By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—According to an email from House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, the Republican House Caucus will hold a private meeting on Nov. 6, to determine the next Speaker of the House and other officers.
Even after being charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption, current Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, is believed to be the odds-on favorite to retain the Speaker’s post. The official vote for Speaker does not come until January, with the legislative organizational meetings.
However, a plan was hatched in 2010, to have the Caucus pre-elect its officers by a loyalty oath.
The idea for a Caucus pledge of fealty was born in 2010, before Republicans knew they would have a super-majority. A former legislator, speaking on background, said they the Caucus wanted to assure that the GOP members of the House would select its officers without influence from House Democrats.
However, this year, the push to immediately elect a Speaker is said to be more about Hubbard retaining his supreme power over the State House, than any Democratic intervention.
“If Hubbard loses as Speaker, that means, he, Riley and the BCA lose their strangle hold over the State” said the former Representative.
Former governor turned lobbyist, Bob Riley, along with Billy Canary, the Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, are believed by many to represent a shadow government, that controls the legislative agenda, while feeding money and clients to Hubbard, Riley and others, within their inner circle.
Riley and Canary are accused of those very actions in the Hubbard indictments.
While the pair have yet to be publicly indicted, the ethics law is clear that anyone who gives a legislator a “thing of value,” can be charged under the same felony provision of the law.
After Hubbard’s indictment for breaking State law on 23 occasions, Majority Leader Hammon said on Facebook, “Corruption at any level of government will not be tolerated, but an indictment is not a determination of guilt.”
While Hammon’s public statement is factual, many Republicans are secretly considering the potential consequences of electing Hubbard Speaker, only to see him convicted and few months later.
Hubbard has tried to spin the acquittal of Rep. Barry Moore as a sign post of things to come in his own trial. However, law enforcement officers say that the two cases could not be more different. Moore was accused of lying, Hubbard stands indicted for filling his own pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars and even passing legislation to benefit his lobbying clients.
The Alabama Oath of Office taken by every member of the House reads as follows:
“I, …, solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Alabama, so long as I continue a citizen thereof; and that I will faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, to the best of my ability. So help me God.”
Hubbard is accused of not keeping his oath of office and many Republican leaders, at least privately, have expressed concern over the image of the State’s Republican party, not only at home but throughout the Nation.
However, fear of Hubbard and ultimately Riley has kept House members in line; but can the line hold?
Rep. Jim Carns, R-Birmingham, recently held a meeting in the Magic City, to lay out his case for occupying the Speaker’s chair. Carns served in the House from 1990 to 2006, he was minority leader for the Republican House Caucus, (when the Democrats were in control) until Hubbard challenged him for the job in 2006. Hubbard was Riley’s man and Carns was not. He returned to the House in 2011, after a special election.
Some have portrayed Carns’ actions as a “coup,” as if there was a divine right for Hubbard to retain power. Others fear that if Hubbard is not ousted, his house of cards will taint the party for years to come. With more indictments reportedly set to be executed, political insiders are looking to Nov. 6 with fear and anticipation.
If Hubbard is reelected to his House District, as is widely believed, and if then reelected as Speaker, his defense team will try to spin this at trial as “the voters have spoken.”
With his trial believed to began around the first of January, the only votes that will actually matter are the ones that will come from a jury of his peers, in a Lee County court house.
For now, it is a waiting game to see if the House Republican Caucus are willing to fail on their swords for the indicted speaker.