By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has put forward a number of alternative theories as to why he was indicted by the State on 23 felony counts of public corruption; none of which included the possibility that he may have actually committed these crimes.
Like a good criminal defense attorney, he is using the same set of facts to draw a different conclusion in order to survive another day in office.
The most potent alternative that Hubbard has put forth, is that his investigation and indictments are the result of a “…political conspiracy” fabricated by Attorney General Luther Strange. In Hubbard’s substitute reality, Big Luther has his sights set on the Governor’s Office in 2018, and he must rid the field of his arch rival Hubbard to ensure his own victory.
A plot not quite worthy of a Shakespearean drama or even a episode of House of Cards, but in the small world of State politics it passes—at least for some— as reasonable. There is certainly enough political chicanery going on around the State that it could be a possibility in the minds of a few.
Of course, it requires that one believe that Strange is an unprincipled, power hungry politico who has complete control over W. Van Davis and Matt Hart, who head the prosecution team (and that they are corruptible). And, it would also suggest that Strange is willing to gamble away his own political career on the hopes of convicting, perhaps, the most powerful and cunning politician in the State.
During his political career, Strange has offered little evidence that he is ruthless or reckless. To the contrary, he has almost uniformly demonstrated a lack of political calculation or willingness to destroy others for personal gain.
However, a quick read of Hubbard’s vanity tome, Storming the State House shows that he, not Strange, has an appetite for political destruction. It is Hubbard, some would argue, who has mastered the art of political manipulation in its most sadistic form.
Where are the facts that point to a political motivation for Hubbard’s prosecution of Strange?
There is only the conjecture that Strange wants to be governor, not something he has stated; but Hubbard has.
Where is the evidence that Strange is guiding the prosecution? All facts point to a totally different conclusion.
On January 31, 2013, Strange officially authorized former St. Clair County Supernumerary District Attorney W. Van Davis to “assume oversight of the State’s interest in the current investigative matters relating to State Representative Mike Hubbard.” The letter shows that an investigation of Hubbard had been underway, and that now there was a need for Davis to assume the oversight.
In December 2013, Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead told party leaders that he was served a subpoena from the Attorney General’s Office seeking GOP financial records covering the 2010 election cycle.
Armistead said the subpoena was part of a State Grand Jury investigation into Republican campaign finance activities, and in particular, the direct and indirect payments from the State party to Speaker Hubbard’s various printing and advertising companies. Armistead had previously ordered as internal audit that found Hubbard’s companies received at least $800,000 in payments from the State party and from a Florida-based company that took ALGOP payments, then funneled the money back to Hubbard’s businesses.
Davis was enlisted the following month. However, the Lee County Grand Jury was not authorized until July 29, 2013, and did not meet until September. Court documents show that on July 29, Judge Jacob A. Walker III, “Ordered that such special grand jury be drawn from the jury panel to be assembled for orientation on August 19, 2013.”
This proves that a prior Grand Jury was being used to investigate Hubbard’s alleged criminal activities.
A careful examination by this publication showed that during the 2010 election cycle Attorney General Strange received $150,000 from Hubbard-controlled PACs and spent $29,172.60 (or 19.45 percent) with Hubbard-owned companies. Interestingly, on May 24, 2010, Strange received a campaign contribution from Hubbard’s NETWORK PAC for $20,000. One day later, Strange’s campaign paid $20,000 to Hubbard’s Network Creative Media, a company that produces campaign ads.
The records subpoenaed from the ALGOP are believed to have alerted Strange that he could possibly be a witness in the investigation of Hubbard. This, according to those in the AG’s office at the time say, is what led to Strange’s recusal. This happened around seven months before the Lee County Grand Jury, and well before any knowledge of the actions that led to most of Hubbard’s indictments.
Hubbard has said that all of this is a witch hunt. But, the evidence seems to reveal that this is actually the result of a very thorough investigation, started before December 2013 and continuing to this day.
The facts show that the investigation was started by Hart, and that Strange only became aware after Hart’s initial report. A short time later, Strange, assisted by advice from within the Attorney General’s Office, recused himself due to an abundance of caution. There is no evidence that Strange has directed the investigation on any level.
Once Hubbard is confronted at trial, it is expected that his alternative theory will change from “…a political conspiracy” to a “confessional defense.” In other words, Hubbard is going to admit to the things he is accused of doing, but will offer a different story as to why he did them.
But, that is a story for another time.