By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, February 27, the prosecution responded to a defense motion asking for more information about the 23 felon indictments against the embattled Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn). The 45 page response gave a glimpse into some of the evidence of Speaker Hubbard’s dealings with some of the most powerful men in Alabama.
Judging by the email evidence released by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office White Collar Crimes Division the coming October trial is likely to see some of the biggest names in the Alabama corporate world have to take the stand to explain their relationship with the financially troubled Republican Speaker.
Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) is Speaker Hubbard’s political mentor and longtime friend; but after leaving two terms as Governor in 2011 he became a registered lobbyist; thus it is likely a violation of ethics law for the sitting Speaker to ask the Governor for jobs, contracts, and money. But the prosecution alleges that that is exactly what Speaker Hubbard did.
Hubbard said in one email to Gov. Riley, “Can I just come work for BR&A (Bob Riley & Associates)? I need a job and this way I would work someone I respect….” The prosecutors also alleged that Hubbard asked Riley is the Auburn Network could handle marketing for BR&A. Knowing that this is illegal Hubbard suggested that Riley de-register as a lobbyist. Hubbard wrote, “I need to be a salesman for GB&R. Except for those ethics laws. Who proposed those things?! What were we thinking?”
Hubbard wrote Riley, “I still believe that you are a “strategic business consultant”, not a lobbyist. You could hire a lobbyist for BR&A – a Riley Team person who will do it for virtually nothing – which will allow BR&A to hire Auburn Network, Inc. to handle your marketing needs. We could do media buying, polling, focus groups, design work, printing, anything you need.”
Birmingham area businessman Will Brooke is likely also going to have to testify about his dealing with Mike Hubbard. Brooke is a longtime Harbert Company Executive, a former Chairman of the powerful Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and a recent candidate in the Republican Primary for Congress. Brooke was a board member of BCA. Politicians are not supposed to be soliciting money and favors from lobbying groups like BCA or from the principals of such groups, but prosecutors allege that that is what Hubbard did.
Hubbard wrote to Brooke, “… I enjoyed visiting with Maggie [Brooke] at the State House last week and pledged my support again for the Boys and Girls Clubs. My goal is to make sure she is never unhappy with me! … I have not pestered you because I know you are extremely busy, but thought I’d check with you one more time regarding any potential business clients for my company, Auburn Network, Inc. I have signed up Southeast Alabama Gas to assist them with marketing and economic development which helps, but my employment with IMG ends at the end of this month so I am getting very close to hitting the panic button… It is ironic that my quest to change history and [g]ive Alabama a pro-business legislature has resulted in issues in my own personal business life. It is amazing how folks who urged me to be the leader to overthrow the bad guys in Montgomery now don’t want to talk with me.”
Hubbard later warned Brooke that he was considering resigning as Speaker due to his growing financial problems: “I will make it through this session, try to do as much good as I can, and make a decision as to what to do. It is amazing, and quite disappointing, that after the sacrifices I’ve made personally and professionally to finally get Alabama a pro-business legislature, no one in the business community is willing to work with me professionally to keep me there. Maybe I’m too much of a lightning rod. I suppose, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.”
Brooke responded: “No, Mike, that’s not it. I think that folks are afraid to mess up, on either their or your side of the equation.”
Hubbard also allegedly solicited investment in his troubled Craftmaster Printing Company from Montgomery based political spin master and registered lobbyist Dax Swatek. While Swatek declined, the President of known Swatek client, Hoar Construction, did allegedly participate in the scheme. The indictment alleges that Brooke prepared a plan to save Craftmasters (which owed debts and back taxes) for Hubbard for free. Hubbard solicited and received investments from Will Brooke; Stern Agee, President and CEO, James Holbrook; Great Southern Wood President Jimmy Rane, the President of Great Southern Wood; and Hoar Construction President Rob Burton. Hubbard allegedly received $600,000.00 from these four powerful men. According to the indictment the total investment was $1.5 million but the other six investors were not named because they don’t actively lobby state government. The ten investors received preferred stock in the business plan that Brooke prepared for Craftmaster and admits in an email to Hubbard having discussed the situation with Gov. Riley. Speaker Hubbard then presented the plan to Regions Bank’s Troubled Asset division so the company was able to emerge from bankruptcy.
Even Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) appears to be a likely witness in this case. Also mentioned in the pleading is that SEAGD (South East Alabama Gas District) was paying Mike $12,000.00 per month to steer economic development projects to Southeast Alabama. According to reports submitted by Speaker Hubbard to SEAGD, Hubbard met with Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield (R) regarding the relocation of a truck plant from Pennsylvania to the Abbeville area. Hubbard also reported meeting with Secretary Canfield “on several occasions” to discuss projects in Abbeville and Ozark. SEAGD wanted to recruit new businesses to the southeast Alabama area that would directly and indirectly result in the purchase of additional amounts of natural gas from SEAGD. Hubbard also reported meetings he arranged or attended with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R). While everyone in the state would like to see South East Alabama get some economic development projects, does this mean that projects that could have been better served in other regions of Alabama, like Birmingham or even Hubbard’s own district, were passed over because they did not hire the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives?
The filing alleges that Speaker Hubbard solicited other registered lobbyists for goods and favors, including the former Governor’s daughter, Minda Riley Campbell and BCA Lobbyist Billy Canary. Hubbard wrote to Brooke, “I am going to DC with Billy [Canary] next week to visit some folks, including FedEx and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” Hubbard later emailed Gov. Riley, “Just met with FedEx. They are spooked about me being an elected official. Don’t think they will do anything with me. At least I made a contact with their top governmental affairs person. … They said they would look for opportunities, but not hopeful.” Hubbard even asked Canary to help him market his book, “Storming the State House.” Hubbard emailed Canary, “Bill: Do you think it would be possible to plant a seed with Karl [Rove] (probably a little closer to October 2) for him to make mention of STSH during his remarks at BCA? It would be a very nice plug and would certainly raise my stature with the folks in the audience for him to mention me… “ Could Karl Rove have to testify in this case? The state alleges that Mrs. Campbell arranged meetings for Mike while he was at the Paris Air Show with prospective clients.
The State is alleging that Speaker Hubbard’s used his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party to obtain over one million dollars in personal gain for himself, Craftmaster or the Auburn Network. The prosecution claims that ALGOP Chairman Hubbard used his position as ALGOP chairman to benefit himself or Craftmaster by spending approximately $101,926.00 of ALGOP money directly with Craftmaster in exchange for printing services and that Hubbard used his position as ALGOP chairman to benefit himself or Auburn Network by spending approximately $41,836.00 of ALGOP money directly with Auburn Network in exchange for media services. They also allege that Chairman Hubbard directed ALGOP money to Craftmaster through an intermediary, Majority Strategies. That company received $787,379.00 from the Alabama Republican Party, which then spent $697,479 to Craftmaster. According to an email by Majority Strategies executive Randy Kammerdiner they were overcharged but: “Based on a message I got from Hubbard last night, our relationship relationship [sic] with them is still very tenous [sic]. And because I am a greedy bastard I would rather us swallow our pride and also make a lower profit margin in order to keep the client rather than getting black-balled in a state because we think the printer is making too much money and we don’t like being forced to use them.”
The prosecution names Tim Howe and his business entities, as nothing more than a pass through for Hubbard to conceal and launder ALGOP money to the Auburn Network. ALGOP spent approximately $171,203.00 through Howe’s companies on services provided by Auburn Network. Howe is likely to be another witness who could be called.
APCI employed lobbyist Ferrell Patrick is also listed in the pleading. According to the state, while APCI was paying Patrick for his lobbying efforts, APCI was also paying Hubbard $5,000.00 per month (approximately $95,000.00 total from August 2012 to December 2013) to work as a “consultant.” During this period the state alleges that the pair enlisted the help of state Representative Greg Wren (R from Montgomery) to help insert language into legislation that would make APCI the sole potential PBM (Pharmacy Benefit Manager) provider for the entire multi-billion Alabama Medicaid Program.
Prosecutors allege that Hubbard’s solicitation and receipt of $7,500.00 per month from principal Edgenuity/E2020 is another ethics violation.
They also claim that Speaker Hubbard’s used his office for personal gain through his $10,000.00 per month contract with Bobby Abrams’ business were also violations of Alabama’s ethics law. Former Chief of Staff Josh Blades has been named as having been ordered by Hubbard to pressure the U.S. Patent Office to award patents to Abrams’ companies, even though Blades and his office were being paid for by the taxpayers of Alabama. At the time Blades was one of the highest paid persons in state government.
The prosecution wrote that, “This pleading is neither an exhaustive list of the State’s evidence and theories of criminal liability, nor does it confine or limit the State’s ability to argue or present evidence at trial. On February 17, 2015, the State produced emails, bank records, business records, witness statements, and other documents totaling over 2.5 million pages to Hubbard. The State’s production, taken with the indictment is more than sufficient to inform Hubbard of the nature of the charges against him.”
In one email to Hubbard, Gov. Riley wrote to Hubbard, “I understand—believe me – I went 14 years on a Gov payroll and it was a challenge. Now and from now on you and I are going to be suspect in everything we do. However the ability to make great change is given to few people and you are one of the rare ones that can make it happen. Again question now is DO YOU “WANT” to be Gov —-or—make alot of money: good thing is you could do either but I am not sure it’s possible to do both. …… Talk to Rob (Gov. Riley’s son) and we will get together next week.”
Apparently, whatever happened in that meeting with Roby Riley, Speaker Hubbard never left government and never gave up that dream of being rich either. Now a lot of his friends and business associates are going to have to testify about the Speaker.
On Sunday, the Alabama Media Group joined Alabama Political Reporter Editor Bill Britt in calling for Representative Hubbard to resign his position as the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.
Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: Buck’s pocket
You voted Tuesday on a crowded ballot.
Historically, in Alabama we have voted more heavily in our Governor’s race year than in a presidential year. That is probably because we were more interested in the local sheriff and probate judge’s races, which run in a gubernatorial year, than who is president. The old adage, “all politics is local,” definitely applies here in Alabama.
We not only have a governor’s race this year, we have all secondary statewide offices with a good many of them open including Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Auditor, and two seats on the Public Service Commission. We have five seats on the State Supreme Court, one being Chief Justice. All 140 seats in the Legislature are up for a four-year term. These 35 state Senate seats and 105 House contests are where most of the special interest PAC money will go. And, yes, we have 67 sheriffs and 68 probate judges as well as a lot of circuit judgeships on the ballot.
You may think the campaigning is over. However, some of the above races have resulted in a runoff which will be held on July 17. So get ready, we have six more weeks of campaigning before all the horses are settled on for the sprint in November.
We have a lot of folks headed to Buck’s Pocket. Last year after the open Senate seat contest, a young TV reporter for one of the stations I do commentary for asked me about Roy Moore and his loss. I told her ole Moore had gotten on his horse, Sassy, and ridden off into the sunset to Buck’s Pocket, which by the way wasn’t a long ride from his home in Gallant in Etowah County. She looked at me with a puzzled look. Probably a lot of you are also wondering what I’m talking about when I refer to Buck’s Pocket.
For decades, losing political candidates in Alabama have been exiled to Buck’s Pocket. It is uncertain when or how the colloquialism began, but political insiders have used this terminology for at least 60 years. Alabama author, Winston Groom, wrote a colorful allegorical novel about Alabama politics and he referred to a defeated gubernatorial candidate having to go to Buck’s Pocket. Most observers credit Big Jim Folsom with creating the term. He would refer to the pilgrimage and ultimate arrival of his opponents to the political purgatory reserved for losing gubernatorial candidates.
This brings me to another contention surrounding Buck’s Pocket. Many argue that Buck’s Pocket is reserved for losing candidates in the governor’s race. Others say Buck’s Pocket is the proverbial graveyard for all losing candidates in Alabama.
One thing that all insiders agree on is that once you are sent to Buck’s pocket you eat poke salad for every meal. Groom also suggested that you were relegated to this mythical rural resting place forever. However, history has proven that a good many defeated Alabama politicians have risen from the grave and left Buck’s Pocket to live another day. Roy Moore may be a good example. He has risen from the grave before. He is only 70, and he may grow weary of eating poke sallet.
Most folks don’t know that there really is a Buck’s Pocket. Big Jim would campaign extensively in rural North Alabama often one on one on county roads. One day while stumping in the remote Sand Mountain area of DeKalb County he wound up in an area referred to as Buck’s Pocket. It was a beautiful and pristine area, but it was sure enough back in the woods. Big Jim who loved the country and loved country folks was said to say that, “I love the country but I sure wouldn’t want to be sent to Buck’s Pocket to live.”
Buck’s pocket is now not a mythical place. If you are traveling up the interstate past Gadsden, on the way to Chattanooga, you will see it. There is a Buck’s Pocket State Park in DeKalb County, thanks to Big Jim.
So the next time you hear an old timer refer to a defeated candidate as going to Buck’s Pocket, you will know what they are talking about.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.
Hubbard’s Lee County Trial Finally Ends in Silence
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The post-trial appeal of convicted felon and former Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, finally expired on September 8, in silence, according to the Attorney General’s office calculations.
For almost four years, Hubbard, aided by his criminal lawyers, used the State House, the Governor’s Office and some within the Attorney General’s office to deny, deflect and delay justice. Hubbard stormed the State House presiding over an orgy of greed and corruption. Those days are over for Hubbard and so is any appeal before the circuit court of Lee County.
Under Rule 24.4 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, Hubbard’s motion for a new trial, dismissal and/or an investigation by the Lee County Sheriff were denied by operation of law because Judge Jacob Walker, III, did nothing.
Under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, “no motion for a new trial or motion… shall remain pending in the trial court for more than sixty days after the pronouncement of sentence.” Hubbard’s sentencing July 8, on 12 felony counts of public corruption, means as of September 8, the calendar has run out for him, with Judge Walker deciding not to rule at all.
Under Rule 24.4: Denial by operation of law. “A failure by the trial court to rule on such a motion within the sixty (60) days allowed by this section shall constitute a denial of the motion as of the sixtieth day.”
At his post-trial hearing, Hubbard’s attorneys made their last stand in Lee County, with Bill Baxley arguing that his client was blindsided, bushwhacked and bamboozled, to no avail.
The Lee County case of the State of Alabama versus Michael G. Hubbard is over. He has a right to appeal his conviction to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals within 42 days, which expires on October 20.
Hubbard’s past efforts show he will seek every avenue available to delay his incarceration.
Every previous motion that Hubbard has set before the Court of Criminal Appeals, was denied without opinion. Many believe this same fate awaits Hubbard’s next appeal before the high court.
Hubbard’s days of freedom are rapidly coming to an end. His appeal was silently denied and most didn’t even notice. He is rapidly becoming yesterday’s news.
Hubbard’s Post-Trial Snoozer
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
OPELIKA—While searching for any thread of an argument that might lead to a new trial for convicted felon Mike Hubbard—once the most powerful politico in the state—attorney Bill Baxley whined, fretted and accused state prosecutors of blindsiding, bushwhacking and bamboozling his client.
Having written about Hubbard’s misdeeds since late 2012, the courtroom drama ending with his conviction makes Baxley’s latest attempt at the September 2 hearing feel like Hubbard trial 2.0 ad nauseam. Only Baxley’s fantastical leaps of legal logic and strained linguistic gymnastics kept the proceedings remotely interesting. Baxley argued several points, only winning on one issue with Judge Walker’s ruling that Hubbard would not be required to pay $1.125 million in restitution, as the prosecution asked.
Before the hearing began, Hubbard’s criminal defense team filed a motion to unseal all court documents related to the case, except one document. Baxley indicated that Judge Jacob Walker knew “the one” he referred too. After some legal wrangling by the prosecution and with Judge Walker, the defense was directed to construct a list of documents to be unsealed. Judge Walker’s decision was followed by Baxley huffing and puffing. Finally, he made reference to testimony given by Professor Bennett L. Gershman a “so-called” expert in prosecutorial misconduct. Hubbard filed to have Gershman’s testimony unsealed in 2015, to no avail.
Testimony given by former State Ethics Directors James “Jim” Sumner is central to Hubbard’s motion to dismiss or grant a new trial, neither of which is likely to occur. But, Baxley and company need to earn the additional $50,000 plus Hubbard recently raised from “friends.” Baxley argued it was improper for the State to present “expert” testimony about what various portions of the ethics statute mean, and whether certain phrases or clauses within those statutes would or would not encompass certain situations or events. The court seemed unmoved by Baxley’s logic since Judge Walker certified Sumner as an expert.
During the two-hour hearing, Baxley’s delaying tactics appeared to try Judge Walker’s patience, especially when the defense claimed they were unprepared to hear testimony concerning jury misconduct. Judge Walker said he set aside other cases to hear Hubbard’s claims of jury misconduct, a surprising claim that surfaced quickly after Hubbard’s conviction.
Hubbard’s criminal defense team citing an affidavit from a panel member filed a motion just days after Hubbard’s conviction calling for an investigation into jury misconduct by an impartial third party. In searching for a neutral investigator, Baxley determined Hubbard’s friend Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones was the best choice.
From the bench, Judge Walker informed Baxley that there is no legal basis for an outside investigation, and that testimony would be taken before his court to settle the matter. Baxley claimed the defense was once again unprepared for such at the hearing, and the juror who reported the alleged misconduct was unavailable.
Judge Walker questioned the two bailiffs and the court administrators who oversaw Hubbard’s trial. Bailiff Bobby Bond testified that he was instructed by court administrator Patricia Campbell, to caution a juror who reportedly was talking under her breath at the beginning of Hubbard’s trial. Bond said he issued the warning, but the juror denied the allegations and no further complaints were noted. Both Bailiffs who rotated sitting next to the jury box during the proceedings testified they never heard chatter from any jurors.
Under oath, Campbell confirmed she had received the complaint and reported it to Judge Walker, who ordered her to address the situation through the bailiffs. Baxley asked Campbell what was said. She remembered the accusing juror of claiming a fellow juror said, “Yes, now the truth comes out.”
Defense co-council Lance Bell rose to claim that Hubbard had not received a fair trial an assertion soon rebutted by the prosecution.
He, along with Baxley said the jury was not impartial, and Hubbard should receive, at least, a new trial. Arguing for the prosecution, Assistant Attorney General Katie Langer cited case law and explained the split verdict showed they were, in fact, impartial because otherwise, the trial would have ended with a hung jury.
As Judge Walker pointed out several times, the clock is ticking with very few days remaining before the 60 day deadline brings all proceeding before his court to a close. The trial judge may rule on these motion or simply wait out the clock.
Photo Credit: Albert Cesare/Montgomery Advertiser/Pool
Attorney General Reacts to Hubbard Loyalist’s Plans for Ethics Reform
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Alabama House Ethics Committee Chairman, Mike Ball (R-Madison), announced his plans (yesterday) to form a commission to review the state’s ethics laws. Ball, a staunch defender of convicted felon and former House Speaker, Mike Hubbard, told WHNT-TV in Huntsville that his committee would “review the State’s Ethics laws and recommend improvements in time for the opening of the Alabama Legislature next year.”
However, just hours after APR published its story on Ball’s plan, Attorney General Luther Strange, sent his comments. “I am strongly opposed to Rep. Mike Ball’s idea of a commission to review Alabama’s ethics law. The whole point of such a commission would be to undermine the law,” said Strange. “Alabamians want our ethics laws enforced, not gutted.”
Ball also said he wanted an “open and honest” process, stating, “Our best chance for success is for it to be carefully looked at, out in the open.” Ball claims he is determined to stop three ethics bills from coming to the House because he didn’t want them “lost in the mix, however, there is a reason to believe other forces are at work, especially given Speaker McCutcheon’s promise of principled leadership.”
It would be difficult to fathom a Hubbard loyalist overseeing a commission to amend laws that landed his former boss in prison.
The day after Hubbard’s indictment, Ball stood by his side at a pep rally proclaiming his boss’s innocence while sporting an “I Like Mike” sticker on his lapel.
Ball regularly appeared on talk radio accusing State prosecutors of conducting a political witch hunt to ensnare Hubbard.
In April 2015, Ball testified in a pre-trial hearing that Hubbard’s arrest was politically motivated. Under oath, Ball said the ethics laws needed amending to avoid prosecutions like Hubbard’s in the future.
Presiding Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker, III allowed Ball to testify, even though he said Ball’s testimony was not relevant to Hubbard’s indictments. Judge Walker ruled that accusations against Special Division’s Chief Matt Hart were not only irrelevant, but unfounded.
Ball is one of the remaining Hubbard loyalists at the State House.