By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
According to prosecutors, disgraced Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) made $2.3 million in unethical deals over a four year period. Through it all the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) was there helping Mike Hubbard both professionally and personally,
BCA President and CEO William “Billy” T. Canary, Billy Canary, who is a registered lobbyist, testified that he was part of what he called a “kitchen cabinet” that met with Mike Hubbard every week of the legislative sessions. This group also included: Hubbard’s Chief of Staff Josh Blades, Dax Swatek (a lobbyist), John Ross (a lobbyist), and guests invited in by members of the group such as experts in the field being discussed.
The disgraced former Speaker was found guilty of two counts of intentionally soliciting, and receiving favors from BCA Board Member Will Brooke including a $150,000 investment in Craftmaster Printing when it was about to default on a loan that Hubbard would have been responsible for personally. But did BCA get anything back from Mike Hubbard?
Hubbard was also indicted for soliciting and receiving favors from Billy Canary; but was found not guilty of that after Canary swore on the stand that job recommendations he gave Hubbard were not due to Hubbard being the Speaker; but rather because the two were such close friends. Canary told the court, “I love Mike Hubbard like a brother.”
BCA was a vocal defender of the controversial Common Core curriculum. Speaker Hubbard proved a formidable ally of BCA in preventing bills repealing the Common Core standards from even being considered on the House floor. BCA is the Alabama affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce which has spent over $51 million on lobbying efforts to implement and protect the Common Core.
Many Republican groups in Alabama despise and opposed the experimental standards, which are supported by the Obama Administration. The five hundred member Republican State Executive Committee twice passed resolutions demanding that the standards be repealed. Conservative and Tea Party groups in Alabama, including the Rainy Day Patriots and Alabama Eagle Forum have demanded that the standards be repealed, but under Hubbard his lobbyist “friends” got their way……while Hubbard got his money. Brooke served as Chairman of BCA during much of this period.
Longtime Montgomery political strategist Jack Campbell wrote that the House and Senate, “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 US Chamber of Commerce. Canary is a devoted proponent of Common Core, an issue repugnant to a majority of conservatives.”
Rainy Day Patriots Co-chair and Alabama Legislative Watchdogs Director Ann Eubank said, “Those of us who have been fighting the implementation of Common Core State Standards since day one are well aware of the money ties of the US Chamber of Commerce and it’s state affiliate, Business Council of Alabama, to those who have supported and been complicit in blocking our attempts to stop the federal takeover of our schools.”
Eubank said, “We have witnessed Billy Canary sitting on the front row directing the members of committees with a “wink and a nod.” When I asked legislators why they vote to keep Common Core, they reply ” if I don’t my campaign dollars will be gone.””
Canary testified in a March 11, 2013 public hearing: “BCA urges you to vote no on SB443 (to repeal and replace the Common Core aligned Alabama College and Career Ready Standards). The voices of business in Alabama support the College and Career Ready Standards and feels that they are the cornerstone of the state’s Plan 2020.”
Canary said, “Our children need to be the best educated work force and elimination of these standards would be a disservice to our children.”
A jury has found that money and favors did exchange hands to Mike Hubbard and that exchange was criminally unethical on Mike Hubbard’s part; but was it also criminally unethical on the part of BCA Chairman Brooke and does BCA itself have any culpability here?
Is this one of the matters still before the Lee County Grand Jury?
Under Canary, the BCA has grown to be the most powerful lobbying force in Alabama politics, but at what price?