The older you get the more you realize that old adages you heard as a child are true. There is a political maxim that says, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It could very aptly be applied to the Mike Hubbard saga.
Mike Hubbard was born and raised in northern Georgia. He went to college at the University of Georgia, majored in journalism and landed a job in the Bulldog Sports Information Department. About that time an amazing athlete came from rural Georgia to play football at the University of Georgia – Herschel Walker. Hubbard was assigned the task of spearheading the media promotion to win Walker the Heisman Trophy. Indeed, he won the prestigious award as the nation’s greatest football player.
A few years later, Auburn University landed an unusually talented athlete in Vincent “Bo” Jackson. Pat Dye had gotten the coveted Jackson after Bear Bryant dismissively told Jackson he would probably make him a defensive back or linebacker. Jackson did not like hearing that and he made Bryant regret it.
Bo Jackson became the best football player in the country. Pat Dye, a Georgia grad and an All-American guard for the Bulldogs, reached out to his alma mater to find out who promoted Walker and learned that is was Mike Hubbard. Dye brought Hubbard to Auburn and Hubbard soon had a resume that made him the prime promoter of two Heisman Trophy winners.
Hubbard parlayed this notoriety into building a media empire around Auburn athletics. He controlled television and radio rights to Auburn games and even started his own radio station and printing company. He got elected to the Legislature to represent Auburn in 1998.
Hubbard followed the legendary Pete Turnham in the Auburn House seat. Mr. Pete served in the House from 1958- 1998. He had the record for legislative tenure in state history and was known as the Dean of the House.
Mr. Pete and I sat beside each other for 16 years in the House. I watched Pete over the years and every vote he cast and every action was geared toward helping Auburn University. He did it without fanfare. I saw him get untold millions in appropriations for Auburn. I always thought it was a travesty that not one building at Auburn was named after Pete. In fact, I observed him get the money for a new veterinarian building on campus. Therefore, it would have been most appropriate to name the building after old Pete. However, he would not have had it any other way.
Ironically, after only 12 years in the House, Hubbard became Speaker. He had a building on campus named for himself. He also became known as an inside manipulator when he orchestrated the bidding of the Auburn football games to favor his Auburn Network to retain the exclusive contract while he was in office.
Hubbard became a stalwart state Republican leader soon after his election to the Legislature. He became chairman of the Party and then in 2010 was instrumental in helping to recruit and elect the first Republican majority in the House. Indeed, it was and still is and will continue to be a super majority. His minions elected him as their Speaker and he took control of the House and ran it with an iron fist. Some would say that he became a dictator and that is not far from the truth.
In my lifetime, I have never seen a Speaker garner the power and total control that Hubbard wielded. It was as though he was the King of the House and the other Republicans were his loyal subjects. Thus, the adage “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The much anticipated trial that ended on June 10, culminated in Hubbard’s conviction on 12 of 23 counts of felony ethics law violations. It was great drama and everything that was anticipated. The outcome was what most folks expected. His sentencing is set for July 8. He will probably get prison time given the overwhelming number of convictions.
There is very little likelihood that an appeal will get much traction. The judge in the case, Jacob Walker III, did a flawless job and ruled fairly and within the law on all issues. He read the charges to the jury verbatim from the law. The jury was extremely diligent and ruled on every count exactly the way almost any jury in the state would have ruled after hearing the facts and the law.
We will discuss the ramifications of the Hubbard downfall next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state Legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.