Last updateFri, 03 Jul 2015 6am

Hubbard Hauls in Millions: Opinion

By Bill Britt

Alabama Political Reporter

As Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard made around $733,848.88 from “consulting contracts,” according to figures supplied by the Attorney General’s Office. This is just a portion of the $2,346,292.88 that Hubbard has fueled to himself, and to his business interests since 2010.

Of course, this does not include his salary as Speaker, his income from his radio holdings, or his paycheck, and State-provided insurance his wife receives from Auburn University. Just in consulting contracts alone, Hubbard was making around 18 times the average income of an Alabama family. Yet, with all of this money flowing into his bank account, Hubbard still cried poverty to investment banker Will Brooke, former Gov. Bob Riley, and others.

As Speaker, Hubbard was paid this money to influence Gov. Robert Bentley, Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, and other State officials, contrary to State law. He was also paid to influence legislators. He even wrote and voted on legislation that would give his lobbying clients millions in State and Federal tax dollars, as was the case with APCI (according to his indictments).

To say that Hubbard has ruled over an orgy of greed and corruption is not hyperbole, because his paydays bear witness to it.

Hubbard wants his fellow House members, the press, and any potential jurors to believe that this was all legitimate "business as usual," for a citizen law-maker.

Would any reasonable person believe that Hubbard would be paid such great sums of money if he were not the Speaker of the House?

Are there any other legislators receiving these astronomical payments from those with business before the State government?

Real citizen lawmakers would be outraged at such payments, even if they were legal, but it was Hubbard, and his fellow Republicans that made these practices completely illegal. Of course, Hubbard ironically said after their passage, “What were we thinking?” 

Honest, intelligent voters should be asking “What are they thinking?” to allow Hubbard to remain Speaker. 

And still, no outrage has been heard from the Republicans, and only murmurs can be heard among the Democrats.

Hubbard's strategy at this juncture of his criminal case is to delay, deflect, and distract. Hubbard wants to remain Speaker as long as possible, so he can keep raising money for his defense. He wants to delay the trial with the hope that something will break his way. His defense team keeps spinning various reasons the charges against him should be dismissed, and they are constantly trying to change the subject from Hubbard’s guilt or innocence to what others may have done.

But, look at the money he hauled in; look at the contracts; look at how he used his influence to enrich himself. No public official in State history has ever been charged for making this much money from his public office. Hubbard has acted with a ravenous lust for money, and instead of outrage, there is abject silence. 

Hubbard’s attorney, J. Mark White doesn’t want us looking at the big dollars Hubbard was paid for official acts. No, he wants us to focus on a conspiracy of prosecutorial misconduct, and an improperly impaneled Grand Jury. White is not arguing Hubbard’s innocence, he is trying to buy Hubbard a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, with false information and far-fetched, irrelevant arguments.

White spins brazen lies wrapped in innuendo, and "lawyerspeak" to confuse and seduce the public. But, the fact remains, 18 citizens of Lee County, after reviewing thousand of pages of documents, and hearing from around 150 witnesses, found that Hubbard should be arrested, and tried on 23 felony counts of public corruption.

Hubbard’s attorneys never want to face a jury because 12 average citizens will never believe that he received millions of dollars just for being a good public servant. He may have cowed and bedazzled members of the House of Representatives with his lies, but it seems doubtful he will succeed in so easily conning a jury of his peers. 

So, Team Hubbard will continue to spin a web of deception, parading it around like it's evidence.

At the recent hearing before trial Judge Jacob Walker III on June 24, Team Hubbard presented subpoenaed information from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), which they claims shows that Attorney General Luther Strange sought job opportunities for friends and family. These claims were made to the media by Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney. White intimated that Strange had done the same things as Hubbard. 

White, in an interview with Jennifer Horton of WASF News is quoted as saying, “The [subpoena] to the Business Council of Alabama was looking for documents related to the Attorney General and people on his behalf, seeking introductions for obtaining employment for the Attorney General and his family," White said. “As you know, the Speaker is charged with those kind of communications with the Business Council, and we believe the Speaker's conduct is totally legal.”

Of course, Hubbard is not charged with seeking employment for his friends and family, he is charged with seeking and receiving hundreds of thousand dollars for lobbying  in violation of State laws, that he, himself championed, and voted for. 

However, some in the media report White’s words as fact without ever seeing documents or asking the most basic follow-up questions, as Horton admitted in her report. “WSFA has not been granted copies of the subpoenas to learn which documents were obtained by the defense, despite a request to Circuit Clerk's office and through the state's online court records, but we've been assured the documents are public record.”

Who assured WSFA? White? Hubbard? 

Also, Sara Falligant, reporting for Opelika-Auburn News stated, “The subpoena targeted documents related to Attorney General Luther Strange and others acting on the AG’s behalf seeking consideration in obtaining employment for friends and relatives. Hubbard has been accused of similar activity.”

Where is the OA News getting its information? Where is the proof? 

Falligant quotes White as saying,“It is the same contact with the same people at the same time as the speaker is charged with in the indictment.” 

Again, one thing is not like the other, but Falligant quotes it as fact.

Here, White is dishing dirt to smear the Attorney General, but the circumstances are totally different. The content of the document White refers to from BCA, is not a public record anywhere that we can find. 

White is a spinmeister, who is more adept at manipulating the media than actually trying a case in court. Even a practiced fabulist like White cannot argue away that his client took millions while serving in his official capacity as Chairman of the ALGOP and Speaker of the House.

There should be outrage, but the Governor, the ALGOP, the House, and the Senate have remained fearfully silent.

It's pathetic...sad, really.


What Lies Within: Opinion

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The opportunities that lie before the State of Alabama are greater than the problems that currently surround us.

At present, the State faces a decades-old crisis of fiscal insolvency, i.e., we lack the funds to properly address the obligations of governing.

The current crisis is a product of our elected leaders' unwillingness to face unpleasant realities with clear-eyed determination, to honestly state the challenges, and then make the hard choices.

Too often, our political class, which includes bureaucrats, lobbyists, consultants, and elected officials have sacrificed the good of the many for the good-living of a few, and at almost every turn, our elected leaders have avoided any solution that might demand real political courage.

If the reality of politics can be distilled into one short sentence, that phrase would be, “Who gets what.” If politics is really about who gets what, then it is obvious that, for many politicos, their constituents are not their first priority.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” 

Herein lies the greatest problem facing our State: we lack leaders with the moral and intellectual grounding to do what is right. 

Alabama’s most powerful constitutional office is held by a man whose soul has been laid bare in a series of emails, and it is ugly. Yet, he still sits in the Speaker’s chair determining the future of our State.

Mike Hubbard is a clear example of what is wrong with our State, and why we languish at, or near the bottom in every positive metric of social and economic prosperity.

Hubbard believes he is a good man, therefore, his actions, no matter how malevolent or self-serving, are justified. Like thousands before him, he has come to believe that his election to public office has given him special insight, and therefore when he acts, it is right. For years Hubbard has imposed his will on others, even forcing them to do things that they knew were not right. This type of power corrupts the soul and what began as a moral weakness becomes a disease that infects the whole body politic. Hubbard can no longer distinguish between what is morally right and what is personally expedient.

This has been so often the case in Alabama politics, that people now believe it is the norm.

During the 2015 legislative session, a freshman legislator said to me, “I thought it would be different. I thought I could make a difference. But, it is all about the money.” My reply was simple, “It doesn’t have to be.”

But, until we have leaders who place what is morally right over what is political expedient, we will never experience true freedom or prosperity, and our State will never know greatness. 

Many of our leaders immodestly brag about their Christian values, yet, one has to wonder, if they have ever read the Bible, much less taken its teachings to heart. Do they understand that Jesus chased the money changers from the temple, that he called out the leaders of his day for their hypocrisy, greed and evil. He challenged them publicly saying, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.”

Throughout the Old and New testament, the men and woman who believed God, did not bend to the political winds. No, they bent the times to God’s will. Has faith become as thin as Onionskin paper, or so malleable as to allow us to ignore the evil that is in front of us, for a better seat at a feast of corruption?

Say it isn’t so.

I do believe we have good men and women serving in State government, but they, like many before them, have become afraid to act or too comfortable to change. 

We have leaders who will rebel in matters on which there is wide political agreement, like abortion, same sex marriage, or gun rights, but how many will stand-up against high-powered lobbyists, or the prevailing business interests?

Where is the man or woman who will stand on the steps of the State House and demand that Hubbard stand down? Where is the individual who will state clearly, that the problems we face are due to moral failings. Who will say that far too many of our people are poor, sick, and ignorant, because they have been abandoned. Most in our State are not looking for a handout, but they could use a leg-up in terms of better education, a sound economy, and available healthcare.

We live in a State with abundant, natural resources, inhabited by many good, honest people, who have no representation in the halls of government because the State House has become a whorehouse of corruption under the leadership of Mike Hubbard. 

Alabama’s future could be bright, if moral leaders will step forward. 

What lies behind us, and what lies before us, will be determined by what lies within us.


Well Past Time For Hubbard To Go (Opinion)

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

If the Governor calls a Special Session of the Legislature, House Republicans must call for Reorganization. 

The failure of the 2015 Session can be traced back to the vote by the Republican House Caucus to reelect Mike Hubbard as Speaker of the House.

Hubbard, who is charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption, is unfit to serve as Speaker, and that fact has been borne out by his history, and performance during the session. He has been distracted, unruly and all together unhinged. Factions, incompetence, secret deals, and scandal, all joined forces to doom this session, leaving the "ship of state" in chaos, and perhaps, in peril for the foreseeable future. And Hubbard has been the loose cannon that inevitably damned the entire process. 

Actions taken in the House and Senate last Thursday were emblematic of the failures that have marked the 2015 legislative session; but again Hubbard’s actions were the most egregious. 

On Thursday, the Senate, in a hurried state, tried to pass measures that would offer a temporary fix to the General Fund Budget, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey broke the Senate’s long-standing rule on filibuster, and Hubbard closed the House Journal; effectively ending any chance of a budget resolution. 

A willingness to disregard the rules and to work for personal gain, has marked this session like none in recent memory. 

When Hubbard closed the journal on Thursday, that was, in effect, the end of the session, and an abdication of the Legislature's constitutional responsibility to pass a budget.

As to why Hubbard chose this course of action is still a question that remains to be answered. Perhaps he was still stinging from the failure to pass his tax plan, which would have also given the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) a monopoly over gambling in the State; maybe he has cut another deal that will profit him personally; or, it may just be another attempt to hang on to his power for a little while longer. What has become clear from his own emails, is that Hubbard does not do anything without expecting to be paid. Personal profit is at the center of Hubbard’s every thought and deed. His emails reveal the ugliness that is deeply rooted in his heart.

Hubbard, in an email to Investment guru and BCA member, Will Brooke, wrote, "It’s ironic that I was the ‘architect’ of putting a pro-business legislature in place yet businesses seem to want to avoid any personal association with me like the plague!” He also stated, “I will make it through this session, try to do as much good as I can, and make a decision as to what to do. It is amazing, and quite disappointing, that after the sacrifices I’ve made personally and professionally to finally get Alabama a pro-business legislature, no one in the business community is willing to work with me professionally to keep me there. Maybe I’m too much of a lightning rod. I suppose, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.”

Despite the self-pity, Hubbard was able to parlay his Speakership into around $40,000 a month in “consulting fees.”

Hubbard was so desperate for money that he threatened to leave his position as Speaker, unless the business community helped him:

“As you know, my concern is financial and the fact that serving as Speaker consumes a enormous amount of time and generates virtually no income. I have been in discussions with Governor Riley and believe I would have an opportunity to work with him and his company if I were to give up being Speaker and resign from the Legislature. Although I believe I am making positive changes in Montgomery, need to think of my obligations to my family. Please keep me in your thoughts as I make this decision.” 

It has been widely rumored around the State House that Hubbard has cut a financial deal with the PCI. Speculation has been that the PCI would pay his legal fees if he passed legislation giving them a gambling monopoly, or killed Marsh’s gaming omnibus. 

So, how can anyone believe that Hubbard was not acting in his own self-interest when he closed the journal on Thursday? With his previous self-centered actions in mind, how can anyone believe that Hubbard will not try to profit from legislation? Hubbard is constantly distracted due to his legal problems, missing legislative days and huddling with his attorneys at the State House, rather than conducting State business.

He has threatened legislators, privately and publicly, and has routinely acted in a manner unbecoming his office. The State’s financial house is in disarray, factions within the republican caucus are on the verge of forestalling any real progress. And, at the center of all the confusion is Hubbard, a loose cannon, who threatens to take everyone down with him. 

The phrase "Loose Cannon" is believed to have been coined by Victor Hugo, author of such renowned novels as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. In the short story, "A Fight with a Cannon,” Hugo writes,

"A cannon that breaks its moorings suddenly becomes a kind of supernatural beast. It is a machine, which transforms itself into a monster. That mass speeds on its wheels, tilts when the ship rolls, plunges when it pitches, goes, comes, stops, seems to meditate, resumes its swift movement, goes from one end of the ship to the other with the speed of an arrow, spins around, slips to one side, dashes away, rear up, spins around, slips to one side, dashes away, rears up, collides smashes, kills, exterminates.”

Hubbard has become such an instrument of destruction.

If legislators in the House truly want to make sound decisions for the betterment of the people of our State, if they really believe in offering conservative answers to the problem which face our State, then the first order on business for a Special Session is a call to Reorganize the House.

Many in the House and Senate profess Christian faith. Let each one remember how the Bible instructs those with faith to lead in I Peter 5:1-3 

“Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 

Hubbard has served for money, he has lorded over the House and even the State, and he is an example of all that is wrong with Government.

If the House is to lead as the scriptures advise, then it is well past time for Hubbard to go.

Titanic Failure (Opinion)

By Bill Britt
Alabama Politcal Reporter

Just when the Alabama Republican supermajority thought its ship was coming in, it went down a few miles off the coast.

The 2015 legislative session, by conservative measure, has been a titanic failure.

In general, the cause of the disaster can be blamed on lawmakers trying to solve the State's problems with the same mindset that created it. There were sparks of transformation and hints of realism, but those things succumbed to cronyism, play-to-play, and the systemic plague of ignorance and greed.

The legislature passed prison reform, but didn’t fund it. Education was funded, but teachers were stiffed. State courts are broke, so District Attorneys can’t prosecute, and mental health patients and kids, well... better luck next time.

On the other side, former Governor Bob Riley wrangled a bailout for his Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) and more than a few lobbyists enjoyed big paydays.

At the heart of the failure was a lack of honest leadership. From the moment the Republican House Caucus reelected Mike Hubbard Speaker of the House, the season was doomed. 

Hubbard, who stands accused by the State on 23 counts of public corruption, is a man of low moral character and has shown himself to be more interested in personal gain than public service.

After reviewing thousands of pages of evidence and hearing from around 150 witnesses, 18 citizens from Lee County found that Hubbard had committed an act worthy of criminal indictment (23, to be exact). Yet, both Republican and Democrat House members reelected Hubbard despite the judgement of the Lee County Grand Jury. It was not Attorney General Luther Strange, W. Van Davis, or Matt Hart that indicted Hubbard, but rather 18 qualified, voting citizens of the county he calls home. 

The members of the House, with the exception of Rep. Alvin Holmes, all put their personal/political agenda ahead of the collective wisdom of those people who have seen the evidence.

And so it is with the 2015 session, the collective wisdom of generations of thinking citizens was cast aside for person political gain. As a result, the State now faces what Sen. Bobby Singleton called, "an ugly naked pig of a budget."

For five legislative sessions, the Republican supermajority has had complete control of the agenda, and instead of facing the problems, they did what has always been done: avoid tough decisions and leave the hard work of governing for another day. 

This time there are no Democrats to blame, no AEA to vilify. No, this time, the Republicans came face to face with the real enemy, and it was themselves. Thomas Jefferson said, “He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” 

For years, Republicans had a scapegoat, and eventually, they began to believe their own propaganda.

In 2010, Hubbard developed a false construct that Alabama Democrats equaled Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi. That Democrats were bad and Republicans were good. But what is now clear is that Hubbard was then as he is now: a con man who will tell a great story while picking your pocket.

Gov. Robert Bentley knew Hubbard was a crook, but he sat back and did nothing. This has been the Governor’s weakness. He wants to lead, but plays it safe or not at all. 

When Bentley finally woke up to the fact that the State was on the verge of fiscal disaster, it was too late, he had already ceded power to Hubbard and the Legislature as a whole. He has few friends and even fewer allies, and no one to fear him. When he announced his tax package, it was rejected before it was even unwrapped.

Bentley's biggest failure as a leader has been to reward his enemies and abandon his friends. This is widely known by everyone, except the Governor, who routinely offers to kiss-and-make-up with those who trash him, while giving the big kiss-off to his natural allies. 

On the House side of the equation, only once did a small band join together to challenge Hubbard. And they won. A small, but determined group of likeminded freshman were joined by a few maverick vets to thwart Hubbard’s efforts to raise over $150 million in taxes and granting the Poarch Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the State. It is widely believed that this effort was based on a promise of personal reward for Hubbard. 

In the Senate, several have displayed the courage to buck the establishment on principle. Most notably, they rejected the heavy handed tactics of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). As Sen. Paul Bussman so eloquently expressed it, "the AEA has been replaced by the BCA." 

They have also rejected the "their way or the highway" approach of Hubbard and his cronies, choosing rather to stand their ground even if it meant defying the Republican caucus. In this case, opposition should not be confused with obstruction. 

When the State is forced to cut essential services, it is folly to vote to borrow hundreds of millions in a bond issue to build a luxury resort or a prison. Here again on display is the ideological inconsistency and intellectual dishonesty that has passed for leadership over the past five sessions. 

Of all the current leadership, only Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh can walk away from the 2015 disaster with his head held high. Marsh has shown not only leadership, but a willingness to think beyond to current crisis and embrace new ideas, even if they are controversial.

On a personal note, I have often been a harsh critic of the President Pro Tem. I had concluded that, because of his close association with Hubbard, he must also be a crook. I was wrong, and for that I apologize.

The legislature will no doubt be called back for a Special Session to find a solution to the State’s fiscal woes. 

If the House comes back to a Special Session with Hubbard as its Speaker, we can expect more of the same. If however, he is replaced, there is hope that the State can finally begin to heal. 

Most of us who call Alabama home want to see our State prosper. We have abundant natural resources, brave, caring people, and a chance to do good things to make our home even better. Most of the men and women who come to work in Montgomery are good people who want to do great things. But as long as we try to cure ancient ills with the same medicine, as long as we accept corruption as the norm, we will always be at the bottom in all good things.

While this session has been a failure, it doesn’t have to define our future. But changes will have to be made or things will remain the same.


Sisson Always Does Things The Right Way (Opinion)

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter 

Howard “Gene” Sisson always does things the right way, at least that is what he kept telling his boss Attorney General Luther Strange. 

According to his termination letter, Sisson admits he wanted to discredit Chief of the Special Prosecution Divison, Matt Hart, but didn’t want to undermine the Lee County Grand Jury.

He admits to secretly recording Acting Attorney General W. Van Davis, but says, that's o.k.

He broke the chain of command in his office, even going so far as to file Ethics Complaints against a co-worker and refusing to turn over State property that may have been used illegally. But, that’s o.k. too, because Gene Sisson always does things the right way, according to Gene Sisson. 

However, his boss calls him a liar, his co-workers do too, and yet Sisson wants us to believe that they are all ganging-up against him, and Henry T. Sonny” Reagan because they are the good guys and Hart, well, he's just a big, bad bully.

Sisson says that he will fight his firing because his honor is at stake. He says he has been wronged, and he wants his day in court. 

In Sisson's termination letter, Strange wrote, “Your actions over the past year have made it impossible for me to trust you. Specifically, I cannot trust you to safeguard State property entrusted to you; I cannot trust you to follow Office policies and to be faithful to the rule of law; I cannot trust you to keep the work-related confidences of your co-workers; and I cannot trust you to conduct yourself with honesty and integrity in the workplace.”

“I cannot trust you… to be faithful to the rule of law,” said Strange, this is not a statement that would be applied to a man of honor who always does things the right way, (In his own mind).

Sisson appears to be every law abiding citizen’s worst nightmare; a cop who will fabricate evidence, lie on the witness stand, and rig the system in his favor. No one is safe when the lawless are lawmen. 

A January 2015 poll conducted by Reuters and the Ipsos polling organization found that thirty-one percent of Americans believe police officers “routinely lie to serve their own interests.” These numbers rise to “45 percent among African-Americans, 41 percent among young people and 39 percent among Democrats. Republicans reject that charge three to one (60 to 20 percent),” according to the poll.

But, in a State that prides itself on a belief in law and order, the allegations against Sisson strike at the very heart of who we are. How could a career police officer and Special Agent with the Attorney General’s Office be so, corrupted?

Thomas Sowell, economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and current Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution said, “One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.”

In Sisson’s many letters protesting his innocence and Hart’s guilt, he expresses his “love and respect” for his former boss, Troy King.

King allowed Sisson to rise to the pinnacle of his career as Chief Investigator at the Attorney General’s Office. After serving for 20 years at the Montgomery PD, Sisson had only obtained the rank of corporal. Being so highly promoted by King would certainly give him a reason to appreciated his former boss. Sisson, would lose that high office when Strange defeated King, which perhaps caused Sisson to not only resent his new commander, but also the "new hires."  

Sisson’s job was given to former FBI agent, Tim Furman. In an email, Sisson referred to FBI agents as “F**king Retards,” an email Strange called “offensive, profane and unprofessional.” If this was, in fact, Sisson’s true feelings about federal agents, then no doubt he harbored resentment against not only Strange but Furman as well.

If Sisson truly loved King as he said, then hiring Hart had to be a double blow, as it was Hart who investigated King in 2009.

In his letters, Sisson also expresses great appreciation and admiration for Henry T. “Sonny” Reagan, who also left the Attorney General’s Office after it was discovered that he had aided the defense in the Hubbard case by trying to undermine the Lee County Grand Jury. Sisson said he considered Reagan a friend. 

Demotion, being supervised by a perceived, inferior man, having to tolerate a man who had investigated someone he loved and having lost his good friend companionship on the job may have been too much for Sisson. Perhaps this is the reason, he betrayed his office as Strange has stated. 

What would Sisson gain if the case against Hubbard was derailed...a promotion?

Perhaps Sisson believed if Hubbard was exonerated, he would become governor and that his reward would be a return to Chief Investigator. Perhaps Reagan believed he would rise from his middle management position to division chief. Of course, all of this is speculative.

The author James Bernard Frost said “The saddest thing about selling out is just how cheaply most of us do it for.”

Benedict Arnold committed treason in-part because he wanted advancement. Judas sold out Jesus for 30 piece of silver. What did Sisson or Reagan gain by disloyalty to their oath of office? 

Perhaps we will never know. 

Perhaps a criminal trial will open a window into these events.

Whatever the outcome, they have been exposed, and the picture is a disgusting look in to the shallow souls of men who ultimately, are failures. It also confirms the belief that lawless men hide behind badges, seeking personal gain and even personal vendettas.

In this, Sisson did not always do things right, but did them inexcusably wrong.


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