By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
For twenty months, the Alabama House of Representatives operated with a dark cloud of suspicion hanging over it. Then, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was indicted on 23 counts of felony ethics law violations. Speaker Hubbard maintained his innocence and allegedly used the power of his office to encourage members of State government to make statements defending him. Hubbard even used the fact that 104 of the 105 members voted for him as Speaker as proof that he was innocent, and that he was the victim of a “political witch hunt” by State prosecutors.
One Congressman, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), even went so far as to claim that the reason Hubbard was prosecuted was because Attorney General Luther Strange (R) wanted to be Governor and that Mike Hubbard was in the way of those ambitions. Hubbard himself repeated that bizarre claim. Never mind that AG Strange had recused himself from all matters related to Mike Hubbard, and appointed retired St. Clair County District Attorney W. Van Davis (R) as Acting Attorney General, to make all decisions involving whether or not to prosecute the sitting Speaker of the House.
During one bizarre episode, members of the House of Representatives actually were encouraged to (and many did) sign a bizarre letter to the US Attorney urging that the federal government open an investigation into Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart. Hubbard even used his position as Speaker to encourage Governor Bentley to intervene.
Bentley is now being investigated for his firing of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Director Spencer Collier. Collier alleges that he was fired for cooperating with the Hubbard prosecution. Hubbard used his position as Speaker of the House to contact advertisers of the Alabama Political Reporter and threatened legislation important to them, due to this website’s role in the investigation that led to his being indicted. The Attorney General’s office was even targeted by Hubbard and his minions during the budgeting process.
Eventually all the bizarre claims of prosecutorial misconduct and all the frivolous court filings by the Hubbard defense team were dismissed by the court system and Hubbard finally had his day in court. A jury of his peers in his home county decided that Hubbard was in fact guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of 12 of the 23 charges that the Lee County Grand Jury had brought against him. The prosecutors were vindicated and the legislators who had stood with Mike were publicly embarrassed by this whole 20 month long ordeal.
Reformers in the House have introduced legislation to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley) told the Alabama Political Reporter that, “Two great ethics bills were dropped in the House that I cosponsored along with others – Rep. Allan Treadaway dropped a bill that says that if you are indicted on a felony that you must step down from a leadership position until you are cleared of charges. Rep. Isaac Whorton bill says, they if you are convicted of a felony and you have fines, costs, restitution not paid in full, or if you are under any form of supervised or unsupervised probation, or if your voting rights have not been restored, that you can not register or be a lobbyist. If you are already a lobbyist then you are excepted due to ex post facto laws.”
Rep. Isaac Whorton (R-Valley) sponsored House Bill 32. HB32 would prevent convicted felons from being registered lobbyists once they get out of prison…..there are several there now. There is speculation that disgraced Speaker Mike Hubbard could serve his time in prison and then come back as a registered lobbyist for Bob Riley and Associations or the Business Council of Alabama. Former Governor Bob Riley (R) testified that Mike Hubbard was like a son to him. His daughter (and registered lobbyist) Minda Riley Campbell testified that she love Mike Hubbard and that he was like a brother.
Business Council of Alabama President and Chief Executive William “Billy” Canary testified that he love Mike Hubbard and that he was one of his best friends. Both of the Rileys testified that Hubbard repreatedly asked to come work for Bob Riley and Associates and prosecutors presented email evidence confirming that.
Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Morris) is the sponsor of House Bill 11. HB11 would reform the Alabama State Legislature so that people who were under indictment could not remain in leadership positions in the legislature while they await trial. “Under existing law, a member of the Legislature who holds a leadership position and who is indicted for a crime continues to hold his or her leadership position in the Legislature. This bill would automatically suspend a member of the Legislature who holds a leadership position from serving in that leadership position if the member is indicted for a crime that is a felony.”
The bill would clarify that the member would continue to serve in the Legislature during the suspension. They could not be Speaker of the House or Speaker Pro Tem, and they would lose their committee chair.
This would not apply to Governor Robert Bentley (R) who is under his own scandal cloud. The House Judiciary Committee however is formally investigating impeaching the Governor. Federal and State prosecutors as well as the Alabama Ethics Commission are also reportedly looking at allegations against the Governor. The legislature has time to pass both of these common sense reform bills but they would need to act quickly.