(Updated at 8:10 p.m. on 10/26/11. See end of post.)
Records indicate that taxpayers are helping pay for an upcoming book about the Republican Party's takeover of the Alabama Legislature. The book, to be called "Storm In The State House," reportedly will focus on Mike Hubbard's exploits as party chair from 2007 through 2010--and as speaker of the house in 2011.
A Montgomery Independent story from last Friday shows that the Alabama House of Representatives has spent $136,000 of public money to pay for research, writing, and editing on the book. The Independent also pointed to signs that Hubbard had signed off on the use of public funds for a book that glorifies him and the Republican Party.
Someone apparently did not want that story to receive too much exposure; it quickly was pulled from the Independent's slot at al.com--and has not returned. The fine folks at alabamacorruption.blogspot.com (also known as Vincent Confidential) were on the ball and copied the article before it disappeared.
That led to an enlightening post yesterday:
"Disappearing Ink--Al.com Vaporizes Montgomery Independent Story Critical of House Speaker Hubbard's Planned Book "Storm in the State House"
Why would the elites who control Alabama's mainstream press want to keep the Hubbard story under wraps? Probably because it shines light on the cozy relationship that Hubbard and other Alabama GOPers have with the Swatek Azbell Howe and Ross (SAHR) lobbying firm of Montgomery.
How stench-inducing is that relationship? Vincent Confidential (VC) spells it out?
For a brief time on October 21, 2011, a potentially explosive story ran on Al.com entitled “Researcher For Hubbard Book Paid By House.” The Montgomery Independent authored the story, based on information from Inside Alabama Politics, that revealed David Azbell of Swatek, Azbell, Howe and Ross had collected $136,000 of public money via an authorization from the Alabama House of Representatives and presumably green-lighted from the likely source of Mike Hubbard.
Azbell had been (and may still be) acting as a consultant with Hubbard on the book charged with the duties of “research, editing and writing.” From 2007 until March of this year, Azbell was collecting $2,000 per month for “public relations work for the House Republican Caucus ." In March of 2011, the sum jumped four fold to $8,000 per month for duties unclear to the Montgomery Independent before deadline of the story prior to the October 21st publication.
As suddenly as the story appeared, it quickly disappeared.
Sounds like someone touched a nerve, doesn't it? And the folks who run al.com clearly are more interested in protecting conservative elites than in educating the public.
Fortunately, our friends at VC do want to educate the public. And they put the GOP scam in perspective:
Azbell’s deal with Hubbard seems to suggest that cronyism is alive and well in the Republican controlled state house despite Mike Hubbard himself lambasting the democrats for the same sins the ‘shakedown Alabama’ crowd, led by the virtuous as a pole cat Hubbard, are perpetrating against the public:
“For the past 136 years, Alabama Democrats have held the majority in both the Alabama House and Senate. And what have we gotten in return? They have given us a substandard education system, rampant government corruption, wasteful spending. . . . If you believe . . . our public officials are honest and squeaky clean and all of your hard-earned tax dollars are being spent wisely, nothing I can write in this column can convince you we need a change."
The winds of change Mr. Hubbard and the Republicans promised Alabamians seem to be more of the same old ill winds than the cleansing breeze heralding a bright and promising "new day of ethics and accountability in Alabama."
We do need a change, but we got shorted on our investment by putting our faith in Hubbard and Co. Perhaps he has a good explanation for using taxpayer money to publish his rah rah propaganda book, but we're hard pressed to imagine one no matter how you look at it.
VC then trains its sights on one of our "favorite" Republican slimeballs--Dax Swatek, whose greasy ways have earned him much "digital ink" here at Legal Schnauzer. Reports VC:
Hubbard's choice of Azbell and the timeline of his 'contract' with the House is interesting to ponder. According to the Montgomery Independent story, Hubbard's book has been in the works since 2007. Swatek, Azbell, Howe and Ross formed their political powerhouse group that same year touting itself as an organization of "credibility, integrity and ethics that we think is important in this new day in Montgomery" and who think they are "better" than anyone else at "tackling this thing" known as Alabama politics.
VC even unearthed a video of Dax Swatek and one of his partners discussing the SAHR firm. A Schnauzer warning: The video below includes Dax Swatek discussing "integrity" and "ethics." That kind of talk from an oily GOPer has been known to induce vomiting.
This is the guy whose father, Pelham attorney William E. Swatek, has a 30-year record of unethical acts with the Alabama State Bar. We summed up Bill Swatek's distinguished career in the following post (and Dax is an apple that did not fall far from the tree):
Bill Swatek: A Portrait of Alabama Sleaze in the Age of Rove
After you view the Dax Swatek video below, and manage to stop guffawing, you probably will want to take a long, hot shower. In the meantime, let's consider a few questions about Mike Hubbard's sweet deal with SAHR:
* Is it a crime to take public funds and use them for a private venture?
* If so, which statutes (federal or state?) were violated?
* What kind of punishment could someone receive for violating such statutes?
* How does the behavior in the Hubbard/book story compare with the case of former Gov. Guy Hunt? In the 1990s, Hunt was prosecuted and convicted for taking campaign funds and using them on personal items. Do the actions of Hubbard and Co. at least equal Hunt's transgressions? Could they be worse?
* If the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Hunt violated the law, what would it find regarding the actions of Hubbard, Azbell, Swatek, and others?
Clarification at 8:10 p.m. on 10/26/11--Records show that David Azbell has received $136,000 of public funds since 2007, and The Montgomery Independent (MI) reported as follows:
Last month the political newsletter Inside Alabama Politics reported that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard of Auburn had turned his attention earlier this year to writing a book on the rise of the Republican Party in Alabama. . . .It is undetermined at this time how much of Azbell's fees was for his work on the State House book and how much was for other services. Reports show that $80,000 was for public relations work on behalf of the House Republican Caucus. Editor Bob Martin tells Legal Schnauzer that MI plans to report more on Mike Hubbard's activities this week.
Former Riley administration Press Secretary David Azbell is helping Hubbard with research, writing and editing.
Update at 9:05 p.m. on 10/26/11--Bob Martin said he would have more on Mike Hubbard, and he was true to his word. We just discovered the latest: State Agencies Bow to the Speaker.