Alabama Scene

The Speaker, his book, and Auburn University

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com.

Last month the political newsletter “Inside Alabama Politics” reported that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard of Auburn had turned his attention earlier this year to writing a book on the rise of the Republican Party in Alabama.

The planned title is Storm in the State House, and the book will be published by New South Books of Montgomery. Hubbard told the newsletter the planned publication date is next February or March.

The speaker was quoted as saying that the book would document the Republican takeover of the State Legislature in the 2010 elections that ended 136 years of Democrats in control of the lawmaking process in Alabama.

“It (the book) starts when I became party chairman in 2007 and goes through the 2010 election, the 2011 legislative session and the passage of our Handshake with Alabama package of legislation,” Hubbard said.

Former Riley administration press secretary David Azbell is helping Hubbard with research, writing, and editing. Azbell is a founding partner of Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross, a governmental and political affairs firm located in Montgomery. He also worked in the press office of former Gov. Fob James and has worked for the late Gov. George Wallace. His father, the late Joe Azbell, was a longtime columnist for The Montgomery Independent.

Since the start of Hubbard’s political rise at the State House in 2007 and through this past February, an LLC by the name of Azbell Communications and incorporated by David Azbell, has been paid $2000 per month by the House of Representatives to work on political relations for the House Republican caucus. That amount over the years totaled $80,000, according to state records.

Then suddenly this past February someone else assumed Azbell’s position with the caucus. In March, the payment to Azbell Communications increased to $8000 per month. Through August of this year, state records show that Azbell Communications has been paid an additional $56,000.

The Independent has been unable to confirm the nature of the services Azbell Communications performs for the public body over which Rep. Hubbard presides, but the Speaker has publically announced Azbell is helping with the book. He hasn’t yet revealed on whose time clock Azbell is working.

Hubbard is president of The Auburn Network, which is owned by IMG College and was recently purchased from ISP Sports. Since State Fiscal Year 2008, more than $4 million in state funds has been spent on advertising with the Auburn Network or its parent company.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has purchased the greatest amount of that advertising, nearly $2.2 million.

The Alabama Secretary of State has spent $135,000.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety, Alabama Department of Human Resources, The Emergency Management Authority, The Forever Wild Trust Fund, and the Board of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors started purchasing ads after the 2010 General Election when Hubbard was elected Speaker.

The Department of Human Resources paid $15,000 from the Public Welfare Trust Fund to the company in December of 2010, the Department of Public Safety $63,000 in February of 2011, and the Forever Wild Trust fund $60,000 in September of this year.

Several years back it was widely reported that Hubbard’s company receives 547 prime seats, three sky boxes, and 100 parking passes to every Auburn football game.

Hubbard said at the time the tickets were given to companies that advertise on Auburn sports broadcasts and are not used for any political purpose. “That’s my job. Its part of the package we sell to advertisers, just the same as every other college network does,” Hubbard said at the time. There are skeptics on Goat Hill who might suspect otherwise. Hubbard also got 225 tickets for every men’s baseball and basketball game and 150 tickets for each women’s basketball game and gymnastics meet in addition to six seats on the charter jets to Auburn away games.

New South Books reports that the book will be available in March 2012 in hardcover for $27.95. It is described as “a battlefield account by the architect of the Republican takeover of the State House in 2010 and his vision and partisan vigor which led that tsunami.”