By Bill Britt
Alabama Politcal Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Speaker Mike Hubbard’s Craftmaster Printers, Inc., building has a “For Lease” sign hanging out front.
This is seen as a growing sign that the embattled Hubbard is failing to meet his obligations, including payments to his legal defense team, as has been suggested by those close to the case. The printing company has undergone a series of reorganizations, a bankruptcy, and has attracted a “who’s who” of investors over the years. The company’s primary cash cow has been the business it has received from political campaigns. The State has charged Hubbard with illegally funneling money from the State Republican Party to Craftmaster as well as soliciting illegal investments using his office to personally profit his company and himself.
In the State’s indictment against Hubbard it lists, Will Brooke, James Holbrook, Jimmy Rane, and Robert Burton as making an investment of $150,000 each into the failing enterprise, contrary to State ethics laws. It also states that Hubbard illegally solicited these investments, including one from Dax Swatek. It is believed Swatek refused to invest in Hubbard’s scheme because, as a lawyer and lobbyist, he knew it ran afoul of State ethics laws.
Hubbard is also accused of funneling money from the State Party to Craftmaster. Records show from 2002 until July 14, 2010, Craftmaster Printers, Inc., was paid $564,678 from the State Party. After May, 20, 2009 through December 15, 2010, Craftmaster Printers, Inc., only received $53,623.22 in payments from the ALGOP. However, from July 15, 2009, through October 27, 2010 Majority Strategies received $785,124.63 in payments from the Party, with Approximately $741,757.88 going to a Hubbard business interest through the subcontract arrangement.
When added together, Craftmaster Printers, Inc., made a grand total of $1,433,419.77 from the ALGOP in direct contract and subcontract work.
The money paid from the Party and subcontractor Majority Strategies is at issue in the Hubbard criminal case.
In 2012, alreporter.com published a series of articles that outlined the company’s troubled past, along with millions of dollars that flowed from the ALGOP into its coffers.
In 2000, a group of investors – led by Hubbard, Thomas B. “Barry” Whatley, Doug Taylor (Whatley’s brother-in-law), and Pat Dye, the former Auburn coach – took a chance on a potentially lucrative venture in purchasing Craftmaster and its debt from its owners for $1.
From 2002 until the company’s bankruptcy in 2006, Hubbard used his considerable influence to bring in large amounts of cash from the ALGOP, PACs and government entities.
During the years 2002 through 2004, Hubbard cycled more than $100,000 in donations to NETPAC, back into his own businesses. NETPAC was created by Hubbard and his wife, Susan Sorrells Hubbard. It appears that at the time, NETPAC was the main vehicle for raising money for Bob Riley’s 2002 campaign. According to the Mike Hubbard’s bio information, “Dr. Susan Hubbard, is a Professor and Associate Dean in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences.”
NETPAC reported at least $93,300 in expenditures to Craftmaster Printers since 2001, reportedly for printing and advertising purposes. NETPAC paid another $10,000 to Hubbard’s Auburn Network Inc., reportedly for advertising.
Despite Craftmaster’s continued slide into bankruptcy, money was still flowing in from GOP-related PACs and the ALGOP.
This is a pattern that has continued to this day, with Hubbard using his connections to keep a failing business afloat. During the 2014 election cycle, Republican candidates continued to use Craftmaster for printing, as Hubbard’s alliance with former Gov. Bob Riley’s 2014 PAC was the primary funding resource for GOP candidates.
Now, it appears that Hubbard has reached another turning point in this failed business venture.