By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—When the Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010, then Gov. Bob Riley stood in front of the State to proclaim, “We have an historic opportunity to not only reform a corrupt political culture, but to end it once and for all. However, I believe…very sincerely, that we have a short window of opportunity to make this happen. There is an unmistakable momentum there today that we need to use to make sure that we pass these bills, because this opportunity may not come again.”
But, not long afterwards, Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), the new Speaker of the House, would sign the first of many lobbying contracts that would ultimately lead to his indictment and arrest on 23 felony counts of public corruption. According to his indictments he had already broken ethics laws as Chair of the ALGOP, and wasted little time in violating the new laws he had helped Riley pass in the 2010 Special Session.
Eighteen citizens of Hubbard’s home county found it likely that he had committed these disparate crimes, but still retains his position has Speaker. Even now Hubbard is trying to have the very laws he helped Riley pass declared unconstitutional.
On another occasion Riley stated, “The rule of law must be equally applied to all citizens. There can be no exception for a select few, who, because of their money and influence believe they are above the law. No one is.”
While Riley was speaking of gambling interests, his words should be applied to Hubbard. This admonition should serve as a haunting reminder of the sheer hypocrisy of those who have allowed Hubbard to remain in power.
Riley warned of such power and its corrupting influence, “And when you have the ability and the power to come in, just because of who you are, and corrupt the legislative process, or be accused of it, I think it’s a real threat to Alabama, and everyone needs to take it seriously.”
Here again, Riley was speaking about bingo, but as he stated, “This isn’t really not even about gambling.”
At the heart of the Hubbard affair lies the compact between the lawmakers and the citizens. Elected officials, as representatives of the people, are expected to act in the public’s best interest. When a lawmaker, such as Hubbard, is indicted for felony crimes, there should be swift action to remove them from power. However, it has been over a year since Hubbard was arrested for betraying, not only the public, but his office, and every member of the Alabama House of Representatives.
Hubbard has broken trust not only with the citizens, but his fellow legislators. Such violations of trust undermine our government and way of life.
Of course, many knew Hubbard was gaming the system, even his mentor Riley.
Numerous emails have shown that Riley knew of Hubbard’s scheme to enrich himself by using his office for personal gain. Riley even warned his protege of the perils: “You can be rich or you can be governor,” Riley cautioned Hubbard, “but you can’t be both.”
Riley too was prospering by having his man in the Speaker’s chair.
When Hubbard threatened to step down to go to work as a lobbyist, the former governor’s daughter, Minda Riley Champbell, reminded him how hard they had all worked to place him in power, and that much rested on him retaining that seat.
The Rileys, even now, stand by the thoroughly disgraced Speaker in hopes of navigating between Hubbard and the prosecution in a delicate and dangerous game of playing both sides to their advantage.
Like Hubbard, the Riley clan has never believed the rules applied to them. In 2010, Riley said, “The People of Alabama have sent me a message that enough is enough, this has been going on long enough.”
Yes, enough is enough. It is time that Hubbard and his supporters like the Riley’s to be driven from the State House like the the money changers of the Gospels.