Ex-Alabama governor says House speaker asked him for a job

AP News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2016 7:11 PM
Ex-Alabama governor says House speaker asked him for a job

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard's pleas for help finding work — including emails to his political mentor— took center stage Friday as prosecutors continued trying to prove the Deep South Republican violated a state ethics law he once championed.

Prosecutors' major witness of the day was a man Hubbard has described as a father figure: former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. Riley, 71, was asked about emails Hubbard sent him lamenting his financial woes and seeking employment at Riley's new lobbying firm, Bob Riley & Associates.

"Can I just come work for BR&A? I need a job and this way I would work for someone I respect," Hubbard wrote in a 2011 email to Riley.

"Here he is just asking outright for a job?" prosecutor Matt Hart asked the ex-governor.

"He did that several times," Riley responded after a pause. Riley added that he thought some of the requests were merely Hubbard "ragging" him in jest.

"I don't think it was a serious ask every time," Riley said.

Prosecutors argue the requests were improper because Hubbard was soliciting financial favors from a lobbyist with business before the Alabama legislature. Hubbard, 54, faces 23 felony ethics charges accusing him of using his political positions to try to make money.

The 2011 emails came as Hubbard was at the pinnacle of his political career after Republicans in 2010 took control of the Alabama Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. Yet he was facing financial struggles after being laid off from his primary employer, Auburn's IMG Sports Network.

Hubbard wrote to Riley in August 2011 that he feared he was having a mid-life crisis, battling depression and "failing my family by sacrificing the opportunity to make money in favor of a job that costs me money and a lot of grief."

Riley wrote in reply that he thought Hubbard could become governor or make a lot of money, "but I am not sure it's possible to do both." Hart asked the governor if that was a warning to Hubbard. Riley said he was trying to help Hubbard out of his depression by reminding him that he had a bright political future, but it would require sacrifice.

Hubbard couldn't work directly for Riley because Riley was a registered lobbyist. In other emails Hubbard suggested that Riley could de-register. Riley testified that he didn't want to de-register because he would have to give up some clients.

Hubbard and the ex-governor, now two of Alabama's most prominent Republicans, met when Riley was running for Congress in the 1990s. Their longstanding friendship and alliance is such that a segment of the Alabama Republican Party was sometimes nicknamed the Riley-Hubbard wing.

Riley's daughter Minda Riley Campbell, also a lobbyist, testified that Hubbard also sought her help finding employment. She said Hubbard communicated "pretty clearly" that he wanted to come work at her father's firm.

The exchanges between Campbell and Hart teetered between forced politeness and snippiness as Campbell at times displayed thinly veiled contempt for the prosecution's accusations.

"I think I handed over about 10,000 emails to you," Campbell retorted when Hart asked if she remembered a particular email.

Hubbard's attorneys maintain the requests fall within a legal exemption for longstanding friendships. Campbell, under questioning from defense lawyer Bill Baxley, recounted how Hubbard attended her wedding and baby showers and she used the equipment at his media companies to edit her children's birthday videos. Hubbard named his younger son Riley after the former governor.

After Hart cut off her lengthy answers and said she could have her say later, Campbell won the judge's permission to give what amounted to a closing statement at the end of her testimony.

"I have loved that man like a brother for 20 years. ... I do not believe for one minute that that man that I have known for 20 years would ever, ever knowingly do something unethical or dishonest," she said.

But Hart noted the confluence of power and influence the two families wielded both together and separately.

Hart had Campbell go through her father's firm's high-powered client list that included some major Alabama employers and her own work for Republican campaigns while Hubbard led the party. She also described how she once called Hubbard asking if he could keep the House in session long enough so that a bill her law firm was interested in would have a chance to get a floor vote.

Business Council of Alabama President Bill Canary, a political ally of Hubbard and Riley, testified that he contacted officials at Verizon and Pepsico in hopes of helping Hubbard find employment. Canary, according to testimony, was one of three lobbyists who had weekly meetings in Hubbard's office about upcoming legislation in the Alabama House.

Riley's testimony resumes Monday.