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  • Writer's pictureStaff Report

From Hubbard to Hovey, Auburn Boys Have Played the Losing Hand on Casino Expansion

Updated: May 30

Disgraced former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is well known for his sordid legacy defined by the corrupt thievery he engaged in which led to multiple felony criminal convictions on ethics law violations and a shameful prison sentence. What is not quite as well known is Hubbard's checkered past involving casino expansion in Alabama which ties in to the Republican party takeover of the state house in 2010 and blood money from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that made it all possible. Hubbard was at the center of these critical points in Alabama's recent political history, yet the crimes that he was convicted for were merely the tip of the iceberg when examining what all he got away with scot free.

Junior State Senator for District 27 Jay Hovey is at much the same early juncture in his political career that a younger, less hardened Mike Hubbard found himself in the beginning of his ascent to power in Montgomery. Ironically enough, Hubbard employed a nearly identical duplicitous approach to casino expansion as Hovey by attempting to publicly distance himself from PCI while at the same time soliciting their largesse and advancing casino interests behind closed doors.

In a May 2016 article entitled "How a Corrupt GOP Is Running Alabama Into the Ground" published by the political website The New Republic which chronicled the depth of Hubbard's empire of corruption, there were two quotes in particular from Alabama conservatives that truly cut to the the heart of the matter. Montgomery lobbyist and longtime Republican Claire Austin remarked;

“Instead of tax-and-spend Democrats, we’ve had borrow-and-spend Republicans.”

Former state representative from Birmingham Arthur Payne commented;

“There is nothing good that has come from the Republicans being in power in Alabama, and I’m a Republican.”
“Since the Republicans have taken over, we have borrowed more money than we ever have in the history of the state, and our budget is in worse shape than it’s ever been.”

Advocating for a reduction in the size and scope of government is a binary equation. Any political proposition by its very nature either results in limited government or bigger government, simple as that. Hubbard and his disingenuous fellow travelers like Hovey seemingly fail to grasp this elementary logic or more likely they are reveling in lucrative hypocrisy while selling voters a bill of goods which never fails to line their pockets with taxpayer money. For some perspective on the matter, let's take a trip back in time to revisit an ostensibly squeaky clean Mike Hubbard, still wet behind the ears or so he would have liked you to believe. In a May 2011 article published by the Tuscaloosa News, Hubbard's faux naivety was on full display while sharing a close shave he experienced with the FBI.

How truly rich, Hubbard acting out the role of the wide eyed political ingenue to a tee, feigning blissful ignorance while covertly up to his elbows in the PCI till. One might have expected that this early brush with the legal consequences of influence peddling would have given Hubbard pause in that formative period of his political career. Only a few years later, a massive budgetary shortfall in the general fund amounting to over $200 million spurred on Speaker Hubbard to propose plugging the hole with casino money, fully revealing the shallow depth of his character.

Speaking of "character", in a January 2023 interview with the Alabama Daily News, Hovey reflected on his catchy campaign slogan "Character Counts" by noting;

“I think a man, not just a candidate, but any man or person, ultimately only has his character — a man’s character is really all that counts when the cards are on the table. I was proud of the life that I’ve lived, prior to public service even. And I think that’s a character trait that I see imperative in my elected officials and I thought that would resonate.”

Ironic and quite telling that Hovey would employ the phrase "cards are on the table" sprinkled in with the vague platitudes he serves up for the unassuming masses. Still, the question really comes down to whether it is more important for Hovey to have character or to be a character? When Hovey's lofty talk is measured against his questionable walk, the bottom line is that he is playing a character that appeals to voters during campaign season without following through when he is on the senate floor and it is time to vote upon critical life or death issues such as casino expansion.

In that crucial moment, Hovey's character or lack thereof was more in line with Hubbard than the role of the sweet talking politician he played to win on the campaign trail. Folks who were present for Hovey's speech before a meeting of the East Alabama Republican Club at T-Bones Steakhouse in Phenix City have provided multiple sources of confirmation that he swore before them that his "religious convictions" would prevent him from ever supporting a casino expansion. What can conservative Christians do but shake their head when yet another politician says one thing to gain their trusted vote and then does another once elected?

Echoes of this dilemma were displayed in high relief in a May 2015 article by the Montgomery Advertiser where the mask finally fully came off Hubbard's face in terms of where he actually stood on casino expansion without all the conservative red meat talking points served up for election day.

Revisiting Hubbard's pitiful legal woes can be saved for another time, however, it is worth noting that it was the oversight of the same Attorney General office of Luther Strange that Hubbard was aiding the PCI in circumventing which ultimately brought charges against him. It had only been a matter of months since a Lee County grand jury had indicted Hubbard on felony ethics charges when he began pushing for casino expansion in the legislature. Considering that indictment was not directly related to gambling, it seems a bit puzzling that Hubbard would make casino expansion such a high priority when he was sitting upon a literal legal hot seat that threatened to end his political career and put him in prison.

Anyone who steers you in the wrong direction of thinking that casinos are harmless fun should have to answer to the concerns raised in a presentation by Jack Galassini on the dangers of gambling addiction at the Saugahatchee Country Club in Opelika in June of 2023. Hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Opelika, Galassini who himself is a Kiwanis District Lieutenant Governor as well as a television host on WSFA, spoke to the attendees in his capacity as the founder of the Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling. Fortunately for you dear readers the Examiner was in the audience that day to capture the highlights of the presentation in the following article;

It all appears on its face to be such a stunning reversal of fortune for Hubbard, having only a few years earlier engineered the Republican party legislative supermajority as well as his own ascension to Speaker of the House. With the full benefit of hindsight and secrets becoming unearthed over the passage of time, the pieces begin to fall into place with the 2014 disclosure of an internal investigation launched by the national political organization Republican State Leadership Committee in 2011 which was conducted by the law firm BakerHostetler on their behalf. In the document which has come to be known as the "BakerHostetler memo", Hubbard and his accomplices at the RSLC were exposed in a money laundering scheme that used PCI money to ensure that the Republican party won the state legislative majority in 2010.

Politico article from 2014 exposing Hubbard's money laundering

What is more incredible than the fact that Hubbard engaged in the kind of Olympic tier hypocrisy which enabled him to espouse anti-gambling rhetoric while at the same time taking money from PCI to advance their interests is that he never suffered any consequences for it. Confirmed details are hard to come by, deciphering a murky history whose waters have been muddied suggests that the statute of limitations on Hubbard's money laundering crimes may have passed by the time the BakerHostetler memo became public knowledge. Hubbard went on to back a proposal in the 2015 legislative session to give PCI a monopoly on gambling in Alabama in exchange for a $250 million loan to cover the state's budget shortfall that year.

When the BakerHostetler memo finally came to light, Hubbard predictably denied its findings and the "hear no evil, see no evil" bought off media in Alabama ignored the story altogether. Left leaning national news websites such as Politico, Salon and The New Republic have used it in the years since as a political football to remind the rest of the country of exactly what a corrupt, backwards good ol' boy dystopia Alabama has always been and continues to be for eternity. Ultimately, Hubbard paid the price for a select handful of his crimes, but not before forever cursing the state's Republican party with a tainted victory which secured their meaningless supermajority and crushed the Democrat party for the foreseeable future in Alabama.

One of the main question marks swirling around Hovey both as a candidate and in office as a senator are the keen perceptions of his liberal inclinations based upon a spotty record while previously serving as a City of Auburn councilman and his appeal to Democrat voters who he is indebted to for getting him elected to the senate by crossing party lines and voting for him in his Republican primary contest. Hovey returned the favor and crossed party lines to vote with Democrats against his own Republican colleagues this past legislative session in support of casino expansion which only added fuel to the fire of his suspect credentials as a conservative and furthered supported the credible narrative that he is in fact a big government liberal.

In that same previously mentioned interview, Hovey praised the virtues of democrat voters tipping the scales in favor of their preferred candidates in Republican primaries during elections such as his and argued against any efforts at preventing that in the future in the interest of ensuring electoral integrity in this question and answer;

Q: Let’s talk about the primary. I don’t think there’s a question that some Democrats did vote for you. That race did reignite some conversations about the GOP and closed primaries. What do you say to folks who think the primary should be closed?
A: “I understand why that banner has been raised again. You know, it’s interesting, whenever there’s something of note that happens in a primary, that’s the knee-jerk reaction. But it hasn’t gained traction in the past.
“… My two immediate questions (about closed primaries) are, how do you actually implement it and what are the unintended consequences? How would the registration process look like? What’s to keep anyone from just registering differently every election cycle?
“…Meanwhile, we can barely get 20% voter turnout now. What’s it going to look like when we have to depend on voters to register ahead of time or be turned away?”
“… I think the key for the party is pretty simple in my mind. How about the Alabama Republican Party concentrate on cultivating a stable of engaged, quality candidates rather than disenfranchising voters? If any party will promote and support quality candidates, the problem will take care of itself.”

It may not come as much of a surprise that Hovey would indulge in such self-interested BS, he certainly is charitable to himself at every opportunity. These self indulgent logical inconsistencies find echoes at the mysterious point in time where Hubbard sold his soul to the PCI early on in his political career. Years later the chickens finally came home to roost for Hubbard with some of his other transgressions, yet he was never held accountable for damning any future hopes of the Republican party ever being genuinely effective conservatives in Alabama. Embarking upon his own misguided political career, Senator Hovey may be tempted to roll the same big dice in support of casino expansion, yet his gamble is inevitably doomed to come up snake eyes.

Once upon a time, a wise man sang fitting words worth heeding;

"There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun and it's been the ruin of many a poor boy. And God, I know I'm one."

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1 Comment

a day ago

This is a very well written article and it should be read by every Alabama citizen .


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