By Jack Campbell
As the Alabama Legislature convenes for the 2015 Session, one has to wonder why Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) continues to wield the Speaker’s gavel, arguably as the most powerful person in state government. Why might one be puzzled? After all, a Lee County grand jury handed down indictments on 23 counts of public corruption against Hubbard just last October. Some four months later, he is inexplicably still enjoying the trappings of power, lauded as an honorable man by some of his fellow Republicans and “revered” by lobbyists who need him right where he is.
Housed in a suite in the Alabama Statehouse, resplendent with nice furnishings, a staff of servants and a security man and personal driver, Mike Hubbard continues his reign of terror over his subjects—some of them complicit in his wrongdoing, some scared to break ranks, still others dependent upon his power for their relevance. In every case, there is a shortage of testicular fortitude in calling for Mike Hubbard’s removal from the Speaker’s chair. In layman’s terms, no one in the Alabama House seems to have the balls to say out loud that Hubbard needs to go.
In every other high profile public corruption case in the country—against other Speakers of the House, even—the drill is the same: Indictment(s) are returned and the public official steps down, either voluntarily or under pressure. Remember, though, this is Alabama, the sixth most corrupt state in the nation… another designation we have become accustomed to in the land of Yellowhammers. Hubbard defiantly said Monday he’s going nowhere.
Several respected columnists and newspapers around the state now say Mike Hubbard is not fit to continue serving as Speaker of the House. These same news sources up to now have been conspicuously silent on Hubbard’s possible guilt. The mantra has been, “Innocent until proven guilty,” the quote desperate people cry when the hammer is about to fall. Last Friday, the undertow finally began to suck ardent supporters of Hubbard away from him and out into the sea of sobriety where rational replaces delusional.
Hubbard’s cagey defense attorney, Mark White, filed a motion with the judge hearing his October-scheduled trial, demanding more specificity in the indictments against his client. Whoa Nellie! White was reeling from what the prosecution provided the court. In the voluminous answer to White, the Alabama Attorney General laid out an open and shut case that few, if any, can dispute, all of which is now public record. It featured emails written by Hubbard himself to such notables as former Governor Bob Riley, Riley’s hatchet-woman and daughter Minda Riley Campbell, Jimmy Rane (the Yella Fella), and Birmingham businessman Will Brooke. Hubbard begs for “loans” and business opportunities for himself and his company, clearly using his office and gravitas to make money.
After the documents were released last Friday, even the sympathetic Alabama news media could not deny the Speaker had not only brushed up against ethics laws, he trampled them. The irony here is the very laws Hubbard and his minions beat their chests about passing back in December of 2010 have now come back to sink his hopes to be King.
Alabama Political Reporter provided access to all of the exhibits in last Friday’s special edition, which you can read on this website. Kudos to the publisher of this news source for having the courage to speak out against the monster District 79 has sent to us in Montgomery since 1998. How anyone with any semblance of objectivity who read those documents could conclude that Mike Hubbard is an honorable man — or has a servant’s heart — is in denial. When lieutenants like Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle), long considered a Kool Aid drinker, continue to play the innocent-until-proven-guilty card in defense of Hubbard, one must wonder what the motivation of protecting a liar and alleged thief could possibly be.
If a business owner discovered through emails his or her trusted employee had participated in a scheme to steal from the company over four years, that employee would be shown the door, if not prosecuted. If a child had a teacher sending emails soliciting sex, parents would demand that teacher be removed from the classroom. Here in Alabama is a Speaker of the House, smugly presiding over a body of 105 men and women, who is a victim of his own words proclaiming his prosecution is a “witch hunt.” Saul may have become Paul on the Road to Damascus, but Mike isn’t likely to have a conversion on the Road to the Courthouse.
As one involved in Alabama Republican politics since 1976, I am outraged that “We the people” have become “We the duped” by Speaker Michael G. Hubbard. Almost worse than his “service” to Alabama is the deafening silence from Hubbard’s counterparts in the Legislature. Franklin Roosevelt, not a person I often quote, said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Wake up, Republican elected officials. By not demanding Hubbard to step aside, you are enabling greed, endorsing arrogance and allowing corruption. The voters won’t stand for the “Sounds of Silence” coming from the Statehouse any longer. Those who continue defending the defenseless will have their day of reckoning at the ballot box in four years.
Jack Campbell is a partner at Spot On Strategies Group, LLC in Montgomery, Alabama. He is co-host of News and Views from nine to noon on WACV Radio and a panelist on The Voice of Alabama Politics every Sunday.