By Jack Campbell
Last Friday evening, a jury in his hometown returned a guilty verdict on twelve counts of public corruption against Speaker Mike Hubbard. By law, he gave up his gavel as Speaker and was removed from his position representing Lee County in the state House. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t save Mike Hubbard from his past sins.
Despite his taking the stand to defend himself and despite attempts by former Governor Bob Riley, Riley’s daughter, Minda and Business Council (BCA) chief Billy Canary, who all conveniently forgot facts, Hubbard was still found guilty. This troika of self-promoters may have saved themselves from any future criminal consequences, but the perception by those following the Hubbard trial is they are smug liars.
A whole article could be devoted to Bob Riley’s petulant performance, but not here and not now. Minda is not significant enough in the grand scheme of things to be mentioned more than two sentences in any article. But the story of Billy Canary, the bird who didn’t chirp, warrants some closer scrutiny.
Billy Canary, a former Washington operative, is dangerous–not because he’s friendly or adept at making people like him, but because he is in charge of arguably the most influential trade association in Alabama. In that role, bolstered by his coziness with Bob Riley and Mike Hubbard, Canary writes campaign checks to legislative candidates and incumbents who kiss his ring and buy into his agenda. The result is a House and Senate that care more about making Canary happy than they do satisfying their constituents back home. One example is the adoption of Common Core, an education agenda promoted by his old boss, Tom Donahue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Canary is a devoted proponent of Common Core, an issue repugnant to a majority of conservatives.
As if being the King of the Business Council isn’t enough, Canary schemed with his buddies in the Legislature to get his wife Leura hired at the Retirement System (RSA) as a legal counsel. The worst-kept secret plan was to force David Bronner out and elevate his spouse to replace Bronner. So far, that hasn’t worked so well, and the state is better off because of it.
And, believe it or not, that isn’t enough, either. Before Mike Hubbard’s political corpse cooled from last Friday’s guilty verdict, Canary was rustling up his political herd to promote his choices for Speaker and Speaker Pro Tem. With Canary, picking a new Speaker isn’t about doing what’s best for Alabama, it’s about keeping his power base together. Fortunately for business folks, Manufacture Alabama and NFIB offer a credible alternative to BCA.
My former company joined the Business Council for one year. I was never enamored with its benefits. I have friends who work there, but the glory days of BCA are long past. Canary has earned more critics than friends over the years because of his arrogant attitude toward lawmakers. It’s puzzling that the big mule members of BCA haven’t called for Canary’s ouster. Scuttlebutt in political circles has always been if Hubbard goes down, Canary’s influence will go as well. We shall see…
One down, one to go.