Alabama’s Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn, was indicted Monday by a Lee County grand jury tasked earlier this year with investigating public corruption in state Republican’s legislative supermajority.
According to published reports, Hubbard turned himself in at the Lee County Courthouse around 4 p.m., Oct. 20. The arrest followed three days of rampant speculation about a possible indictment that proved to be valid.
The 23-count indictment included four counts alleging Hubbard used his position as the “chairman of the Alabama Republican Party to obtain personal gain” and voted for multiple pieces of legislation that violated state code due to a “conflict of interest.”
The indictment also alleges Hubbard used his positions in the House to obtain personal gain in the form of cash or checks from the Southeast Alabama Gas District and American and Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. while doing business through the Auburn Network, a media company he founded in 1994.
According to the indictment, Hubbard also solicited favors from former Gov. Bob Riley and Billy Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama, whose wife Laura Canary was the lead prosecutor in the corruption case that ultimately led to the conviction of Alabama Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman in 2006.
The indictment also alleges Hubbard intentionally solicited or received four separate investments of $150,000 for Craftmaster Printers from lobbyists working with the Business Council of Alabama, the Sterne Agee Group, Inc., Great Southern Wood and Hoar Construction.
If he’s convicted, Hubbard could face a between two-to-20 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines for each of the 23 counts. The charges do not mean Hubbard has to step down as Speaker or resign from the House.
According to the Opelika-Auburn News, Hubbard purchased Craftmaster Printers in 2000 along with Barry Whatley, Doug Taylor and former Auburn football coach Pat Dye. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2006.
Hubbard also allegedly solicited and received assistance from lobbyists Minda Riley Campbell, Bob Riley’s daughter, and attorney Dax Swatek – a founding member of the lobbying and political consulting firm Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross. That firm also includes members David Azbell, who co wrote Hubbard’s 2012 book “Storming the Statehouse.”
Since the indictment was released, the story has gone national with coverage from Fox News, The Washington Post and Politico, among others. Reactions have also poured in from state politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, said news of the indictment wasn’t a surprise because Hubbard told members of the Mobile House delegation, during a meeting last week, that an indictment could come down.
“He told us that he was innocent and would fight it,” Buskey said.
Buskey said he didn’t know if the indictment would have any impact on the Nov. 4 General Election.
“You have to assume there will be some reaction,” he said.
Republican Chris Pringle, who is newly elected to the House after a primary election win, said he also attended the meeting last week. He said he doesn’t know what impact the indictment could have, as he hasn’t been a representative in 12 years.
“I remember Mike as a freshman, when I was part of the Republican leadership in the House,” Pringle said. “I always considered Mike an upstanding man. I hate it for him and I hate it for his family.”
Mobile County Republican Executive Committee Chairwoman Terry Lathan said the issue would play itself out in the courts, but she cautioned against judging the party as a whole because of it.
“I think it’s important when issues like this happen that people don’t paint the organization with one brush,” Lathan said. “It’s not a problem with the party itself, but involves an individual or group of individuals.”
She compared the situation to a fellow church congregant who has his day in court. She said in that situation you don’t chain the doors of the church shut and stop the work of the lord.
“Groups of people are not defined by the actions of a few,” she said.
GOP Chairman Bill Armistead released a statement Monday evening reminding voters that “an individual is innocent until proven guilty” in America.
“The timing of this indictment, just two weeks before the election, causes one to wonder why now, unless it is for political purposes,” the statement reads. “But, we saw the same thing four years ago just weeks before the general election in 2010. Eleven people were indicted in a federal corruption case involving gambling legislation. Of those, none were found guilty other than the two who pled guilty.”
Hubbard himself called the allegations a “political witch hunt” and his attorney J. Mark White promised a press conference addressing the allegations sometime Oct. 21 as Lagniappe was going to press.
“This has been going on for two years, dragging on and on, and here they come two weeks before an election and make these allegations,” Hubbard said in a video posted his Facebook page Monday afternoon. “The fact is that we’ve done some great things in this state and some powerful people don’t like it.”
Lagniappe spoke briefly to Speaker Pro Tempore Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, on Tuesday, but he declined a chance to comment on the developing situation.
Hubbard is the third Republican to be indicated by the grand jury in the past two years, following Greg Wren of Montgomery, who was charged with using his office for political gain and Barry Moore of Enterprise, who was charged with perjury after prosecutors suggested he lied to the grand jury.
Moore’s perjury trial is scheduled to being on Oct. 27.
Dale Liesch contributed to this report