Mike Hubbard became speaker of the Alabama House in 2010--the first Republican in more than 130 years to hold the position--based largely on a pledge to restore honest government and fiscal discipline in Montgomery.
Has Hubbard made good on that promise? Not exactly. In fact, a new report from Bill Britt of the Alabama Political Reporter shows that Hubbard is failing spectacularly.
Using financial data from open.alabama.gov, Britt shows that Hubbard increased spending in the speaker's office by 82.6 percent over Seth Hammett, his Democratic predecessor. But that is just a warm-up for the jaw-dropping numbers to follow.
Consider spending in the area of "outside political consultants": Under Hammett in 2008, the speaker's office spent $2,880. That figure skyrocketed to $135,820.74 under Hubbard in 2012. For Alabama taxpayers who need a little assistance with math, Britt does the heavy lifting--spending for political consultants increased under Hubbard by 4,700 percent.
Gee, how bad would it be if Hubbard was not such a "fiscal conservative"? Reports Britt:
A comparison of total spending for the Office of the Speaker of the House shows that Mike Hubbard has been anything but a fiscal conservative when it comes to spending the public’s money on the perks of his office.
Between the fiscal years 2008 (when Democrat Seth Hammett was Speaker) and fiscal year 2012 (the most recent complete year of spending under Hubbard), total taxpayer dollars spent on running the Office of the Speaker of House nearly doubled.
Total spending for the Office of the Speaker of the House increased 82.6 percent-- from $488,638 under Hammett to $892,492 under Hubbard last year. The office payroll line item increased 54.5 percent under Hubbard, from $364,014.30 in ’08 to $562,511 last year.
As for the astonishing spending on political consultants, much of that went to one man, David Azbell, a founding partner in the Birmingham firm Swatek Azbell Howe and Ross (SAHR). What kind of class act is David Azbell? You can check him out in the video at the end of this post. It speaks volumes about the kind of people that Mike Hubbard showers with taxpayer dollars. Writes Bill Britt:
Of the $135,820.74 in public money spent on outside contracts in Fiscal Year 2012, $96,000 of that was paid by Alabama taxpayers to Azbell Communications, the one-man operation run by David Azbell. Azbell was the co-writer of Hubbard’s vanity book publication, "Storming the Statehouse."
When it comes to furnishing his professional surroundings, Hubbard apparently has the opulent taste of a Las Vegas casino mogul. That is ironic, of course, for a Republican who claims to be against gambling on moral grounds:
Not figured into the double digit-growth of the Speaker’s Office is the tremendous amount that has gone into remodeling the State House and especially the Speaker’s suite of offices. Construction cost and decorating expenses have been hidden, and multiple requests for information have been denied.
The Speaker’s Office now adorned with new carpet, new paint and expanded spaces are just a few of the new trappings of power. The Speaker’s suite is outfitted with multiple flat-screen televisions, one completely dedicated to a continuous rotation of pictures featuring Mike 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.
How is Mike Hubbard serving Alabama taxpayers? It seems he mostly is taking them on a financial joyride. Britt notes that the speaker's office has spent wildly "while Hubbard has worked to cut state workers, deny pay increases and downsize government for everyone else."
In other words, it's time for austerity in Alabama--unless you happen to be Mike Hubbard or one of his good buddies. Britt puts it in perspective by noting that Hubbard's fellow Republicans have been remarkably silent about the speaker's actions:
Where is the outcry from those who promised the voters of Alabama that they would end frivolous government spending? Hubbard has outspent Democrats by an unprecedented amount. Yet, not one peep is heard from his followers on the fourth floor of the State House, which has also been graciously remodeled.
No one dares stand-up to “Diamond Mike” because they fear retaliation. One can only hope that once those in the Tea Party and those who still stand for small government are made aware of his reckless spending they will take a stand.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m. on 3/13/13)
Bill Britt has a new article today on the David Azbell video, which can be viewed below. The Britt piece is titled "Hubbard's Chief Consultant says, "Cigars, booze, and good-looking women: That's how Azbell rolls in Vegas." Here is Britt's take on the video:
In what can be only be characterized as shocking, David Azbell, chief consultant to Speaker of the House Hubbard, made a video of himself partying in Las Vegas. Azbell who is paid $8,000 dollars a month in his position with Hubbard, is also founding partner of Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross (SAHR), a governmental and political affairs firm located in Montgomery, Alabama.
Azbell co-authored Hubbard's vanity publishing project, "Storming the State House." Hubbard, has long portrayed himself and those in his service as anti-gambling, religious conservatives. However, it appears that his right-hand associated has a liking for, "Cigars, Booze and Good Looking Women."
How is it that Speaker Hubbard employs a man who makes a video in which he appears to be extolling the virtues of gambling, strippers, sex-clubs and other vices?
Azbell's video which has been posted online for over nine months recently surfaced. As a partner with Dax Swatek, Tim Howe and John Ross, Azbell represents some of Alabama's most important lobbying groups such as the Road Builder's Association, Learning Through Sports, and The Alabama Asphalt Pavement Association.
It seems incredible to believe that Mike Hubbard, a man known for his constant vigilance, was unaware of Azbell, semi-pornography video.
This is not the first time Azbell has shown questionable judgment, Britt reports:
It has been long rumored that Azbell left the staff of Governor Bob Riley under a cloud of suspicion involving a young staffer. Toby Roth, who was Bob Riley's Chief of Staff, is said to be the man who handle the settlement with the young staffer in question. Roth refused to answer any questions concerning the matter. The Alabama Political Report has filed a under the Open Record Act requesting all email communications between the staffer and Roth. A staffer who served in the office at the time said that the individual received a settlement in the $50,000 dollar range.
Hubbard, who continues to preach a gospel of conservative government and Alabama Values, seems to find no reason to not employee a man like Azbell who has shown questionable judgement if not outright contempt for the values most Alabamians hold dear.
Untitled from Uhhhh Ohhhhhh on Vimeo.