The New Republic (TNR) reporter Joe Miller makes a compelling case that Hubbard, whose criminal trial starts with jury selection this week, is the scoundrel of all scoundrels--a lowlife whose abuse of the public trust deserves national condemnation. Consider this from Miller's article:
The story of Mike Hubbard sounds like an only-in-Alabama joke: A politician runs a statewide campaign against corruption, wins big, quickly passes some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation, then gets skewered by those very laws. But the case against Hubbard, the Speaker of the Alabama House, is no laughing matter. Even in a place where political corruption is as much a part of the landscape as kudzu, the extensiveness and brazenness of his alleged crimes have stunned even longtime followers of politics in the state.
“Mike Hubbard has been the overlord of an orgy of greed and corruption like we have never seen,” Bill Britt, host of Alabama’s weekly political talk show, The V, declared in a recent episode. “He is the Caligula of Alabama. Just a tyrant, and a mean and perverse guy.”
I can't quarrel with a word Miller has written, or Britt has spoken, above. But I can think of at least four Alabama political figures--current governor Robert Bentley, former governor Bob Riley, attorney general Luther Strange (who is prosecuting Hubbard), and GOP operative and former "first son" Rob Riley--who I think might leave Hubbard in the dust when it comes to corruption. If you include state and federal judges as political figures--and they are either elected or appointed in a political process--Hubbard might not even make Alabama's "Top 40."
Miller does a splendid job of portraying Hubbard as an overgrown sewer rat who wears nice ties. From the TNR piece:
From the beginning there were signs that Hubbard’s self-portrayal as a warrior for good government was an act. Hubbard’s hometown paper, Opelika-Auburn News, reported that he’d spent party money on services from one of his own businesses, Craftmaster Printers. Hubbard told the small-town reporter it was much ado about nothing. “Out of about 80 candidates, you have only two using Craftmaster,” he said. “Is this really a story?”
But his successor as chair of the state party had the accounts audited and found that Hubbard had bought more than $1 million worth of printing from Craftmaster with campaign funds that he controlled. Much of it came through a deal with Marketing Solutions of Florida, a political direct mail vendor that’s worked for Republican campaigns across the country, including Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid for president. The company is run by Brett Buerck, who fled Ohio in the early 2000s in the wake of a scandal that cost Larry Householder his position as Speaker of the House.
Then the Montgomery Advertiser reported that Hubbard had used the national Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to launder gambling money from the Poarch Creek Indians to the state GOP. With three casinos in the state, the Poarch Creek had a monopoly, and Hubbard and his colleagues reached out to them to support their candidates, who opposed an expansion of gambling in the state that would create new competitors for the Poarch Creek. The money was funneled through the RSLC to hide donations that would be politically toxic to conservative values voters in the Alabama GOP’s base. (Politico later obtained an internal RSLC document that candidly confirmed that Hubbard and the committee had consciously broken the law.)
When an investigation of Hubbard started, he responded with one of the most disingenuous statements ever made in public:
“What happens when conservatives stand up to Barack Obama?” he asked. “They get attacked. . . . ”
Two months before Election Day 2014, the grand jury came back with 23 indictments against Hubbard. Again Hubbard blamed Obama, calling the case against him a “political witch hunt.”
How big a pile of rubbish is this? Hubbard is being prosecuted by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, a fellow Republican. It is a state case, guided by state law. There is no indication that Obama or the federal justice department has played a role in the case. If anything, Obama has taken a hands-off approach to Republican scoundrels like Hubbard (and Karl Rove and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez and . . . ) since taking office in 2009.
Could Hubbard be the poster child for political opportunists--the kind who use public office for private gain? Absolutely. Is Hubbard guilty of the charges against him? It's hard to see how a rational being could respond with any answer but "yes."
But there is a flip side. It has been widely reported that Strange sees Hubbard as a prime competitor for a 2018 run at the governorship--and the prosecution is designed to leave Hubbard's political future in tatters. If that is true, Mike Hubbard is the victim of a political prosecution, very much like the one that took down former Democratic governor Don Siegelman. If a political prosecution is proven, any convictions against Hubbard could be overturned, as a matter of law.
Here is something else to keep in mind. Hubbard is charged with violating state ethics laws--and that is a serious matter--but we've seen evidence in recent days that suggests major Alabama political figures have violated federal bribery laws. If such charges are brought and proven, they could dwarf the Hubbard case in scope and seriousness.
Who are some of Hubbard's prime contenders for the title of "Alabama's Most Corrupt Politician"? We will examine that question in an upcoming post.