OCTOBER 27, 2014
In Alabama last week—two weeks before Election Day—a special state grand jury issued a 23-count indictment against Mike Hubbard, the powerful Republican speaker of the state’s House of Representatives. Hubbard immediately proclaimed his innocence, denouncing the long-expected charges as part of “a political witch hunt.” His lawyer condemned “rogue prosecutors.” A political legend in Alabama, in 2010 Hubbard engineered the Republican takeover of all state-wide offices and put an end to generations of Democratic control of both house of the Legislature.
The timing of the indictment is curious. Federal authorities frown on issuing politically sensitive indictments in election seasons, but Alabama state politics ain’t beanbag. The indictment charges Hubbard with numerous offences against “the peace and dignity” of the state, including soliciting more than $600,000 for his printing business, Craftmaster; improperly using his position as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party to solicit business for Craftmaster and another business, Auburn Network; improperly using his position as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives to obtain cash and other goodies from the Southeast Alabama Gas District, a public utility; and strong-arming prominent political players to obtain business for his companies.
Hubbard says the indictment is all about putting a stop to “the positive progress” his party has made in Alabama. “There’s a bigger agenda out there,” he told supporters at a campaign rally a day after the indictment was made public, “and over the next few weeks, we will be finding out and exposing all of this.”
Signaling a likely defense, Hubbard asked, “why is it that the attorney general’s office thinks that it’s a crime to have a business? And thinks that you cannot do business with anyone that you didn’t know before you were elected office? It could be any one of us up here.”
First comes the election. Then an Alabama jury will get to decide whether this is corruption or just business as usual. For Hubbard, some recent Alabama history is not promising: the former governor of the state and the former mayor of Birmingham, both Democrats, are serving time on corruption charges.