubbard also gave campaign contributions in the amount of $5000.00 each to Ken Johnson, Jim Patterson, Wayne Johnson, Wes Long, Beck Nordgren, Kurt Wallace and Kay Ivey. He also gave $1000.00 to both Tracy Ledbetter and Charles Hines.
We sent an email to Hubbard’s office requesting clarification concerning his disgorgement. We also asked to be provided a copy of the letter that is mentioned in his recent fillings. Neither Hubbard nor any of his highly paid staff returned our request for information. (See article here.)
On October 7, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that powerful white collar crime defense attorney, J. Mark White, has been on a public relations offensive on behalf of Alabama’s beleaguered Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard. In the previous week, White sent a fawning letter to Mike Hubbard’s many friends and admirers in the state press corps beseeching them to take an active role in painting Hubbard as an innocent man who has been libeled by “others” with malicious intent. According to White, his client is a victim, and in a three-page press release, in the guise of a report, he is turning to those whom he refers to as “the legitimate press” to set the record straight.
So far, most in the press have not come galloping in to defend the embattled speaker. White’s ploy has been seen as an understandable attempt to co-opt journalists into trying his case in the court of public opinion thereby discrediting those who are speaking out against powerful politicians and perhaps to influence future jurors.
White says that he has had a team of experts look into allegations against Hubbard, and that they have found nothing wrong.
White and his team successfully defended gambling magnate Milton McGregor against federal corruption charges. White also defended McGregor against a $64 million civil claim against McGregor’s VictoryLand casino with less success.
In the widely circulated letter to the media White wrote,”Our mission is to investigate the false and malicious rumors being circulated about the Speaker, his family, and his business, and to hold accountable those individuals and organizations creating, circulating, publishing and re-publishing false and malicious statements.” White said, “Our goal is not to challenge fair and honest reporting and fact-based opinions. Instead, our goal is to ensure that statements about our client, both privately and in public forums, are factually accurate.” (See article here.)
On October 11th, The Alabama Political Reporter published findings that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard had spent over $30,000.00 on furniture, paint and carpeting for a legislative cloakroom.
‘The Montgomery Advertiser’s’ Sebastian Kitchen reported that Republican lawmakers had spent over 2 million in taxpayer’s dollars on refurbishing the Alabama Statehouse. Kitchen cites Hubbard as saying that the $2 million was “not a lot of money,” and that none of the work was “extravagant.”
The State of Alabama paid almost $2,600 for some silk plants to adorn the Speaker’s office. Hubbard told /The Advertiser’ that he had meant to personally pay for the plants, but something went wrong. So, for two years the lavish plants sat in the Speaker’s Office at taxpayers expense. In his report, Kitchen refers to an April 2011 letter in which Hubbard says he intended the plants to be a “donation of personal property” to the State.
Hubbard, blames the vendor, Spurlin Builders, for the “billing snafu” or “billing mistake.” Spurlin Builders has gone out of business since selling the State over $2,000 in fake plants. Kitchen reports that, “In August, Hubbard wrote a personal check for $2,576.32 to reimburse the state for all of the costs and noted the ‘reimbursement of funds to state paid in error,’ according to a State cash receipt form dated August 13th and obtained by The Advertiser.” (See article here.)
On October 12, 2013 we reported that Mike Hubbard’s Chief of Staff, Josh Blades, was seen in a Lee County restaurant with white-collar crime defense attorney Ron Wise. We had been reporting for weeks that a special investigative grand jury was meeting in Lee County.
Wise, considered one of the state’s super lawyers, was council for former state Sen. Jim Preuitt in the bingo corruption trials. Preuitt was found not guilty of any wrong doing to the pay-for-votes case that mesmerized the state and cost several democrats, including Preuitt, their seats in 2010. Wise also represented Joseph “Eddie” Yessick, who received a two-year sentence for his part in the Jefferson County bribery and conspiracy case (stemming from the Jefferson County sewer system debacle). The case that was successfully prosecuted by Matt Hart while he served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Wise also represented Gov. Don Seigelman’s former chief of staff, Paul Hamrick.
Hart heads the white-collar crime division under Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. AG Strange has recused himself from this case because he accepted campaign dollars from the Alabama Republican Party and other PACs controlled by Hubbard, in the 2010 election. Hart is said to be conducting the special grand jury in Lee County that our sources report is looking into alleged criminal actions perpetrated by Hubbard.
Josh Blades has been Hubbard’s Chief of Staff since the Republicans took control Statehouse in 2010. A blog site that is closely aligned with the Hubbard faction of the Alabama GOP described Blades as being, “looped-in on every single thing the Speaker does.” The popular website of the Hubbard faction reported that a House member said, “When he calls, we all know the Speaker is 100 percent behind him.”
Blades has been implicated in a conspiracy to silence certain members of the Republican House caucus from “talking” after reports of derogatory comments made by Hubbard against Hart were reported by us.
We reported that in a private meeting at a Birmingham’s Jim and Nick’s, Hubbard called Hart crazy and said that Hart had been fired from U.S. attorney’s office because he was unstable. It has been suggested that actions by Blades to clean up this and Hubbard’s many other messes could be construed as obstruction of justice if the reports are proven true. Blades, 31, is married with one child. He previously served as assistant chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Riley. (see article here.)
On October 14th we reported that Speaker Mike Hubbard has tapped a hometown bank for a $1.06 million loan with extraordinarily favorable terms. The seven-figure loan comes as a special grand jury in Lee County was continuing to take testimony in corruption investigation reportedly targeting Hubbard.
It appears that Hubbard is notably flush with borrowed cash just as his high-priced legal defense team begins racking up billable hours. According to financial documents filed with the Alabama Secretary of State, AuburnBank wrote the $1 million loan to Michael G. Hubbard who turn around and loaned it to Auburn Network Inc., the broadcast media company wholly owned by Hubbard, on August 13. The Uniform Commercial Code filing that documents the loan also includes a promissory note that states Hubbard, personally, will receive the repayment of the money from Auburn Network, Inc. The Promissory Note–which is signed by Hubbard on behalf of Auburn Network Inc.–states that the proceeds of the loan will be paid to Hubbard, personally, at his home address, at a rate of 5.67 percent annually.
The odd amount of the loan may indicate that Hubbard plans to use the $63,663.70 to pay the interest back to the bank. It is particularly noteworthy that the UCC filing identifies the promissory note between Hubbard and Auburn Network, Inc., as collateral to secure the loan. The bank’s failure to attach something that could be seized–equipment, real property, contract, etc.–is highly unusual for a loan of such a large amount. And, it is extraordinarily favorable to Hubbard.
The collateral section of the UCC filing states: “Assignment of Promissory Note Dated 8-13-2013 in the amount of $1,063,663.70 between Michael G. Hubbard, Lender, and Auburn Network Inc., Borrower.” See Attached Exhibit A.
A reading of the promissory note indicates that Hubbard faces no substantial personal risk if the loan goes into default, or Hubbard/Auburn Network otherwise fail to repay the loan.
Failure to repay millions of dollars in loan money from AuburnBank would be nothing new for Speaker Hubbard.
In late 2004, AuburnBank took a $1.7 million loss on a loan to Craftmaster Printers Inc., Hubbard’s once-bankrupt printing outfit. AuburnBank had loaned Craftmaster Printers Inc., $4.8 million for the purchase of property and equipment. But by late 2004, Craftmaster was delinquent on the loan and the bank was threatening foreclosure and civil action. AuburnBank ultimately took a huge loss of depositors’ money and settled with Craftmaster for $3.1 million. The bank’s gamble with depositors’ money does not appear to have soured it on Hubbard, however.
It is also noteworthy that two AuburnBank board members have outside ties to Hubbard and his businesses: David Housel, Athletic Director Emeritus at Auburn (where Auburn Network held broadcast rights) and Sherrie Murphy Stanyard, a senior accountant for Craftmaster Printers, Inc.
We believe that this is all a part of a plan to mount an extensive legal defense using a high-dollar team of lawyers and that Hubbard needs the $1,000,000 loan to pay them. (See article here.)
On October 22, we reported that Speaker Mike Hubbard has found many ways to make government pay. One way is by having state agencies purchase goods and services from his various companies.
Before Hubbard took control of the state budget process the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) had never spent over $2500 on advertising. Since Hubbard became Speaker the PSC budget has increased by 1400 percent. In 2008 and 2009, the PSC spent a total of $402.85 on advertising. In 2010 that number grew to $2255.20 for the “Call before you dig” program.
The program itself has been around for decades. It is a way to alert and inform contractors as well as homeowners where underground utility lines are buried before a digging project begins. This “helps prevent injury, expense and penalties.” Similar advertising dollars were allocated for advertising in 2011 budget, that would have been passed in 2010 by the Democratic-controlled legislature.
However, the following year, under the budget written by the Republican supermajority, the advertising budget for the PSC increased to $36,330.00 with $36,200.00 spent with companies that are a part of Hubbard’s business affiliates.
In 2012, according to openbama.gov, the PSC placed advertising with Crimson Tide Sports Marketing and IMG College, LLC, in the amount of $36,200. According to the Administrator of Gas Pipeline Safety, Wallace R. Jones, Sr. the funding for the PSC advertisement was part of a federal grant.
In 2003, according to Mike Hubbard’s wikipedia page, Hubbard sold the multi-media rights to Auburn University athletics to (ISP) International Sports Properties, then ISP was purchased by IMG in October of 2010. Hubbard is a beneficiary of the success of his partner company.
In 2013, the PSC contracted $43,500 for advertising with $32,200 going to Hubbard-related companies. Each year, after taking control of the state budgeting process, PSC has been a regular customer of Hubbard’s partners. (See article here.)
On November 4, 2013 the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that Hubbard’s campaign coffers received $72,335.00 in campaign contributions for the month; the lion’s share of funds coming from three political action committees.
IMPAC, NEWPAC and LEGPAC, each gave Hubbard $10,000 a piece for a combined total of $30,000. The money given to Hubbard from these PACs can be traced back to the Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc. owned by Jimmy Rane.
The Great Southern Wood Preserving Inc., better known as Yella Wood, was by far Hubbard’s biggest donor.
The only other contributions of $5000 or more came from the Retailers of Alabama PAC giving $10,000 and the Automobile Association giving $5000. Other smaller donations came from big tobacco and beer makers.
The wealthy Rane is not only the head of Yella Wood, he is a trustee at Auburn University, the school where Hubbard has made his fortune.
At the event, Rane said he was ready to back Hubbard if there was a fist-fight. It appears that his $30 grand contribution is a first blow. (See article here.)
On November 12, 2013 we reported that as early as 2007, a group known as the Friends of Auburn Society was trying to alert the authorities at Auburn University of perceived problems with Mike Hubbard’s financial dealings.
In a letter and an email addressed to then in-coming University President Jay Gogue and the Alabama Legislature, the Friends of Auburn warned about “…the intricate web of personal, political and financial relationships that weaves itself throughout the university…that has for years been part of the dark underbelly of corruption…[that] the Alabama press continues to ignore…because of its complexity and secondly because of the relentless propaganda espoused from the central figure of this morass.”
The corruption and propaganda according to the group was perpetrated by one man: Mike Hubbard.
“Over many years, Mike Hubbard has directly reaped millions of dollars from Auburn University coffers into his personal business enterprises or indirectly with surrogates into their businesses. Most of these funds come directly from the Auburn Athletic Department and its fund raising arm Tigers Unlimited. He has used his influence both through legislation and personal political acquaintances to maintain a stranglehold on Auburn athletic receipts and create his personal multi million dollar empire,” said the letter to the AU president.
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ has made several calls to the Auburn President’s office requesting comments regarding Hubbard’s activities at the University. All of those inquiries have been ignored.
Recently, an individual close to those who warned President Gogue said that Hubbard’s double dealing was ignored. “A see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil policy was adopted because Hubbard brought money and political favors to the University.” He also said that he believed Hubbard, “…used his political power to destroy anyone who dared come against him.”
This individual, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that Hubbard, “…has used his position in government as muscle to bring in federal and state dollars to the University…so they simply turned a blind eye.”
The Friends of Auburn Society alleged in 2007 that Hubbard, “…made another million dollars when he shepherded the sale of his property using Auburn University as the conduit.” The group claimed, “In a merry-go-round web, the Auburn University Federal Credit Union sold its building and property on campus to Auburn University. From those proceeds the Auburn University Federal Credit Union bought property from Mike Hubbard next to his Auburn Network building on East University Drive. The Credit Union building has been conveniently and accessibly located for years on the Auburn campus. Now, Auburn University employees must travel off-campus about 2 miles to the new location to conduct their personal business.”
The letter to President Jay Gogue cited several other issues that the group had with Rep. Hubbard. All their warnings were ignored and Auburn even named both a street and a building for Hubbard. (See article here.)
On November 14, a legislator who testified before the current Grand Jury in Lee County told us that everyone was scared, and, unlike the run-up to the Bingo Trial, no one was talking to each other about the case.
A veteran lawmaker said that at a recent gathering of Republican House members, there was a decidedly somber tone surrounding the whole event. “Everyone knows that Hubbard’s in trouble,” he said, “…but we are all too afraid to talk about it.” “Everyone is guarded because no one is sure who might be indicted along with Hubbard.” (See article here.)
On November 19, 2013, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ received a copy of a fundraising invitation for the Alabama Republican House Caucus. It’s not the final card, but the “printer’s proof.” The document’s creator’s name is recorded on the left-hand margin of the card: “KKoellsted.” That is Kimberly Koellsted, who works at Craftmaster Printers, Inc., owned by Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Hubbard has a proven pattern of funneling money from political organizations he controls to businesses he owns. This appears to be another occasion when Hubbard’s business interests benefit from his political power.
The Alabama Republican House Caucus is registered as a non-profit 501(c), a charitable organization. Such foundations have become a part of the growing use of “Dark Money” to fund partisan political activities. Dark money can be defined as money that is received from un-disclosed donors to promote a political agenda.
The invitation printed at Craftmaster was for a fundraiser held in Prattville back in October. The Foundation offered sponsorship levels at Platinum $5000, Gold $2500 and Silver $1000. It also informs participants that donations are accepted from “corporations, individuals and political actions committees.”
During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers enacted a law that allowed for unlimited transfers between these so-called non-partisan, non-profits foundations. These mimic the PAC-to-PAC transfers that the ALGOP said they banished in 2010. Yet, these secret groups use there tax-exempt status to raise untold amounts of funds to be used later potentially for partisan proposes.
Saying that a foundation known as the Alabama Republican House Caucus would be anything but partisan leaves a lot of questions. Since the takeover of the State House by the ALGOP, lobbyists have claimed that Hubbard uses these foundations as a tool to extort more money from them. Several lobbyists who refused to be named for fear of retribution have said, that Hubbard demands tribute to his foundations before any lobbyist’s bill is heard before the Republican-controlled House.
During the 2013 session, Republican Senator Bryan Taylor from Prattville opened the floodgates that allowed foundations to transfer unlimited funds and foster the use of Dark Money in campaigns. The section of SB445 reads in part, “to clarify the entities subject to the ban on PAC to PAC transfers so as not to prohibit private foundations from making non-political donations to other private foundations.”
These foundations, unlike PACs, do not have to report the identity of their donors or their expenditures.
While every Republican Senator voted for the bill, one said privately after the vote, “This is bad…I see a day coming when these foundations run the government and no one will have any idea who they are.” (See article here.)
On November 27th, The Alabama Political Reporter wrote that there are very few people who doubt that Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard is in real trouble. The Attorney General’s Special Grand Jury in Lee County —and the chatter surrounding it—has convinced most of the political class that the beleaguered Speaker will be indicted for criminal offenses in the not too distant future.
In the last several weeks, high-level talks from the Governor’s office to the boardrooms of industry and the ALGOP have centered around what one Republican operative has called, “The Bloodbath.”
For over a year, the Alabama Political Reporter has painstakingly documented what we believe has been Hubbard’s misconduct. From rigging contract bids at Auburn, to placing language in the General Fund budget to benefit one of his lobbying clients, we have reported these and many other suspect activities undertaken by Hubbard and his companions. All of these stories show a pattern of how Hubbard has used his political power to enrich both himself and his accomplices.
Now, the political elites are planning on how to “spin” the coming Hubbard criminal indictment.
The general consensus is that if the Lee County Grand Jury returns only a handful of indictments, say 1 to 10, according to one source, there won’t be no movement to remove Hubbard from the Speaker’s office. However, according to one GOP operative, if there are 15 to 20 indictments against Hubbard, then he will be forced from his positions as Speaker. This cynical political calculation is based on, “How much does it affect the 2014 elections,” said a political insider.
Speculation is If Hubbard is charged with multiple crimes, the Governor will call a special session of the Legislature with one item on the “call”: Elect a new Speaker of the House. It’s a simple, procedural measure, which can be quickly executed…like a guillotine, but with the session scheduled to begin on just January 15th there is very little time to make the necessary decisions: 1) Does Hubbard need to go and 2) who replaces him? and 3) do we have the votes for the candidate we have chosen to win?
Of course, all this is to be calculated on how much of a distraction Hubbard’s criminal arrest will be to the remaining Republican supermajority efforts to retain power. The opinion seems to be there must be multiple allegations of criminal activity before Hubbard is forced from leadership.
Republican State Senator Scott Beason was removed from his position as the head of the Senate Rules Committee, when he was a prosecution witness in the Bingo trial. Beason was demoted from being the Chairman of the Rules Committee not because he had been accused of a crime; but rather because his testimony in the trial was a “distraction” according to statements made by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and others. Sen. Beason was not accused of any criminal wrong doing, yet he was removed from leadership for either a politically correct joke or because he cooperated with federal authorities on an investigation of Montgomery corruption. Beason has never been reinstated as Rules Chair, but somehow, Hubbard would be —according to some in authority —allowed to serve as the state’s most powerful and most visible state legislator, if only indicted on a few counts of criminal activities? (See article here.)
On November 27, 2013 ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ wrote: When we first began to bring to light the many dubious affairs of Hubbard, he met our reporting with simple denials. We were dismissed as up-starts, looking to cause problems. As our reporting progressed, Hubbard had his people try to smear us personally. Then his minions contacted our advertisers, such as Troy University and informed them that the Speaker of the House did not want them to support us with advertising dollars. We lost Troy University and others.
His campaign of destruction went so far that a lobbyist for ALFA was heard saying at the State House, “Don’t get close to them, they are on the Speaker’s hit list.”
Imagine, a representative of one of the most powerful and respected organizations in Alabama, warning against association with members of the press corps because they were on the Speaker’s hit list. What is even more outrageous is the fact that the Speaker would be so desperate to cover-up his activities, that he would try to destroy members of the press; personally and financially. Trying to cripple the press has been a pattern all-too familiar in the history of our State and Nation. When simple denial of fact fails, the would-be felon turns to destroying the messenger.
Speaker Hubbard has made it widely known that not only were we, the Alabama Political Reporter, on his hit list, but that we were “wrong and crazy.” Not only did he put “the fear of Hubbard” into those who might advertise with us, he enlisted a host of so-called media personalities to smear our reputation with lies, half facts and innuendo.
When these ham-fisted tactics did not stop the flow of reporting on his vast network of self-enrichment and using his office for personal gains, he even tried to have our press credentials at the State House revoked. For this he used such men as Senators Phil Williams and Bryan Taylor.
Yes, the Speaker used every means he could employ to distort, destroy and stop our reporting. The one thing Hubbard and his surrogates have never done is challenge our facts. Once it became apparent that the facts of our reporting were being taken seriously and that Hubbard was in real legal trouble, a new method of intimidation was employed.
In desperation Hubbard hired the high-priced, criminal defense attorney, J. Mark White. White brought with him a team of lawyers and investigators to exposes and prosecute those who were making so-called “libelous” statements against the Speaker and his family. Hubbard and company even tried to solicit member of what he called the legitimate press to speak out against us and any who might speak the truth about him. White called some in the press corps in an effort to have them help in discrediting “bloggers.”
At the Alabama Political Reporter we do not consider ourselves bloggers. We are not merely expressing opinions, nor are we hobbyists with an agenda. The men and women who make-up the core of our news reporting are veteran journalists, who follow the best practices of our trade. (See article here.)
On December 4, 2013 we reported than in mid-November, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston appeared before a Attorney General’s Special Grand Jury in Lee County, Alabama. This according to sources who claim they saw Marsh in the courthouse.
Marsh’s testimony before the gathered jurors lasted for a total of six hours; four before lunch and two more after the lunch break concluded.
The next to testify was state Representative Terri Collins, (R) from Decatur.
What Marsh or Collins said before the Grand Jury is protected by law and this publication has no knowledge of their actual testimony. We believe that they were giving testimony into allegations of wrong doings by the Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Hubbard has been the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation into his activities as Speaker and during the time he was the Chairman of the ALGOP.
Six hours of sworn testimony before a Grand Jury may be an indication that the State believes Marsh knows a lot about the suspected corruption of Hubbard.
Rep. Terry Collins was recruited as a candidate by Tim Howe a confidant of Hubbard. She quickly became a part of Hubbard’s inner circle. In his book, Hubbard says of Collins, “Collins, an attractive and intelligent woman with a personality as robust and vivacious as her red hair suggests.” The robust and vivacious Collins during her run for office in 2010 received $17,500 from Friends of Mike Hubbard and ALGOP combined. She spent $6,429.07 with Hubbard’s printing company, Craftmaster Printing, and $39,241.16 with SRM, a company registered with the Secretary of State to Tim Howe. Howe is a partner with SAHR which is comprised of Dax Swatek, David Azbell, Tim Howe and John Ross all close political allies of Hubbard. Collins also serves of the House Education Budget Committee.
Scores of legislators have appeared before the Special Grand Jury in Lee County. (See article here.)
On December 9th we reported that Mike Hubbard had slammed us AGAIN, this time in a mailer to Lee County Voters. In the recent campaign mailer Speaker Hubbard seeks to persuade the voters in his district that revelations about his alleged criminal deeds and the investigation in Lee County are all a part of a grand conspiracy. He specifically takes issue with an opposition mailer that recently appeared in mailboxes throughout the district that asks, “Who Does Mike Hubbard Really Represent?”
Hubbard says that the stories referenced in the mailer are from, “Dishonest cowards hiding behind nonexistent sources and referencing paid political mudslinging internet blogger posing as real reporters.” This is a mouthful of accusations coming from a man who has hired one of the State’s leading white collar criminal defense lawyers to protect him from anyone who might have said nasty things about him or his family. The mailer to which Hubbard refers quotes from three stories, one written by the Alabama Media Groups’ Kim Chandler and the other two by, Bill Britt, editor of ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’.
These reports deal with the fact that during the 2013 legislative season, Hubbard voted yes 11 times to insert language into the State’s General Fund budget that would have benefited one of Hubbard’s lobbying clients American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI).
Neither Hubbard, nor his internet and talk radio minions have ever challenged or disputed any of the facts presented by ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’; they have only attempted to attack the messenger. (See article here.)
On December 11, 2013, while the Lee County Grand Jury was still hearing testimony we reported that when Speaker Mike Hubbard received his $12,000.00 a month in compensation from the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) for his economic development services that he failed to disclose to the Alabama Ethics that John Gregory (Greg) Henderson the CEO of SEAGD, is his wife’s first cousin.
Hubbard’s wife, Susan Sorrells Hubbard, lists on her State ethics form that she is the daughter of Harold and Jeanette Sorrells. Mrs. Hubbard’s father Harold Sorrells was the brother of Peggy Ann (Sorrells) Henderson. Peggy is married to John Jake Henderson. Greg Henderson the head of SEAGD is the son of Peggy and Jake Henderson, making Greg Henderson and Susan Hubbard first cousins.
On many fronts it appears the Hubbards, Hendersons and Sorrels like to keep business in the family. Susan Hubbard’s father was not only Chairman of the Alabama Trucking Association, but he was also the a member and Chairman of the Alabama Ethics Commission. During the 2013 Legislative session, Speaker Hubbard made sure his father-in-law received an accommodation from the State for his “outstanding service.” (See article here.)
On December 18th we reported that Speaker Mike Hubbard would be hosting a fundraiser prior to the start of the 2014 legislative session. Just four days before the last session of the quadrennium, Hubbard is holding a very pricey fundraiser at the Capital City Club in Montgomery. To be a host at the event, it will cost $10,000; to be a co-host: $5000. But, if you merely want to attend, it will only cost you a thousand bucks.
An email with a follow up formal invitation was sent on Hubbard’s behalf by Hubbard’s chief fundraiser, Kate Anderson. Anderson, wrote in her email, “We would be grateful for your consideration of support through this event.” However, the lobbyists that have come forward have said that this is just another shake-down, days before session. “If you don’t come through with some money for Mike, you can bet your ass he will remember when your bill comes up.”
Others see it as just business as usual under the Republican Supermajority. “It was not always like this,” said a former staffer, “but Hubbard has turned the process into his personal ATM…it’s the new Republican way.”
Some speculate that Hubbard is raising campaign cash to use for his very expensive legal fees. (See article here.)
In January of 2014 the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard had spent over $70,000 to pay for his legal defense, which he took directly out of his December campaign contributions.
FCPA filings with the Secretary of State showed then that Hubbard’s personal campaign account raised $114,450.00 in December. Of that fund raised, Hubbard paid $46,475.77 to White, Arnold & Dowd and $25,135.00 to Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell.
Prominent white-collar criminal defense attorney J. Mark White was engaged by Hubbard around the first of September, 2013. White said that his original task was to investigate those who were making false statements against the Speaker and his family.
Lance Bell of Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell of Pell City was also hired as part of White’s team. An attorney familiar with White’s law practice and background said, that the $46K was a low monthly fee for the kind of services White offers. The attorney suggested that Hubbard may only be paying half his monthly legal fees out of his campaign account.
While it may be legal under Alabama law for Hubbard to use his personal campaign funds for his legal defense, it is unclear if those who are contributing to Hubbard realize their money is being used to pay his defense team.
In December, Hubbard received large checks from a number of the State’s biggest political action committee, including $10,000 from ALABAMA REALTORS PAC, ABC MERIT PAC, and BIPAC. Hubbard also received $5000 from the Trial Laws, as well other notable PACS. (See article here.)
Four-term Republican Legislator Greg Wren from Montgomery made another appearance before the Attorney General’s Special Grand Jury in Lee County. Wren, who recently announced he would not seek reelection in 2014, was spotted leaving the courthouse.
Wren is believed—at some point—to have given testimony concerning 23 words placed in the State’s general fund budget, that would have given American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc, (APCI) exclusive rights to administer the State’s multi-million dollar Medicaid pharmaceutical trade.
APCI is a client of Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), a fact that was generally unknown until reported on by the ‘Alabama Political Reporter.’
It is widely believed that Wren placed the language into the 2013 House General Fund Budget at the urging of Speaker Hubbard and APCI lobbyist, Ferrell Patrick.
In a story that almost directly mirrored one written earlier by the Alabama Political Reporter, Al.com published a story where Wren said, “…he sought the language to make sure that any overhaul of Alabama’s Medicaid pharmacy program was ‘community-led.’ ”
“We’re talking about keeping money in Alabama and saving money for the State,” Wren said.
Wren also told al.com that he never had “conversations” with Hubbard about the contract. However, it is documented that Hubbard did cast repeated votes in favor of the House versions the bill that would have given exclusive rights to manage Alabama’s Medicaid prescription drug purchasing to his client APCI.
Though he voted multiple times in favor of the legislation, Hubbard never publicly disclosed his financial ties to APCI. Nor did Hubbard declare a conflict of interest or abstain from taking official action on the bill, titled SB143.
Wren served as the Chairman of the Joint Legislative Medicaid Committee, and was reported as being in constant contact with the lobbyist representing APCI. (See article here.)
The ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ wrote that a recent disclosure of top donors to a secretive money machine operated by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) 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
In March 2014, we reported that Barry Moore (R) from Enterprise and Speaker Hubbard had threatened to kill more than 100 jobs in Moore’s home district, as political retribution against Moore’s primary campaign opponent.
The allegations against Barry Moore and Speaker Mike Hubbard were believed to be the subjects of the special grand jury investigation in Lee County that week. Over the last year and a half, speculation about the special grand jury investigation has centered mostly on Speaker Hubbard.
Over the last six months, dozens of witnesses, including more than a dozen sitting legislators, have been documented coming and going from the Lee County Justice Center. While the content of the proceedings has remained secret, certain information has been uncovered in connection with these alleged, illegal activities.
It is believed that testimony at the grand jury that week centered on Moore’s complicity in a plan that would have stopped the development of around 100 jobs in Enterprise. Moore’s own words link he and Hubbard to a unified effort to force Josh Pipkin out of the Republican Primary where Pipkin was set to challenge Moore for his House District 91 seat.
As first reported by the Southeast Sun on January 29, 2013, Enterprise State Community College was on-track to get a new, unmanned, aerial systems program. The plan was for the program to be housed in a 44,000 square-foot facility currently occupied by Enterprise Electronics Corporation (EEC), an Australian owned company. Some $2 million in State funds were to be used for the purchase EEC’s building. EEC would then invest the $2 million in a brand new facility to build its satellite radar systems.
The net result of the transaction would be approximately 100 new, good paying, highly-skilled jobs at the new EEC plant in Enterprise. For its investment, the State of Alabama would get EEC’s high-tech facility near Enterprise State Community College to create a state-of-the-art technology curriculum unmatched in Alabama.
That was the plan developed by Enterprise State Community College and local economic developers. That plan seemed to be on its way to fruition, that is, until Pipkin decided to run against Moore in the Republican primary.
Evidence believed to be in the possession of the Attorney General exposes a long, detailed and potentially criminal attempt by Hubbard and Moore to pressure Pipkin—the 2012 Enterprise Man of the Year—out of the race.
Over the course of several months, Hubbard and Moore met with various influential individuals in Enterprise making it plainly clear that they were determined to kill the new jobs coming to the city if Pipkin would not relinquish the race to Moore. If the deal fell through, the backup plan for EEC’s expansion was to relocate the facility to Oklahoma, a blow to the entire Alabama economy, not just Enterprise and Coffee County.
The Attorney General’s Office is thought to have evidence that indicates Hubbard and Moore placed threatening calls to public officials and private individuals, including but not limited to, mayors, school superintendents, state officials, economic developers and other influential figures in Coffee County and around the State.
The Alabama Political Reporter received several pieces of evidence, now believed to be in the possession of the Attorney General. The evidences reveals Moore saying, “Speaker Hubbard told me himself, I will bring Holy Hell down on [Pipkin] him. That was (sic) his exact words.”
Moore went on to say, “Hubbard is as stubborn as a mule. He can be pretty tough to deal with and I do a good job for him… At the end of the day, it’s policy to help people, you know… I’ve been loyal to Mike and he’s been good to me.”
The ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ has exposed thousands in State services contracts Moore received after making alliance with Hubbard. The evidence on file suggests that on one occasion, Moore was asked if there were any “hiccups,” that needed to be fixed so the EEC deal could be completed or if the Pipkin’s candidacy was the only thing standing in the way, Moore responded, “I think that’s a major hiccup. We just about had the deal done before all this.”
Other statements from Moore include him asking for an update and stating, “I’m waiting to meet with the Speaker… I don’t want to put the Australians [EEC] off too long so either way I’ve got to meet with Mike (Hubbard) this week. This deal is too important to our city. I know some think I have nothing to do with it but they are very wrong. Mike controls this deal and my relationship with him has everything to do with it. Relationships in politics are everything. And Mike is very loyal to his friends. He just is.”
In another statement, Moore responded to a question about whether he and Hubbard were going to kill the jobs deal if Pipkin refused to abandon his race. Moore responded, “I got a meeting with the Speaker and he is furious… At the end of the day, yeah, because we were fixin’ to land a pretty good deal, and there’s a lot at stake, I can assure you, for our City and our community.” Moore later told Pipkin, “If you’ll give me your word that you’ll get out, when I meet with him [Hubbard] next week, I’ll tell him… he’s going to get out, so we need this deal for him to stay out, but I need your word on that. And I’ll talk with the Speaker.”
Moore, has retained Derek Yarbrough, as counsel, Yarbrough previously represented convicted gambling kingpin of Ronnie Gilley. (See article here.)
Also in March 2014 ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ was first to report that State Representative Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) confessed to his Sunday School class at the First Baptist Church of Montgomery that he would soon be indicted on criminal charges by the State’s Attorney General’s Office.
Wren’s pending indictment was tied to his effort to place 23 words into the State’s 2013 General Fund Budget that would have granted a monopoly for the American Pharmaceutical Cooperative Inc. (APCI), a Bessemer based company.
Many are speculating that the complex scheme is believed to have originated with Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), APCI would have become the sole provider of pharmaceuticals for the State’s million dollar Medicaid program.
Both Hubbard and Wren had lucrative contracts with APCI at the time the 23 words were placed into the budget.
SB143 was originally drafted by Sen. Arthur Orr, Republican chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. The bill was introduced in February of 2013 and finally passed out of the Senate with three amendments on March 12th. When state Senators sent the budget to the House, there was no language benefiting APCI. But, by Feb. 23rd, the House had re-crafted the budget adding a section that would have forced the state into using a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) to administer the Medicaid prescription drug purchased.
According to the bill: “The Alabama Medicaid Agency, in order to implement a pharmacy benefit manager program, must seek a pharmacy benefit management organization or manager that will: (i) act in fiduciary capacity and perform its duties in accordance with standards of conduct applicable to a fiduciary, including the allocation of all drug manufacturer rebates, discounts, and incentives to the State General Fund; (ii) establish a maximum allowable cost list; and (iii) operate a group purchasing function with a purchasing base for generic drugs consisting of at least 30% of the retail pharmacies in Alabama.” Those 23 words requiring the PBM have a purchasing base of 30 percent locked in Hubbard and Wren’s client, APCI, as it is the only company that fits the description, officials said.
Wren, acknowledged to the media that he was responsible for inserting the language into the budget. Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) was asked last year if he and Speaker Hubbard had spoken about the 23 word addition to the budget. “You know we (Clouse and Hubbard) talk about a lot of things with the budget. I don’t remember in particular.” Clouse said he recalled Wren suggested the passage benefiting APCI. Wren was “concerned about independent pharmacists and he wanted to add language in there… Greg wanted to put the language in there, so I told him to go ahead and write it up.”
Wren reportedly said on Sunday, “People will no longer trust their government.” (See article here.)
On April 1, 2014 longtime incumbent Greg Wren (R) from Montgomery went to a courthouse and confessed to his involvement in using his office to enrich himself and possibly other lawmakers.
Wren’s guilty plea is tied to his effort to place 23 words into the State’s 2013 General Fund Budget that would have granted a monopoly for the American Pharmaceutical Cooperative Inc. (APCI), a Bessemer based company.
APCI would have become the sole provider of pharmaceuticals for the State’s million dollar Medicaid program a contract worth over a $$hundred million. It was our understanding that Hubbard and Wren both had lucrative contracts with APCI at the time the 23 words were placed into the budget.
SB143 was originally drafted by Sen. Arthur Orr, Republican chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. The bill was introduced in February of 2013 and finally passed out of the Senate with three amendments on March 12th. When state Senators sent the budget to the House, there was no language benefiting APCI. But, by Feb. 23rd, the House had re-crafted the budget adding a section that would have forced the state into using a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) to administer the Medicaid prescription drug purchased.
Wren pled guilty to using his office for personal gain and resigned his office effective immediately. He will also pay a $24,000 fine and has agreed to waive his Fifth Amendment protection to cooperate with future investigations and prosecutions against other bad actors. Wren avoided jail time because he claimed that he did not know that any of this was illegal at the time. His 12 month sentence was suspended in exchange for his cooperation with authorities.
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ visited the Speaker’s Office and asked for comment. The Speaker’s office never responded to our request for official comment.
Speaker Hubbard, though, did address the issue after the House of Representatives adjourned for the session, sine die. The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives said, “I had no knowledge of that deal, and I can tell you that nothing involving Representative Wren involves me. I’m friends with Representative Wren. He’s a good man; he was a great legislator.” “I’m absolutely certain what he did was not intentional,” Hubbard said. “It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t involve me, and I’m looking forward to moving on to the elections and coming back in next quadrennium and doing some really bold things for Alabama.” (See article here.)
House member Greg Wren’s plea to attempting to use his office for personal gain was a loss of a key lieutenant for Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn; but this was followed by Wren agreeing to cooperate with State White Collar Crimes Division prosecutors in possible further investigations and Wren naming the popular Speaker of the House not once, but three times.
Mike Hubbard has never been one to stand back and let events unfold. Instead the Speaker launched his own communications campaign to get his side of the story out in the public and influence future voters—and in the worst case scenario, potential future jurors.
Speaker Hubbard said on Facebook, “The smears from Montgomery’s liberal special interest groups are ridiculous and false. Even worse, the media treats distortions as fact. Share if you’re tired of the drive-by media working hand-in-hand with the Democratic machine.”
Speaker Hubbard told the Associated Press (AP) that despite Greg Wren’s statement to the contrary: “The situation that happened this week has nothing to do with me.”
Eerily mimicking Governor Don Seigelman’s (D) strategy when prosecutors were investigating allegations of impropriety, Speaker Hubbard dismissed all of the allegations swirling around him as politics. “Ultimately it is political. You look at the position I have and it’s pretty easy to see why I’ve become the target,” he said.
Wren admitted that he put language in the state General Fund budget at the request of the American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. of Bessemer. The language would have required that the state Medicaid program hire the company as Pharmacy Benefit Manager a contract worth $ billions in revenue for the group of independent pharmacies.
Hubbard said, “The main thing to understand is I didn’t benefit one way or the other whether the language was in there or not.” The Speaker also denied stripping funding from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office in the 2015 budget as retaliation for the ongoing investigations.
Hubbard said on Facebook, “It’s that time of year again. The liberal special interest groups have started spreading lies about conservatives to win elections. I’m not backing down though; I’m still fighting for you.”
The Speaker vowed, “I’m going on the offense.”
One of Hubbard’s Attorneys and Chairman of the St. Clair County Republican Party Lance Bell said on Facebook, “I am proud to represent the Speaker. Fine family man and great leader.” (See article here.)
On April 8, 2014 the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that Hubbard cast the first of many votes on April 13, 2013 that would give his client American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI) a monopoly over administering a Pharmacy Benefit Plan (PBM) for the State’s then $600 million dollar Medicaid program. According to State records, Hubbard cast 12 yes votes for the passage of the bill.
According to the Statement of Facts presented in Rep. Greg Wren’s plea agreement our editor postulated (based on consultations with attorneys) that if proven to be accurate in a criminal trial against Hubbard, then Hubbard could be charged with 12 felony counts of using his office for personal gain. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 2-20 years imprisonment and a maximum of $30,000 in fines.
The Statement of Facts presented to Judge Jimmy Pool on April, 1, 2014, in Montgomery District Court reads in part,
“After meeting with Wren and others, and reviewing the Co-op Exclusive Language, the Speaker of the House [Mike Hubbard] endorsed the Co-op Exclusive Language and directed staff to add it to Medicaid’s section of the General Fund Budget. The Co-op Exclusive Language became a part of the House of Representatives substitute version of the General Fund Budget. The substitute version was voted on and approved by the House of Representatives on April 23,2013.”
The Statement of facts show that Hubbard not Wren “directed staff to add it to Medicaid’s section of the General Fund Budget.”
Again the Statement of Facts presented in court show that Wren, did not have knowledge of Hubbard lucrative agreement with American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI) until after the language had been placed into the budget bill.
Despite voting multiple times in favor of the legislation, Hubbard never publicly disclosed his financial ties to American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), the company that stood to profit from Medicaid provisions of the budget. Nor did Hubbard declare a conflict of interest or abstain from taking official action on the bill, titled SB143.
Hubbard’s defense team has claimed that Hubbard’s contract with American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI) was vetted by the State’s ethics commission a fact the Head of the Commission James Sumner denied in June, 2013.
In an interview with the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ Director Sumner, who headed the Alabama Ethics Commission at the time, denied ever seeing the contract. Commissioner Sumner said, “He (Hubbard) just came to talk to us because he just wanted to make sure everything was in order and not an issue under the ethics law. He didn’t bring anything with him. He just…It was him sitting here by himself and Hugh Evans and I sitting there talking to him….So, no I never saw a contract and never asked to see a contract.” (See article here.)
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and his attorney J. Mark White have said that Hubbard’s consulting contract with American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), was vetted and by the Alabama Ethics Commission and have sought to portray Hubbard as an innocent bystander in events surrounding the arrest and plea bargain of former House member Rep. Greg Wren (R-Montgomery).
However, the statements by Hubbard and White do not align with testimony or the accounts given by others. In press accounts, Hubbard and White have tried to imply that the lucrative consulting agreement between Hubbard and APCI was approved by James Sumner, the Director of the State Ethics Commission. According to Sumner he only spoke with Hubbard about the contract but never saw it or issued a formal ethics commission opinion. By parsing words, Hubbard’s attorney seems to indicate that Hubbard had approval for the contract before he voted to give APCI a monopoly over the State’s multi-million dollar Medicaid prescription drug program.
Statement’s made by Hubbard however to the ‘Opelika-Auburn News’, show that Hubbard went to the Ethics Commission only after he had voted 12 times to pass legislation that would have benefited his client APCI.
This addition of the 23 words placed into the General Fund Budget —benefiting Hubbard’s client—was first reported by the Alabama Political Reporter in June, 2013.
Patrick Johnson, writing for the news on April 10, 2014 stated, “Hubbard said he met with the Ethics Commission after the vote to ‘make sure’ he didn’t do anything wrong.”
James Sumner, Executive Director of the Ethics Commission told the Alabama Political Reporter in June, 2013, “I don’t know whether some issue was raised over there in the Legislature or whatever but it was at that point that he called and said, ‘Hey, I want to come over and run something by you.’ I said, ‘Would it be good for Hugh to sit in [Hugh Evans]?’ He said, ‘Yes.’”
In April, 2013, there were rumblings that a blow-up had occurred surrounding the Speaker’s voting on an piece of legislation. Sumner says that he and Hugh Evans III, the commission attorney met with Hubbard, “some time in the middle of the Session. Some time in that period.”
“We sat for about 30 minutes or so. He laid it out and we talked about it.” This would have been in April according to statements provided by Sumner. Sumner further stated in 2013, that he never asked for or saw the contract Hubbard had with APCI. “He just came to talk to us because he just wanted to make sure everything was in order and not an issue under the ethics law. He didn’t bring anything with him. He just…It was him sitting here by himself and Hugh Evans and I sitting there talking to him….So, no I never saw a contract and never asked to see a contract.”
Hubbard also told the News, “When the language is put in, I find out when I’m walking in the chamber to vote on the budget that the way it was written that the only entity in the State able to do it is APCI.”
This assertion by Hubbard is contradictory to the Statement of Facts filed by the State’s white collar crimes prosecutor in which former state representative Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) plead guilty to using his office for personal gain in connection with the language placed into the General Fund Budget, benefiting APCI.
According to the court documents, “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 [Mike Hubbard]. These meetings included, variously, other legislators, legislative staff, members of the Speaker’s staff, and lobbyists.”
Hubbard, says he did not become aware of the language until he was about to enter the House Chambers to cast his vote, yet, under oath and facing criminal procession if found lying, Wren says Hubbard not only attended meetings concerning the language but also, “endorsed the Co-op Exclusive Language and directed staff to add it to Medicaid’s section of the General Fund Budget.”
Yet, Hubbard told the News, “The language that Greg Wren put in, I didn’t order that to be put it. I didn’t bless it. I didn’t say, ‘This is what we want.’” Again Hubbard’s account to the Opelika-Auburn News is not consistent with court documents filed by the Attorney General’s Office. (See article here.)
On April 15, 2013 the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ wrote that in 2012, Representative Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), along with other House members, sought to insert language into State law that would benefit private companies who provided solid waste management within certain counties and/or municipalities, including a company owned by Moore.
HB274 would have “prohibit a county, municipality, or solid waste authority from providing commercial front-end loader, roll-off, or commercial recycling collection services within the county or the municipality if there are two or more private solid waste providers offering those services in the county.”
Moore, along with fellow Republican legislators proposed this bill, even though Moore owned a solid waste management company (Barry Moore Industries) that would have stood to gain personally from this bill’s passage.
According to the companies website, “Barry Moore Industries, is a privately owned company founded in 2001. We provide an array of services including, dumpsters, waste management and hauling, demolition/site work, tire recycling, on-site data destruction and more.” The exact type of work listed in the House Bill 274.
Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in 2010, Moore never had a contract with the State. However, just two months after being elected, Moore received a contract with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). He has continued to enjoy government contracts since that date.
On the Barry Moore Industries website it says the company has, “negotiated, bid and successfully fulfilled more than $10,000,000 in multi-governmental agency contracts for municipalities, cities, counties, states, USDA NRCS, DOT’s and other agencies.”
The bill, HB274, would have also made it illegal for, “a county, municipality, or solid waste authority that operates a solid waste disposal facility or recycling facility…[to] offer additional services that compete with private providers within its regional planning district.”
This legislation, if passed, could have been very lucrative for a company such as Moore’s. So, it begs the question, “Did Moore disclose to the House or to the Ethics Commission, that his vote on this bill would be a conflict of interest under State law?”
HV 274 was referred to a committee and never became law.
Rep. Moore refused to speak with the Alabama Political Reporter about the contract, about allegations that he sold his house to a firm seeking to do business with the state, or allegations that he had threatened Primary Opponent Joshua Pipkin.
James Sumner, the Director to the Alabama Ethics Commission in an almost 12 minute tongue lashing, said he would not speak to the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ because we had written stories that he felt painted him in a bad light. (See article here.)
On April 24, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ wrote that Representative Barry Moore, (from Enterprise) had become the first person criminally indicted in relation to the public corruption investigation culminating in a Lee County special grand jury that we believed was likely focusing on Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
Officials with the Attorney General’s Office have confirmed that Moore was indicted yesterday and surrendered himself to authorities in Lee County today. He has been charges with four felonies: two counts of perjury and two counts of misleading investigators.
Moore was elected in 2010 after Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard courted he and his wife to run for a seat in the legislature during what became branded as the “storming” of the State House.
Indeed, in Hubbard’s book entitled, Storming the State House – the Auburn native writes extensively about his efforts to Moore and his wife, who Hubbard deems a “fireball,” to the tune of over a dozen pages.
Rep. Moore threatened that Enterprise would lose over a hundred jobs in his hometown unless his primary opponent, Joshua Pipkin, drop out of the June GOP primary. Moore claimed that Speaker Hubbard would punish the entire town unless Pipkin withdrew from the Republican Primary. Unknown to Rep. Moore, Pipkin was recording the telephone conversation.
Despite the clear, recorded conversation between Pipkin and Moore that was published by APR, Moore denied the story’s legitimacy to the ‘Southeast Sun.’
Worse he allegedly denied that the conversation had occurred both to investigators from the Attorney General’s office and the Lee County Grand Jury.
Ironically, APR later discovered that the jobs that were possibly under fire were ones at Enterprise Electric Corporation, a company – one getting taxpayer money – that had bought Representative Moore’s home in Enterprise in 2012 for the exorbitant amount of $650,000.
Moore himself commented on an APR story on Facebook. Joshua Pipkin’s, detailed the “threats” allegedly leveled at Pipkin and the House district, and confirmed Pipkin and Moore’s having testified before Lee County’s special grand jury:
Pipkin’s wife wrote, “Barry. I’m sorry for a lot of things, too. I am sorry that, when I was heavily pregnant with twins, you chose to threaten my family. I’m sorry that, on the evening of these threats, I went to my parents’ house at midnight sobbing, scared and disgusted. I’m sorry that you made the same threats to people around the community. I’m sorry that Josh and these community leaders had to miss time from work to spend time testifying in front of a Lee County Grand Jury. I’m very sorry you used your own constituents’ jobs as a bargaining chip. I’m sorry about the other unscrupulous tactics you’ve used to deprive the citizens of Coffee County of a choice this election season.”
She continued, “You and Mike Hubbard had been a part of the Lee County grand jury investigation long before Josh decided to run. Your actions were being monitored by the AG’s office. Josh was contacted and informed that threats were going to be made by you and Mike Hubbard. He was advised to allow the attorney general’s office access to these conversations. He has done nothing but cooperate with the attorney general. He would love to comment now but he can’t because of Grand Jury Secrecy Laws. You know every bit of this to be true and hired a defense attorney the second the AG played the conversation for you. I am proud of Josh for having the fortitude to stand up to the corruption in Montgomery. You should be ashamed of yourself…When you went to Montgomery, we believed you would change things, not become a part of the problem. This is exactly why good men don’t get into politics.” (See article here.)
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard attacked the Attorney General’s investigators (much like he has attacked investigative journalists from the beginning of this process). The Speaker said, “We totally support Representative Moore being given the opportunity, guaranteed by the laws of the State of Alabama, to demonstrate his innocence and that he is the unfortunate victim of the abuse of power. We are confident that the citizens of Alabama will recognize and reject any misuse of the grand jury system to advance a political agenda or goal.”
Speaker Hubbard continued, “The primary purpose of a Grand Jury is to investigate and determine whether, after a fair and impartial investigation, anyone should be charged with a crime. The Grand Jury process is sacred and is supposed to be accomplished in total secrecy in order to protect the good name and reputation of those falsely accused. The Grand Jury is supposed to be an independent body devoid of outside influence and should not be dictated by politics, political or personal feuds, or individual personalities.” (See article here.)
In May attorney Bill Baxley (the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 1986) filed a motion on behalf of client Representative Barry Moore, (R from Enterprise) asking that the charges, all Class C Felonies, be dismissed.
The motion challenged the Constitutionality of the appointment of former St. Clair County Van Davis as acting Attorney General and Matt Hart as Special Prosecutor. Attorney General Luther Strange recused himself from this investigation because Rep. Mike Hubbard was a friend who had raised money for Luther’s campaigns, while Hubbard was the head of the Alabama Republican Party. .
Former Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General Baxley argued in his filing: “Section 36-16.62.1, Code of Alabama, is contrary to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. Section 36-16-62.1, Code of Alabama, as applied in these circumstances to Felix Barry Moore, is contrary to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Alabama. Section 36-16-62.1, Code of Alabama, is unconstitutional in its application.” Ironically the motion challenged the constitutionality of the 2011 ethics law for which Rep. Moore himself voted for while in the State House. Baxley asked that the Judge dismiss the entire Lee County Grand Jury.
Despite the indictment, Speaker Hubbard continued to plow money into Rep. Moore’s re-election. On May 4, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that just days before and after his arrest by the State’s Attorney General’s Office, Rep. Barry Moore, (R-Enterprise), received three large donations from political action committees (PAC) controlled or related to Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, (R-Auburn).
Moore was charged with two felony counts of providing false statements and two felony counts of perjury in lying to a Grand Jury (about threats he related as being from Speaker Hubbard). Moore was served his indictment, April 23, and was arrested on April 24.
According to the FCPA filings, Moore received a $25,000 contribution from Alabama 2014 PAC on April 8. The PAC is headed by former Gov. Bob Riley, in cooperation with Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem, Del Marsh, (R-Anniston).
On April 22, Moore received $10,000 from Storming the State House PAC, which is controlled by Hubbard. Even more curious, he received an additional $15,000 from Storming the State House PAC on April 28.
In total, Moore received exactly $50,000 from PACs that Hubbard controls or has an interest in, just days of his indictment and arrest.
The charges against Moore stem from threats conveyed by Moore to Josh Pipkin, allegedly on behalf of Hubbard.
Moore threatened his GOP primary opponent, Pipkin, by saying that the Speaker would kill a job incentive program for Enterprise unless Pipkin dropped out of the June election. Moore also says that Hubbard would bring “Holy Hell,” down on Pipkin if he did not quit the race. (See article here.)
On May 8, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that acting Attorney General W. Van Davis had filed the states response to Rep. Barry Moore’s motion to dismiss.
Davis’s office said, “The four-count indictment clearly and succinctly sets forth the charges against Moore, tracks the language of the charged statutes, and was issued by a duly-authorized Lee County Special Grand Jury operating under the proper authority of a Supernumerary District Attorney.”
Baxley gave 44 reasons why the charges against Moore should be dismissed. However, the AG’s office says in its answer that, “Each and every ground asserted, however, is insufficient to dismiss the indictment.”
The State’s response to Baxley’s motion said, “Moore has not provided a legal or factual basis to support any of his arguments.” They concluded that Baxley and Moore’s motion, “has no basis whatsoever to support his Motion, or he simply intends to raise his actual arguments for the first time at a hearing. Regardless, the Motion is due to be denied on its face and no hearing is therefore necessary.” (See article here.)
On May 12 we reported that indicted lawmaker, Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, recorded paying his criminal defense attorney $25,000 out of his campaign contributions.
On his weekly FPCA filing for May 9, Moore listed an expenditure of $25,000 paid to Baxley, Dillard, McKnight & James, the law firm headed by Moore’s attorney, former Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley (D).
Speaker Hubbard’s Storm PAC gave Moore $10,000 on the day Moore was served his indictments from the AG’s office and $15,000 just days after his arrest. Moore posted $10,000 in cash for his bail on April, 24.
Moore received recent large donations from Hubbard’s closest allies, including Alabama 2014, managed by former Gov. Bob Riley.
According to April filings with the Secretary of State, Riley’s PAC gave Moore $25,000 on April 11. Donations made to Moore by Hubbard and Riley were the largest donations either PAC gave any single candidate.
Three groups with strong political ties to Hubbard have also given large contributions to Moore since his indictments. On his weekly report, Moore list $25,000 in total donations from the Automobile Dealers PAC, Alabama Builders PAC and Progress PAC, which is controlled by Billy Canary, head of the Business Council of Alabama, (BCA). Moore also received in-kind contributions from ALFA, and Riley.
In just a few weeks of his legal troubles, Moore received $75,000 from Hubbard and close associates.
Using campaign contributions for legal expense is based on an opinion issued by the then Attorney General Bill Pryor (R) in 2000. Pryor is now a federal judge.
In his opinion, Pryor 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.”
Hubbard, who at this point had not been charged with anything, had already paid around $150,000 in campaign donations to his attorneys J. Mark White and Lance Bell. (See article here.)
On May 14, 2014 we reported that at least two individuals identified Rep. Steve Clouse, R from Ozark, as being at the Lee County Courthouse on Tuesday. It can be surmised that Clouse was there to either give testimony or speak with Special White Collar Crimes Prosecutor Matt Hart of the Attorney General’s Office. His appearance at the courthouse could be linked to the fact that Clouse served as acting Chair of the House Ways and Means General Fund committee, during the 2013 Legislative session.
Clouse presided over the House General Fund Budget during the time 23 words were added to the Medicaid portion of the budget, that guaranteed American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc., (APCI) would become the sole provider for a Pharmacy Benefit Plan for the State’s then $600,000,000.
Disgraced lawmaker Greg Wren R-Montgomery turned State’s evidence in April, and has agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution. Wren, in a sworn statement, said that he was present at meetings in which the monopoly wording was worked out for the benefit of APCI. According to Wren, these meetings were attended by Speaker Mike Hubbard, “…other legislators, legislative staff, members of the Speaker’s staff, and lobbyists, affiliated with Pharm Co-op.”
Speaker Hubbard, through his business interests, had a consulting contract with APCI and that Wren had one with an affiliate, RxAlly. As acting budget Chair, Clouse had intimate knowledge of the events surrounding the monopoly legislation.
When the Alabama Political Reporter first broke the story about the 23 words in June, 2013, Clouse said he did not recall speaking to Hubbard about the APCI exclusive language, but did say that he thought that Wren had introduced the wording. In January, 2014, Clouse was appointed by Speaker Mike Hubbard as the new Chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund. Clouse replaced Jim Barton, (R from Mobile), who left the Legislature prematurely to take a lucrative lobbying job. (See article here.)
On May 20, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that sources claim that two Alabama mayors were among those who appeared in the latest round of testimony at the Lee County Courthouse in Opelika, where a special grand jury investigating public corruption in the State legislature has been conducting business now for nearly a year.
Mayor Mike Schmitz of Dothan and Mayor Billy Blackwell of Ozark both provided testimony to the Lee County Grand Jury regarding their respective, consecutive roles as chairmen of the Southeast Alabama Gas District.
That quasi-private natural gas conglomerate, known as SEAGD, had Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard on their consulting payroll, with his firm Auburn Network earning a hefty $12,000 a month in compensation from February 2012 to August 2013, when the contract was terminated due to what Hubbard spokesperson Rachel Adams called “unfounded criticism being generated by politically-motivated liberal groups in Montgomery.”
On May 21, we reported that Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III heard the defense’s motion to dismiss in the perjury case against indicted State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise. He took it under advisement until further evidence could be presented.
Perhaps more interesting, as the presence in the courtroom of no less than five criminal defense attorneys, all who represent Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard.
Hubbard has repeatedly said that the Moore indictments have nothing to do with him, despite the fact that Moore has been indicted for lying about threats, Moore said were made by Hubbard.
Regular Hubbard attorneys, J. Mark White and Lance Bell, were joined by three other lawyers representing Hubbard in the courtroom.
One attorney familiar with White’s practice estimated the cost for their appearance at around $10,000 for the day.
Former Lt. Gov. Baxley listed some 40 odd reasons for the Judge to dismiss all charges against Moore. Finally, Baxley whittled his argument down to two points. One, was whether or not the indictment had been properly written. Two, did Special Attorney General Van Davis, and prosecutor Matt Hart have standing before the Grand Jury.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Duffy provided the court with the section of State code that gave the Attorney General the authority to appoint Davis. And he even pointed out, that Judge Walker was the one who impanelled the Grand Jury over which Davis presides.
Under section 36-15-15, “The Attorney General …may direct any district attorney to aid and assist in the investigation or prosecution of any case in which the state is interested.”
Baxley, himself a former Alabama Attorney General, asked the Judge to declare the Grand Jury he had impaneled as tainted, dismissing its findings. Baxley told the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ afterwards, that he still wasn’t certain if Davis was the Special AG from Timbuktu or that Hart was a prosecutor from Bagdad. (See article here.)
On May 23 we reported that the Prosecutors in the Barry Moore perjury and lying to investigators case, filed a brief in opposition to Moore’s attorney’s motion.
The brief, filed by Acting Attorney General Van Davis and Matt Hart, was in support of its arguments before the court on May 20. The brief argues four points: that Moore’s arguments to dismiss the perjury charges are based on outdated language and otherwise misapply Alabama law; the prosecutors have clear authority to appear before the Lee County Special Grand Jury and prosecute Moore for the crimes with which he has been charged; Moore’s subpoena to the Attorney General’s Office should be quashed; and that Moore’s remaining arguments are without merit.
The State asked that the Judge deny Moore’s Motion to Dismiss; quash Moore’s Subpoena Duces Tecum to the Attorney General’s Office; and strike the “Defendant’s Brief in Opposition to Motion to Quash Subpoena Duces Tecum” as an untimely Reply Brief in Support of Moore’s Motion to Dismiss. (See article here.)
On May 27, 2014 the Alabama Political Reporter reported that in 2010, while serving as the Chairman of the ALGOP, Mike Hubbard directed campaign contributions under his control to his personal business interests. Using a series of political action committees (PACs), Hubbard directed money to candidates and vendors who then used some or all the funds to purchase goods and services from Hubbard’s business interests.
There has been speculation by some in the legal community that this action could meet the legal definition of embezzlement. Embezzlement is a very specific type of property theft. It generally takes place when a person is entrusted to manage someone else’s money or property, “For the purposes of managing, monitoring, and/or using the assets for the owner’s best interests, but then covertly misappropriates the assets for his/her own personal gain and use,” according to findlaw.com.
In 2010, Hubbard directed almost $700,000 to Republican candidates, who in turn redirected part of the funds back to Hubbard business interests. In 2010, Hubbard also instructed John Ross, his executive director at the ALGOP, to enter into a sub-contacting agreement with Majority Strategies, that directed around $800,000 from the ALGOP back to a Hubbard business interest.
During the 2010 election cycle, Hubbard funneled over a million dollars of Republican contributions through a third-party, back into his own business interests. Findlaw.com says for there to be embezzlement there are four factors that must be present: there must be a fiduciary relationship between the two parties; that is, there must be a reliance by one party on the other; the defendant must have acquired the property through the relationship (rather than in some other manner); the defendant must have taken ownership of the property or transferred the property to someone else; and finally the defendant’s actions were intentional.
As Chairman of the ALGOP and Director of Network PAC and others, Hubbard was given charge of campaign contributions over which he had a fiduciary responsibility. He then directed those funds to third-parties, who then gave the money to a Hubbard business interest.
Several campaign consultants have told the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ over the last several months that Hubbard either told them directly, or strongly suggested through underlings, that the campaign money they were receiving was to be spent with Hubbard’s business interests.
Of the over $700,000 Hubbard gave to candidates in 2010, around $699,476.82 came back to Hubbard’s business interests.
ALGOP Chairman Hubbard gave a total of $322,405.06 to House races in 2010. Of that amount, $177,945.51 or 55 percent was spent with his business interests. Hubbard’s wholly-owned media production company, Network Creative Solutions, received $159,327.87, while Craftmaster Printers,Inc., a company in which Hubbard in a majority partner, received $18,617.64.
The scheme to direct money from the ALGOP to Majority Strategies and then back to Hubbard business interests was revealed in an internal ALGOP audit ordered by the current ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead. Under Hubbard’s leadership, the Party incurred direct printing expenses from Craftmasters Printing, in the amount of $83,524 in 2010. Total indirect printing, postage, mail service, and shipping costs paid to Majority Strategies (non-related party) and remitted to Craftmasters Printing was $725,262.
According to our investigation, Hubbard controlled PACs (Hubbard was doing double duty as the Minority Leader at the time) paid $322,405.06 to candidates who spent $177,945.51 with Hubbard owned companies: Network Creative Solutions $159,327.87 and Craftmaster $18,617.64. A full 55% of those contributions were cycled back into Hubbard’s companies.
For example, Dwayne Bridges received $8,000 and spent 6190.11 with Hubbard companies. Terri Collins received $18,500 and spent $6,429.07 of that with Hubbard’s companies. Lynn Greer received $19,505.06 and cycled $13,141.25 of that to Hubbard’s companies. Ed Henry received $7,500 and spent $832. Wayne Johnson received $30,500 and spent $24,567.12. Barry Moore (who has since been indicted for other matters) received $54,500 and spent $11,017 with Hubbard’s enterprises. James Patterson received $28,200 and spent $20,000 with the Hubbard businesses. Kerry Rich received $19,000 and spent $9,748.90 on Hubbard’s companies. Mark Tuggle received $49,500 and spent $37,056. Dan Williams received $16,000 and spent $10,908. Paul Lee received $28,000 and spent $1,823.36. Richard Baughn received $10,000 and spent $26,165. K.L. Brown received just $1000 but spent $10,337,70 with Hubbards companies.
Republican candidates for the Alabama Senate spent $462,299.66 with Network Creative Solutions and $59,231.65 with Craftmaster. $346,700 was given to GOP candidates and Hubbard Companies were paid $521,531.31
For example Gerald Allen received $38,500 and spent $5,469.55. Bill Holtzclaw received $52,500 and spent $2,124. Greg Reed received $5,000 and spent $3,045.60 with Hubbard companies. Tom Whatley received $122,000 from Hubbard controlled PACs and spent $257,798.48 with Hubbard Companies. Bryan Taylor (who has since filed suit against APR for our reporting) received $128,700 spent $253,093.68 with Hubbard’s businesses. (See article here.)
On May 29, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that former Alabama Governor Bob Riley’s political action committee, Alabama 2014 PAC reported that it raised had $29,000 in just the previous week according to its FCPA report.
Riley’s PAC reports expenditures of $128,421.01, most notably giving $12,500 to indicted lawmaker, Rep. Barry Moore on May 20, the date of Moore’s hearing to dismiss his case. Since Moore’s indictment for lying to a Grand Jury and perjury, Riley, along with Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn have been pouring tens of thousands of dollars into Moore’s campaign. Moore used $25,000 given to him by Hubbard to pay his criminal defense attorney, Bill Baxley.
Gov. Riley’s PAC at that point had $504,812.38 on-hand after spending lavishly on commercials for incumbent Republicans. He also gave $35,000 to Steve Livingston who is running for the State Senate against Rep. Todd Greeson. Riley along with the Alabama Federation for Children are spending heavily to block Greeson, who was receiving support from the Alabama Education Association (AEA). Alabama 2014 also gave heavily ($10,000) to Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Jack Williams, ($12,500) who were both facing Republican challengers. (See article here.)
The Republican Primary pitted a diverse collection of moderates, former Democrats, and Tea Party Conservatives largely funded with Alabama Education Association dollars against ‘establishment’ GOP candidates, funded by Mike Hubbard and Bob Riley’s PACs, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and their various allied industry PACs. BCA’s Billy Canary for years has been one of Mike Hubbard’s closest friends and strongest allies.
The Republican voters in Alabama largely sided with Mike Hubbard and BCA. Hubbard easily defeated his well funded opponent: Sandy Toomer. Del Marsh trounced his GOP opponent Steve Guede. And despite the indictments voters preferred Representative Barry Moore (R) over his challenger, Joshua Pipkin. The ease in which Moore beat Pipkin in spite of the well reported indictment illustrated how far Hubbard and Pipkin (allegedly) over reacted to Pipkin’s doomed candidacy.
In all every Mike Hubbard/BCA candidate in the powerful 35 member state Senate defeated his AEA backed Republican Primary Challenger in the June Primary. In the 105 member House, six AEA backed candidates prevailed, but for the most part GOP voters preferred .
On June 13, 2014, the Alabama Political Reporter reported that Lee County Circuit Court Judge Walker ruled against Moore’s attorney’s request to dismiss the felony case against Rep. Barry Moore.
Judge Walker ruled that acting Attorney General Van Davis, along with Matt Hart and William Duffy have authority to conduct the Grand Jury investigation. Perhaps the most revealing element of the Judge’s ruling is the fact that Speaker Hubbard is the central figure in the Lee County investigation.
Hubbard and his white collar defense attorney J. Mark White had constantly denied or spun any hint that Hubbard was the key figure in the investigation. The actual letter granting Davis his powers show that Hubbard, has been the subject of the investigation all along.
One of the arguments made by Moore’s attorney, Bill Baxley, was that Davis who was appointed acting Attorney General on January 31, 2013, did not have standing before the court. And therefore the entire Grand Jury proceedings were illegal.
The Judge dismissed that argument saying, “The Court accepted an in camera document from the State which supports the position that Mr. Davis was appointed by the Attorney General to assume oversight of a legislative corruption investigation on or around January 31st, 2013, as well as any criminal matters arising from that investigation. Furthermore, the letter informs Mr. Davis that the chief of the special prosecution division will report directly to him. These actions appear to be supported by the authority of sections 12-17-184(10), 12-17-216 and 36-15-15 of the Code of Alabama. A redacted copy of the letter which was filed under seal is attached to this order as Exhibit A.”
Hubbard’s attorney questioned Judge Walker ruling according to an AP report, “His [Hubbard’s] attorney, Mark White, said Friday the letter raises more questions than it answers about whether Davis was properly appointed to oversee the investigation. He said that a section of state law the attorney general cited in the letter only refers to appointing active district attorneys, not former district attorneys, to help with investigations.” (See article here.)
In June American Pharmaceutical Cooperative, Inc. CEO Tim Hamrick spoke to the AP’s Phillip Rawls about the scandals that were swirling around his company. Hamrick and APCI are at the center of events that led to the eventual arrest and conviction of then House Representative Greg Wren (R from Montgomery) on charges of using his office for public gain and misleading investigators.
Rawls asked Hamrick to discuss Hubbard’s work for APCI, Hamrick refused because of the investigation and refused to say whether he or anyone with the cooperative has been subpoenaed to testify to the grand jury. Speaker Hubbard however has confirmed, though, that he fact did have a consulting contract with APCI for an undisclosed amount until late last year.
APCI/CEO Hamrick did, though, elaborate on other facets of the equation, including APCI’s relationship with RxAlly, with Representative Wren, and with the State’s Medicaid agency.
Hamrick admitted that he got scare when Alabama Medicaid, led by director Don Williamson, began studying potentially saving taxpayers millions of dollars by switching to a pharmacy benefit manager, or PBM. The PBM could (and likely would) limit Medicaid recipients to a handful of big name corporate pharmacies. The move would cost individual pharmacy members substantial market share.
Hamrick said that he tried and failed to work with state Health Officer Don Williamson, who oversees Medicaid, to give APCI a chance to develop a plan that would save money while maintaining the dispensing fee. Desperate, Hamrick tried to go around Williamson and deal with the legislature directly.
Hamrick told Rawls, “We were concerned that Medicaid was not hearing our concerns that what was being offered sounds really good, but it’s just not sustainable, so that is when we started turning to the Legislature.”
Hamrick blamed the resulting disaster on it’s PBM affiliate, RxAlly. Hamrick told Rawls that APCI only owned 2 percent of RxAlly even though all the 1,300 APCI pharmacies held an RxAlly membership. RxAlly dissolved as a result of the scandal with Rep. Greg Wren.
Hamrick told Rawls that Wren was hired by the group because of his background in the insurance business. “What happened from there I have no idea,” Hamrick said.
On June 30, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ wrote that the investigation into Hubbard was initiated by orders from Matt Hart, the head of the Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Division of the State’s Attorney General’s Office, not Luther Strange. Strange only fully learned about the investigation after he was shown Hart’s preliminary findings.
Strange did not try to quash the investigation—which would have been the best choice politically— but rather recused himself from the case because of certain personal knowledge concerning Hubbard’s activities.
Research by the Alabama Political Reporter has led to the theory that Hubbard embezzled money while Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. During his time as Chairman, Hubbard would direct funds to political campaigns with the caveat that a portion of the funds be spent with his business interests; according to several individuals involved in a number of campaigns.
In 2010, Hubbard also directed money from the ALGOP to the Florida-based company, Majority Strategies, who then in turn subcontracted work to a Hubbard business interest.
On May 24, Luther Strange received $20,000 contribution— for his Attorney General race—from Hubbard’s Political Action Committee, Network PAC. On the very next day, the Strange campaign spent $20,000 with Hubbard’s Network Creative Media. This action could make the Attorney General a potential witness against Hubbard, if he were to be charged with embezzling campaign funds.
It is not certain that this is why Strange recused himself from the investigation, but it might be the answer. It is important to remember that recusal from a prosecution is not the same as refusal to see an investigation go forward. This is why Supernumerary District Attorney W. Van Davis was appointed to act on the Attorney General’s behalf.
In 2011, Strange appointed Matt Hart to head the Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Division of the office of the Attorney General. This was seen by many as a sign that Strange was not going to shy away from prosecution of public corruption in high reaches of government.
St. Clair District Attorney Richard Minor,—who has worked closely with Hart over the years—had this to say about his appointment in 2011:
“I am pleased to hear that Attorney General Strange has hired Matt. His extraordinary record as a public corruption prosecutor and his commitment to public service will serve the citizens of Alabama well. As the former Director of the North Alabama Public Corruption Task Force, Matt’s leadership led to the foundation for ethics reform. This hire reaffirms the Attorney Generals pledge to root out public corruption at all levels of government in our State.”
Minor is one of the most highly respected District Attorneys in the State.
Hart has a history of fighting wide and winning big, on cases wrought with political danger.
From 2003 to 2009, Hart served as Director for State and Federal Joint Public Corruption Task Force for the Northern District of Alabama. During this period, he supervised the investigation into the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education, which would lead to the conviction of the former Chancellor, several State Legislators, contractors and State employees.
He was also responsible for overseeing the investigation that ended with the conviction of Jefferson County Commissioners in the sewer debacle. Add to this the conviction of Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, and a picture begins to emerge of a career prosecutor who will take the tough cases without fear of reprisal or political pressure. Over a year ago, Hubbard’s White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney began to spread various versions of Hubbard’s innocence and claims of political persecution.
White is known to seek out friendly news reporters who will give his clients favorable coverage in the media. Spending hours granting exclusive interviews with friendly journalists who will write stories in a sympathetic light. These stories follow a line of reasoning supplied by White, without risking questions that might probe into Hubbard’s actions. (See article here.)
On July 16 the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that Rep. Moore (R from Enterprise) had asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to stay his felony trail before Circuit Court Judge Jacob A.Walker, III.
Moore’s attorney, Bill Baxley, filed a petition for Writ of Mandamus, pursuant to rule 21, of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure. The 89 page petition Baxley makes essentially the same argument that was rejected by Judge Walker, the previous month.
A petition for Writ of Mandamus, also known as an “extraordinary writ,” is designed when a lower court decision would cause immediate harm to a defendant. It is used when a defendant, “seeks emergency and immediate appellate review of an order that is otherwise interlocutory and not appealable.” However, in Moore’s case, he would have sufficient time and a legal right to an appeal after the completion of his trial in Lee County.
The petition before the Court of Criminal Appeals was basically the same as the “Motion to Dismiss,” rejected by Judge Walker. The only real exception was the introduction of the Letter from Attorney General Luther Strange, authorizing Davis to oversee the investigation of Hubbard and others.
Baxley again asserted that acting Attorney General W. Van Davis has no standing before the court, stating that Davis was acting before the Lee County Special Grand Jury without “any oath, without any election so to serve, and without any legally required appointment by the Governor of Alabama.”
The Attorney General’s Office filed a response saying the appeal was premature. (See article here.)
On August 3, APR reported that Speaker of the House Hubbard used $75,000 from his campaign account to pay his white collar criminal defense attorney, J. Mark White. For those keeping count, this makes $221,610.77 that Hubbard has paid his lawyers using his campaign contributions. (See FCPA December 2013, FCPA March 2014).
Since early August 2013, Speaker Hubbard, has engaged the law firms of White, Arnold & Dowd and Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell to represent him, in what lead attorney White characterized at the time as an investigation into individuals or groups who were making false statements against the Speaker and his family.
However, documents released by Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A Walker, III, reveal that Hubbard actually is the subject of an on-going Attorney General’s investigation into possible criminal activities by Hubbard and perhaps others.
Hubbard and White have also made the argument that the investigation into Hubbard was a political prosecution.
Many within the legal community say that $221,610.77 is just so much spare change for the services of White and company. So, it may be that Hubbard is using campaign funds to supplement the actual cost of White’s services.
Some suggest that Hubbard is paying his legal fees in violation of the 2002 Attorney General’s opinion. The opinion by former AG, Bill Pryor, states that “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.”
One of the key phrases is, “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 and his family. Critics argue that if that were the case then Hubbard would not be allowed to use these funds to pay White or Lance Bell because their services are not “legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment.” (See article here.)
On August 4, the Alabama political scene was rocked when ‘Politico’ reported findings from a confidential report revealing that Speaker Hubbard in collusion with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), had funneled over a million dollars into Alabama “improperly.”
The investigation was led by the notable D.C. law firm, Baker Hostetler.
Much of this had 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, alleges that Hubbard raised money for the RSLC, which would then transfer the money back to Hubbard completely cleaned of its original donors (essentially political money laundering).
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.”
Hubbard however said that he had no deal with the RSLC and did nothing improper.
RSLC Chief of Staff Scott Ward however said, “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 told 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 staffers at the RSLC at the time confirmed the Ward account.
RSLC CEO Tim Barnes has denied any such arrangement with Hubbard. Following the Baker Hostetler Report, Barnes was terminated by the RSLC Board. The Board terminated Ward as well because as, “Hubbard’s go-between with Tim in making the ‘one-for-one’ deal. RSLC cannot afford to continue its association with him.”
The 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 if true 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.
The ‘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 old mainstream media failed to delve into the controversy.
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.” Windom (R) is a former Lieutenant Governor of Alabama and is now a prominent lobbyist.
“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.”
These allegations by the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ were met with denial, personal attack against its staff, and backlash from radio talking heads. Those same Hubbard faction radio mouth pieces dismissed the Baker Hostetler report on the RSLC relationship with Hubbard 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 (R) was the driving force behind Citizens for a Better Alabama. (See article here.)
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.” (See article here.)
Also on August 4, APR reported that: Acting Attorney General W. Van Davis, Miles “Matt” Hart, and Deputy Attorney General Michael B. Duffy provided Moore’s attorneys with: a certified copy of the official transcript of Moore’s testimony before the Lee County Special Grand Jury on January 24, 2014; the substance of oral statements made by Moore to Special Agents with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office; a CD containing two recorded telephone calls between Moore and Josh Pipkin; certified copies of the official transcripts of the two recorded telephone calls between Moore and Josh Pipkin; a CD containing a recorded telephone call between Moore and Jonathan Tullos; a certified copy of the official transcript of the recorded telephone call between Moore and Tullos; phone records from Josh Pipkin; phone records from Jonathan Tullos; and an executed copy of the oath from the court reporter for the Lee County Special Grand Jury
The court documents reveal that the State also has a recording of Moore speaking with Jonathan Tullos, Executive Director at Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation. Tullos has refused to speak with the press, citing instructions from the prosecution. In a recording made by Josh Pipkin, Moore is heard relaying threats that he says he is communicating on behalf of Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. It can be surmised that Tullos may have made similar recordings of conversations with Moore. The persecution may be using the Tullos recording to substantiate the validity of the threats made by Moore to Pipkin, on Hubbard’s behalf. The State also responded to Moore’s motion to suppress the two phone recordings and transcripts between Moore and Pipkin. This is the first time that the public has been made aware of two phone conversation between Moore and Pipkin.
Alabama Political Reporter was the first to report and release a copy of one of Pipkin’s recordings, while it was suspected that other tapes existed this is the first time it has been confirmed. Moore’s attorneys have argued that the tapes should be suppressed because Moore was in Florida at the time of the phone calls and therefore did not consent under Florida law to Pipkin’s recording of their conversations. However, the conversations were recorded in Alabama and therefore fall under Alabama law, not Florida’s.
The State said, “As an initial matter, the relief Moore seeks is simply not available to him. Courts in Alabama have repeatedly held that recorded conversations are not inadmissible simply because they were illegally recorded.” The State does not concede that both tapes were recorded while Moore was in Florida, and offers this further response, “In any event, the phone calls between Pipkin and Moore were legally obtained. It is irrelevant under Alabama law where Moore was physically located at the time of the phone calls because Pipkin recorded the conversations in Alabama. Since the law in Alabama is that only one party’s consent is required to record a conversation, then the recordings at issue here were unquestionably legal.” (See article here.)
Also in August the Office of the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives announced that the Speaker’s chief of staff Josh Blades had resigned. Prior to joining Hubbard in Montgomery, Blades worked for Hubbard when he was Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.
As Hubbard’s Chief of Staff, Blades was one of the highest paid public officials in the state of Alabama at the princely sum of $109,801 in 2013.
Blades said in a statement, “I will always treasure the experience of working alongside Speaker Hubbard and our entire team, Being a part of the conservative reforms that Republican lawmakers implemented this quadrennium has been an honor and privilege. Now that the term is drawing to a close, however, I feel it is the right time to pursue new opportunities.”
The former Chief of Staff also thanked Hubbard and former Governor Bob Riley: “I am very grateful to have had the pleasure of serving the state I love for almost ten years under two strong leaders and great men in Governor Riley and Speaker Hubbard.”
Speaker Hubbard said, “When I hired Josh, I asked him for a commitment to stay through four legislative sessions, which he has done. Now that the final session of the quadrennium is complete and with a growing family, it is a logical and not unexpected that he consider other options.”
In 2013, according the reports from the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Office of the Speaker spent a whopping $2,257,179, a budget totalling more than the Office of the Governor ($1,187,616) and the Alabama Ethics Commission ($1,822,177).
The Speaker’s general counsel, James Entrekin, was promoted to replace Blades as Chief of Staff. Entrekin was the Chairman of the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans (GBYR) when tapped by Hubbard to join the Speaker’s staff late in 2013.
On August 8, 2014 APR wrote that in February, 2013, we revealed that in 2010, Governor Bob Riley, in conjunction with then Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, funneled money from various PACs, and from the RSLC to Citizens for a Better Alabama, (CBA), to stop bingo-style gaming from becoming legal in the State.
Certain statements made by the group’s founder, A. Eric Johnston, and various suspect actions by Riley and Hubbard, indicate there could be more to this story than just one group’s battle against gambling.
A recently disclosed 2011 investigation by the Republican State Leadership Committee, (RSLC), showed that there were great concerns over donations given to CBA from the RSLC:
“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 funnelled Choctaw Indian-money to help Ralph Reed rally social conservatives against,” the report concludes.” However, it appears that the investigator, nor the RSLC knew that it was Riley along with Hubbard who were in-fact controlling CBA, by proxy.
According to Johnston, Riley and Hubbard not only procured the funds for CBA, they directed where the money would be spent.
Starting in 2009, the Birmingham-based/tax-exempt group became the public face of opposition to Sweet Home Alabama, and the shutting down of legal casinos operated at VictoryLand and Country Crossings. According to archived versions of its website, the CBA – run by Johnston – has “been an advocate for the family since 1991.”
In a 2009 letter penned by Johnston, he denounced the deceptive ads being run for the Sweet Home Alabama plan: “The Citizens for a Better Alabama may not have the millions of dollars it would take to combat these deceptive ads on the airwaves, but we do have the truth on our side.”
Before CBA’s relationship with Riley and Hubbard the group had an yearly average funding of around $40,000. However, in 2010 Johnston would have a million dollars to fight gambling, provided by his white knight Riley.
According to Johnston, when Riley became interested in ridding the State of bingo gambling, he was contacted by the Governor who said he wanted to help Johnston raise money.
“I don’t know why he [Riley] decided to do it [fight gambling] other than it was a propitious time to do it,” said Johnston. “Whatever he was doing was good. He was stopping illegal gambling.”
However, there are some very suspicious activities surrounding Riley and Hubbard funding of CBA. The way in which Riley passed along money to CBA and directed its flow is of particularly interesting.
According to Johnston, “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.”
“Hubbard’s deal,” according to Johnston, was a Hubbard business interest.
Johnston describes how money raised by Riley, went directly to Hubbard and that he never actually saw most of the money.
Johnston said that the money that his organization received was almost entirely for advertising, “Mike was in that business and I thought it appropriate for him to handle it.”
Again, a pattern emerges where donations from one group, is given to a third party and then finally back to one of Hubbard’s business interests. In this case, the money was being directed by Riley to Johnston then to Hubbard. Even the so-called small donations would be directed by Riley, “I would be informed by the governor’s office that I would be getting a check for 2 or 3 thousand dollars and we would have ad bills that cost that much,” said Johnston, “and that money would be for those bills.”
According to Johnston, “We ran a zero balance campaign. Whatever money came in was spent, a lot of it was coordinated through Mike Hubbard’s company.”
CBA is a 501(c)(4) nonpartisan non-profit corporation. According to Alliance for Justice, “The tax exemption for 501(c)(4) organizations applies to most of their operations, but contributions may be subject to gift tax, and income spent on political activities – generally the advocacy of a particular candidate in an election – is taxable.”
CBA records show that, $717, 750 of the almost exactly $1,000,000 raised and spent by CBA in 2010 came directly from partisan Republican PACS and campaign accounts controlled directly by Riley and Hubbard. That is 70 percent of all money raised and spent.
Another $100,000 came directly from another Republican PAC – the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) PAC in Washington DC. Again from an internal memo from September of 2011, the RSLC stated that it was “unprecedented” for them to give political money to a non-profit such as CBA.
The total amount of unquestionably partisan Republican political money (as it came directly from GOP political committees) sent to CBA in 2010 totalled well over $800,000 – 80 percent of all money raised.
Of the remaining $200,000 raised by CBA, there were only 11 separate donors. Ten (10) of those donors had previously contributed political money to Riley and/or Hubbard.
According to CBA’s Form 990, almost all of the money spent – over $982,000 – was on advertising. That advertising was purchased by a Hubbard business interest.
Taking Johnston’s statement on spending into the equation, it seems likely that all of the nearly $1 million spent by CBA was spent with companies owned (either wholly or in partnership) by Hubbard.
All of these actions by Riley and Hubbard raise serious questions.
Did Riley and Hubbard hope to hide the fact that Hubbard business interest were receiving large sums from CBA? It would seem that by running the money through CBA, there would be no disclosure that then Alabama GOP Chair Hubbard was getting almost $1 million in personal business from the “anti-bingo” effort on the eve of a major state wide election.
Due to the overwhelming funding of the “nonpartisan non-profit” CBA directly from GOP PACS, was CBA in violation of federal tax law?
Could CBA owe back taxes on the partisan money contributed for political purposes?
It would certainly seem that CBA could be held liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid taxes. As the sole officer of CBA, Johnston would be the person who would be held responsible, even if Riley and Hubbard were pulling the strings – as he has indicated in interviews.
Perhaps the more troubling questions are:
Why did the Republican State Leadership Committee send a $100,000 check to CBA after the bingo fight had been ended by disclosure of a federal investigation in April 2010?
Why did Hubbard’s Network PAC direct over $100,000 in GOP political funds to CBA after the bingo battle ended with the announcement of the federal investigation in April 2010?
Why did Hubbard send $75,000 of precious GOP political money from NETWORK PAC to CBA on October 25, 2010 – one week before the November election and at a time when the State GOP He headed needed every penny for last minute campaigning?
Johnston has a long history of opposing gambling in Alabama. It is likely he wanted to help fight gambling expansion; whether or not he knew that he would essentially be handing over his non-profit to Riley and Hubbard is unknown. (See article here.)
The repercussions of all of this have stretched far outside of Alabama’s borders. In August they stretched all the way to Virginia where Republicans are desperate to win the U.S. Senate seat, and hope that that will help the GOP gain back control of the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately Gillespie’s ties to Mike Hubbard are being used against him by his opponents.
On August 6, the Virginia Democratic Party wrote, “A full 48 hours have passed since news broke that while Ed Gillespie was chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee, the organization conducted an internal investigation into a “risky campaign finance scheme.” It appeared that the RSLC was involved in a plan to move hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Poarch Creek Indian Tribe through the RSLC to the Alabama Republican Party from January 2009 to March 2011. Gillespie, who chaired the organization from January 2010 – January 2014 and received $654,000 in payments from the group, declined to answer reporter questions for the story. Two days later, Gillespie is still silent and has yet to tell Virginians what he knew about the scandal.”
In a press release the VA Democrats said,
“Here are the questions Ed Gillespie should answer to make clear to Virginians what he knew:
1) Was Ed Gillespie aware that, according to their own report, RSLC officials agreed to be a pass-through organization for Poarch Creek Indian tribe donations that were intended to fund the activities of the Alabama GOP?
2) If Ed Gillespie was aware, did he raise concerns about the legality of the RSLC’s involvement or take steps to try to stop it?
3) Was Ed Gillespie aware of other schemes at the RSLC to funnel money in this way?
4) If Ed Gillespie says he did not know prior to the July 2011 press reports, how is it possible that the chair of the organization, being paid $200,000 in 2010 alone, could not know?
5) When Ed Gillespie was presented with the report from the internal investigation, what actions did he take to ensure that similar schemes were not conducted? Did he put in place any new procedures, and if so what were they? Did Gillespie conduct an audit of fundraising operations in other states?
6) As the RSLC’s lead fundraiser, did Ed Gillespie and Mike Hubbard talk during the time frame that they overlapped, and if so, did they ever speak about RSLC fundraising?
7) Why was Ed Gillespie announced as national chairman in 2010, but not legally listed until 2011?
8) Was Gillespie aware of the severance agreement for Barnes? Was he a part of the negotiation? What were the terms?” (Read more here.)
Despite Republican momentum and widespread dissatisfaction with the policies of President Barack H. Obama a University of Mary Washington University Poll in late September has Gillespie trailing Democrat Mark Warner 47 percent to 37 percent. How badly is his involvement with Mike Hubbard hurting Gillespie?
On August 18, 2014 the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ wrote of infighting within the Alabama Attorney General’s Office over this investigation.
Sources from both within and outside of the Attorney General’s Office have confirmed that Luther Strange’s Chief Deputy, Kevin Turner, is orchestrating a plot to remove chief prosecutor Matt Hart from the Lee Country Grand Jury investigation. In this latest effort, it is said that Turner has devised a plan whereby a “personnel complaint” has been lodged against Hart.
“He is trying to poison Hart’s relationship with Luther,” said one individual with knowledge of the inter-working of the Attorney General’s Office.
According to two individuals closely aligned with the AG’s office—who wish to remain nameless—the complaint against Hart has been filed with Charla G. Doucet, Chief of the Attorney General’s administrative division. This bogus complaint is the first step in an administrative process to have Hart reassigned or fired from his position as Chief of the white collar crimes division.
The latest internal coup against Hart is believed to be the result of political pressure from Hubbard, along with former Gov. Bob Riley.
It is believed that Riley is in full damage control mode over potentially damning information that has led investigators to his children, most notably his daughter Minda Riley Campbell.
According to Hubbard’s book, ‘Storming the State House’, in 2010, Gov. Riley’s daughter Minda Riley Campbell served as Governor’s Circle Coordinator and Campaign Advertisement Producer for the ALGOP.
The publication of the leaked internal investigation by the Republican State Leadership Committee, (RSLC), and the subsequent investigation, shows that $200,000 of Poarch Creek Indian, (PCI) gaming money—laundered by Hubbard and the RSLC—was funnelled into Republican State Senate campaigns. It also shows that $50,000 was divided between a Hubbard business interest and SRM Media. The laundered funds received by SRM Media are believed to be payments made to Minda Riley Campbell.
“Bob Riley has brought his full power, which is considerable, to bare on the Attorney General’s Office to ruin Matt Hart, and stop this investigation,” said an individual with close ties to the AG’s office.
Minda Riley Campbell was also instrumental in the growth and development of the Alabama 2014 PAC, which raised millions for Riley and Hubbard’s incumbent protection plan. The Alabama 2014 PAC established by Riley, Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, has received close scrutiny due to some questionable donations and expenditures.
Minda Riley Campbell’s husband, James Campbell, is a partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings L.L.P., the powerful Birmingham based law firm which boasts of 350 attorneys in its stable. The firm employed Turner before he took his position with the AG’s Office.
Inside the Attorney General’s Office, the effort to sabotage the Grand Jury, by eliminating Hart, is thought to be the work of Strange’s closest ally, Turner.
Turner’s personal cell phone records from mid-March 2014 to mid-April 2014 —observed by the Alabama Political Reporter —show Turner made numerous private calls to Hubbard, Rep. Barry Moore and possibly former Gov. Riley. Turner’s personal cell records show that several calls coincide with the arrest of disgraced lawmaker Rep. Greg Wren and Rep. Barry Moore. Not only does this raise serious ethical questions, it also begs the question, if there are any criminal complications for Turner and others?
Why would Luther Strange’s second-in-command be in such close personal contact with principles in a criminal investigation?
Do these phone conversations point to a coordinated scheme to thwart justice from within the Attorney General’s Office?
Is Turner leaking secret information, planning a strategy, or is there another answer as to why the second highest officer in the State’s Attorney General’s Office is communicating with those under criminal investigation?
Is Turner working in cooperation with Hubbard, Riley and others to stymie the Lee County Grand Jury investigation by removing Hart from the investigation? This is not the first time Turner has tried to hamper Hart’s efforts in the Lee County public corruption investigation.
A few months ago, on a Friday, Turner informed Hart’s staff that he was reassigning Hart to Birmingham and that he would no longer have an office within the AG’s office in Montgomery. Turner ordered the case files for the Lee County Grand Jury kept in Montgomery away from Hart’s new office location, according to sources within the AG’s office.
According to those present, Hart, upon arriving at his office, found a letter informing him of his reassignment. According to sources with immediate knowledge of the situation, Hart, along with W. Van Davis, confronted Strange and the ensuing heated discussion resulted in a reversal of Turner’s orders.
Such a toxic atmosphere surrounded Turner actions that veteran AG Official John Gibbs, resigned his office, according to those close to Gibbs. Turner has been described by co-workers as a paranoid drinker with a mean streak.
As a result of Turner’s actions, the day-to-day workings of the white collar criminal division were transferred temporarily from Hart. He remained the head of the criminal investigation in Lee County and also the Montgomery investigation into Alabama State University, which is being overseen by Fayette County, District Attorney Chris McCool, who was appointed Special Attorney General, after AG Strange recused himself from the ASU investigations. (See article here.)
On August 21 the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that Wednesday, August 20, was the deadline for arguments to be filed before the State’s Supreme Court in the Barry Moore perjury case.
In July, Moore’s attorneys filed a motion with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals asking the court to consider technical legal challenges to the prosecution case against Moore. Under a rarely used statue, Chief Justice Roy Moore and Criminal Appear Chief Mary Windom (who is married to former Lt. Gov. Steve Windom) decided to lift the case up to the higher court, in an effort to expedite the proceedings.
Attorneys agreed that regardless of the outcome in the Criminal Court of Appeal, the matter would ultimately be appealed to the higher court.
Moore’s attorneys argued that W. Van Davis was improperly appointed “Special Attorney General,” and therefore the proceedings of the Lee County grand jury are illegitimate. Therefore, the case against Moore, and by extension Hubbard or others is void.
According to the revision made to Moore’s motion, the Supreme Court agreed to “decide fundamental constitutional issues affecting the jurisdiction of the ‘special grand jury’… and the extraordinary recusal by the Attorney General of Alabama.”
Moore’s attorney Bill Baxley arguments were thoroughly rejected by Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A.Walker III in June.
Former Lt. Gov. Baxley tried to convince Judge Walker that Attorney General Luther Strange did not have the authority to appoint W. Van Davis, as his representative in the Lee Country investigation.
Judge Walker dismissed that argument saying, “The Court accepted an in camera document from the State, which supports the position that Mr. Davis was appointed by the Attorney General to assume oversight of a legislative corruption investigation on or around January 31st, 2013, as well as any criminal matters arising from that investigation. Furthermore, the letter informs Mr. Davis that the chief of the special prosecution division will report directly to him. These actions appear to be supported by the authority of sections 12-17-184(10), 12-17-216 and 36-15-15 of the Code of Alabama. A redacted copy of the letter which was filed under seal is attached to this order as Exhibit A.”
According to Alabama code, a District Attorney is required to, “go to any place in the State of Alabama and prosecute any case or cases, or work with any grand jury, when called upon to do so by the Attorney General or the Governor of the State of Alabama, and to attend sessions of courts and transact all of the duties of the district attorney in the courts whenever called upon by the Attorney General or the Governor to do so.”
Speaker Mike Hubbard’s white collar criminal defense attorney, J. Mark White, has stated to the press that this only applies to district attorneys, suggesting that Davis does not fit the requirement because he is retired from his post as St. Clair County DA.
However, Davis is a Supernumerary District Attorney, and according to State code cited by Judge Walker,
“Supernumerary district attorneys shall take the oath of office prescribed by the constitution for judicial officers and shall have and exercise all the duties, power and authority of district attorneys of the judicial circuits or circuit courts and shall, upon request of the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the Attorney General, conduct investigations, attend any regular, adjourned or special session of any circuit court in any of the judicial circuits of Alabama for the investigation of or the prosecution of any criminal case or the prosecution or defense of any case in which the state is interested.”
If for some reason the Supreme Court of Alabama decides to rule in favor of Moore, legal authorities say this would open a “Pandora’s box” of litigation.
In 2010, the State’s case against chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, Roy Johnson, was prosecuted by another St. Clair County DA, Richard Minor, who was acting as a Special Attorney General in the case, after AG Troy King recused himself. Ironically, Johnson pleaded guilty to the State ethics charge before Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker III.
If the court suddenly ruled the use of DA’s as Special Attorney Generals, then several lawyers believe that Johnson could appeal his conviction by the State. (See article here.)
On September 1, the ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ reported that Speaker Hubbard had spent almost a million dollars on his re-election campaign and almost $200K from his personal campaign account to pay legal fees.
Hubbard had around $55,000 in his principle campaign account, not enough to pay his white collar criminal defense lawyer, J. Mark White. Hubbard’s Storming the Statehouse PAC has less than $10,000, a far cry from the millions he had once predicted for his “incumbent protection plan.” However a well-heeled fundraiser was scheduled for 11:30 to refuel Hubbard’s ‘Stormin the State House’ PAC.
It is also being bantered about that big donors like “Yellow Feller” Jimmy Rane, who owns Great Southern Wood and is also President Pro Tempore of the Auburn University Board of Trustees, were putting pressure on AG Luther Strange as well as members of the State’s Supreme Court to rule in Hubbard’s advantage.
Rane said a year earlier at the dedications of the Mike Hubbard Center at Auburn University, “ I know that Lee County has a good man… if a fistfight breaks out, give me a call.”
Rumors swirling around Montgomery claim that Rane himself had recently appeared before the Lee Grand Jury. (See article here.)
On September 5, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled with the prosecution in the case against indicted lawmaker, Rep. Moore. Shocking almost no one familiar with the case thought Baxley’s pre-trial appeal would succeed. The high court held that the Lee County Grand Jury was properly empaneled and that Special Attorney General W. Van Davis and Matt Hart were legally appointed by the State’s Attorney General’s Office to oversee the investigation into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and others. Judge Greg Shaw recused but all other judges agreed to deny.
Moore’s case on two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements, all of which are felony crimes was set for September 15 in the Lee Count Circuit Court.
On September 9, the Alabama Political Reporter’s editor Bill Britt speculates that a donation of $33,333.00 made to former Gov. Bob Riley’s Alabama 2014 PAC can be linked to a $78 million dollar loan made by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) to fund Si02 Medical Products. The loan’s genesis began with a $750,000 economic development agreement between the State’s Department of Commerce and CV Holdings, LLC, in 2010.
According to the company’s website, Si02 Medical is a “160,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Auburn, Alabama. The facility houses research and development and the manufacturing of “…silicon-oxide coated containers, utilizing… plasma glass coating technology.”
The company website states that SiO2 Medical Products is a “privately held company… founded and supported by CV Holdings, LLC.” Bloomberg Business describes CV Holding LLC as a company that, “Engages in the design, development, manufacture, and marketing of polymer products primarily for packaging applications. It provides packaging solutions to the pharmaceutical and diagnostic markets; manufactures and fills vials; and manufactures children’s cups, as well as insulated and non-insulated cups for promotions and retail applications. The company has operations in Amsterdam, New York; and Auburn, Alabama. CV Holdings, LLC was founded in 2002 and is based in Amsterdam, New York.”
CV Holdings, LLC owns several other companies including Capitol Cups also located in Auburn. Capitol Cups’ website states that the company “is a leading supplier of insulated and non-insulated travel cups, tumblers, and children’s spill-proof cups for the food, retail, sports and fundraising industries.”
Chances are high if you drink from a cup with an Auburn or Alabama sports logo, you are holding a cup manufactured by Capitol Cups. The president and CEO of CV Holdings which oversees Si02 and Capitol Cups, is Robert Abrams of Amsterdam, NY.
Abrams made the donation of $33,333.00 to Riley. Abrams also signed the economic agreement shortly before Riley left office in 2010. And it was Abrams that signed the loan agreement for the $78 million from RSA. The donation of almost exactly one-third of $100,000 to Riley’s PAC, appears as a huge red flag.
When the Alabama Political Reporter called Si02 in Auburn the receptionist took our name and number and promised a returned call. Within 15 minutes of our call to Si02 headquarters in Auburn we received a call back from the President and CEO of CV Holding Mr. Robert Abrams.
When we spoke with Abrams in early September, he did not offer an explanation for the unusual amount of the contribution, only saying that he supported those who worked to promote business development in the State. When asked about the remaining two-thirds of the possible $100,000 he simply stated that he gave to groups that worked in business development in Alabama.
On October 10, 2010, then, Gov. Riley, signed a project agreement with CV Holdings worth $750,000 in taxpayer dollars, once the company met certain conditions.
The two major conditions of the agreement between Riley and Abrams were that the company would secure $90,000,000 in funding to be invested in the building of a new manufacturing facility in Auburn and that the company would employee at least 250 individuals to work at the facility.
In March, 2012, RSA Chief Executive Officer Dr. David Bronner, along with Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and other State dignitaries, announced the investment of $90 million dollars into SIO2 Medical production facility in Auburn, with $78,000,000 in loans from funds belonging to State workers.
Dr. Bronner wrote that the $78 million dollar loan was secured by “37 patents and other intellectual property covering the company’s developments, a pledge of stock, and all other assets of the company. The interest rate is 8% and the company will pay the RSA a success fee upon maturity of the loan. The success fee will be 22% of the average daily outstanding balance of the loan for each year the loan is outstanding.”
Bronner also stated that the agreement between RSA and CV Holdings, LLC was two years in the making. Individuals with knowledge of the protracted negotiations between RSA and CV Holdings, LLC, contend that Bronner initially expressed a reluctance to such a high-stakes investment.
In the Alabama Political Reporter’s conversation with Abrams, he expressed a close working relationship with Auburn Mayor Bill Ham. When asked about his relationship with Hubbard, he did not reply directly, only saying he worked with all those in business development in Auburn.
Since the 2010 takeover by the Republican Supermajority, Bronner has been under constant attack by GOP members in the House and Senate.
Many of those attacks ended when in January 2012 Leura Canary was hired as general consul for the RSA. Leura Canary is the former United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. She is also the wife of Billy Canary, the head of the Business Council of Alabama, (BCA) and a close associate of former Gov. Riley and Speaker Hubbard.
Publisher and journalist Bob Martin writing about Leura Canary’s hiring said,
“Two capitol observers told me they believe Canary is being hired because of other reasons; one of them being that Bronner needs to improve RSA’s relations with the Republican-controlled legislature.”
Canary’s hiring not only coincides with an improved relationship between Bronner and the Republican leadership, it also aligns with the closing of a $78 million loan made to finance Si02 in Auburn.
The $33,333.00 donation from Abrams to Riley occurred in November 2012, eight months after the closing of the loan from RSA. The hiring of Leura Canary, the improved relationship with Republican leadership, the closing of the loan from RSA and the donation to Riley’s 2014 PAC falls neatly into a pattern, that has become a signature of Speaker Hubbard and his close associates.
One question about the $33,333.00 contribution the overwhelming response is “Where is the other $66,666.00?”
On September 10, APR reported on an email from Speaker Hubbard announcing a Caucus meeting for Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. in Montgomery.
The email which was provided to APR read, “The purpose of this meeting will be to determine, by a vote of the Caucus, our nominees for leadership positions and operating Rules for the upcoming quadrennium. Since there will be a brand new legislature elected on November 4, it is imperative that we make decisions on our leadership and organization so that there will be no lack of direction as we head into the Legislative Orientation in December as well as the constitutionally-mandated Organizational Session in January.”
The stated purpose of the meeting is to “determine, by a vote of the Caucus, our nominees for leadership positions and operating Rules for the upcoming quadrennium.”
There is speculation that the actual, underlying reason for the meeting is that Hubbard is terrified that he will be defeated as Speaker. In 2010, before winning the House, the Republican caucus decided to institute a “pledge” whereby leadership positions were determined by a vote in the caucus, which could not be changed when it came time for the actual process on the House floor.
When the “pledge” was instituted into the process Hubbard and his fellow House Republicans thought they would gain control of the House, but did not realize that they would have a supermajority. The reason for the “pledge” was to keep Democrats from having any say as to who would be elected Speaker or any other positions. However, by creating a supermajority, the need for the “pledge” was not really necessary.
There is speculation that Hubbard wants to use the “pledge” to ensure that his fellow Republicans can’t vote against him as Speaker.
Hubbard is counting on not being indicted before the elections, with the idea of being elected Speaker before he faces any criminal charges. Hubbard could then hold the “pledge” over his caucus member’s heads as a way to retain his speaker’s seat even after indictments were served.
House members who spoke off the record for fear of retaliation are worried that Hubbard’s plan might work. “This is a diabolical scheme, because if he can pull this off we are almost trapped into keeping him as speaker, even while he faces criminal charges.”
Another Legislator told APR that he thinks that the “pledge” would and should be void if Hubbard is in fact charged with committing crimes and using his office for personal gain. “After what the caucus did to Scott [Beason], it would be silly to think we would have to elect Mike, even if he is indicted.”
Another said, “If he is indicted he must step-down or be removed, said a long-serving republican House member, we cannot have an indicted Speaker, it is unacceptable.”
On September 17, the Alabama Political Reporter reported on court documents which were unsealed revealing that Deputy Attorney General Henry T. “Sonny” Reagan, had unsuccessfully tried to quash his subpoena to testify before the Lee County Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is investigating possible criminal activities committed by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and others. After being served a subpoena to appear before the Lee County Grand Jury, on August 27, 2014, Reagan filed a sealed writ of mandamus to quash the Lee County subpoena.
This case was originally filed in the Supreme Court. According to court records, the Supreme Court assigned this case to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on September 4. Judge Mary Windom (R) of the Court of Criminal Appeals promptly recused by a filing on September 5.
Reagan was represented before the Lee County Circuit Court and later before an Alabama higher court by Bill Baxley and Rob Riley, the son of former Gov. Bob Riley. Baxley also represents indicted Republican lawmaker State Rep. Barry Moore. Baxley is on record as the attorney getting paid by Hubbard to represent Moore.
Reagan served as Riley’s Chief Legal Advisor during the crusaded against electronic bingo in the State. Riley recruited Reagan to be point man on litigation against Milton McGregor and VictoryLand Casino. After Riley left office, Reagan returned to the Attorney General’s Office where he has served as the chief prosecutor in gaming cases. In the last two weeks, Reagan argued against McGregor and VictoryLand Casino, before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William Shashy.
The court rejected Reagan’s writ against his Lee County testimony, at which time Reagan sought to have the court documents sealed from the public. The court denied Reagan’s request and unsealed the documents on Wednesday.
In his petition, Reagan challenged the validity of a subpoena he was served as well as the Grand Jury itself. He also argued the Grand Jury was illegally convened and is being illegally operated. Reagan sided against his boss Attorney General Luther Strange and with Baxley and Moore in saying that Strange did not have the right to appoint W. Van Davis to act on the AG’s behalf in the Lee County Grand Jury (This was the argument put forward by Baxley in the Moore case which was rejected by Lee Country Circuit Court Judge Jacob A.Walker III and an Alabama upper court).
The court also, once again found that AG Strange (R) did have the authority to appoint Davis and that that Grand Jury is legal.
Also in the petition, Reagan argued that Hart was retaliating against him because he had filed a “personnel complaint” with Charla G. Doucet, Chief of the Attorney General’s administrative division. These types of complaints are the first steps in an administrative process which could see Hart reassigned or fired from his position as Chief of the White Collar Crimes Division. In his complaint to the AG, Reagan asked that Hart be reassigned.
In August, the Alabama Political Reporter revealed that sources from both within and outside of the Attorney General’s Office had confirmed that Luther Strange’s Chief Deputy, Kevin Turner, was orchestrating a plot to remove chief prosecutor Matt Hart from the Lee Country Grand Jury investigation. A plan was devised to have a “personnel compliant” lodged against Hart. Reagan it appears was the instrument used to deliver the coup de grâce, against Hart.
Lee County Circuit Court, Judge Christopher Hughes, presided over the hearing for Reagan’s first petition and denied Reagan’s motions as well as an oral motion to stay pending appeal, and Reagan was forced to testify before the Grand Jury.
Reagan through his attorneys Riley and Baxley, then asked the Court that Reagan’s testimony before the Grand Jury be stricken from consideration or, compel the trial court to disband the Lee County Grand Jury therefore nullifying Reagan’s testimony. These requests were rejected by the court.
According to the court documents presented by Riley and Baxley over the past several months, Reagan and Hart were engaged in an interoffice dispute not related to the Lee County Grand Jury.
Reagan has sent several memorandums to Attorney General Luther Strange, Chief Deputy Attorney General Kevin Turner, and/or Chief of the Attorney General’s Administrative Division Charla Doucet, listing alleged instances of misconduct by Hart.
On July 22, 2014, Reagan sent a formal complaint against Hart for misconduct and requested that Hart be transferred to another office.
The basis for the complaint was the fact that Hart had threatened to subpoena Reagan to testify in front of the Lee County Grand Jury if he failed to acquiesce to Hart in the interoffice dispute involving office space and location. However, evidence present in camera before Judge Hughes and the Court showed that the so-called “interoffice dispute” had nothing to do with Reagan’s being subpoenaed.
All accusations were rejected by Lee County Circuit Court, Judge Hughes and an Alabama upper court.
Judge Hughes denied Reagan petition after hearing in camera evidence that show that Reagan had not been subpoenaed to testify in Lee County because of an “interoffice dispute.”
When Reagan finally testified before the Lee County Grand Jury, he invoked his 5th Amendment right. While recognizing that Strange had recused himself from the Lee County proceedings the court ruled that Strange was to be informed about Reagan’s actions. The court made clear that the Attorney General had a mole inside his organization.
Following these revelations Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) placed Reagan on administrative leave for the allegations that he had been leaking information to suspects under investigation.
Speaker Mike Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney J. Mark White has been spinning the revelation of Reagan’s complaint against Special Prosecutor Matt Hart, as evidence that there was a political prosecution of his client. White is now faced with the cold-hard-facts, that Reagan has most likely committed criminal actions to help Hubbard thwart justice from with inside the AG’s Office.
Acting Attorney General Van Davis said in a written statement, “In January 2013, Attorney General Luther Strange directed me to act as the Attorney General in a matter involving potential public corruption in Alabama. During the investigation, we determined that a member of Attorney General Strange’s staff, Deputy Attorney General Henry T. (“Sonny”) Reagan, for a period of months, had undisclosed communications with individuals affiliated with people indicted or under investigation by the Lee County Special Grand Jury. Reagan also took other action to impede or obstruct the investigation.”
Davis continued, “On September 17, 2014, in accordance with court orders and pursuant to my duties as Acting Attorney General, I informed Attorney General Strange of Mr. Reagan’s activities. On September 18, 2014, I received a letter from Attorney General Strange informing me that he had taken immediate action to place Mr. Reagan on administrative leave pending resolution of these matters. I appreciate Attorney General Strange giving the matter top priority for support from his Office. I have every confidence in the professionalism and integrity of the work being conducted by the members of the Attorney General’s staff assigned to me.”
On September 26, the Alabama Political Reporter wrote that a letter from Deputy Attorney General Henry T. “Sonny” Reagan is just the latest in a series of coordinated attacks, to sow discord and confusion over the Lee County investigation into possible criminal activities by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and others.
Reagan’s letter dated September, 22, 2014, and addressed to Attorney General Luther Strange and copied to others including, Gov. Robert Bentley, unleashes a torrent of unsubstantiated accusations against Matt Hart, the Chief Prosecutor in the Lee County Grand Jury investigation.
The existence of Reagan’s letter was immediately leaked to certain members of the media, with a prominent female reporter for the Associated Press reportedly calling the Governor’s Office within a half-hour of the Governor’s office’s receiving the letter.
The contents of the letter were reported by the Opelika-Auburn News, at 7:41 pm Tuesday, September 23. The Opelika-Auburn News is the paper of record for the House District represented by Speaker Hubbard, the very man whose court records show is the principle target of the Lee County Grand Jury investigation.
Other news outlets received the leaked letter, including al.com, which allowed Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney J. Mark White to call Reagan’s letter “courageous.”
A political insider, who asked not to be identified, said, “This is classic defense propaganda: throw a grenade over here while the bank is being robbed over there.”
But he, like many others, felt the leaked letter was orchestrated to damage Hart’s credibility, paint the media as patsies and draw suspicion around the proceedings.
Reagan is represented by attorneys Bill Baxley and Rob Riley, the son of former Gov. Riley. Riley and White represent Speaker Hubbard. Baxley also represents indicted Republican lawmaker, Rep. Barry Moore, who is accused of perjury and making false statements before the same Grand Jury. Many defense attorneys in Montgomery have expressed alarm by the potential conflicts in this ménage of attorneys and clients.
Several legal professionals speaking on background have said, it is possible that Rob Riley, White and others, may be using attorney/client privilege to understand the many avenues of the investigation, and to shape their clients defense both in the media and before the court.
The efforts to obstruct the investigation in Lee County are so widespread, that attempts were made by members of the Hubbard/Riley inner circle to convince Gov. Bentley to stop the investigation…..an offer that Bentley soundly refused to even contemplate, according to sources close to the governor.
Reagan testified before the Lee County Grand Jury on August 27, 2014. He testified for almost an hour before asking to speak with his attorney, Bill Baxley (defense attorneys are not allowed in grand jury hearings). After meeting with Baxley, an emergency appeal was made to Lee County Circuit Court Judge Hughes to have Reagan’s Grand Jury testimony quashed. However, Judge Hughes, after being made aware of the prosecution’s evidence against Reagan, (in camera) ordered that he resume his testimony. It was at this point that Reagan took the fifth on advice of counsel.
On September 18, Reagan was placed on administrative leave by General Strange, “in the best interests of the agency,” pending a full administrative hearing.
The letter, rather than being about an internal dispute as Reagan has claimed, is actually filled with many self-serving prose, whereby Reagan portrays himself as “a lifelong public servant,” and one who has, “spent my entire adult life serving either as a soldier in the United States military or as an attorney for the State of Alabama.” Reagan says he has been, “tested in combat and… tested in the courtroom, but I have always done what I believed was right.” Yet during his testimony before the Lee County Grand Jury Reagan, evoked his Fifth Amendment Right, to avoid self-incrimination.
Reagan wrote in his letter to Strange that, “I have always done what I believed was right” yet none inside the AG’s Office or anyone that was contacted for this report could remember a time when a Deputy Attorney General had ever taken the fifth in a criminal court proceeding.
In his letter Reagan states, “My complaint into Mr. Hart’s office misconduct has no bearing on the work of the Lee County Grand Jury. Even if my complaint culminated in Mr. Hart’s internal discipline, the Grand Jury’s work would continue.”
Those inside and outside of the Attorney General’s Office believe that Reagan’s letter—which was leaked to the press— and his personnel complaint, are all part of the larger plan to discredit Hart and to impede the investigation against Speaker Hubbard and others, so the investigation is slowed before the election or killed outright.
In his letter, Reagan repeatedly accuses Hart of [Working] “in concert with reporters to reveal information regarding the grand jury to the press to help his cases.” Hart has never revealed any Grand Jury information to this publication or this reporter. The Attorney General’s Office has steadfastly refused to answer questions about the Lee County investigation asked by this publication or this reporter. In his letter, Reagan appears to be fighting for his job. But, if the statements made by Davis are found true in a court of law, Reagan could be facing not only disbarment but also jail time.
On September 29 the Alabama Political Reporter wrote that in a June, 2014 interview with Inside Alabama Politics, James L. (Jim) Sumner, Jr., the Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, stated that his office had never received an ethics complaint concerning Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn. However, an ethics complaint against Hubbard was filed with his office in December, 2013.
The over 50 page complaint reads like a chronicle of articles written by the Alabama Political Reporter over the last several years. It details many suspect actions taken by Hubbard with detailed evidence. Yet, Sumner denies its existence.
Hugh R. Evans III, who serves as General Counsel for the commission, acknowledged – in writing – the receipt of the complaint on December 12, 2013. In a letter to attorney John Aaron, who filed the complaint, Evans confirms receipt of the complaint and also provides Aaron with a case file number.
The complaint against Michael G. Hubbard was assigned case number 2013-308. In his letter, Evans also states that a Special Agent would be assigned to investigate the matter. That agent was Tony Goubil, former chief investigator for the Mobile County District Attorney’s office. Goubil contacted Aaron to arrange a meeting soon after the letter was received but then, for undisclosed reasons, broke off all contact, even refusing to return any of Aaron’s phone calls. Evans’ letter showing that the complaint had been received and assigned a case number and an agent, raises serious questions about Sumner’s denial, and Goubil’s truncated communication with Aaron.
Perhaps, Sumner turned this over to law enforcement, because we are aware that a Grand Jury has been looking into possible illegal activities involving Hubbard.
Still, approximately six months after Evans confirmed receipt of the ethics complaint against Hubbard, Director Sumner told Inside Alabama Politics, when asked why his office never investigated Hubbard, “…I think first and foremost my answer would be: number one, we never had any knowledge of many of the things that are being alleged; and number two, we never had a complaint. So the critics can certainly take whatever criticism they want of that, but first for some agency to be able to do something they have to know something. And we have always operated based on the information we knew at the time. I won’t go beyond that, but that should go a long way toward answering the critics.”
Sumner categorically states on the record that “we never had a complaint,” yet, his own general counsel and special agent confirmed not only that a complaint had been filed, but that it was under active investigation.
Sumner has refused to answer this publication’s questions on this matter and others. Sumner has disparaged APR and its editor, Bill Britt, both personally and professionally. According to associates, he has used foul language in reference to this publication and this reporter. These harangues came after our report on Sumner’s okaying Hubbard’s “consulting contract,” with American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc., (APCI) without ever personally examining the document.
Sumner told the Alabama Political Reporter in June, 2013, “No, I never saw a contract and didn’t ask to see a contract.”
In June, 2013, this publication revealed that Hubbard was instrumental in placing language into the State’s General Fund budget that would have guaranteed APCI exclusive rights to provide prescription medication for the State’s multi-million dollar Medicaid program.
Disgraced Republican lawmaker, Greg Wren in April, 2014, plead guilty to using his office for personal gain for aiding Hubbard in placing the 23 words into the General Fund Budget.
Sumner retired on October 1 and has been replaced on an interim basis by former Samford Law School Dean John Carroll.
Sumner has been confirmed as having spoken to members of the Attorney General’s Office, who are investigating Hubbard in relation to the Grand Jury hearings in Lee County.
On October 7 APR reported that an angry Speaker Hubbard, according to several members who were present at the most recent meeting of the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS), an association that represents School Administrators across the State, threatened certain State School Superintendents.
On September, 22, Speaker Hubbard was in attendance at the CLAS board meeting to give a legislative update to the groups Board of Directors. At the meeting according to CLAS board member Bobby Jackson, Hubbard was confronted about the Alabama Accountability Act.
Earlier this year, 30 Superintendents of Alabama’s 136 school systems filed an Amicus Brief with the court, in support of a lawsuit claiming the Alabama Accountability Act is unconstitutional.
According to several members present, Hubbard was confounded by Dr. Dee Fowler, Superintendent of Madison City Schools, “And he [Hubbard] kinda got a little offended,” said Jackson.
Fowler, one of the Superintendents who signed the amicus brief, was then threatened by Hubbard, according to several members present. “He told Dee he and the others [who signed the brief] would regret what they had done,” according to Jackson, “it got heated.”
It was relayed that Fowler had questioned why the State Legislature passed the Accountability Act without input from educators or administrators, and why they had passed an act that violated the State Constitution to which Hubbard replied, “The Legislature makes it own rules.”
In May, Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Gene Reese declared the law unconstitutional, saying the Act violated a provision of the State constitution requiring that each piece of legislation cover only one content topic. The case is under appeal.
The 30 Superintendents who agreed with Judge Reese were the targets of Hubbard’s threats.
The bill was passed with a legislative slight-of –hand in conference committee, changing the simple School Flexibility Act into a complex taxpayer funded tax-credit for private schools.
The Accountability Act with its Scholarship Granting Organizations has been a windfall for groups like the one headed by former Gov. Bob Riley, who heads the Opportunity Scholarship Fund and receives 5 percent of all money collected. Riley’s groups have amassed around $25 million and counting.
Hubbard, Riley, along with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh have continued to defend the Act, even in the face of the court’s findings. The constitutionality of the Act will be decided by the State’s Supreme Court perhaps later this year.
Hubbard, who is known for his threats and bullying behavior was said to have left the CLAS Board meeting, “in a huff.”
On Saturday, October 18 the Associated Press’s Kim Chandler reported that Speaker Hubbard denied any wrongdoing in an interview he made on Friday amid statewide speculation that he could be arrested at any moment.
Hubbard acknowledged that for 14 months a special grand jury has been seated in his district investigating public corruption. The Speaker called the grand jury a, “political witch hunt.” and said he is confident he has done nothing wrong.
Hubbard told the reporter, “I’ve got the confidence that I have never done anything wrong, never used my office improperly.”
Hubbard declined to say who is responsible for this, “Political Witch Hunt.” Hubbard said, “I have my own theories of where that goes and who all is behind it, and I am confident that in time, we will that find it out.”
Hubbard complained to reporters, “It’s been very stressful, stressful for me, stressful for my family, totally unfair, hard to believe that it is even taking place.”
Hubbard’s attorney Mark White reportedly declined to answer if Speaker Hubbard has been offered a plea deal, but did say that Hubbard would never accept a plea bargain because he didn’t do anything wrong.
On Monday, October 20 Acting Attorney General W. Van Davis announced the arrest of Speaker Mike Hubbard on almost two dozen felony ethics violations.
In the statement, “W. Van Davis announced the arrest today of Michael Gregory Hubbard, a representative from the 79th District in the Alabama House of Representatives, Speaker of the House, and former Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, for felony ethics law violations. Speaker Hubbard, 52, of Auburn, surrendered this afternoon to special agents of the Attorney General’s Office at the Lee County Jail.”
Specifically, the indictment charges Speaker Hubbard with the following twenty- three felony Ethics Law violations: four counts of using of his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for personal gain; one count of voting for legislation with a conflict of interest; eleven counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal; two counts of using his office as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for personal gain; four counts of lobbying an executive department or agency for a fee; one count of using state equipment, materials.
If convicted, Speaker Hubbard faces a maximum penalty of two to twenty years imprisonment and fines of up to $30,000.00 for each count, all of which are Class B Felonies. Acting Attorney General Davis commended those who are handling this case, noting in particular Special Prosecutions Division Chief Matt Hart, Deputy Attorney General Mike Duffy and investigators with the Special Prosecutions Division.
Monday’s indictments confirm many of our greatest fears. Speaker Mike Hubbard allegedly strayed too far from the ethical and legal path or at least that is what a grand jury believes may have happened.
An indictment should never be confused with a conviction. The burden of proof is on Van Davis and Matt Hart and the prosecution to prove their charges beyond a reasonable doubt in the minds of twelve jurors. None of the defendants have yet had an opportunity to present their sides of the story and all of the accused should be presumed innocent until such time as a jury of their peers finds them guilty of having committed a crime.
Another question to ponder is what will the U.S. Justice Department do? The FBI and the U.S. District Attorney’s office can either join Hart’s prosecution, let the state of Alabama deal with its own matters, or start their own investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Alabama elected officials?
Stay tuned to the Alabama Political Reporter for further updates on this and other political news in the state of Alabama. No one else in the state, covers the political arena in Alabama with the same passion, balance, and 24/7 focus that we do.
Alabama small business task force forms subcommittee on reopening state’s economy
Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth on Thursday announced that the Alabama Small Business Commission Emergency Task Force has formed a subcommittee on reopening the state’s economy and plans to present a plan to Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris by April 17.
“Reopening Alabama’s economy and getting businesses back to work will not be like flipping a light switch, but it will more likely be accomplished in stages once the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ease,” Ainsworth said. “The purpose of this subcommittee is to provide a roadmap to reopening the economy that balances the public’s health and safety with the need for small business owners and employees to resume operations.”
The subcommittee will consider issues like how to best ease restrictions on restaurant and store capacity guidelines and how to incorporate social distancing needs with increased commerce once officials decree that the worst of the COVID-19 threat has passed.
State Rep. Danny Garrett (R – Trussville) will serve as chairman of the subcommittee, and the other members include:
- Senator Chris Elliott (R – Fairhope)
- Senator Garlan Gudger (R – Cullman)
- Representative Joe Lovvorn (R – Auburn)
- Rosemary Elebash – National Federation of Independent Business, Alabama State Chair
- Mindy Hanan – Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association, Executive Director
- Katie Britt – Business Council of Alabama, CEO
- Rick Brown – Alabama Retail Association, President
- Tony Cochran of CK Business Solutions in Albertville
- Stephen McNair of McNair Historic Preservation in Mobile
The 22-member commission is statutorily tasked with formulating “policies encouraging innovation of small businesses in the state” and advising the Department of Commerce in promoting small businesses within Alabama. The state legislature placed the Alabama Small Business Commission under the authority of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office in 2018.
Feds seizing needed supplies slowed state’s COVID-19 testing efforts
Add Alabama to the list of states that have had trouble acquiring needed medical supplies from commercial vendors because the federal government intervened and took the supplies.
The federal government has been quietly seizing orders of medical supplies, protective gear and testing materials across the country, and Alabama has not been immune.
The federal government’s actions, blocking the shipment of those supplies, impeded the state’s ability to roll out widespread testing and added to supply shortages in the state, officials say.
The Alabama Department of Public Health told APR Thursday that several shipments of supplies from commercial vendors have been superseded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.
“It’s been happening all along,” said State Health Officer Scott Harris. “We had orders through about three different vendors, national vendors that we would normally use for medical supplies. They had accepted the orders and given us a ship date.”
But then the vendors called and canceled the orders.
“They say, you know, the inventory was acquired by HHS,” Harris said, referring to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have not publicly reported these acquisitions, according to the Los Angeles Times, nor has the administration detailed how these supplies are being used, when they decide to seize them and where the supplies are being rerouted to.
The first time was three weeks ago. The state placed an order for about four thousand nasopharyngeal swabs, the long Q-tip like swabs used to perform COVID-19 tests. The order was accepted, but before it could be shipped, HHS seized the supplies.
“That was one of the things that slowed our rollout of testing around the state because there were no supplies to be had,” Harris said.
Since then, the state and hospitals have been able to acquire supplies from other vendors, but the delays have hampered testing, putting Alabama behind other states like Louisiana. As of Thursday, Louisiana had tested nearly 90,000 people for the virus. The number includes most commercial tests.
The main issue facing the state has not been the so-called “test kits” or even the state lab’s capacity to run tests.
“We’ve had days where we thought we were going to be out of reagent, and we’ve wondered if we were going to have to hold off testing, but we haven’t had to stop,” Harris said. “We’ve had some just-in-time deliveries that we weren’t sure were coming.”
The real issue has been the swabs needed to collect samples. Hospitals and health officials across the state, from Huntsville to Mobile, have at one point or another reported severe shortages of nasopharyngeal swabs.
“We’re bidding against every other state in the country, and in some cases, we’re bidding against health care facilities here in our own state who are doing their own testing,” Harris said of the process of acquiring swabs and other supplies.
ADPH and hospitals have been able to get more of those supplies, and Alabama has slowly ramped up testing as a result. But it has not been easy. “Getting those swabs and viral transport media has really been the rate-limiting step for most of our testing clinics,” Harris said.
As of Thursday, the state has tested about 20,000 people, nearly twice the number reported five days ago on April 4. Testing has been increasing over the past week and a half, Harris said.
More have been tested, but it’s hard to know exactly how many because not all commercial labs are reporting the number of negative tests they conduct. Harris said the state has asked the commercial labs to report those numbers, but some have been slow to do so.
Alabama has also had trouble receiving other types of needed medical supplies like ventilators and personal protective equipment. Some of the shipments seized by the federal government have been personal protective equipment intended to refill dwindling supplies at some of the state’s harder hit hospitals, nursing homes and other providers, according to Dr. Donald Williamson, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association.
Though no hospital has run out of PPE, some have been running low, Williamson said. But hospitals have been forced to take unusual measures to conserve supplies, particularly the N95 masks that offer the most protection to health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.
The city of Montgomery in late March received 28 cases of protective masks from the strategic national stockpile, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. When the city opened the shipment, about 5,800 of the masks had dry rot and an expiration date of 2010.
The difficulties in the supply chain have also affected the state’s ability to acquire new ventilators. Harris told APR on Friday that the state asked the federal government for 500 ventilators, and for 200 of them to be delivered urgently. HHS indicated that it would not fulfill the request anytime soon, and that the state could expect additional ventilators only if a dire need was expected within 72 hours.
So Alabama, like a number of states, is being forced to try to source ventilators on its own through the private market, where thousands of hospitals, all the other states and countries all over the world are trying to do the same, causing prices to skyrocket.
Alabama has placed an order for 250 more ventilators, and that order has been accepted, but it has not shipped yet, Harris said.
“We’re just not sure when they’re going to get here,” Harris said. “But we will need them in the next 14 days.”
In the meantime, Alabama has shipped about a dozen out-of-date ventilators to California for refurbishment. About half of those have been returned and distributed to hospitals based on their need. The state has also added to its ventilator capacity by retrofitting anesthesia machines and veterinary ventilators for use on those infected with the virus. Even though the state has added about two hundred new ventilators into service, the usage rate of ventilators has remained about the same. As of April 8, at least 101 people have required mechanical ventilation in Alabama for COVID-19. The number is expected to rise in the next weeks.
In the meantime, the state has had trouble getting ventilators from private vendors because the components needed to produce them have been redirected by the federal government to Ford and GM, who have been ordered to manufacture ventilators in mass quantities.
“They have had first-choice at these parts,” Harris said. “So the people who normally make ventilators can’t get those parts, which slows down delivery for all of us who’ve gone through the normal channels to get them where we would normally get them.”
Williamson and Harris said the state and its hospitals, which are already facing a cash crunch, have been forced to pay inflated prices for needed supplies because demand is high and supply is short.
“Some of our folks are seeing prices substantially higher than they normally have for PPE, specifically N95 masks. Some of it is supply and demand, and some of it is people taking advantage of an unfortunate situation,” Williamson said.
The state has been able to identify supply to help support hospitals who are sourcing their own, too, but the costs are exorbitant and a majority of the “vendors” offering to supply the state with supplies are counterfeit.
“You know, you would normally pay 60 or 70 cents for a mask,” Harris said. “These offers are typically $5 or $6 per mask now. I’ve seen some are asking for $10 or whatever, which is truly outrageous.”
The governor’s office, the Department of Commerce and the attorney general’s office have been helping the Department of Public Health source needed supplies.
“We’re doing our best to source those any way we can,” Harris said.
Harris and Williamson both said PPE supply and ventilator capacity, at least right now, appear to be in decent shape.
“I’m feeling better about ventilators,” Williamson said. “But it would always be nice to have more. With the surge we’re expecting, we seem to be okay. We’ve only had a couple of instances where we’ve had to try to assist and help move ventilators from one hospital to another hospital, but we’ve been able to do that and no one has gone without a ventilator who needed one.”
But the Department of Public Health expects a rise in hospitalizations over the next two weeks that could add further strain the state’s health care system.
“Let’s see what happens over the next week, but for today, we are much better prepared than we would have been, frankly, a few months ago,” Williamson said.
400 Alabama health care workers and 155 nursing home staff, residents positive for COVID-19
Nearly 400 health care workers and 90 long-term care facility employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The Alabama Department of Public Health said Thursday that at least 393 health care workers, 90 long-term care facility employees and 65 long-term care facility residents have tested positive. Health care workers includes those who work at hospitals or doctor’s offices.
As of 2 p.m. on Thursday, the state had confirmed 2,700 cases of the virus. At least 70 people have died after testing positive for the virus in Alabama, of those 48 have been fully investigated and verified by ADPH epidemiologists.
The number of confirmed cases among health care workers has grown significantly this week. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Friday at a press conference that 200 health care workers in the state had contracted COVID-19. By Tuesday, that number increased to 315.
The number of long-term care facility residents has increased from 51 on Tuesday to 65 now, adding to concerns that the virus is widespread among the state’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which are considered extremely vulnerable to the virus.
At least 62.5 percent of the 48 verified deaths have been among those 65 years old or older.
At least 333 people have been hospitalized with the virus in Alabama since March 13, but the number is surely higher because of delays in investigating each case. Of those who have been hospitalized, 153 have required treatment in an intensive care unit and of those, 101 have required mechanical ventilation.
Nurses, doctors, hospitals and the Alabama Department of Public Health have said that a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment has not spared Alabama.
Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Donald Williamson told APR Tuesday that some hospitals in the state have severe shortages of N95 masks, with some hospitals reporting that they have only a days of supplies left.
So far, he said, no hospitals have run out of supplies yet, but some have had to take serious measures to conserve their masks.
State Health Officer Scott Harris told APR Thursday that the state is being bombarded with fake offers to provide PPE, mainly from foreign companies claiming to be able to supply the state.
Harris said the state has been able to identify supply to help support hospitals who are trying to source their own, too, but the costs are exorbitant.
“You know, you would normally pay 60 or 70 cents for a mask,” Harris said. “These offers are typically $5 or $6 per mask now. I’ve seen some are asking for $10 or whatever, which is truly outrageous.”
Mobile County jail inmates, officers test positive for COVID-19
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office says six inmates at the county jail and even more correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to WKRG, which broke the story on Thursday.
Attempts to reach the sheriff’s office’s public information officer wasn’t immediately successful Thursday, but WKRG reported that the sheriff’s office confirmed that 6 inmates have tested positive for the virus and more than 6 officers also tested positive. The news station reported that the sheriff’s office was working to get an exact number of those who tested positive for the virus.
Two Alabama Department of Corrections employees have tested positive, but no inmates in state prisons had confirmed cases as of Tuesday, the last day ADOC had updated testing numbers.
This story will be updated.
Alabama small business task force forms subcommittee on reopening state’s economy
Feds seizing needed supplies slowed state’s COVID-19 testing efforts
400 Alabama health care workers and 155 nursing home staff, residents positive for COVID-19
Mobile County jail inmates, officers test positive for COVID-19
Governor Ivey launches new COVID-19 search engine tool
Pardons and Paroles: Restarting parole hearings “under review” amid COVID-19 crisis
ER doctors in frontline battle against COVID-19 are facing pay cuts
ADOL begins paying federal $600 stimulus benefit
Over the last week, COVID-19 cases in Alabama increased faster than 40 other states
Montgomery’s Jackson Hospital near breaking point with COVID-19 patients, ER staff say
Lieutenant governor criticizes state’s lack of preparation, response to COVID-19
45 COVID-19 cases hospitalized at UAB, 18 on ventilators
Growth of Alabama COVID-19 cases looks a lot like Louisiana. That should worry us
State Superintendent Mackey addresses concerns about plans for public schools
Gov. Kay Ivey orders Alabama to stay at home as cases near 1,500
Governor prohibits evictions, foreclosures during COVID-19 outbreak
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