|From||United States of America|
|Birth||11 February 1962, Hartwell, Hart County, Georgia, USA|
Mike Hubbard (born February 11, 1962) is an American former state politician who was a Republican member of the Alabama House of Representatives, representing the 79th district in Lee County. He was first elected in 1998 and previously served as Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. Before that, he was House Minority Leader six years (2004–10) and was twice chairman of the Alabama Republican Party (2007–11). Mike Hubbard is the owner of the Auburn based radio stations WANI, WGZZ, W-LEE, and ESPN 106.7. In addition to the radio stations Mike Hubbard also holds a TV station construction permit and a fifth radio station construction permit. Mike Hubbard has stated that he does not take an income from his radio stations and has moved ownership from his name to his wife’s name Susan Hubbard to protect his investment. Mike Hubbard has admitted that he paid his staff members a total of $30,000.00 dollars each if they could convince voters to help turn the state red which he and his staff members accomplished.
As the Alabama GOP chairman, Hubbard created and headed the most comprehensive fundraising and coordinated campaign plan in the party’s history. The effort raised over $5 million and, in the November 2010 general election, resulted in Republicans winning every statewide office, picking up a Congressional seat and taking majorities in both Houses of the Alabama Legislature for the first time in the 136 years since the end of the Reconstruction Era.
In 2016, Hubbard was sentenced to four years in prison for felony violations of state ethics laws. Per state law, he was removed as a member of the House.
Hubbard is a broadcaster and businessman in Auburn, Alabama. His company, Auburn Network, owns and operates four radio stations in the Auburn/Opelika market and publishes a quarterly magazine, East Alabama Living. It also operates an advertising agency, Network Creative Media. His company sold the multi-media rights to Auburn University athletics to International Sports Properties in 2003, which merged with IMG’s college sports marketing/broadcasting group in 2010.
Early life and education
Hubbard was senior class president in his Hartwell, Georgia high school. During high school, Hubbard beat Ralph E. Reed, Jr. to become the Georgia state champion in the Voice of Democracy speech contest. Hubbard went to the University of Georgia on a journalism scholarship, where he helped lead the successful public relations campaign for Herschel Walker’s 1982 Heisman Trophy. After graduating, Hubbard got a job in the Auburn University athletic department and led a successful public relations campaign for Bo Jackson’s 1985 Heisman. Hubbard left Auburn and started a new company, which then won exclusive broadcast rights for all Auburn Tigers sports and made Hubbard a millionaire. Prior to forming Auburn Network in 1994, he served as general manager of Host Communications (1990–1994), and associate sports information director for Auburn University (1984–1990).
In 1996, Patrick Nix, (quarterback for Auburn in 1993), recommended that Hubbard apply his public relations expertise to Bob Riley’s congressional campaign. Riley won and, in gratitude, invited Hubbard to attend the swearing-in ceremony in the Alabama State Capitol, where Hubbard says he was impressed by the “symbols of our nation’s power.”
In 1998, Bill Canary provided polling during Hubbard’s first election campaign. Hubbard won, taking a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives representing much of Lee County, Alabama.
In 2002, Riley won the Alabama gubernatorial election, and gave Hubbard the leadership of the Alabama Republican Party. Hubbard would later name his youngest son Riley. As leader of the state’s Republican party, Hubbard became a member of the Republican National Committee, and received invitations to visit the White House.
Federal prosecutors had been securing felony convictions against leaders of the Alabama Democratic Party at all levels, from Mayor Larry Langford to Governor Don Siegelman. During the 2010 Alabama elections, Hubbard capitalized on the convictions by campaigning under “A Republican Handshake with Alabama,” which included immigration controls, cuts to government spending, an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama defining conception as the start of human life, and strict new ethics laws. Republicans won in a landslide, with Robert J. Bentley succeeding Governor Riley, and Republicans becoming the majority party in both chambers of the legislature.
After some Democratic lawmakers switched parties, Republicans commanded a supermajority, made Hubbard Speaker of the House, and convened an unusual December special session to pass the new ethics laws. Hubbard then doubled the speakership office’s budget to nearly $900,000, and covered his office walls with flat-screen TVs, one of which was dedicated to looping photos of Hubbard with GOP figures such as President George W. Bush.
Republicans soon passed Alabama HB 56, instructing police to arrest anyone who appeared to be an illegal immigrant, which led to the arrests of executives at the Honda Manufacturing of Alabama and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International factories. The law was later declared unconstitutional by federal courts. Hubbard also passed a voter ID law, and then shut down driver’s license offices in the state’s poorest counties.
In 2012, he authored a book about the 2010 Republican takeover in Alabama entitled Storming The State House: The Campaign That Liberated Alabama from 136 Years of Democrat Rule (Montgomery: NewSouth Books). Hubbard paid David Azbell $96,000 in public funds to help write the book.
Another example of Hubbard’s illegal cronyism occurred in 2013, when the state’s House and Senate each passed a slightly different version of what had started as an 8-page bill to grant school choice to students in failing schools. Instead of reconciling the texts of the passed measures, Hubbard sent it to a subcommittee, which met in a new location and with almost no notice. Although only Republican members made it to the meeting, they approved a 27-page replacement bill that was quickly passed. “The new bill established a scholarship program that now helps middle class and wealthy families send their kids to private schools, creating a multi-million-dollar program that [former Governor] Riley now runs.”
In the 2014 GOP primary, Mike Hubbard defeated local Auburn businessman Fred “Sandy” Toomer. Hubbard’s challenger in the November general election was Democrat Shirley Scott-Harris.
An audit by the new chair of the Alabama Republican Party found Hubbard spent over $1 million of campaign funds on a printing company he owned, through a deal with Brett Buerck. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that Hubbard laundered $1.5 million of gambling money from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians into the state GOP through Ed Gillespie’s Republican State Leadership Committee and a group associated with Jack Abramoff.
Hubbard did not have a private-sector job after becoming Speaker, and had to rely on his $60,000 a year state salary and his wife Susan’s $150,000 salary as a dean of Auburn University. The Hubbards claimed a net worth of $8.8 million, including multiple commercial properties, stock holdings, a home in Auburn, a lake house, a farm, and a beach condo in the Florida Panhandle.
Hubbard solicited work from Riley’s new lobbying firm, but, while commiserating on the difficulties of life with only a government salary, Riley refused to hire him, prompting Hubbard to say, “‘I need to be a salesman for BR&A [Riley’s lobbying firm]. …Except for those ethics laws. Who proposed those things?! What were we thinking?'” Riley did help Hubbard get a job as a “consultant,” for $12,000 a month, with the Southeast Alabama Gas District, after which Hubbard sent an email to Riley saying, “I am thankful for my Risen Lord.” Hubbard accepted gifts from his old pollster, Bill Canary, who by then was a registered lobbyist, and secured a $5,000-a-month deal with American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. before he and Greg Wren passed a law granting the company a $40-million-a-year monopoly on Alabama’s Medicaid prescription drug program.
Hubbard also secured a $7,500-a-month deal with Edgenuity, and a $10,000-a-month deal with a plastic cup manufacturer seeking a contract with Governor Bentley. During the trial, Hubbard’s former chief of staff, Josh Blades, testified that when he asked the Speaker why they were helping the cup manufacturer, Hubbard replied “100,000 reasons.”
Hubbard reportedly received $420,000 a year from such deals. When Hubbard’s printing business defaulted on a $600,000 loan, he procured $150,000 each from four investors who were currently lobbying the state government. Will Brooke wired Hubbard $150,000 in October 2012. Brooke further gifted an investment plan worth tens of thousands of dollars to Hubbard’s printing business. Hubbard assured Brooke that he would make sure the state would direct federal welfare funds to a charity run by Brooke’s wife.
Following an investigation conducted by Matt Hart, working from the state’s Attorney General’s office’s white crime division, and special prosecutor Van Davis, who stepped in after the Alabama’s Attorney General, Luther Strange, recused himself, on October 20, 2014, Hubbard was indicted by a special grand jury in Lee County on 23 counts relating to misusing his office for personal gain and soliciting gifts from lobbyists. Each of the 23 counts carried the possibility of two to 20 years in prison and $30,000 in fines.
The investigation led to charges against two other Republican legislators. Greg Wren, of Montgomery, pleaded guilty to a charge of knowingly using his office for personal gain and resigned his office. Barry Moore, of Enterprise, was charged with two counts of felony perjury, and two counts of giving false statements, but was found not guilty of all charges. Investigations into Hubbard also exposed Governor Bentley to a sex scandal.
Hubbard hired former Democratic state Attorney General Bill Baxley for his criminal defense. Two months after his felony indictment, Hubbard won reelection in a landslide and was reelected Speaker of the House on a 99–1 vote. When Republican lawmakers opposed Hubbard’s tax increases and proposed that party leaders should step down when under felony indictment, Hubbard removed them from their committees. Hubbard refused to resign his position. Huntsville, Alabama representative Phil Williams was also removed from the House Technology Committee after he helped defeat a bill that would have given Hubbard line-item control over the budget of the state Attorney General’s prosecutors.
At the time of Hubbard’s trial, impeachment proceedings against Governor Bentley were beginning, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended, for the second time, Supreme Court of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, for ethics violations. Also in early 2016, Hubbard and Bentley were seeking to issue $800 million in debt to pay unnamed, no-bid contractors to build four new, privately run state prisons.
Hubbard’s Chief of Staff, Great Southern Wood CEO Jimmy Rane, famously known as the “Yella Fella” and also the state’s richest man, lobbyists Canary and Brooke, and even Governor Bentley were required to testify at trial. After seven hours of deliberations on June 10, 2016, the jury found Hubbard guilty on charges relating to the Medicaid monopoly, the plastic cup manufacturer, and for the investments from Will Brooke. Hubbard was convicted on 12 of 23 felony charges and was taken into custody, but was released on a $160,000 bond. On July 8, 2016, Hubbard was sentenced to “four years in prison, eight years on probation and ordered to pay a $210,000 fine on 12 felony ethics violations.”
Less than a month later, on August 5, Hubbard filed a motion requesting either a new trial, acquittal, or dismissal of the charges. One claim asserted by the motion is that “the state presented faulty expert testimony about the ethics law.” The state has also “asked the court to reconsider its decision denying its request to order Hubbard to pay $1.1 million in restitution.”
Following his conviction, Hubbard filed a request to have the state open an investigation into possible misconduct by the jury that convicted him. On September 2, Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker denied that request, and also denied the state’s request to order Hubbard to pay $1.1 million in restitution. As of September 25, 2019, Hubbard remains free on bond.
Almost four years after a Lee County jury convicted former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard of 12 ethics charges, six of those convictions still stand after a review by the state’s highest court.
The Alabama Supreme Court upheld six of the charges. It reversed five others and remanded the case back to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which had previously reversed one of the dozen convictions handed down by a Lee County jury in June 2016.