Lobbyists: Alabama House speaker sought help getting job

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard's requests to prominent lobbyists to help him find work took center stage in testimony Friday as the second week of his ethics trial draws to a close.

The daughter of former Gov. Bob Riley and the head of a state business association testified that Hubbard reached out to them looking for help finding work after losing his primary job.

Prosecutors said the requests were improper because Hubbard was soliciting financial favors from people with business before the Alabama legislature. But the longtime political allies of the speaker tried to push back during questioning by a prosecutor, saying they wanted to help Hubbard because he was a close friend and they thought he was skilled marketer and strategist.

Lobbyist Minda Riley Campbell — the daughter of former Gov. Bob Riley — testified that Hubbard reached out to her for help finding employment after being laid off from his primary Auburn's IMG Sports Network.

"He said if you know of anything — because I know a lot of people — that would be a good fit for me, could you let me know," Campbell said. She also said Hubbard communicated "pretty clearly" that he wanted to come work at her father's high-profile lobbying firm, Bob Riley and Associates.

Hubbard faces 23 ethics charges accusing him of using his political positions to make money and solicit employment, investment and financial favors from lobbyists. Many of the charges relate to Hubbard's efforts to find work after being laid off from Auburn's IMG Sports Network.

Prosecutor Matt Hart, in questioning Campbell, read aloud from emails that Hubbard exchanged with Campbell and her father expressing his hopes to work at the firm and discussing the idea that Riley could de-register as a lobbyist so the work would be legal.

"I wish I was working with you on BR&A. I KNEW it would work!" Hubbard wrote to Riley in 2011.

In another email, Hubbard tells Campbell that her brother thinks it would be a problem for her father to unregister. "The BR&A would work great and is, in fact, what I had thought we were going to do. When he registered as a lobbyist, it messed that up. I hope he can and will unring the bell, but Rob seems to think it might be a problem."

The testimony put two of the state's most Republican prominent names into the courtroom. Hubbard and the two-term former governor have a longstanding friendship and alliance, so much that a segment of the Alabama Republican Party was sometimes referred in shorthand as the Riley-Hubbard wing. Hubbard named one of his sons Riley after the former governor.

The exchanges between Campbell and the prosecutor teetered between forced politeness and snippiness.

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

Earlier Friday, the head of an influential business group testified that Hubbard said he was under stress because of his financial situation and he said he set up meetings with out-of-state corporate officials to try to help Hubbard find a job.

Canary testified that he was trying to see "what opportunities might be available" for Hubbard.

Hubbard's defense is trying to argue the requests fall within an exemption in state ethics law for longstanding friendships.

Hart had Campbell go through her firm's high-powered client list that included some of the state's largest employers, suggesting that the relationship was intertwined with power and influence, not just friendship.