The are thorny questions emerging in the race to win the House District 79 Seat. State Representative Mike Hubbard is considered one of Alabama's most powerful Republicans. Monday his primary election opponent tried to file an ethics complaint against him. While the complaint contains some pointed accusations, the State Ethics Commission turned it away - at least temporarily.
Hubbard's Republican opponent is Jim Phillips, a former aide to Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch - the same man who probed Bill Clinton's Whitewater affair. He says he knows wrongdoing when he sees it.
"Representative Hubbard, in my opinion, misused his office," said Jim Phillips.
Phillips claims Hubbard first cheated when he pushed a change in state law to allow universities to issue certain no-bid contracts. Second, when Auburn put its athletic rights out to bid in 2002, it used the loophole to pay Hubbard back. It accepted Hubbard's eight point five million dollar bid instead of a larger 12 point 5 million dollar bid from host communications.
A reputable company that does, among others, the University of Texas, the University of Michigan, uh, Oklahoma State, Florida State," said Phillips.
Phillips says it's wrong for Auburn to ask students to pay increased fees for athletics when the school gave away millions in the broadcast rights. Phillips says the final violation came after ISP Communications bought out Hubbard and gave him a job. He says Hubbard circumvented the no-bid law when ISP and Auburn signed a new nine year deal in April. Nine years, because ten would require a competitive bid process.
"It appears to me that somebody was buying Representative Hubbard's influence," said Phillips.
Representative Hubbard late this afternoon told WSFA he believes Alabama Democrats are funding Phillips and just trying to hurt his campaign. He says that Auburn's media rights have always been exempt from competitive bid. He added that he abstained from the 2002 house vote that changed the law, fearing it might look like a conflict of interest.
There won't be any quick resolution to the matter. The Ethics Commission has a long standing policy of not accepting complaints against political candidates when it's this close to an election. We're roughly one month away from the primary.
Jim Phillips said he plans to re-file his complaint after the election - even if he loses.