By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Just four short years ago, as Chairman of the State Republican Party, Mike Hubbard penned an opinion piece for his hometown paper, lauding Federal prosecutors for the arrest of four-sitting lawmakers.
Writing in October, 2010, Hubbard said, “The arrests and convictions of numerous public officials is happening much too frequently in our State. If the trend continues, Louisiana, with its long history and reputation for political graft and corruption, may soon look to us and say, “Thank goodness for Alabama!”
Hubbard not only praised the work of the prosecution, he damned the Democrats for suggesting that the timing of the indictments were proof of them being politically motivated. If all of this seems familiar, it’s because Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney, J. Mark White, along with a host of GOP House members, have been preaching the same sermon about Hubbard’s indictments.
In 2010, Democrats claimed that Riley and his men were behind the arrests, according to Hubbard, “To think for even a moment that the current liberal-dominated Justice Department would coordinate with Riley to help Republicans and harm Democrats borders on paranoia.”
Of course, when the State’s Attorney General’s Office dominated by Republicans indicted Hubbard, his tune changed dramatically. I don’t believe that it’s paranoia on Hubbard’s part, just delusion; the only defense he has left.
After Hubbard’s arrest, elected Republicans and Democrats remained silent for the most part. It seems that many more fear Hubbard, more than love the truth. As for the rest, they have been allowed to eat scraps from Hubbard’s table, so why bite the hand that feeds them.
Chinks in the armor are beginning to show as Hubbard tried to strong arm House members to vote yes on a $200 million dollar tax package, that would give the Poarch Creek Indians a monopoly over Los Vegas-style gambling in the State.
Now, perhaps ironically, it was gaming that launched the investigation that lead to the lawmaker’s arrest in 2010. Then, gambling was bad, mostly because all the money went to Democrats; but that was because they had all the power. Today, Hubbard is fine with gaming, as long as the money goes to Republicans. Starting in 2010, the Tribe has spent a lot of money to help members of Hubbard’s party. No doubt money would keep following in that direction should Hubbard deliver PCI a monopoly.
Hubbard seems to have had a real change of heart, something that was deftly pointed out in a recent column by John Archibald:
“’I don’t want to do anything that would further legitimize gambling in Alabama,’ Hubbard said in 2004, in opposition of a bingo bill. I think it’s poor public policy for the State to depend on revenue derived through gambling,” the columnist recalled.
There has been a great deal of speculation as to when Hubbard experienced this epiphany as it relates to the financial profit to be gained from gambling. Some would mark the date when Hubbard first began receiving campaign contributions from PCI, which were funneled through the RSLC.
Others on the fifth floor think this most recent conversion on the road to Damascus happened after a private meeting with PCI Tribal Chief Stephanie Bryan and Vice Chair Robbie McGhee. It is believed that their meeting was arranged with the assistance of Rep. Ed Henry.
It is thought that Henry developed a cozy relationship with PCI lobbyists Allison and Phillip Kinney after an early session dinner party at Montgomery’s pricey Central restaurant and bar. McGhee picked up the tab at this costly gathering of freshman legislators, who attended at Henry’s request. This once, earnest lawmaker has become quite the bon vivant, since gaining the trust of his boss Hubbard.
Around the same time as Hubbard’s private meeting, with the two tribal council member’s another meeting was held for the bi-partisan House Rural Caucus, who hosted PCI lobbyists, and McGhee. The night at Garrett’s, a swanky, restaurant off the Atlanta highway caused several lawmakers who were in attendance to expressed concern and even outrage at how McGhee address those gathered. The effort to secure PCI an exclusive gaming compact has been mostly lead by Barton-Kinney LLC, according to those with inside knowledge.
This event, along with the meeting in Hubbard’s office around April 22, has caused a stir at the State House, as rumors insist that the Tribe has agreed to pay Hubbard’s mounting legal fees in return for an exclusive compact to control gaming in the State. These are only rumors passed around in Montgomery without evidence.
Hubbard’s plan as reported by several in the State House is to grant PCI Class III (Los Vegas style) gambling, plus land in Northeast Alabama for Class II gaming and a lottery. Hubbard is said to be determine to stop anyone else from opening a casino in the State.
Like the bingo trial that Hubbard was so quickly to condemn, there are many angles here, and more than enough intrigue.
The lawmakers, who Hubbard disparaged, were all found not guilty. However, many lost a great deal of personal wealth even though they had defense funds arranged by friends. Hubbard has a “defense fund” as well, which contributors can give to without fear of public disclosure.
Perhaps this time, if the Tribe were to offer Hubbard relief, they would be more careful on how the transactions are handled, as it has been made public, they funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to him in 2010, without the public becoming aware until much later.
In the bingo case, lawmakers were accused of taking a bribe to vote yes on gambling legislation, and the Feds tracked the money into candidates campaign accounts. In 2014, the favored method of hiding the origins of contributions was the use of non-profits. These have replaced the PAC-to-PAC transfers of the past.
Hubbard denounced the old PAC-to-PAC scheme. He said he wanted to clean up State government. He also championed and voted for the State’s tough ethics laws, but later asked former Gov. Bob Riley, “What were we thinking?”
Hubbard condemned Democrats for being indicted, chastised them for saying it was political, but now that the shoe is on the other foot, things are different.
Ending his opinion column in the OA.News, Hubbard wrote,
“Democrats have controlled the Alabama Legislature for the past 136 years, and it is obvious they created an atmosphere that breeds corruption, invites abuse and gently punishes those who are caught.”
“Thankfully, on Nov. 2, Alabamians will have the opportunity to go in another direction — one that brings a Republican legislative majority and true conservative change to Montgomery.”
The voters did make a choice to elect Hubbard and his gang.
But, things haven’t just changed, they have gotten much worse.