Auburn sports contract focus of Hubbard race

Auburn University

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Auburn University’s former lobbyist is appearing in a campaign commercial accusing Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard of obtaining confidential information to win the college’s broadcasting contract more than a decade ago.

Hubbard said the accusation is false and called the ad “gutter politics and trash tactics.”

Buddy Mitchell, Auburn’s former director of governmental affairs, appears in the ad paid for by Sandy Toomer, Hubbard’s opponent in the June 3 Republican primary for House District 79.

In the ad, Mitchell discusses broadcast rights that were put out for bid in late 2001 and early 2002 and eventually won by Hubbard’s company, The Auburn Network.

“At the direction of a trustee, I delivered to Mike Hubbard the confidential proposals to broadcast Auburn sporting events, including football games. Hubbard used this knowledge to undercut his competitors and win multimillion-dollar contracts,” Mitchell says in the ad. He does not name the trustee.

Hubbard’s company, The Auburn Network, had the contract for several years, but the contract was being put up for bid and Hubbard feared losing it, Mitchell wrote in an affidavit that is shown in the ad.

“I’m telling this story now because I love Auburn and people need to know the truth. You can’t trust Mike Hubbard,” Mitchell said in the ad.

Hubbard issued a harshly worded statement denying the accusation and calling it a low point in the contentious election.

“The ramblings of this disgruntled, discredited and bitter ex-employee of Auburn are false and clearly politically motivated,” Hubbard said.

“Throughout this campaign, the liberal special interests opposed to the conservative reforms we’ve enacted in Montgomery have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to attack me, smear my name, and cause great pain to my wife and sons. As a candidate, I expect to be in their crosshairs, but now they have stooped to a new low by using a disgraced, bitter and desperate former lobbyist to attack the integrity and reputation of Auburn University,” Hubbard said.

Mitchell was Auburn’s lobbyist for more than two decades. Interim Auburn University President Ed Richardson dismissed Mitchell in 2004 and the university began contracting lobbying firms.

In a 2004 article about Mitchell’s dismissal in The Gadsden Times, Hubbard said Mitchell was well-respected by legislators. Mitchell was also assistant state finance director in the 1980s for the late Gov. George C. Wallace and then executive assistant for House Speaker Jimmy Clark.

Tommy Gallion, an attorney representing Mitchell, said Mitchell stands by his statement and the ad.

“We’re ready to go under oath if he’ll go under oath,” Gallion said, referring to Hubbard.

Hubbard asked Mitchell for copies of competitors’ proposals, said Gallion, who said Mitchell brought the request to a trustee who gave him the OK. He then brought the documents to Hubbard, Gallion said.

Mitchell was declining to name the trustee because he didn’t want to get the person involved, Gallion said.

Brian C. Keeter, director of public affairs for Auburn University, said the contract was awarded following university procedure, with a committee reviewing proposals.

“The committee based its decision on a wide variety of factors, including quality, capabilities and overall ability to do the work and determined that the Auburn Network would provide the best service for Auburn and the Auburn family,” Keeter said.

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