By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
Federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge to order former Alabama Republican House Majority Leader Micky Hammon to turn over more than $50,000 as part of a guilty plea to a charge of mail fraud stemming from improper campaign finance practices.
In a motion filed Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama requested a hearing on a motion that Hammon be ordered to pay $50,647 in forfeiture money — the amount prosecutors believe he obtained, transferred or spent through illegal means.
“That amount represents the fraudulent loss the United States believes the Defendant is responsible for,” prosecutors wrote in the motion for a hearing.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in an order filed Wednesday granted the forfeiture hearing. The hearing will be held on Feb. 15, the same day as Hammon’s sentencing. Sentencing had been scheduled for January but was moved earlier this month after prosecutors requested a delay.
Hammon pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges in September related to his use of campaign contributions in 2013 and 2014 for personal expenses unrelated to his campaign or his public office — a violation of campaign finance rules.
“Self-dealing by elected officials erodes society’s confidence in its governmental institutions,” said U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin Sr. in September. “Self-dealing is precisely what occurred here. Those who donated to Representative Hammon’s campaign expected that the campaign would use those resources lawfully and to foster an informative public debate.”
Hammon could face up to 20 years in prison on the mail fraud charge and was automatically removed from his House seat.
Prosecutors say Hammon devised a scheme to move money from his campaign account to his personal accounts and used that money for personal expenses, prosecutors said. The contributions were mailed, causing the Postal Service Investigator General to lead the investigation.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Hammon would receive the checks from various donors mailed to his principal campaign committee set up in 2013, others were mailed directly to him. Once he got the checks in the mail, he would endorse and deposit them in his campaign’s bank account, Franklin’s office said. Once the contributions were deposited in his campaign account, he would then write a check from his campaign account to his personal accounts.
“Representative Hammon placed those funds into his own personal piggy bank,” Franklin said.
Hammon, first elected in 2002, was seeking re-election to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2014, where he had served as House majority leader under former Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard and for a few months under current Republican Speaker Mac McCutcheon. The campaign committee was registered in September 2013.
Hammon, now 60, was long considered one of Hubbard’s closest allies, responsible for whipping votes in the House and enforcing Hubbard’s leadership on the floor. Hammon stepped down as majority leader in February, eight months after Hubbard was found guilty of 12 felony ethics violations. Just a week before Hammon stepped down, he survived a vote of no confidence among the members of the House Republican Caucus by only one vote.
Many members of the caucus had been made aware that Hammon was under investigation, and several sources close to the vote said it stemmed from some members’ apprehension about him remaining in a leadership position while under investigation by the Postal Service’s Inspector General, APR reported in February.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, said Hammon was under investigation for a separate matter when the mail fraud charge was brought against him. They have not commented on the other investigation or whether it has been closed.