By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Gov. Robert Bentley can rightly take credit for taking “the first step” toward “changed the course of how we are going to fund the General Fund.” But there is a sickness in Montgomery, a disease of the conscience that has not been addressed. Once again, during the second Special Session, Speaker Mike Hubbard sought to pass legislation that would gut the ethics laws and give him the ability to raise unlimited cash for his legal defense. But, he also met secretly with those who could finance his ongoing attempt to thwart justice.
After six months of political saber rattling, the battle over the State’s General Fund Budget (SGF) has ended, not with thunderous victory, but with the sigh of bitter compromise.
Gov. Bentley won.
Hubbard won as well, but in the shadows.
In each Special Session of 2015, Hubbard and his cronies employed trickery and deceit to pass legislation that would have made it easier for him avoid the justice that awaits him at the Lee County Court House.
During the second Special Session, which had nothing to do with gambling legislation, Hubbard continued to hold meetings with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI), their lobbyists Phillip and Allison Kinney, and principals of the tribe.
The PCI had offered the State $250 million in exchange for a Tribal-State compact that would guarantee them a monopoly over all gaming in Alabama. They allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for ad/buys leading up to the Regular Session to convince voters and the legislature that their $250 million loan to the State was the gesture of a friend. The Governor told them to cut it out, and they did.
But this did not stop the deal from going forward in private offices, especially the corner office on the fifth floor, where a flat screen TV plays a continuous loop of pictures as tribute to the glories of its inhabitant House Speaker.
There was a time when Hubbard would not even offer tribal members a chair in his office and was reluctantly to meet with them. In the past, Hubbard took their money and bid them good day. But now, like a debutante turned prostitute, he smiles invitingly at those he once avoided.
He needs their money and they want to control gambling. A business arrangement between friends with benefits you might say.
Hubbard had a sudden change of heart on taxes, and in Montgomery, when a politician does a 180, there is graft to be had and players to be paid.
Those close to the Bentley camp say he is considering a Special Session to discuss passing a constitutional amendment to allow citizens a vote on a lottery. This would exclude the Marsh plan, which would offer the voters a chance to cast their ballots for table games as well.
The plan is to allow a lottery and then sign a compact with the PCI, ending any opportunity for others to compete.
Be aware that, once a monopoly is granted the PCI, they will control not only gambling but the State as well.
In the 2014 general election, the PCI spent $1.5 million to try and defeat the State’s sitting AG Luther Strange, because he dared to challenge them. If they would spend millions on revenge, what will they spend for control?
Now, the fight over the budget was the visible conflict, not the underlying cause of the clash. The real war being waged in Montgomery is over the moral center of State government. Corruption is systemic within State politics. Immorality has infected the heart of the process, with greed as its engine, and power its driver.
No. This is not a reference to the rumors surrounding the governor. There is no creditable evidence to that scandalous chatter.
The moral failings in Montgomery centers on Hubbard, his followers, and those who make their living serving the very narrow interests of the powerful elite.
Like the money changers at the temple, they should be forced from the State House in ruinous shame.
The 23 felony indictments against Hubbard are a testament to his appetite for riches, as revealed in his emails to former Gov. Bob Riley. His latest motion to have the charges against him dismissed, claiming the ethics laws he championed are unconstitutional, is a clear example of his willingness to lie to free himself from taking responsibility for his actions. And, as his actions during the Special Session show, he will corrupt the very laws of this State for his own benefit. And his deal with the PCI shows he will sell not only his soul, but also the State, to the highest bidder.