31 Aug 2015
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
From the revelations regarding Ashley Madison, to the pending divorce of our State’s governor, there has been an almost pornographic revelry in these most human of failings, each of which exposes the follies and temptations that can overtake any life.
The discovery that politicos, lobbyists, and others in state government were alleged to have used the affair-promising dating site to commit adultery kept the rumor mill running at full-speed, as now does the flush of speculation as to why first lady Dianne Bentley is divorcing her husband of 50 years.
Gov. Robert Bentley has enjoyed the reputation of a good and honest man, who could, above all else, be trusted. That popularity has eroded somewhat with his push for new taxes, and, to a leaser degree, with how he retired the Confederate flags from the Capital memorial.
Adultery and divorce do not spark the same flame of public condemnation as in bygone days, but it is fair to expect surprise, disgust, rumor, or one of its sisters to appear on blogs, in print, and in conversation.
While Bentley is not the first Governor of our State to be divorced (that distinction goes to George Wallace) it will surely be a significant body-blow to the political order of things.
Divorce is not a crime, and neither were the actions of the respective cheaters on Ashley Madison.
This all begs the question regarding morality in leadership. But, perhaps these questions have already been asked, and answered, when Mike Hubbard was indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption, only to be cheered by some fellow republicans, and then reelected Speaker of the House by all Republicans.
The Republican supermajority came to power preaching a gospel of transparency, accountability, and ending public corruption in Montgomery. Many espoused traditional family values as well. In just the last two years, five Republican lawmakers have been arrested with accusations of domestic violence, drunkenness, lying, and cheating.
This does not bode well for the ALGOP brand.
Now, once again, thunder cracks over the capitol, and we now wait to see where the lightning strikes.
It is easy to understand how this all becomes much worse for the Bentley family, and the State. But, how it becomes better seems difficult to imagine.
Already, the radio scandalmongers, and political bloodsuckers are poised to extract a pound of flesh.
Judge not, least you also be judged?
Those who cloak themselves in false outrage for political, or ratings gains, while fanning the embers of scandal, are themselves condemned in the eyes of decent people.
While there are no heroes in this saga, there will be plenty marked with villainy.
So, who has the moral authority to lead?
John Adams rightly observed, “Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”
At a time when our State teeters on the brink of a major fiscal realignment, which may mean cutting services and closing government facilities across the board, two of the three most powerful officers responsible for managing these problems are out of frame. The Governor is going through a divorce, and the Speaker is going to criminal trial. That leaves the Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh as the only man standing with any real political capital left.
There is now a qualitative shift in power, giving Marsh and his allies the helm.
It is far too early to count Gov. Bentley out, but for the moment, he is only a minor figure in the equation. As for Hubbard, his very character should have excluded him from government service years ago. That he still remains Speaker is a testament to the moral weakness of the Republican supermajority, and the complicity of the Democrat minority.
A handful of House members have broken with Hubbard, and they may join forces with key Senators to navigate the State forward through these turbulent times, utilizing Marsh's leadership.
This will be a test to determine who will show moral leadership in a time of moral failings.
The Governor’s press office issued the following statement, “The Governor asks that you please respect the privacy of the Bentley family during this difficult time.”
We should respect the privacy of the Bentley family, but the Governor is a public figure, who was elected and reelected because people perceived him as a good and honest man. Therefore, the public will demand answers and they deserve to have them.
Perhaps, in light of the Ashley Madison scandal, and the impending Bentley divorce, we should not focus on how terrible the world is, but how sad and broken it can become. But, for every broken promise, there is a new day in which to keep our vows. For every crook, there are hundreds and thousands who give more than they take. And yes, for every moral failing there are millions who live by love and faith.
So, what now shall we do?
Micah 6:8b instructs us, “and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God…”
That is the journey forward.
18 Dec 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
We hear it all the time: “They're all the same.” That is what people say about Democratic and Republican politicians. Here in Alabama, most people have recently begun to vote Republican to a large degree, because they don’t like the President; but they still believe that all politicians are alike.
So, when Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is charged by the State with 23 Felony counts of public corruption, people just shake their heads thinking, “They’re all the same.”
Now, if Republican lawmakers had called for Hubbard to step down from his leadership position, and even more so, if he had been forced to leave the House altogether, then people might have said, “Hmm, I guess those Republicans are different.” But, no one did and so the collective wisdom of the people is proven right:
“They're all the same.”
When Hubbard and the Republicans of Alabama released their “Handshake with Alabama” in August 2010, they promised, among other things, to, “End[ing] Corruption in Montgomery.” Instead of ending it as promised since April 2014, four legislators have been arrested and one has had to resign in disgrace.
In the “Handshake” promise, they reminded voters that, “Democrats have held the majority in Montgomery for 136 years, and during that time, they created an atmosphere that breeds corruption and encourages graft. The recent criminal convictions of numerous Democratic legislators and other Democratic officials provides ample evidence of that fact.”
What does Hubbard’s arrest and indictment provide ample evidence of?
They're all the same.
In the "Handshake" memo that originated from Hubbard’s office, the Republicans say that they would no longer tolerate, “legislators and other public officials…holding questionable contracts with government agencies and those wishing to do business with the State.”
Most of the Felony counts against Hubbard are related to holding questionable contracts and representing those wishing to do business with the State. Yet, when Hubbard is charged with these offenses, not a word is heard from Republican lawmakers. This again leads people to believe, “They're all the same.”
The editorial board of the Dothan Eagle said it succinctly:
"Hubbard is considered innocent until proved guilty in court. However, we cannot forget that Hubbard crafted an attack on what he called 'a culture of corruption in Montgomery' to lead a sweeping GOP takeover of the legislature four years ago, wrestling control from Democrats who had held the majority for more than a century. Considering that he now stands accused of the same sort of corruption he used as a springboard to power, it’s reasonable to conclude that his ability to effectively lead our State’s governing body would be undermined by both his circumstances and the distraction of his defense preparations.”
The Eagle also says that for Republican legislator to allow him to remain in his position, “suggests that the perception of corruption is immaterial, which erodes public confidence in the prospect of a productive upcoming session.”
Sadly, the Dothan Eagle is the only publication, other than the Alabama Political Reporter, to call on the State’s lawmakers, to do what is right and remove Hubbard. Where is the Anniston Star, the Decatur Daily, the Gadsden Times, Montgomery Advertiser or AL.Com?
If Republican lawmakers will not stand up to corruption within their ranks, should not at the very least, the fourth estate call them to answer? Since when are editorial boards silent in the face of such blatant disregard for the people's House? The State House does not belong to Hubbard or the Republican Party, it belongs to the citizens of Alabama.
More than once, Republican lawmakers have said they are biding their time to allow the courts to deal with the Hubbard situation. That is a coward’s stance, proving they're all the same.
In the "Handshake with Alabama," Hubbard said, “When you look someone in the eye, give them your word and shake their hand, you make a bond. This Handshake Agenda is our bond with the voters of Alabama, and if Republicans are successful in taking over the Legislature, these are the items we will immediately work to pass.”
The voters gave Hubbard the chance and he failed them. Completely.
But, not all Republicans are the same, but you can't tell that from their actions. The State heard the Republican “Handshake promise” and they believed it. But, as any honest person knows, deeds, not words, are the proof of promise.
So, by leaving Hubbard to run the State, the Republicans have left the people with an example of how they are all the same.
There is time to change that perception, but the clock is ticking.
12 Sep 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Wednesday, indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, was granted a continuance in his felony perjury case. Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III granted Moore’s request and has rescheduled his trial for October 27, just seven days before the State’s general election.
During the hearing, Moore’s attorney, Bill Baxley, restated many points of his argument that were rejected by Judge Walker in May and by the Alabama Supreme Court earlier in this month.
According the a report by oanews.com, Baxley told Judge Walker that, “We’re not able to adequately represent our client with the State’s discovery at this time, your Honor.”
In a legal strategy designed by Speaker Mike Hubbard’s white collar criminal defense attorney J. Mark White, the Moore attorneys filed a motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds that Attorney General Luther Strange did not have the authority to appoint supernumerary District Attorney W. Van Davis to represent him in the Grand Jury investigation into possible criminal activities of Hubbard and others.
Answering Baxley’s statement, that he had not had time to prepare for the case, Matt Hart, Chief of the AG’s Special White Collar Crimes Division said, “I think they were pinning their hopes on a 'Hail Mary' without prepping, apparently.”
Judge Walker has not been moved by Baxley’s previous arguments, but is operating his court by the strict letter of Alabama law.
Despite the fact that the prosecutors have turned over all available evidence found in discovery, Baxley continued to request more.
Baxley also made the argument that they need additional time to contact Hubbard, who is “intimately involved” in the case. To this Hart said, “They could pick up a phone and call him, but that’s their issue.” While granting the motion to continue courtroom observers suggested, that Judge Walker did not seem amused with Baxley stalling tactics.
Moore is charged with “knowingly making a materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation, in his answer” to the Lee County Grand Jury. The State has filed two felony complaints of perjury and two felony complaints of making false statements.
These charges are a result of Moore Grand Jury testimony in which he denies making threatening statements to his republican primary opponent Josh Pipkin. However, Pipkin recorded his conversations with Moore and those tapes were in the procession of the prosecution at the time of Moore’s testimony.
The Alabama Political Reporter was the first news organization to reveal the content of these tapes in March of this year. (See link here)
APR was also the first to publish the audio of Moore and Pipkin's conversation. (See audio here)
Over the course of several months, Hubbard and Moore met with various influential individuals in Enterprise, making it absolutely clear that they were determined to kill the new jobs coming to the city if Pipkin would not relinquish the race to Moore. If the deal fell through, the backup plan for EEC’s expansion was to relocate the facility to Oklahoma, a blow to the entire Alabama economy, not just Enterprise and Coffee Counties.
In the audio recording Moore can be heard telling Pipkin, “"I'm waiting to meet with the Speaker... I don't want to put the Australians [EEC] off too long so either way I've got to meet with Mike (Hubbard) this week. This deal is too important to our city. I know some think I have nothing to do with it but they are very wrong. Mike controls this deal and my relationship with him has everything to do with it. Relationships in politics are everything. And Mike is very loyal to his friends. He just is."
In another statement, Moore responded to a question about whether he and Hubbard were going to kill the jobs deal if Pipkin refused to abandon his race. Moore responded, "I got a meeting with the Speaker and he is furious… At the end of the day, yeah, because we were fixin' to land a pretty good deal, and there's a lot at stake, I can assure you, for our City and our community." Moore later told Pipkin, "If you'll give me your word that you'll get out, when I meet with him [Hubbard] next week, I'll tell him... he's going to get out, so we need this deal for him to stay out, but I need your word on that. And I'll talk with the Speaker.”
He also told Pipkin, that Hubbard, “I will bring Holy Hell down on [Pipkin] him,” if he did not get out of the primary race against Moore.
Moore actually won the Republican primary.
Moore’s trial is excepted to last two days and many defense attorneys have told this publication that it should be a slam-dunk for the State. Moore faces up to 60 years in a State prison if convicted.
02 Oct 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, has been busy raising campaign cash. The latest FCPA reports show that his personal campaign account raised $89,000.00 in September, while his political action committee, Storming the State House PAC, brought in $22,400.00. Storm PAC has shown an anemic ability to raise funds over the last year, due in part to the growing public corruption probe that has cast a shadow over Hubbard’s future.
On September 4, Hubbard held a pricy fundraiser to replenish the empty coffers of Storm PAC. Much of the new money raised came from that event.
One of the major contributors to Hubbard’s PAC was Software Technology, Inc. (STI) who, in August, announced a partnership with the Alabama Department of Education to provide technology to “enhance school culture by noting and rewarding positive behavior of students…through a program called “Learning Earnings.”
Also Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, personal injury attorneys, gave Storm PAC a substantial contribution. A list of usual contributors also includes the Realtors Association, ALFA and Clark Richardson.
The PAC listed $33,941.28 in expenses with most of the money going to the campaigns of Representative Lesley Vance, Tommy Hanes, Nathaniel Ledbetter, and Bob Fincher.
Hubbard’s personal campaign account faired much better than Storm PAC by raising almost $90,000 in cash. Hubbard’s contributors are a whose who of special interests with business before the State Legislature. BCA’s Progress PAC, Forest PAC and the Builders PAC being the heaviest hitters.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Hubbard's business interests were at the top of expenditures for his campaign fund, with Auburn Network and Craftmaster Printers, Inc., taking $30,741.26 of the 56,996.18 in expenditures.
Hubbard faces little opposition in his quest for reelection, however, the ever present specter of the Lee County Grand Jury hangs menacingly over his head.
10 Sep 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has called a Caucus meeting for Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. in Montgomery.
According to a Caucus email obtained by the Alabama Political Reporter, the stated purpose of the meeting is to “determine, by a vote of the Caucus, our nominees for leadership positions and operating Rules for the upcoming quadrennium.”
The actual, underlying reason for the meeting is that Hubbard is terrified that he will be defeated as Speaker. In 2010, before winning the House, the Republican caucus decided to institute a “pledge” whereby leadership positions were determined by a vote in the caucus, which could not be changed when it came time for the actual process on the House floor.
When the “pledge” was instituted into the process Hubbard and his fellow House Republicans thought they would gain control of the House, but did not realize that they would have a supermajority. The reason for the “pledge” was to keep Democrats from having any say as to who would be elected Speaker or any other positions. However, by creating a supermajority, the need for the “pledge” was not really necessary.
But now, Hubbard wants to use the “pledge” to ensure that his fellow Republicans can’t vote against him as Speaker.
Hubbard is counting on not being indicted before the elections, with the idea of being elected Speaker before he faces any criminal charges. Hubbard could then hold the “pledge” over his caucus member’s heads as a way to retain his speaker's seat even after indictments were served.
House members who spoke off the record for fear of retaliation are worried that Hubbard’s plan might work. “This is a diabolical scheme, because if he can pull this off we are almost trapped into keeping him as speaker, even while he faces criminal charges.”
Another Legislator says he thinks that the “pledge” would and should be void if Hubbard is in fact charged with committing crimes and using his office for personal gain. “After what the caucus did to Scott [Beason], it would be silly to think we would have to elect Mike, even if he is indicted.”
Many republicans have grown weary of Hubbard’s leadership and the impending threat of indictments and they are forming their own coalition to oust Hubbard from leadership. “If he is indicted he must step-down or be removed, said a long-serving republican House member, we cannot have an indicted Speaker, it is unacceptable.”
See email below:
Re: Important Caucus Meeting
All elected Republican Members of the Alabama House of Representatives will meet on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. in Montgomery.
The purpose of this meeting will be to determine, by a vote of the Caucus, our nominees for leadership positions and operating Rules for the upcoming quadrennium. Since there will be a brand new legislature elected on November 4, it is imperative that we make decisions on our leadership and organization so that there will be no lack of direction as we head into the Legislative Orientation in December as well as the constitutionally-mandated Organizational Session in January.
Please mark this date on your calendar and if you are successful on Election Day, make certain that you attend this meeting.
The location of the meeting will be determined closer to the date.
Lunch will be served.
15 Sep 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—A cavernous room just off the Washington St. entrance to the State House is receiving a six figure facelift on orders from Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
“He is obsessed with renovating that room,” said a State House insider who asked to not be publicly identified in this report. The over $200,000 that is being spent to renovate room 200 comes from a 2006 Bond Issue according to the State’s Finance Department.
Under the Republican lead legislature, to date, over $2 million has been spent to refurbish the State House. The building is now replete with granite-topped tables, expensive leather chairs and faux marble flooring.
The stated purpose for the expensive renovation of room 200, is to offer the legislature a new joint conference committee meeting room. The Legislative Building Authority, which is overseeing the project, has justified the expenditure by saying that many conference committee meetings spill out into the halls due to the number of people wanting to witness the proceedings. Most of those attending conference committees are in fact lobbyists and not concerned Alabama citizens. In a time of financial crisis, this is just the latest in lavish spending for the comfort of lawmakers and lobbyists.
Beyond the new carpet, faux marble and expensive chairs for the State House, the Senate chamber is receiving a $200,000 facelift with new hickory desks custom built by State inmates at J.F. Ingram State Technical College in Deatsville.
The renovation of room 200 and the Senate facelift combined will cost State taxpayer around $500,000, at a time when budget shortfalls are estimated at well over $100 million for the coming fiscal year.
This is just the latest spending spree by the Republican Supermajority. (See Article: Hubbard Furnishes Luxury Cloakroom for Legislators at Taxpayer Expense)
During the 2013 legislative session, Hubbard authorized tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to paint and furnish a "cloakroom" for legislators to "relax in" on the fourth floor of the State House.
Information gathered from the Legislative Building Authority shows that Hubbard spent over $30,000.00 on furniture, paint and carpeting for room 402. This does not include built-in-bookshelves, a full kitchen or other amenities and construction costs.
This room, which has never been used, was adorned with expensive furnishings, all with an air of absolute refinement; the likes of which was never seen under the GOP's Democratic predecessors.
There was even a grand, eleven-foot conference table that cost the taxpayers $4,464.00. The hardwood table was surrounded by 20 San Simeon Fabric high-back chair with a price tag of $6,380.00.
Beyond the huge conference table, the opulent space was also decorated with 4 couches costing $6,166.00, chairs and a love seat priced at $6,537.00 and tables, et cetera at $3,051.00.
All this occurring while the State was forced to borrow $437 million from the gas and oil trust fund.
After this publication made its report on Hubbard’s cloakroom, the project was abandoned and some of the furniture was sold.
Speaker Hubbard has wildly expanded State spending on the trappings of power adorning his own office with new carpet, new paint and $2000 in silk plants at taxpayer expense. The Speaker’s suite is also outfitted with multiple flat-screen televisions, one completely dedicated to a continuous rotation of pictures featuring Hubbard with political dignitaries. The Speaker routinely travels with an entourage and personal body guard, many times in two black SUV’s with tinted windows. It is the Speaker's privilege to be provided a State employee for protection; however, few have ever accepted such a high level of security. (See Hubbard Wildly Increases Spending in Speaker's Office)
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh does not use a security person or State vehicle, which would be his privilege as well.
Once again, Hubbard is using his power as Speaker to spend more taxpayer money on luxurious vanity projects.
08 Sep 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday’s ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court to deny Rep. Barry Moore’s writ of mandamus sent a bold message to the corrupt elite of State politics, “No you don’t have 9 of 9 Justices in your pocket.” In its unanimous decision the court rejected politics and allowed the criminal justice system to move forward, unhindered by partisan politics.
Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorney, J. Mark White, took to the pages of al.com to once again try and spin his losing argument that W. Van Davis and Matt Hart were not lawfully endowed with the power to act in the investigation of Hubbard and others criminal activities.
Hubbard's white collar criminal defense attorney issued a statement saying, “By denying Rep. Moore's petition without opinion, today's ruling leaves unanswered, the fundamental constitutional questions Rep. Moore raised. Those questions remain for another day.”
White’s statement that the court left questions unanswered is either delusional or disingenuous or both. The court’s ruling could not have been clearer: They rejected Moore’s argument completely.
White’s stratagem (not Rep. Moore’s attorney Bill Baxley) to have the case dismissed on the grounds that Attorney General Luther Strange did not have the authority to appoint Davis, was a flawed effort, that depended on the court ruling according to political persuasion and not in accordance with State statute. But White, like his client Hubbard, thinks the courts are tools that can be bent to the will of the well-connected crook.
The Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roy Moore, executed justice, while showing judicial restraint in its simple denial of Rep. Moore’s writ. An opinion was not necessary nor warranted.
But from the beginning, White has carried out a plan to spin Hubbard’s innocence. White’s method is to backslap or bully his way around the media and even the courts. This is his standard operating procedure, which fits nicely with his client's own modus operandi. White is not a trial lawyer, he is a fixer.
The days leading up to the court’s ruling were filled with an abundance of rumors. The most gratuitous was that the fix was in because former Gov. Bob Riley had convinced the court to rule in Rep. Moore’s favor and by extension, quash any pending indictments against Hubbard.
One of the more common rumors wafting like so much dung stench from Goat Hill, was that Davis and Hart had made a deal with Riley and Hubbard to drop the investigation, “for the good the the Republican party.”
Most of the rumors had more to do with the fact that Hubbard was hosting a pricey fundraiser last week than any actual truth about the investigation.
The aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling has generated an atmosphere of jubilation and fear.
The most absurd spin coming from Hubbard loyalists is that Hubbard and Moore were betrayed because White and Baxley are Democrats. The other gem is that the court’s ruling was just the latest in a political battle between warring factions of the Republican party. The fact is that the court did their duty, before the law and the people of this State.
Rep. Moore’s trial is set for September 15, but it is believed that his attorneys will file for a continuance, and that it will most likely be granted.
Even naysayers now believe that Hubbard and others will be indicted, something this publication has predicted all along.
A quote attributed to both Bert Masterson and Earl Wilson states, "Somebody recently figured out that we have 35 million laws to enforce the Ten Commandments.”
It appears the Ten are still present in the court led by Chief Justice Roy Moore.