How close is Yellowhammer with Speaker Hubbard and Swatek firm? You be the Judge

Swatek firm, Alabama Power dominate Yellowhammer’s ‘Power and Influence’ list


Mike Hubbard’s book, “Storming the Statehouse,” written by Hubbard and David Azbell, of the lobbying/political consulting firm Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross. Among other things, the book reveals the close connections between Hubbard and the then future members of that firm, as Hubbard and the firm members close ties to PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh.

Firm WebsiteSwatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross

1. State contracts and Clients: Each member of the Swatek firm has his own separate company. David Azbell’s, called, Azbell Communications, has for some years now had a $96,000 state contract to “provide strategic communications and public relations services to members of the House (of Representatives) Majority Caucus.”

In other words, Hubbard.

Though the contract is technically with Azbell’s firm, other members also participate in providing the described services.

Among the blue chip clients listed on the Swatek firm’s website are Alabama Power, its sister company, SouthernLINC Wireless, and the parent company of both, the Southern Company.

2. Yellowhammer News: For the past two years, Yellowhammer has published what it calls the, “Power & Influence 40,” ranking the 40 most powerful people in state politics.

Those on the list include “elected officials, lobbyists, consultants, staffers & political insiders from every corner of Alabama state politics” Ranked first in 2013 was Gov. Robert Bentley, and, second, Hubbard. (This story uses the 2013 rankings. but Bentley and Hubbard were one-two in the just-released list for 2014.)

Three of the four members of “SAHR Group” are on the 2013 rankings. Then again, they probably participated in the selection process and may even have written some or all of the entries..

Here are the three and what is said of each about his relationship with Hubbard.

Dax Swatek

“(Swatek’s) relationships throughout state government are second to none, and he’s one of House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s closest confidants.

David Azbell

“(Azbell) also helped write House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s book, ‘Storming the State House,’ and continues to be one of the Speaker’s closest advisers.”

John Ross

“(Ross is) one of the most seasoned political operatives in the state.On top of that, his relationship with House Speaker Mike Hubbard is as close as anyone’s. “In some ways, he’s Hubbard’s closest confidant,”one insider told Yellowhammer.The Speaker trusts him implicitly.”

3. Hubbard’s Book, “Storming the Statehouse”: The book was co-authored by Hubbard and Azbell and is written in the first person, in Hubbard’s “voice.” All four members of the firm, as well as PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, appear throughout the book.

Swatek is described by Hubbard as “my longtime friend and political advisor.”

It’s written that Ross’s “ability to deal with and diffuse difficult situations had made a lasting impression on me, and I knew he was a loyal, level-headed and intelligent young man.”

The following refers to several people:

ALGOP Chair Twinkle Cavanaugh hired Howe to serve as executive director of the (state Republican) party, the same role John Ross would later fill for me during my two terms as chairman

“Given the number of Republicans he had met and the contacts he had made as executive director, I was certain Howe could bird-dog ideal potential legislative candidates.”


Eighteen of the 40 most powerful people in Alabama politics, per Yellowhammer, are elected officials or state employees. Of the remaining 22, a whopping 13 have direct ties to Alabama Power.

The following is from McCrary’s entry:

The Power Company’s tentacles reach into every crevice of Alabama state government. They’re the biggest external force in the legislative process, but they also keep tabs on little-known government agencies. And it all starts with McCrary. In a career defined by immense power and influence, McCrary’s power may be at an all-time high.

Here are those on the list with direct connections to Alabama Power:

3. Charles McCrary: President and Chief Executive Officer, Alabama Power. (The 2014 lists has McCrary and his replacement, Mark Crosswhite, sharing a ranking of fourth.)

10: Joe Fine: Lobbyist with Fine Geddie & Associates, the top lobbying firm in Alabama for decades. Among its blue chip clients, and going way back: Alabama Power.

13: Dax Swatek: See above.

14. Bob Geddie: The other big name in Fine & Geddie.

17: Joe Perkins: Founder and head of political consulting firm Matrix LLC. Has provided services of an undetermined nature for Alabama Power for 15 years or more.

20: Zeke Smith: Executive VP of External Affairs, Alabama Power.

21: Steve Windom: Former lieutenent governor, now lobbyist. Among his clients: Alabama Power.

Gary Neal Drummond

23: Gary Neal Drummond: Chairman, Drummond (Coal) Company. Drummond Coal is a major seller of coal to Alabama Power, and the two companies have long been politically attached at the hip. Utilities can’t donate to Public Service Commissioners, but coal companies can. Drummond has long helped fill that void for Alabama Power.

26: Quentin Riggins: VP of Government Relations for Alabama Power.

29: David Azbell: See above.

31: John Ross: See above.

34: Johhny Johns: CEO of Protective Life Insurance. A member of the Alabama Power Board of Directors.

36: Nick Sellers: VP of Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Alabama Power.