- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has used campaign funds to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees over the last year as he fights felony ethics charges of using his public offices for personal gain.

Campaign records filed in January show that the Auburn Republican spent about $291,000 in legal fees since December 2013. Most of it, $221,475 was spent on the firm of his lead attorney, Birmingham lawyer Mark White. Hubbard also spent $65,135 with the Pell City law firm of Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell.

White said the payments are in compliance with Alabama law and advisory opinions from the attorney general’s office.

A 2000 opinion by the attorney general’s office advised that elected officials can pay criminal defense costs out of excess campaign finance funds if the accusations are related to how the person performed in office. Most of the charges against Hubbard relate to his position in the House of Representatives. However, others relate to his time as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

“We factor in everything to make sure we are in total compliance,” White said when asked about the expenditures.

A Lee County grand jury indicted Hubbard in October on 23 felony ethics charges. Some charges accuse Hubbard of using his party chairmanship to secure business for his media and printing companies in Auburn, and others of using his legislative position to benefit clients of the his company, the Auburn Network.

Hubbard has pleaded not guilty.

The bulk of the money was spent before the indictment was handed down in October. Hubbard spent about $60,000 in legal fees in December.

Despite facing criminal charges, Hubbard was easily re-elected to his legislative seat and as speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

He is expected to go to trial this fall. Prosecutors and defense lawyers last week agreed to set a trial date during the week of Oct. 19.

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