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A Moral Crisis Within State Government

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Opinion 

 

Currently, our State government finds itself in a time of moral crisis. This crisis has been caused by the Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, whose extraordinary greed and blatant disregard for the law has brought shame upon Alabama.

This crisis is real and immediate. Yet, it seems as if no one in the Republican party has even noticed.

Hubbard did not act alone, and therefore, his is not the only head on which this dishonor must rest.

Hubbard supplied the seeds of corruption, but other hands helped sow the fields. Those who enabled him, and those who ignored his crimes, all bare a measure of guilt for his poisonous harvest. Many are contaminated simply by their complicity, others by there willful neglect. 

John Adams wrote, “Because power corrupts, society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”

But, where is this moral authority and character to be found?

Former Gov. Bob Riley and Billy Canary, Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) have been Hubbard’s most potent enablers. Both men are named in the Hubbard indictments, but for now, the prosecution is referring to them as material witnesses, not suspects or un-indicted co-conspirators.

It is not known if Riley or Canary are cooperating with the State’s prosecution of Hubbard, but many believe this to be the case.

Sen. Del Marsh, who is expected to be reelected as Senate President Pro Tem in January, was also one of Hubbard’s enablers, and he has most certainly been a witness to many of the crimes of which the State has accused Hubbard.

Marsh, who testified before the Lee County Grand Jury for almost six hours, has stated publicly that he will not be charged with any crimes in connection with Hubbard’s indictments.

Marsh knows a lot about Hubbard’s activities, has he turned state’s evidence to save himself or did he just dance close to the flame but not so near as to get burned? 

As Finance Chairman of the ALGOP during Hubbard’s tenure, surely Marsh was aware that Hubbard was passing money from the party to his business interests as is described in counts 1-4 of the Grand Jury Indictments.

To think that Marsh was unaware that Hubbard was routing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions back into his own pockets is absolutely ludicrous.

Likewise, Marsh was aware of Hubbard’s scheme to place 23 words into the General Fund Budget to benefit APCI, as outlined in count 5 of the Grand Jury indictments. Marsh even appointed himself to the joint conference committee that dealt with the addition of the wording to benefit APCI. The 23 words would have remained in the budget had not Governor Robert Bentley threatened to expose Hubbard’s scheme.

And, there are many others who either enabled Hubbard, or stood by silently as he enriched himself.

Herein, lies the crisis: Hubbard's dishonesty is like a cancer that has metastasized and spread to every corner of our State government, and no one save the men and women of the Attorney General’s Office did anything to stop him. 

This deliberate failure and willful neglect to confront Hubbard by members of the republican caucus hangs in the air like the foul smell of a rotting corpse.

A "sin of omission" is defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as a “failure to do something one can and ought to do.” Failure to act or willful omission is a breach of moral law, and is antithetical to the code of conduct required of elected officials.

John Locke wrote, “We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us.”

Hubbard did not storm the State House as he said in his vanity publication of the same name, he sacked it. And far too many stood by and watched as it burned. What is worse, is that not a single Republican has called for Hubbard to step aside.

But Hubbard should not be the only one forced out of leadership, so should his enablers and in the current leadership who knew what he was doing and failed to act.

It could be that only Hubbard will be charged with breaking the law. But, others stood very close to that bonfire of corruption.

Now we must ask: Who are the men and women who will show moral character and end this crisis before the State House, becomes little more than a House of Shame?

US Attorney General Charges President Obama With 23 Counts Of Felony Public Corruption

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Opinion 

If tomorrow’s headlines read “Obama Charged with 23 Counts of Felony Public Corruption” the outrage voiced by Alabama lawmakers would be second to none. From Washington DC to Washington County, Alabama ’s Republican lawmakers would be calling for the President to resign immediately, without so much as a mention of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Speaker Mike Hubbard and ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead would be the first to fire off a series of press releases with Hubbard taking to Facebook, to see how many likes he could accumulate by shouting “I told you, Obama was a crook.”

However, Hubbard is charged with 23 Felony counts of public corruption, and instead of calls for him to step down, there is rally held in his support, while the rest of the State’s GOP leaders remain conspicuously quiet.

The Latin word virulentus, meaning, "a poisoned wound" or "full of poison,” comes to mind when thinking about how our State lawmakers have reacted to Hubbard indictments.

Allowing Hubbard to remain in office, much less remain Speaker of the House, shows just how far the poison has spread.

Dante Alighieri observed that, “The darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

Our State is in a time of moral crisis, and yet, even the State’s Democrats remain largely mute.

Not one newspaper editorial board has called for Hubbard to step aside, on the contrary, they have repeatedly allowed Hubbard to spin false statements with impunity.

Only this publication and the State’s highest ranking law enforcement office has dared to challenge the foul lies that Hubbard and his attorney J. Mark White have spewed like so much vomit from a dogs mouth.

How is it that former law enforcement officers like Republican Representatives Mike Ball, Allen Farley and Mac McCutcheon could stand cheering, as US Representative Mike Rogers accused the State’s attorney general of “Chicago style, gutter politics?”

If Rogers were charged with the same felony counts as Hubbard, he would have been required by the US House Republican Caucus to immediately step down from any leadership role.

Rogers is the lone voice coming from DC and he thinks that the State’s attorney general is crook, not his friend Hubbard.

What about the State’s other Republican Reps, Martha Roby, Bradley Byrne, Mo Brooks, Richard Aderholt and Gary Palmer? Do they think that the attorney general is engaged in a rogue prosecution?

Other than Rogers, there is only silence.

They will say that this is a State government matter, and that they should remain neutral. But, Rogers has already shattered that excuse. As Justice Brandeis said, “Neutrality is, at times, a graver sin than belligerence.”

However, if tomorrow, the headlines were about felony charges against the most powerful political figure in the country, the bonfire of indignation would rage like an inferno.

But when the most powerful political leader in the State of Alabama is charged with 23 counts of Felony public corruption, the silence from Washington DC, to Washington County is deafening.

 

Hubbard Reelected: What Were They Thinking?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In the immediate hours and subsequent days since Mike Hubbard was reelected Speaker of the House—despite being indicted on 23 counts of felony public corruption—the big question has been, “what were they thinking?”

From the reports leaked from the Republican Caucus meeting held privately, away from voters and the press, 59 Republican House members voted to reelect Hubbard, 8 voted for a replacement, 2 abstained and 3 were absent.

So, we ask, “what were they thinking?”

It was a secret ballot, and unless some feared a handwriting analysis, they were free to vote their conscience.

All of the members present were aware of Hubbard’s legal problems and the potential that in the coming months he may be found guilty of at least some of the crimes with which he is charged.

So, why did they act to reelect?

The eight who voted against Hubbard may have had varying motivates, but the underlying theme was they believed it would be bad for the State and bad for the Republican party to be represented by a man facing felony criminal charges, related to his official position in the House.

Those who voted for Hubbard can be divided in to two basic camps: the "True Believers" and the "Go Along to Get Alongs."

The "True Believers" are around 25 individuals who are part of this cult of personality, of which Hubbard is their leader, no matter what. 

The newly-minted legislators who took control of the State House in 2010, were crusaders who accomplished something, in their minds, heroic. They had triumphed in a battle against 136 years of corrupt Democratic rule of State government. Along with their brothers-in-arms they had done something truly historic, something that their fathers, grand-fathers and even great-grand-fathers would not have believed possible.

They were special, they were different and the voters and the press and most especially their leader had confirmed it.

Most of these men had been handpicked from relative obscurity by the leader, Mike Hubbard. He gave them the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves, a calling to many beyond their wildest dreams.

Hubbard was "The Leader,” of the Republican revolution in Alabama. He was “The Man.”

Hubbard’s personality and leadership style follows classic examples of cult leaders who are eventually found to be corrupt.

Former FBI Counterintelligence Agent Joe Navarro, writing for Psychology Today, notes that certain movement leaders exhibit the same personality traits: “They all have or had an over-abundant belief that they were special, that they and they alone had the answers to problems, and that they had to be revered. They demanded perfect loyalty from followers, they overvalued themselves and devalued those around them, they were intolerant of criticism, and above all they did not like being questioned or challenged. And yet, in spite of these less than charming traits, they had no trouble attracting those who were willing to overlook these features.”

(See link here.)

In his book, Them and Us, Dr. Arthur J. Deikman identifies four basic behaviors that influence fanatical group thinking: compliance with the group, dependence on the leader, avoiding dissent, and devaluing the outsider.

The "True Believers" within the caucus have fallen into the same pattern of behavior which has allowed dictators and cult leaders to lay waste to moral law across history.

Even, if Hubbard is found guilty of his crimes the True Believer will also remain steadfast in their belief that he was innocent, it is the only way they can keep some seeing themselves as flawed and wrong. 

The cult of personality surrounding Hubbard is strong and currently unshakable.

To understand the others it is important to realize that the House Caucus under Hubbard is a type of fraternity, with special rites, privileges and punishments. To rise in the ranks of the House fraternal order, the members must obey, and even those who disagree must go along to get ahead. It was this group that gave Hubbard the majority he needed to remain speaker.

For years there have been rumors and suspicions that Hubbard was a crook, or at least that he played fast and loose with the rules. This is not surprising in government, and is often considered just the way the game is played.

The "Go Alongs To Get Alongs" made the conscious choice to do what was ethically wrong for personal gain or to avoid personal loss, which is much the same thing.

Perhaps, they said to themselves, “If I vote against Mike, I will not be a committee chairman or I can’t do this or that for my district, so I need to put aside what is best for what is good.”

This may seem like a very rational choice, given the current authoritarian state of the House Caucus, but it's a choice that betrays the very notion of Republic and moral law.

According to sources inside the party, a plurality of this group were leaning toward voting Hubbard out as Speaker, until Rep. Barry Moore was acquitted. The fear of Hubbard surviving his trial caused these to run from the moral high ground and fall on their knees, rather than, perhaps, their sword.

However, to compare the case against Moore, case with the one facing Hubbard, is a false narrative invented by Hubbard. 

If Hubbard is found guilty of any of the charges the state has accused him of many in the the go along to get along clan will claim to be one of the eight who voted against Hubbard. Never will so many claim to be a part of such a small number.

What will be the aftermath of this vote? What will be the legacy if Hubbard is in fact convicted of the any of the crimes of which he now stands accused?

Alabama is a state that perhaps understands football better than any other, so, the legacy of the Penn State sex scandal might serve as an appropriate analogy. 

The Penn State child sex abuse scandal revealed in 2011 was a result of longtime former university football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual assault of at least eight underage boys on or near the university. Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of sexual crimes against young boys.

While the crimes Sandusky was convicted of were heinous, the cover-up and denial ruined the legacy of one of the countries most legendary football programs. 

An investigation commissioned by the PSU board and conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh found that Penn State President Graham Spanier, Head Coach Joe Paterno, along with athletic director Tim Curley and school vice president Gary Schultz, had known about allegations of child abuse on Sandusky's part as early as 1998, and were complicit in failing to disclose them.

Freed stated that these men and Penn State had shown a "total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims" for 14 years and "empowered" Jerry Sandusky to continue his abuse.”

For now, from Washington, DC to Washington County, not one Republican leader has raised their voice to question the wisdom of reelecting a man who is under felony indictments.

Penn State now lives with the legacy of crimes, cover-up and acquiescence. In the near future, the same may be said about Alabama’s Republican leadership and the Republican House members who reelected Hubbard.

What were they thinking?

The "True Believers" were not thinking.

The "Go Along To Get Alongs" were thinking of themselves.

And those who voted to replace Hubbard...they were thinking about all of us. 

Speaker Mike Hubbard once called corruption “an albatross around our neck in the State.”

Now, that storied bird has a name...and it is Hubbard.

 

Beware: You Are Next

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

 

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

 Because I was not a Socialist.

 Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

 Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

 Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

 Because I was not a Jew.

 Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

 

This poem attributed to Martin Niemöller is a poignant reminder that if evil is to triumph, good people just need to remain silent.

This should be warning for members of the Press Corps.

President Pro Tem Del Marsh has decided that the Britts are not journalists. If you are a reporter, and write articles that he doesn’t like, you could be next.

Marsh recently told Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star,  "I've never considered the Britts to be true journalists.”

(See article here.)

This is an odd statement coming from a man who, in 2010, spent hours in our Press Room in St. Clair County, even breaking bread with us and our staff.

This is also peculiar for a man who, in 2012, encouraged us to bring the Alabama Political Reporter to the State House, even allowing us to use his conference room to conduct interviews with various State leaders.

This is an extremely, disingenuous comment from a man who sat with me and my wife in the RSA cafeteria in 2012, and asked us to work “closely” with him to explain his vision for streamlining government.

And even more surprising, all of this, coming from a man who once called us his friends.

Marsh wants the Senate to define who is a journalist so as to determine who may receive Press credentials at the State House. The fact that a partisan elected official should take it upon himself, the sole right to define a journalist, should send warning signs and sirens to every editor, publisher and reporter in this State.

Marsh had no problem with the Alabama Political Reporter until we uncovered his lies about soliciting money from the Poarch Creek Indians. Since then, he has sought to retaliate against this publication for his own personal gain.

Of course, Marsh is also carrying water for his boss, Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Marsh may not be guilty of overtly helping Hubbard with his dirty deeds, but he stood by, silently, while Hubbard lined his pockets using his office for personal gain.

Hubbard wisely does not want to be the face of this coup, especially after being charged with 23 counts of felony public corruption, many which were first reported here at the Alabama Political Reporter.

There is little doubt that Marsh and Hubbard want to ban this publication from the State House. This has been confirmed by several Senators and Representatives who are concerned about the far reaching ramifications of this action.

Perhaps this is not that big of a shock coming from Marsh, who has walked lockstep with Hubbard, a man who stands charged by the State with Felony acts.

Marsh has been so close to the Hubbard indictments that he had to reassure the voters in his district that he himself would not be arrested or charged in connection with the public corruption probe being conducted by the Attorney General’s Office.

Marsh, like Hubbard, has touted “transparency” in government while they pass legislation under the cover of darkness.

Sadly, Marsh, like his boss, will never allow facts to stand in the way of their personal agenda.

Marsh also told the Star that he tries, “very hard to make sure the press room is open to journalists.” This is another questionable statement because, with the $200,000 in renovations to the Senate Chamber, Marsh has actually downsized the space available to reporters. In the redesign of the Senate Chambers, Marsh has taken over one entire Press Box to give Senators a private viewing room from which to watch the proceeding on the floor of the House by video feed.

The members of the Capital Press Corp, who cover the Senate, know that Marsh is not expanding press availability, he is limiting it.

Marsh at Hubbard’s command wants to define journalist in such a way as to deny access to the Alabama Political Reporter. What is to keep them from redefining the rules next year to target the reporters at al.com?

Hubbard, Marsh and others in the Republican controlled Legislature have tried to make the case that we work for the Alabama Education Association. This is a lie.

We received paid advertisement from the AEA, just like we have received paid advertising from, Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama Conservation, PCI, Troy University and others.

Would Hubbard or Marsh say that al.com is a mouthpiece for the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) who runs advertising on its site? SEAGD is named in the Hubbard indictments, as well as APCI, whose CEO has written editorials for al.com.

Would these two accuse H. Brandt Ayers the Chairman and Publisher of the Anniston Star of being in the pocket of ALFA, because they advertise on its pages?

This is just a smokescreen to hide their attempt to control the message by killing the messenger.

Marsh is a disgrace, and if his fellow Senators had any courage, they would oust him from his office as Pro Tem for this and the fact that he has been the faithful lap-dog of Hubbard.

Marsh and Hubbard are sending a message to every reporter in the State:

Cross us and be damned.

You say it can’t happen to us.

That is what Niemöller and others like him thought before they came for them.

 

Opinion: The Good Germans said, "Ich Wusste Nicht Uber Es."

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In Matin Amis’s new novel, “The Zone of Interest,” the novelist explores the inner life of some the inhabitants of Auschwitz, in 1942, concentrating especially on the death camp workers.

One of the narrators of the story is a middle-level German officer named Thomsen, who says of gassing Jewish men, women and children, “ We went along, we went along, doing all we could to drag our feet…but we went along.”

Like many others who said they simply obeyed orders, Thomsen could be called a “Good German.”

Nothing is our State has risen to the level of these Nazi atrocities, but the mentality of the "Good German" is alive and well in the Alabama State House. There are some who simply follow orders, while moral standards of ethical behavior are broken with impunity.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has been charged with 23 counts of public corruption.

He has received support and even cheers from a number of Republican legislators including, Rep. Ed Henry, Rep. Jack Williams, Rep. Alan Harper, Rep. Matt Fridy, Rep. Alan Baker, Rep. Paul Beckman, Rep. Mike Ball, Rep. David Sessions, Rep. April Weaver, Rep. Jim Patterson, Rep. Kerry Rich, Rep. Richard Laird and Rep. Mac McCutcheon. As well as U.S. Representative Mike Rogers.

Yet, there is a resounding silence from those who find Hubbard’s actions reprehensible.

Over the last two years, this publication has asked on several occasions, why do honest lawmakers remain silent when it is obvious that Hubbard has thumbed his nose at the Law? And often, in private, legislators have asked me, “What could we have done?”

Hubbard has been charged with:

Four Counts of using of his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for personal gain.

One Count of voting for legislation with a conflict of interest.

Eleven Counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal.

Two Counts of using his office as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for personal gain.

Four Counts of lobbying an Executive Department or agency for a fee.

One Count of using State equipment, materials, etc. for private gain.

What can legislators do?

Make Hubbard step aside by force of your vote.

Hubbard even lobbied Gov. Bentley on behalf of his client believed to be American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc.

In the near future, the Governor may be called to testify as to what Hubbard said and did for his lobbying client.

Is a jury ready to see Hubbard’s white collar criminal defense attorney J. Mark White try to ridicule Robert Bentley? Would Hubbard’s mouthpieces dare try to denigrate and twist the testimony of the most trusted man in Alabama, to exonerate a man who has used his office for personal gain?

Bentley knows Hubbard is a crook. He's known that for a long time and Bentley is not a "Good German."

Bentley could end all of the spectacle surrounding Hubbard and now, the State government, as a whole, by picking up the phone on the morning of November 5, and calling every member of the House Republican caucus and saying, “Now, Mike is our friend, but he has been accused of some pretty bad things. Now we need to let the justice system sort this out. So, for the good of the party and the good of the State, Mike cannot be allowed a position of leadership until all this is resolved.”

He should further remind each legislator, “I am the Governor. I've been reelected by an overwhelming majority. I have some real plans to make our State even better. You can either be with me or not. But, a vote for Mike, in any position of leadership, is a vote against me.”

Many of our legislators claim to be Bible-believing men and women. To be a believer requires more than lip service. The Word teaches that as Christians, we are to abstain from even the appearance of evil. Is this not a standard that should be applied to lawmakers?

Hubbard has hired one of the best public relations firms in the State to spin his innocence and to lie about the prosecution. From saying that Luther Strange is out to get him, to the machinations of a rouge prosecutor, the spin will continue; especially if Hubbard is allowed to remain speaker.

If Hubbard remains "king of the goat hill," he will continue to embarrass the State and the Republican party. If he is allowed to use the mantle of the speaker’s office to promote his innocence and disparage the State law enforcement, it will harm the State even further.

In Matin Amis’s book, “The Zone of Interest,” after the end of the war, his Nazi protagonist, Thomsen, jokes that the German National Anthem is “Ich Wusste Nicht Uber Es,” (“I Didn’t Know Anything About It.”), this is not a joke we want associated with Alabama.

 

 

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