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Opinion | Mike Hubbard has taught us nothing

Mike Hubbard looks toward his family after receiving sentencing on Friday, July 8, 2016, in Opelika, Alabama. (VIA TODD VAN EMST/POOL PHOTO)

Mike Hubbard is going to prison. 

There is no glee in those words. There’s nothing happy or satisfying about them. A man did wrong and now a family will be without a father and a wife without a husband, and we’ll have one more body wedged into an Alabama prison for a few years. 

Because Mike Hubbard, former speaker of the Alabama House and arguably the most powerful man in Alabama politics a few years ago, is without a doubt going to prison. According to sources familiar with the sentencing process, Hubbard’s original four-year sentence (and 16 years of probation) still stands, despite the Alabama Supreme Court graciously knocking down six of the 11 charges he faced. 

Exactly when Hubbard will report to prison is a good question. The ALSC sent those six charges back down to a lower court to be considered again, so there’s a chance — maybe even likely — that Hubbard will again remain free on bond as he awaits that court’s decision. 

But eventually, he’ll go. As he should. 

Because Mike Hubbard broke the law. 

In a perfect world, Hubbard’s crimes would be a wake-up call to Alabamians and Alabama politicians. The total exposure by Hubbard’s trial of greed and good-ol-boy politickin’ that goes on in Montgomery on a daily basis should have been enough to force voters to pay attention and force lawmakers to walk a finer line. 

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But that hasn’t been the case. 

Instead, Alabama voters have done what they always do — go back to talking about football and voting for whoever registers for the popular party — and Alabama lawmakers have gone back to doing what they always do — stealing our money for themselves and their friends. 

I don’t understand it. And I never will. 

Hubbard’s case wasn’t a one-off, and you know it. Look at the people involved and the conversations they had — conversations through emails that were documented in court. They talked openly about schemes to get themselves and their friends more taxpayer money. They casually discussed ways that Hubbard, and other lawmakers, could use his office to generate more “consulting” contracts for himself. 

In email after email, Hubbard whined about going broke and how the ethics laws, which he helped write, were preventing him from earning a living. He was making about a half-million bucks per year at the time. 

A former governor, numerous lawmakers and some of the state’s top business leaders were all in on these conversations. 

And let me tell you from experience — from walking those State House halls, talking to lawmakers and lobbyists and staffers and mistresses and wives and some of the biggest players in all of state politics: What Hubbard was doing happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

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Even if you didn’t know that prior to Hubbard’s trial, the facts and evidence presented at it, which led a jury in his hometown to convict him on 12 felony charges, should have been enough to sway you. To make you sit up and pay attention. 

But you didn’t. 

And so, in the four years since Mike Hubbard was convicted, there has been a steady movement amongst Alabama lawmakers to roll back those ethics laws that convicted Hubbard. Because they’re just too darn “vague” and “broad.”

They’re actually neither, and a jury of regular folks in Lee County had zero trouble figuring them out. I’ve never met anyone, come to think of it, who was confused by the laws or the various definitions related to them. And I’ve never met a single lawmaker who accidentally broke those laws. 

And yet, a good number of the laws no longer exist. Because Alabama lawmakers know that there is zero consequences from Alabama voters for rolling back those ethics laws. 

Before you protest that statement, let me hit you with this: In 2018, lawmakers pushed through some of the most drastic changes to the ethics laws in a GOP-sponsored bill that even some GOP lawmakers criticized for going too far. The bill was highly unpopular with voters, according to every poll taken on it. 

Later that same year, Alabama voters went to the polls and returned more than 75 percent of incumbents to office, most of them ALGOP members. 

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Those same voters also returned to office an attorney general who fired the head of the prosecutions unit that went after Hubbard. An AG who also had violated Alabama campaign finance laws. 

Mike Hubbard should have been a wake-up call to the entire state. His trial and conviction should have been the nudge that Alabama voters need to stop the madness of straight-ticket voting and instead seek out good, educated, deserving candidates. 

But it hasn’t been. Before he even served a day, everyone went right back to doing exactly what they were before. 

Maybe Hubbard, should he ever actually report to prison, will come out of prison a better man. Maybe his punishment will change him. Maybe he will learn from his mistakes. 

If so, he’ll be the only one in the state.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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