The Alabama Supreme Court's affirmance of six convictions against former House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) should serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers that reside at the intersection of greed and politics, state opinion writers say. It also should show the limitations of one-party voting, said one writer, but he sees no sign that Alabamians will absorb that lesson any time soon.
Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter (APR), said justice was slow, but ultimately served, in the Hubbard case:
On Friday, April 10, 2020, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld Mike Hubbard’s conviction on six counts of felony ethics violations.
It was not a complete victory, but justice was served.
And even though the Court looked craven and reluctant in its ruling, it did, in fact, acknowledge Hubbard’s guilt and also maintained his sentence. He will receive a certification of guilt in the near future and will spend four years in jail for his crimes against the people of Alabama.
Hubbard did the one thing unacceptable in a democratic society; he betrayed the public trust by using his elected office for personal gain.
The idea of public trust holds that the true power in government lies with the people and that government officers are elected as their representatives, therefore when individuals use their office for personal benefit and not the public’s, they have broken the bond that gives them power.
Hubbard sought personal reward as a representative of the people, an inexcusable offense in a democratic republic.
Members of Hubbard's own party seem slow to grasp the gravity of his crimes, Britt writes:
For years and even today, there are Republicans in the state who believe that Hubbard should not have been prosecuted. Even Supreme Court Associate Justice Will Sellers wanted to let Hubbard walk free. Sellers, like many of his compatriots, seemed to believe that the office of the attorney general should have been pursuing Democrats, not fellow Republicans. This brand of partisan thinking holds true today in certain circles.
Hubbard was a talented politician, but power exposed his weakness.
Abraham Lincoln said, “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Hubbard failed that character test miserably, Britt writes:
Hubbard wanted a life grander than that of a humble public servant. His mentor, former-Gov. Bob Riley, warned him by asking in an August 2011 email, “Question now is DO YOU “WANT” to be Gov— or— make a lot of money: good thing is you could do either but I am not sure it’s possible to do both.
In an email earlier that Hubbard lamented his position as the most powerful man in state politics writing, “To be honest, I feel like I am failing my family by sacrificing the opportunity to make money in favor of a job that costs me money and a lot of grief.”
Hubbard’s was an ancient problem, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” that is what laid him low. He looked at the men around him who enjoyed wealth and privilege and lusted for the same lifestyle. Hubbard was a dismal failure in business and only succeeded on occasions through rigged bids and the help of more influential older men.
In every one of his crimes underlies a desire for more money, and as Speaker of the House, the lure of easy money was his undoing.
I spend nearly eight years tracking Hubbard’s crimes and wrongdoings. I hope this is the last time I ever write about him, but that is not a given.
A prime lesson from the Hubbard affair? Public officials should be aware of the company they keep, writes al.com's Kyle Whitmire:
Take this as a warning, Alabama lawmakers.
You, too, elected officials.
From the governor’s mansion to the town council, be warned.
If you break Alabama’s ethics laws, you may go to prison. It doesn’t matter how much power you have.
Nearly four years after a Lee County jury convicted Mike Hubbard of breaking ethics laws he helped pass, the former Alabama House speaker lost his last appeal — mostly.
In a messy opinion, with two justices recusing, and others concurring or dissenting for their own reasons, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld enough of the counts against Hubbard that he will have to spend some time in prison. The opinion kicks the case back to the Court of Criminal Appeals to figure out just how long he’ll be there.
That’s significant. Five years ago, Hubbard was the most powerful politician in Alabama. Soon he will be an inmate in one of the prisons the Legislature has spent decades neglecting.
Hubbard used his office to advance his personal business interests. That’s a fact now. There’s no “allegedly” attached to it. There’s no footnote saying if this survives appeals. He did it. He’s a crook. He’s guilty. And now he’s going to jail.
Will Alabama officials be slow to grasp that lesson? Probably, just as Alabama citizens fail to understand that voting reflexively for one party, no matter how corrupt it has proven to be, is not such a swift idea. Writes APR's Josh Moon in a piece titled "Mike Hubbard has taught us nothing":
Mike Hubbard is going to prison.
There is no glee in those words. There’s nothing happy or satisfying about them. A man did wrong and now a family will be without a father and a wife without a husband, and we’ll have one more body wedged into an Alabama prison for a few years.
Because Mike Hubbard, former speaker of the Alabama House and arguably the most powerful man in Alabama politics a few years ago, is without a doubt going to prison. According to sources familiar with the sentencing process, Hubbard’s original four-year sentence (and 16 years of probation) still stands, despite the Alabama Supreme Court graciously knocking down six of the 11 charges he faced.
Exactly when Hubbard will report to prison is a good question. The ALSC sent those six charges back down to a lower court to be considered again, so there’s a chance — maybe even likely — that Hubbard will again remain free on bond as he awaits that court’s decision.
But eventually, he’ll go. As he should.
Because Mike Hubbard broke the law.
In a perfect world, Hubbard’s crimes would be a wake-up call to Alabamians and Alabama politicians. The total exposure by Hubbard’s trial of greed and good-ol-boy politickin’ that goes on in Montgomery on a daily basis should have been enough to force voters to pay attention and force lawmakers to walk a finer line.
But that hasn’t been the case.
Instead, Alabama voters have done what they always do — go back to talking about football and voting for whoever registers for the popular party — and Alabama lawmakers have gone back to doing what they always do — stealing our money for themselves and their friends.
I don’t understand it. And I never will.
Hubbard’s case wasn’t a one-off, and you know it. Look at the people involved and the conversations they had — conversations through emails that were documented in court. They talked openly about schemes to get themselves and their friends more taxpayer money. They casually discussed ways that Hubbard, and other lawmakers, could use his office to generate more “consulting” contracts for himself.
In email after email, Hubbard whined about going broke and how the ethics laws, which he helped write, were preventing him from earning a living. He was making about a half-million bucks per year at the time.
A former governor, numerous lawmakers and some of the state’s top business leaders were all in on these conversations.
And let me tell you from experience — from walking those State House halls, talking to lawmakers and lobbyists and staffers and mistresses and wives and some of the biggest players in all of state politics: What Hubbard was doing happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.