Hammon could use remaining campaign funds on lawyers | Politics

MONTGOMERY – Other elected officials recently removed from office provide examples of how former state Rep. Micky Hammon could use any remaining money in his campaign coffers.

Hammon, R-Decatur, had about $52,500 in his campaign contribution account, according to his 2016 annual report filed earlier this year, and the most recent available.

If that number is still accurate, Hammon, ousted from office last month after being accused of converting campaign money to his own personal use, has options for its use under state law.

Former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, convicted in 2016 of 12 felony ethics violations, still has an open campaign account with about $47,000 in it, according to his 2016 annual filing with the Alabama Secretary of State.

Of the almost $279,000 he reported spending in 2016, $270,000 was to three law firms. Those fees were all paid prior to his June 2016 conviction, which Hubbard is appealing.

In all, Hubbard, indicted in October 2014, spent a total of about $599,000 in campaign contributions on legal fees beginning in 2013.

Campaign funds come from individuals, businesses and political action committees prior to elections. State law says leftover funds can be saved for the next campaign; can be donated to the state’s budgets or nonprofits; or can be used for the functions of office – including attorney fees.

Former Gov. Robert Bentley was removed from office in April the same day he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign violations stemming from an accused relationship he had with a staffer.

Included in the roughly $320,000 in legal fees Bentley paid out of his campaign fund in 2016 was almost $9,000 in attorney payments for his former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Per his April 10 plea agreement, Bentley surrendered the rest of his campaign money to the state. A campaign fund termination report filed in July shows almost $37,400 was given to the state’s General Fund in April. The governor’s office confirmed this week that amount and receipt to the state budget.

The termination report also shows Bentley repaid his campaign the nearly $9,000, which was also a requirement of his plea agreement.

Also listed is $2,500 from the Alabama Republican Party. Party chair Terry Lathan on Thursday said she believed that was an accounting of an event sponsorship check Bentley sent in 2016 but the party never cashed.

There is nothing in state law that mandates a campaign fund be terminated. Even if a political career is over, accounts can be left open as long as the officials or former officials file annual reports.

Hammon was unopposed in 2014 and spent little money on his re-election. His records show only three expenditures during the entire election cycle, including a $456 reimbursement in September 2013 to himself, detailed as a cellphone expense.

Hammon agreed to plead guilty to federal mail fraud charges – some of his contributions were received by mail. He faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced Jan. 11.

Federal officials have said the charges against Hammon were the result of a separate investigation.