All of this came to public attention because of a citizen journalist's investigative efforts. The same citizen journalist wrote a blog post yesterday providing important background on the legislative conference and the organizations behind it--information that largely has been ignored by the mainstream press.
Charles Dean, of al.com, wrote Sunday about a March 2012 fund-raising letter that asked PCI for $150,000 to support the annual meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), which will be July 27-31 in Mobile. But the story actually broke last week when a citizen journalist who goes by the name "MaximusShelby" posted the letter on the document-sharing site Scribd and followed up with an item on Twitter. (The letter can be viewed at the end of this post.)
Dean must have received a tip about the letter's presence on the Web, and to his credit, produced a major story for Sunday's issue of The Birmingham News. But he did not give MaximusShelby credit for breaking the story, and he did not link to the actual letter on Scribd.
William J. "Happy" Fulford, lead lobbyist for the University of South Alabama and chair of the conference planning committee, wrote the letter and noted the prominent roles for Hubbard and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh as hosts of the event.
In his article, Dean points out the incongruity of the anti-gambling Hubbard seeking funds from an Indian gaming interest. But when asking Hubbard about the letter, Dean might have let Mr. Speaker off the hook. From the al.com article:
Hubbard and Marsh both said they had not seen Fulford's letter to the Poarch Creeks until a reporter showed it to them late last week. Fulford said it never occurred to him to tell Hubbard or Marsh that he was including their names on the solicitation letter.
"The speaker and the pro tem are hosts for the event and as such the protocol would be to include their names," said Fulford.
Hubbard said he has no role in the fund-raising effort led by Fulford. He said he had really no comment on the request to the Poarch Creeks for a donation. Hubbard did say he remains "one hundred percent" opposed to gambling and whether the tribe helped pay for the cost of the conference would have no effect on his position.
Hubbard had no role in the fund-raising effort and apparently was unaware of Fulford's letter? That's strange, given that anyone who views the entire letter can see this at the bottom:
Speaker Hubbard/Senate President Pro Tempore Marsh Letter
Sponsorship pledge form
That indicates a letter from Hubbard and Marsh was included with Fulford's packet. But the speaker claims he had no role in the fund-raising effort? We are to believe that Hubbard did not know who was receiving donation requests that included his own letter? A copy of the Hubbard/Marsh enclosure has not yet surfaced, but the evidence so far suggests Speaker Hubbard did not tell the truth about his involvement in the fund-raising effort.
|Poarch Creek casino
At an upcoming event scheduled for July 27 through July 31st, legislators from fifteen southern states will be meeting in Mobile, Alabama behind closed doors. Many who are attending this exclusive event have the option of doing so on the taxpayer's dime. . . .
One lobbying group who's hawking this Mobile soiree is Stateside Associates. Founded by a former Executive Director for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Constance Campanella, the Stateside Associates firm functions as a "stealth lobbyists" organization.
Who is Stateside Associates, and what is a "stealth lobbyist"? Maximus provides insight:
"Taxpayer subsidized stealth lobbyists: Lobbyists who circumvent normal lobbying regulations and procedures to advance the corporate agenda in statehouses nationwide on the taxpayer dime.
"A lobbying behemoth--the self-proclaimed largest firm of its kind--Stateside has enough tricks up its sleeve to tackle even the most difficult, and often delicate, lobbying cases."
Mike Hubbard has claimed to be a proponent of transparency. But he is co-hosting a conference that appears to be about anything but transparency. Maximus adds important perspective:
In the political poker games of corporate deal-making, ALEC-style cronyism, and unembarrassed double standards, no one plays a better hand than the Alabama Republican Party does. With a marked deck at their disposal, they've built a house of cards on "transparency and honor in office" since sweeping all three legislative branches of government in 2010. . . .
If Alabama's legislators return from these high-dollar conferences and events with potential legislative templates in hand that all Alabamians have to live under, then can we at least demand that it's not done on any taxpayer's dime? Might we also demand that any "conferencing" is not done behind closed doors?
The people should demand no less from their elected officials. Beyond that members of the state media need to wake up and thoroughly explore and/or expose serious issues like these--not only in the interest of good journalism, but because the public has a right to know.
Doing any less enables the cloak of secrecy for Alabama legislators.
Southern Legislative Conference (SLC Mobile cmmte) Letter to Poarch Band of Creek Indians March 22, 2012 by MaxShelby