Alabama Legislature

Formerly Imprisoned Lawmaker’s Campaign Finance Report Raises Questions

Former Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Hammon (Source: Alabama Legislature)

State officials have questions about a campaign finance report filed this month by former Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, who spent three months in federal prison last year for using campaign money on personal expenses.

On April 2, Hammon turned in late his 2017 campaign finance report, a document required of public officials that details spending from their campaign funds. The report lists one expenditure: $52,533 to Hammon in January 2017. Under the explanation of expense section of the form, “to be determined” was typed.

“That’s a problem,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Alabama Daily News when asked about the report. He said his office would reach out to Hammon.

Hugh Evans, general counsel for the Secretary of State, said he is attempting to speak with Hammon’s attorney.

“I don’t know what the story is, but you can’t use campaign funds for your personal use,” Evans said.

“On the face of it, it would raise an issue not only with us, but the (Alabama) Ethics Commission,” said Evans, the former general counsel for the ethics commission. “But until we know more, there is nothing we can comment on.”

Campaign funds come from individuals, businesses and political action committees before elections. State law says money not used on election expenses can be saved for the next campaign, donated to the state’s budgets or nonprofits or used for the functions of office — including legal fees and “costs associated with any civil action, criminal prosecution, or investigation related to conduct reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held.”

A violation of the law can result in a Class B felony, punishable with between two and 20 years in prison.

A phone number for Hammon listed on the report has been disconnected. Calls to his attorney by Alabama Daily News weren’t returned.

In February 2018, a federal judge sentenced Hammon to three months in prison for felony mail fraud. The Decatur Republican pleaded guilty in September 2017 to using campaign funds raised for his 2014 reelection for personal expenses. Hammon would endorse checks from contributors and put them in his campaign’s bank account. Then he would write a check drawn on that account to himself and deposit it in his personal account and use it to pay for his personal expenses, prosecutors said.

Hammon was ordered in 2018 to forfeit nearly $51,000 for reimbursement to those who had donated to his campaign. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery said Wednesday it does not comment on whether defendants have paid their restitution.

Hammon’s expenditures were found by the U.S. attorney’s office while investigating a separate matter. Hammon eventually provided grand jury testimony that led to the indictment and guilty plea early this year by the CEO of Trina Health LLC, a health care company that focused on diabetes therapy.

Ford Gilbert, owner of California-based Trina Health, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors said Gilbert was trying to use Hammon’s legislative influence to pressure Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama to cover a diabetes treatment at his clinics in Alabama, including a Hoover clinic in which Hammon had a small ownership interest.

Prosecutors contend Gilbert in 2016 paid $2,000 to Hammon, who was then House majority leader, to generate support for legislation. The bill did not pass.

The Decatur Daily reported last year that Gilbert offered to pay Hammon’s nearly $240,000 debt to Regions Bank in exchange for Hammon’s influence to the benefit of Trina Health.

Hammon has since filed for bankruptcy and his Decatur home was to be sold in a foreclosure auction earlier this year, the Daily reported.

Hammon had served in the State House since 2002. He also was sentenced to three years of probation.

Former Gov. Robert Bentley was removed from office in April 2017, the same day he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign violations stemming from an alleged 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 former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Bentley dissolved his campaign account in 2017.

Former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, convicted in 2016 of 12 felony ethics violations, spent nearly $600,000 on legal fees from 2013 through 2016. He emptied his campaign account in 2016 and dissolved it in 2018.

Hammon’s account is empty, according to a 2018 annual report also filed this month, but still active.