By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Sunday, June 12 the Alabama Republican Assembly Steering Committee issued a statement thanking the jurors in the corruption trial of the then current House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R from Auburn). The group also thanked prosecutor Matt Hart for his efforts fighting corruption and expressed hope that the Alabama House Republican Caucus can now embrace reforms.
The conservative Alabama Republican Assembly wrote, “The Alabama Republican Assembly would like to thank the twelve members of the jury in Lee County for their role in our judicial system and holding public officials accountable for their actions. These men and women found that House Speaker Mike Hubbard guilty of twelve felony charges relating to political corruption and abuse of power. These jury members displayed a conviction that was lacking in our state legislature, which voted to keep Mike Hubbard as Speaker despite the 23 indictments and previous findings disclosed by an audit of the Alabama Republican Party.”
When federal indictments were unsealed against the Speaker of the House in New York State, he immediately stepped down from his leadership position. In Alabama they held a post indictment pep rally for Speaker Hubbard, which was attended by dozens of state legislators as well as by Congressman Mike Rogers (R from Saks). Not only did Rep. Rogers proclaim Mike Hubbard innocent; but he accused Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) of orchestrating this to remove Hubbard as a potential 2018 gubernatorial race rival.
Many political observers were shocked in 2014 when Hubbard was re-elected as Speaker of the House for the new quadrinnium just weeks after state prosecutors unsealed 23 felony indictments against the legislator from Auburn. Not only did every single Republican vote for the indicted, Mike Hubbard; every Democratic legislator did with the exception of the venerable, Rep. Alvin Holmes (D from Montgomery). Not only was Mike Hubbard the Speaker for the 2015 regular legislative session; but he also returned as Speaker of the House for two 2015 special sessions. As more and more of the evidence against Hubbard became public some doubts began to grow among his House colleagues. Rep. Phil Williams (R from Huntsville) announced his intention to unseat Hubbard; but the majority of the Republican Caucus remained intensely loyal to Mike Hubbard, whose book ‘Storming the Statehouse’ trumpeted Hubbard’s political and business skills.
The Alabama Republican Assembly wrote that they hope, “That integrity can be restored to this office with the election of a new Republican Speaker that is free of any affiliation with the unethical acts of the previous administration. A Speaker that will stand steadfastly for conservative Alabama values and against the corrupting influences of organized gambling, special interest lobbyists, and corrupt politicians.”
Business Council of Alabama (BCA) President and CEO William “Billy” T. Canary, Billy Canary, who is a registered lobbyist, testified in the Hubbard trial that he was part of what he called a “kitchen cabinet” of three lobbyists that met with Mike Hubbard and his chief of staff every week of the legislative sessions. Lobbyist, Minda Riley Campbell testified that she and Hubbard exchanged thousands of emails. His taxpayer paid staff even edited and refined the daily legislative updates newsletter that she sent to her clients and to donors to her father’s (former Alabama Governor turned lobbyist Bob Riley (R)) political action committee which was raising money for Hubbard allies in the 2014 elections.
The job of Speaker of the House now automatically passes to Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston (R from Mobile). Gaston, who is 74, has said that he does not want to be Speaker of the House long term. A House GOP Caucus meeting will likely determine what the Republican Super Majority wants to do going forward. Critics of Hubbard’s regime hope that the new Speaker does not have the same cozy relationship with lobbyists that Hubbard had when he was speaker.
Rep. Phil Williams told Alabama Media Group’s Paul Gattis: “As soon as he (Hubbard) became speaker, he withdrew into another world and he started taking his counsel from lobbyists and associations and he started playing one against the other.” “Looking back on it now, it was his consolidation of power but he was very brutal to some people – lobbyists and other people who were trying to get a voice for their legislation.” “I think his inner-circle began to exclude his colleagues in the House and it was replaced with heads of associations and top lobbyists.”
The Alabama Republican Assembly concluded, “We further ask that current legislators who received funding from Hubbard’s PACS or entities to donate any remaining campaign funds to charity.”
Hubbard and Riley created a PAC, campaign 2014, which raised money for the GOP incumbents. Because this money was raised outside of the Alabama Republican Party (which can’t take sides in primaries) much of his money was used in Republican Primaries in 2014 against challengers. Critics of this arrangement argue that candidates should be able to raise their own money to run in the primaries. The ability to deliver, or withhold, large campaign contributions was one of the methods that Hubbard and his political allies were able to maintain their control over the caucus.
The Assembly concluded, “In addition, we would like to specifically thank prosecutor Matt Hart for his work in fighting corruption in our state, as well as Republican Assembly member Jonathan Barbee, who through his time with AL Reporter and as producer of The Voice of Alabama Politics has spent the last several years working at great personal cost to expose the truth about Mike Hubbard.”
The Republican Assembly calls itself the “Reagan wing” of the Republican Party, the Republican Assembly supports the right to keep and bear arms, lower taxes through less government, the right to life, and a strong national defense.
Unlike the Republican Party itself the Assembly is able to take sides and make endorsements in Republican Primary races. The Assembly is often also called the conscience of the Republican Party.