(Video above: Gov. Robert Bentley and Rep. Allen Farley discuss allegations during a phone conversation)
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In secret audio recordings obtained exclusively by Yellowhammer News, Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) accuses “casino gambling people” of fueling affair rumors and urges a state lawmaker not to ask the attorney general to investigate allegations that he had misused state resources to facilitate or coverup the alleged affair.
On August 31, 2015, State Rep. Allen Farley (R-Bessemer) received a phone call from Gov. Bentley, whose wife had filed for divorce just three days prior. The divorce fueled rumors that Mrs. Bentley had left him after discovering he was having an affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married staffer who had risen to become one of the governor’s closest advisors. Audio recordings of conversations between Gov. Bentley and Mrs. Mason released by Yellowhammer in March of 2016 confirmed the affair, but at the time of the Farley-Bentley recording, the governor was vehemently denying the rumors.
“Alan, first of all let me say this,” the governor begins. “There is no affair going on, okay? That’s one thing. Now, I do have some close advisors. Rebekah is one of my close advisors. And unfortunately there has been jealousy on the part of my wife. But I can tell you that we’re not having an affair.”
Gov. Bentley said the divorce came as a complete surprise to him, adding that it was the result of him working too hard.
“Bless her heart, it’s not her fault,” he said of Mrs. Bentley. “I blame myself for working too hard. I blame myself for not spending the time with her. It’s just unfortunately one of the casualties of working 12 to 14 hours a day and not spending the time with her that I should have. There are reasons that this has happened, but it was a total shock to me. I did not know. She had talked about it once or twice, but I said, ‘Dianne, that’s not the answer. We don’t believe in divorce. That’s not the answer.’ But when this happened the other day, I had no clue. I found out about it from WSFA. I found out about it the same time you did. It was a shock to me.”
Gov. Bentley went on to explain that an elaborate PR campaign was being waged against him, involving numerous blogs and journalists, and being quarterbacked by gambling interests.
“I read some of that stuff… It’s just an avalanche,” he said.
“This is a slimy guy,” he added with regard to one of the bloggers. “Casino gambling people are feeding this story.”
The reason gambling interests were fueling the affair rumors, Gov. Bentley explained, was because “they know I’m anti-gambling.”
“These guys, let me tell you what they’re most concerned about. They’re most concerned about a lottery and me signing a compact with the [Poarch Band of Creek] Indians,” said the governor. “That’s what they’re concerned about… That is the loaded gun right there. And they will do anything because these guys are poised to make hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Gov. Bentley went on to say that gambling interests were fighting him on two fronts. On the policy front, they were trying to block his tax increase proposals to build momentum for a gambling expansion, and on the personal front they were trying to “discredit” him by hurting his marriage and fueling unfounded rumors of an affair.
“I’m not saying that my divorce was totally caused by that but some of it was because they fed my wife [this stuff],” he told Rep. Farley. “This is not as simple as people think… There is a concerted effort out there to not pass any taxes. Not passing any taxes means that there has to be a solution because we’re going to have to cut government, and that’s going to make people unhappy. So how do you solve all this without raising taxes?”
As the conversation proceeded, Rep. Farley mentioned allegations that Gov. Bentley had misused state resources to facilitate or coverup the alleged affair. He believed the quickest way to put those rumors to bed was to ask the Alabama Attorney General’s office to investigate the matter.
“I want the AG to step up and say, ‘I will look into it and make sure that the state dollars were properly spent by the governor,’ said Rep. Farley. “This is the reason we have an attorney general’s office. I’ll ask him to clear that up. Then we’ll turn the divorce situation over the God. He’ll deal with that. But the AG can go in and look at the records and the travel logs and things like that, and then people don’t have to talk about that anymore. That can be cleared up.”
Gov. Bentley immediately suggested such a move was not necessary.
“Well, the travel logs and all that, that’s public record,” he insisted. “It’s already out there right now, Allen.”
Rep. Farley agreed, but said that most people would not take the time to read them all or would think the records had been doctored, making a definitive statement from the attorney general’s office the best way to put the issue to rest.
“I think when Luther comes back and says, ‘We looked at it.’ And when Luther comes back and says that, I’ll stand up and say, ‘I’m satisfied with it. I’m absolutely, positively satisfied with it. Now let’s move on and talk about something else. Let’s not be distracted by this.'”
“Allen, I’ve explained things to you,” Gov. Bentley shot back. “I don’t think you need to get Luther involved in it, personally. I mean, there’s nothing that we’re trying to hide… The only thing I’m saying is, y’all are using — I mean, whoever’s doing it — is using rumors and innuendo to make accusations that are not founded.”
Rep. Farley continued to push the need to get the AG involved.
“We’ve got one agency that can look into this — that’s what they do, they can look into this — and say, ‘It’s our opinion, as the AG it’s my opinion, that there’s nothing improper there.’ And then move on,” he said.
In spite of Gov. Bentley’s pleas, Rep. Farley ultimately wrote a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange, which reads, in part, as follows:
More than one allegation has mentioned the possibility of Governor Bentley utilizing his state security team, state vehicles, and state aircraft to assist in facilitating the alleged adulterous relationship while serving as Alabama’s governor.
I understand that a divorce case is not something the Attorney General’s Office would normally be associated with. However, I believe the allegations swirling around Governor Robert Bentley’s divorce case are different. In this situation we are talking about the improper use of Alabama tax dollars.
General Strange, as Alabama’s Attorney General, I am requesting that you immediately initiate an investigation to determine if Governor Robert Bentley did in fact utilize any of Alabama’s resources outside the official capacity of his elected office.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office told Yellowhammer they are not able to comment on the matter. The Governor’s office did not reply to Yellowhammer’s request for comment.
Roughly six months after insisting to Rep. Farley that he had not engaged in an affair, audio emerged proving that he had. Now, roughly a year after insisting to Rep. Farley that the attacks against him were being orchestrated because he was “anti-gambling,” Governor Bentley is preparing to call the Alabama legislature into a Special Session in an attempt to pass gambling legislation aimed at patching the hole in the state’s General Fund Budget.
The full conversation between Gov. Bentley and Rep. Farley can be heard in the video above.
(This story may be updated as additional information is made available.)