48 INVESTIGATES: Did AL Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard use power to benefit himself?

Published: Sep. 10, 2015 at 2:09 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 11, 2015 at 2:00 AM CDT
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ALABAMA (WAFF) - Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is facing 23 ethics charges, and newspapers and Tea Party groups have called for him to step aside.

Leaked emails paint him as a desperate man willing to leverage his political position for financial salvation. So, how is Hubbard surviving this firestorm, and still standing, as Alabama's Speaker of the House?

Representative Greg Wren resigned after serving 16 years in the Alabama legislature. Wren reached a plea deal after pleading guilty to using his office for personal gain.

Hubbard is also accused of misusing his office. Yet, unlike Wren, he's still a lawmaker. So, how is Hubbard different? Some say it's the power Hubbard wields as Speaker of the House and the support he still commands in the Republican party.

Madison County Representative Mike Ball knows all about Hubbard's influence in the legislature. He also knows Hubbard has the right to a fair trial.

"Due process is guaranteed in the Constitution for everybody," said Ball. "...for murderers, for child abusers and even politicians."

Ball is the Chairman of the House Ethics Committee. He also spent decades rooting out public corruption for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. Ball admits the allegations against Hubbard are damaging to his public image. Yet, he also points out, the entire story hasn't been told.

"One of the things that is difficult for a lot of folks, a lot of times, you have to wait for the process to play out and for the truth to come out," said Ball.

However, depending on who you believe, the truth is about as clear as the mud politicians often sling in Montgomery.

Prosecutors claim Hubbard illegally used the state's most powerful office to make more than $1 million for himself, and his companies Craftmaster Printers and the Auburn Network.

Hubbard's attorney, Mark White, is telling a much different story. White claims Hubbard is the victim.

"We know that before we even go to the courthouse we know we're dealing with someone who's already said if I can't convict him I'll ruin him politically," White said.

White has tried to get the ethics charges against Hubbard dismissed by accusing prosecutors in the Attorney General's office with misconduct. White claims the AG's office leaked the names of grand jury witnesses.

Matt Murphy has been trying to make sense of these accusations for months as he hosts a statewide talk show that's heard in Huntsville.

Murphy says, "Ironically enough, it was the Speaker's own folks that were demanding, clamoring for where's your evidence? What grounds do you have to bring these charges, these 23 charges against Mike Hubbard? And when that evidence rolled out, a lot of us who'd been hesitant to comment on it said, maybe, there's certainly,there's smoke here. It remains to be seen if there's fire."

Those smoke signals were seen when state prosecutors released a flood of Hubbard's emails in a court filing.  Prosecutors claim the emails prove Hubbard broke ethics laws in a variety of ways. For instance, they say Hubbard asked former Governor Bob Riley for a job even though Riley was a registered lobbyist at the time.

In one email, Hubbard wrote, "Can I just come work for BR&A (Bob Riley And Associates)? I need a job and this way I would work for someone I respect."

In a different email, Hubbard told Riley he could de-register as a lobbyist and wrote, "I need to be a salesman for BR&A. Except for those ethics laws. Who proposed those things?! What were we thinking?"

Some people criticize Mike Hubbard saying, how can the same man who championed the ethics laws back when it was approved now say it's unconstitutional?

Hubbard's attorney Mark White says it all depends on how that ethics law is being interpreted.

"I hear people say, 'I see the Speaker voted for the ethics act.' Of course he did!" White said. "I mean, there's no doubt about that. But when you have unconstitutional application of the act. In other words, someone decides I think it means something other than what the legislature meant. That violates the constitution of Alabama and the United States."

Murphy adds, "He was the architect who took much credit on my show and others around the state anyone who would talk to him, he took credit for crafting what he called the strongest ethics law in the United States of America. And now, to be accused of violating those same laws. If anybody knew where the line was, it should be Speaker Mike Hubbard."

We asked Representative Ball this question: "If there's anyone who should know the line that you can't cross, when it comes to ethics shouldn't it be him (Hubbard)?"

Ball paused before carefully gauging his words.

"We all do," he said. "Everyone who holds public office has the same responsibility to know but sometimes the lines get blurred."

In the end, a jury will get to define that line by defining the man. Did Hubbard use his position of power to enrich himself with investment money and consulting jobs? Or, was he the intended target of a political persecution?

Hubbard's trial was set for Oct. 19, but a Lee County judge agreed to delay it until March.

You can click here to read the indictment and 23 ethics charges against Hubbard.

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