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Court Filing Show Role of Principals at Swatek, Azbell, Howe and Ross in Hubbard Case

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Recent court filing shows that three principals from the lobbying firm Swatek, Azbell, Howe and Ross (SAHR) were involved to varying degrees with actions that led to Speaker Mike Hubbard being charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption.

While Dax Swatek, Tim Howe or John Ross have not been charged with any crimes, court documents describe each man’s involvement in Hubbard’s alleged criminal activities.

SAHR represents top tier lobbying clients including, healthcare, money lending, probate judges, road builders and charter school advocacy groups. From money lenders like Advance America Cash Advance, Inc., to the University of West Alabama, the firm’s lobbying clients are a who’s who of special interests throughout the State (See a complete list at end of report).

The fourth partner, David Azbell, is the co-author of Hubbard’s vanity publication, Storming the State House, and receives $96,000 in taxpayer funds to assist Hubbard and various Republican House Members. 

Ross was Executive Director of the Alabama Republican Party during Hubbard’s tenure as chairman, and upon Hubbard’s direction, signed the contract with Majority Strategies, which resulted in almost $800,000 in campaign contributions being funneled through Majority Strategies and back to Hubbard’s business interests.

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In Exhibit #4 of the State’s response to Hubbard’s request for a more defined statement of the indictments against him, shows Hubbard instructing Ross that ALGOP would no longer use Majority Strategies, but his own company for printing, announcing he will try to black-ball Brett Buerck for 2014 races.

The State has also charged Hubbard with using a company owned by Howe to pass over $72,000 from the ALGOP to a Hubbard-owned business. Emails show that Ross was directed to make these money “invoice” exchanges.

Exhibit #6 discloses that in emails from Hubbard to Ross, where Ross is directed on January 22, 2010, to send a check to Tim Howe for $2933.10. Then he tells Ross that he will receive an invoice from Howe for $2434.95.

An invoice to The Howe Group from Network Creative Media dated January 22, 2010, is issued for $2804.95. The description reads “$350 for radio production and $2434.95 for media placement for ALGOP” then add another $20 for overnight shipping.

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According to FCPA reports, ALGOP paid The Howe Group $72,186.27 for radio, TV spots and media during the period between 1/15/10 and 2/24/10. The aforementioned check of $2933.10 for radio, was included in that list.

These emails show that Ross and Howe assisted Hubbard in the pass through a scheme that the State says is a felony violation of State ethics laws.

Swatek was approached by Hubbard to invest in a business scheme that the State has concluded was illegal. Swatek did not participate in the venture and the State said that he, among others, are, for now, material witnesses.

Exhibit #42 of the State’s response to Hubbard’s request for a more defined statement of the indictments against him, reveals that Swatek’s company Swatek and Associates represented Hoar Construction, LLC, whose CEO, is named in the Hubbard indictments as having been solicited by Hubbard for a $150,000 investment into Hubbard’s Craftmasters Printers, Inc.

In several instances Ross served as a go-between in the alleged scheme to funnel money from ALGOP into Hubbard business interests.

Ross not only signed the contract with Majority Strategies, but he was being directed by Hubbard to pay his company directly.

Exhibit #79 details in an email how SAHR designed promotional material for Hubbard’s vanity tome, Storming the Statehouse, for a Washington DC trip arranged by BCA Chairman Billy Canary to promote the book. Canary is also listed among those from whom Hubbard solicited things of value in violation of the law.

Swatek, Azbell, Howe and Ross are said to be Hubbard’s lobbying firm of choice, as well as being his go-to team in political campaigns. For now, it appears that at least three of the principles at SAHR are potential witnesses in Hubbard’s upcoming felony criminal trial. It also appears that they will continue to represent high-profiled companies like HealthSouth Corporation, Trinity Medical and the Alabama Road Builders Association before the House of Representatives, led by Hubbard.

Companies represented by SAHR:

Advance America Cash Advance, Inc

Alabama Asphalt Pavement Association

Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools

Alabama Probate Judges Association

Alabama Road Builders Association

Better Basics, Inc.

Charter Communications

CHSPSC, LLC

Community Education Centers, Inc.

Daniel Corporation

Dax R. Swatek & Associates, L.L.C.

DIRECTV, INC

Dish Network

Fresenius Medical Center

HealthSouth Corporation

John C.M. Ross & Company, Inc.

Learning Through Sports, LLC

Maximus

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Nucor Corporation

Select Management Resources, Inc.

Sight Savers of America

Southern Communications Services Inc dba Southern LINC Wireless The Howe Group, LLC

Trinity Medical Center

University of West Alabama

 

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Elections

Barry Moore receives two key endorsements

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Barry Moore, Republican candidate for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. (VIA BARRY MOORE CAMPAIGN)

Barry Moore, candidate for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, received two key endorsements from the Alabama First Responders Association and the Veterans Leadership Fund. Both groups made the decision to endorse Moore because of his pro Veteran, pro Law Enforcement, and Pro First Responders stance. 

“We at the Veterans Leadership Fund, an initiative at GatorPAC, are proud to endorse Veteran, Barry Moore for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. At VFL, we have a rich history of supporting candidates who best represent true conservative values and have served our great country. As a self term-limiting representative, a devout conservative, and a true man of the people, Barry Moore is the ideal representative for veterans and conservatives alike,” said Rob Maness, founder of GatorPAC and the Veterans Leadership Fund. 

“The Alabama First Responders are proud to endorse Barry Moore for Alabama’s second Congressional district. Alabama’s heroes put their lives on the line every day. We must protect their jobs, and make sure that their families will be covered if something tragic happens in the line of duty. Barry always voted in support of first responder legislation while he served in the Alabama Legislature. We are confident that Barry Moore will continue his support while serving in Congress,” said interim Director Brett Trimble. 

Moore responded with the following statement:

“I am very honored to receive both of these endorsements. I am a Veteran and having the support of the Veterans Leadership fund is quite an honor. I have always worked to support and defend our Veterans. When I served as the Chairman of Military and Veterans Affairs in the Legislature, I always made sure our servicemen and women were a top priority.

“First Responders are the backbone of our communities. They serve the citizens and put their lives on the line each day. When a disaster happens we can always count on these brave men and women to respond with courage and empathy. President Trump has shown great care in protecting and defending our law enforcement officers. We can’t let the Democrats attempt to defund the Police. When I’m serving in Congress, I will stand strong with the President and DEFEND our Police and first responders.”

Moore is a small businessman, Veteran, former member of the Alabama Legislature, husband, and father of four from Enterprise.

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Elections

Sessions says Alabama doesn’t take orders from Washington after Trump inserts himself in race again

Brandon Moseley

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GOP Senate candidate and former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, released a statement pushing back against President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his opponent, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, in which he said “Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”

The blunt comments were in response to a Twitter post from Trump once again inserting himself in the Alabama Senate race.

“I’ve taken the road less travelled,” Sessions said. “Not sought fame or fortune. My honor and integrity are far more important than these juvenile insults. Your scandal ridden candidate is too cowardly to debate. As you know, Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”

This was after Trump tweeted, “Big Senate Race in Alabama on Tuesday. Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down. Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don’t want him back in Washington!”

Trump has called his decision to appoint Sessions as U.S. attorney general his “biggest mistake” as president.

The rift between the two former friends began in 2017 when Sessions, newly appointed as attorney general, recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation. Sessions has steadfastly defended the decision and continues to maintain that he was forbidden by U.S. Department of Justice policy forbidding anyone who was part of a campaign from investigating that campaign.

Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential election and worked tirelessly throughout 2016 as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

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Sessions maintains that had he not recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation things would have gone worse for Trump. As it was, his duties in the matter fell on fellow Trump appointee Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel.

The special counsel investigation successfully prosecuted a number of close Trump associates for various failings in their personal and professional lives, but ultimately never was able to indict the president or a member of the Trump family, and it never was able to produce tangible evidence that the 2016 Trump campaign was involved in collusion with Russian intelligence agencies to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Sessions is running for the Senate seat he gave up to be attorney general.

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Tuberville has been avoiding the media since a New York Times report detailed how Tuberville’s business partner David Stroud cheated investors out of their savings and was sentenced to ten years in prison. The two had formed a hedge fund, managed by Stroud, a former Lehman Brothers broker. Tuberville maintains that he was Stroud’s biggest victim, but the investors sued Tuberville, who settled out of court.

Sessions’ campaign maintains that incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’ campaign will capitalize on the scandal during the general election similarly to how they capitalized on allegations against former Chief Justice Roy Moore to win the 2017 special election to win the Senate seat vacated by Sessions to be attorney general.

Sessions was a late entrant into the Senate campaign. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, has endorsed Sessions.

“Jeff Sessions is a good friend and a respected former colleague,” Shelby wrote. “I believe he is well-suited to return to his role as United States Senator for the state of Alabama, where I served with him for more than 20 years. He has my full support and endorsement.”

Sessions was Senator from 1997 to 2017. He was U.S. Attorney General from 2017 to Nov. 2018. Prior to his Senate service, he served the state as Alabama Attorney General, Republican Party Chairman, and U.S. Attorney under Presidents Ronald W. Reagan (R) and George H. Bush (R). Sessions was also a former assistant U.S. Attorney and a U.S. Army reserve officer. He is a native of Alabama who grew up outside of Camden in rural Wilcox County.

The Republican primary runoff is on Tuesday. In order to vote in any Alabama election you must: be registered to vote, vote at your assigned polling place, and have a valid photo ID. It is too late to register to vote in this election or obtain an absentee ballot; but if you have an absentee ballot today is the last day to return it either through mail or by hand delivering it to your courthouse absentee ballot manager’s office.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Teachers are scared and frustrated about starting school. Many aren’t coming back

Teachers are scared to death. And the biggest reason they’re scared to death is because they haven’t seen any sort of real, aggressive plan from anyone. 

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Terrified. Confused. Frustrated. Those are the terms teachers — both fulltime and substitute teachers — from across Alabama used to describe how they feel about schools reopening in about a month in this state. 

Over the course of the last week, I have spoken to dozens of teachers, principals, administrators and employees from school systems around the state. On Sunday, I used social media to solicit more comments, asking teachers and school employees if they have been provided specifics about the upcoming school year and how they’re expected to handle students and staff testing positive for COVID-19. 

Their answers were eye-opening and infuriating. 

Because it was obvious that the federal Department of Education — at the urging of the White House — and the Alabama State Department of Education — at the urging of the feds — are seemingly willing to march thousands of students, teachers and staff into school buildings and tightly-packed rooms in the middle of a pandemic without a plan to protect any of them. 

Not even a little bit. 

Among the shocking pieces of information provided by teachers and employees, these stood out: 

  • There is no plan to screen students, teachers or staff prior to school starting. 
  • There is no statewide plan for quarantining students, teachers or staff should someone at a school test positive. 
  • There will be no requirement that students wear masks. 
  • There is no statewide plan to contact trace any positive student, teacher or staff member. 
  • Teachers don’t know if they’ll be required to quarantine if they come in contact with a coronavirus-positive student or employee, and they don’t know if a quarantine will eat into their leave days. 
  • No one knows if there will be mandatory testing of students if another student in class tests positive, or who will pay for such tests. 
  • There is currently no plan in place to address the very obvious teacher shortage that is about to strike Alabama schools. 

Among all of those problems — and all of the unknowns that will go into them — a teacher shortage is probably the most certain, and possibly even the most important. 

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Because Alabama had a big problem with getting enough teachers to fill its classrooms prior to the current pandemic. Now, as we near a ridiculously-early start date, and teachers across the state begin to realize that there simply is no plan in place to protect them, hundreds are weighing their options. 

And the mass exodus could be staggering. 

Which, honestly, shouldn’t be surprising. Even if there were a great plan in place, most teachers over the age of 60 would be on the fence about working during this pandemic. In Alabama, that’s a decent percentage of the state’s total number of teachers and a big percentage of substitute teachers. 

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Now, add to that list all of the teachers who are at-risk or have underlying conditions that put them at greater risk should they contract COVID-19. 

Then add all of the teachers who can afford to either not work or who have other employment options. 

Now, add in ALSDE’s complete and utter joke of a “roadmap” for reopening — which only served to scare the living hell out of most school employees — and you’ve got a serious mess. 

“I know for a fact that eight of my teachers are probably not coming back and it could be as high as 12,” a principal of a school in Montgomery told me. “There aren’t people to fill those spots and we’ll be fighting with every other school in this city and surrounding area for substitutes.”

That same story is playing out all over the state. 

Because teachers are scared to death. And the biggest reason they’re scared to death is because they haven’t seen any sort of real, aggressive plan from anyone. 

Instead, the instructions appear to be: Do all of the things you were doing before, and then add in socially distancing your students, monitoring them for COVID symptoms and trying not to become sick yourself. Oh, and also maybe help with checking kids’ temps and quarantining them, since 300 or so of our state’s schools don’t have nurses. 

Would you go back to work in that environment if you had any other choice? 

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. But only a glimmer. 

Gov. Kay Ivey has apparently taken a liking to the Safely Opening Schools (SOS) plan that I talked about a couple of weeks ago. That’s the plan from the school nurses association, which is backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, that would use CARES Act funds to put a nurse in every school and also build a stand-alone first aid/quarantine area for every school. It would also provide on-site testing and equipment to check the temps of students at a variety of different points. 

Ivey has invited several lawmakers to speak about the plan to the state Board of Education during Tuesday’s work session. 

APR has also learned that the SOS plan is one of several being considered by the White House to be part of its recommendations to schools across the country. 

That plan isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t address all of the problems that teachers, students and staff will face every day. But it does take some burdens off teachers, and could help prevent flare-ups and outright hot spots. 

And maybe, just maybe, it’ll ease some of the very real, very understandable fears.

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Education

UA staff, faculty and students want on building names review committee

Eddie Burkhalter

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The University of Alabama's main library. (CHIP BROWNLEE/APR)

The University of Alabama Systems last month announced the removal of three Confederate memorial plaques and the formation of a group to study the names of all buildings on all UA System campuses. 

But that group consists of a group of trustees only, who are tasked with the work and charged with making the final decision which doesn’t sit well with the United Campus Workers of Alabama Local 3965, which on Friday asked that UA faculty, staff and students should be included in the process. 

“Though we applaud the UA System’s commitment to removing painful reminders of racism on campus, we believe it can do better and move faster to remedy a situation that is long overdue,” the union chapter said in a press release Friday. “We believe that the expertise and critical perspective of UA staff, students, and faculty must be included in any future decisions about renaming buildings.” 

The local union chapter in the press release made a list of demands, including: 

  • A) faculty, staff, and student representation from all three UA System campuses. We demand that faculty, staff, and students from each campus be appointed as full members on the Committee. 
  • B) complete transparency of committee business. As faculty, staff, graduate employees, and students, we are the people suffering the everyday violence of entering buildings named after and plaques glorifying slave owners, scientific racists, Confederate leaders, and segregationists. All meetings and deliberations must be open to the public and announced through system-wide press releases at least 48 hours before the meeting. All email or other communication dealing with the committee or committee business must be voluntarily provided to any person or organization that requests them without the submission of a formal FOIA request. 
  • C) public hearings/listening sessions. We demand the full committee host public hearings or listening sessions so that the voices of community members, faculty, staff, graduate employees, and students suffering the everyday violence of walking by or entering buildings named after and plaques glorifying slave owners, scientific racists, Confederate leaders, and segregationists are heard and placed in the public record.-MORE- 
  • D) committee recommendations be executed by January 15, 2021. We demand the Board of Trustees require the committee report be completed, published, and made publicly available via online PDF no later than October 1, 2020, with board approval and official name changes in place by the first day of spring 2021 classes. 

The union noted that research on named UA buildings has already been done, indluding UA historian Hilary Green’s The Hallowed Grounds Project and Green’s Race, Memory, Identity project

“Al Brophy’s foundation work, University, Court and Slave and other scholarly works have addressed these building namesakes as had James Sellers, several Crimson White journalists and other campus chroniclers.  Faculty expertise will help make the committee’s work more efficient, if consulted,” the local union chapter states in the release. 

UA Systems Board of Trustees President pro tem Ronald Gray appointed Trustees Judge John England, Jr., Barbara Humphrey, Vanessa Leonard, Harris Morrissette, Scott Phelps and Stan Starnes to the committee to review building names. 

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The announcement by UA Systems states that the final decision regarding recommendations by the committee “will be made by the full Board of Trustees at a public meeting, at a time to be announced.”

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