Ala. Governor Stands By |House Speaker at Trial

     (CN) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley testified Wednesday that he never saw anything unethical in House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s conduct, and instead viewed him as a tireless advocate for the state.
     Hubbard, an Auburn Republican, is charged with 23 counts of corruption, including one charge that he illegally lobbied the governor on behalf of a consulting client, the Southeast Alabama Gas District.
     But as he testified in a crowded Lee County courtroom Wednesday, Bentley said there was nothing out of the ordinary about the economic-development meetings he’s had with Hubbard, or an air show they both attended to help “sell Alabama.”
     Characterizing the air show as a “working trip,” Bentley said it involved meetings with approximately 12 to 14 companies a day.
     The governor further testified that he believed Hubbard was there in his role as house speaker, and that that he invited his GOP colleague to attend “some of the meetings.”
     Previous testimony in the trial, however, indicated that Hubbard was attending the air show in his role as a consultant for the Southeast Alabama Gas District.
     Bentley, who testified for approximately 20 minutes, indicated that he didn’t find Hubbard’s participation in the meetings to be unethical.
     In response to questioning from defense attorney Bill Baxley, Bentley also said he believed in the value of what the attorney termed a “citizen legislature,” and confirmed that he had maintained his own doctor’s practice while serving in the state legislature.
     Bentley, a Republican from Tuscaloosa, previously served in the Alabama House for eight years. He was elected as governor in 2010.
     Bentley also testified that the state’s secretary of commerce regularly attends economic development meetings with him. Hubbard is also charged with lobbying the Department of Commerce on behalf of SEAGD.
     The governor has recently faced his own political problems, stemming from allegations that he had inappropriate conversations with a former longtime staffer. Since apologizing publicly for his statements, Bentley has faced calls from Legislators for his impeachment.
     In other testimony on Wednesday, lobbyist Dax Swatek told the court that Hubbard asked him to invest personally in his struggling printing business, Craftmaster Printers.
     “I told him it was at a minimum bad perception,” Swatek testified, noting that such solicitations are forbidden by state ethics laws.
     Swatek also testified to the GOP’s use of Craftmaster for its printing services during the 2010 election cycle, calling it a “primary vendor.”
     Hubbard served as the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party from 2007-2011.
     A representative of IMG Sports also testified on Wednesday, indicating that Hubbard had been laid off from the company in 2011 and rehired a year later on a commission basis.
     Prosecutors have said that Hubbard’s financial difficulties gave rise to the ethics violations being charged in the case.

%d bloggers like this: