By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Recently filed court documents in the Speaker Mike Hubbard felon case show that Hubbard and his attorney privately met with reporters on the day of his indictment to encourage favorable reporting after his arrest.
According to the State’s prosecution, Chuck Dean of al.com and AP reporter Kim Chandler previously of al.com, met with Hubbard and his criminal defense attorney J. Mark White on the day of his arrest and reported Hubbard’s allegations of political witch hunt and denials of wrong doing.
Recently, before calling for Hubbard to step aside as Speaker, Dean reminisced about Hubbard’s kindness, in an opinion piece for al.com. In the article Dean wrote, “On one of worst days of my life, the day I was fired from The Birmingham News almost three years ago, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard called me.” Dean goes on to write, “I detected no pretense on his part or the working of some angle for his benefit. I was suddenly an unemployed guy in his 50s with few prospects and nothing to offer the most powerful politician in the state. And to boot, my political philosophy and outlook could not be more different from Hubbard’s.
“Hubbard knew all that. And he still called. I’ve remembered the kindness of that call.”
In his opinion piece, Dean bashes those he considers paid political haters, but says “I’m not a Mike Hubbard hater.” He also decries those paid to promote Hubbard’s agenda, again he doesn’t think he fits into that category either. He says he is not a lackey for Hubbard.
In the State’s response to Hubbard’s motion to dismiss because of grand jury leaks, the prosecution shows that not only was Dean invited into Hubbard’s inner circle at his Auburn office but that he wrote expressively about Hubbard’s woes.
According to court filings, “The reporter described how Hubbard and White ‘waited . . . from the wee hours of the morning and throughout the day and into the night as rumors swirled that he had been indicted by a Lee County grand jury on public corruption charges.’” (Id.) The reporter also conveyed Hubbard’s incendiary charge that the investigation was a “political witch hunt” and that he was “‘not going to let the bad guys make the decision’ as to whether he would remain in public office or not.”
While Dean, doesn’t see himself as a Hubbard “lackey,” the prosecution holds a different opinion.
In Dean’s piece entitled “Speaker Mike Hubbard: An emperor with no clothes who must step aside,” Dean takes credit for writing the story that led to the Hubbard investigation stating, “I wrote the first story reporting what appeared to be questionable financial dealings revolving around a tangled web of campaign dollars…. The story caught the attention of Matt Hart, a former federal prosecutor hired by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to pursue public corruption.”
Those with close knowledge of the investigations origins find Dean’s vanity overstepping any semblance of reality.
For her part, Chandler mainly wrote a straight report but did provide Hubbard and his mouthpiece plenty of space to spew his counter attacks.
Under a headline that read, “Ala House Speaker Denies Wrongdoing Amid Probe,” Chandler gave Hubbard the opportunity to say, “I don’t care what party you are in, it’s wrong…My wife has asked the question is it worth it to be in public service, to subject yourself to this?” Hubbard then says he told his wife, “I’m not going to let the bad guys make the decision for me.”
The response to Hubbard request to dismiss on the grounds that the grand jury secrecy act has been violated list other news reports including one by this news organization.
In the report mentioned in the motion by Alabama Political Reporter, in which the prosecution states, “Specifically, on September 12, 2013, it was reported that Hubbard had recently told supporters that Attorney General Strange ‘is overly-ambitious and out to get him because he wants to be governor in 2018,’ which was from a report we filed under, ‘Hubbard in Full Damage Control Promising Big Money/Threatened Lawsuit.’”
This the prosecution contrasts with reports from the same time period where, “Hubbard’s attorney Mark White reportedly told the media that he was ‘not doing criminal defense work,’ but instead was ‘investigating’ alleged statements about Hubbard, and White reportedly expressed ‘interest’ in ‘communications about grand jury activities,’” citing a report again by Chandler, under the headline, “Speaker Mike Hubbard Hires Attorney to Fight ‘Libelous’ Information.”
For the past two and half years our reports have stood in stark contrast to the others mentioned in the motion, which show a pattern and practice of Hubbard and White using the media to tell a very one-sided story.