The Wire

  • Sessions: America is ‘dedicated to caring for children’ (VIDEO)

    Excerpt from AL.com:

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions says law enforcement officials do not want to separate parents from their children.

    Sessions was speaking Monday in New Orleans at the National Sheriff’s Association conference. He says enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from parents is necessary.

  • 26 arrests were made at Hands Across the Border-Lake Eufaula

    Excerpt from WTVM:

    Officers and Deputies from the Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Quitman County Sheriff’s Department, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Eufaula Police Department conducted joint road-checks in their respective states.

    The enforcement action was held to strengthen the fellowship between the states and departments. Their goal was to work to take drunk and drugged drivers off the road as well as surveying for distracted driving, child and adult restraint violations and other traffic violations.

    They expressed sincere gratitude to EPD Officer Sean Robinson and the other participating Agencies from both states.

    Friday evening’s activity included 11 written warnings and 26 arrests, including four Driving Under the Influence arrests.

  • Editorial: ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is not a conservative anthem

    Excerpt from The Roanoke Times:

    When Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate last week, he appeared on stage to the sound of “Sweet Home Alabama.”

    This would seem a curious song choice for a Virginia politician. We are not Alabama and have never wanted to be Alabama. Granted, there’s a dearth of songs that mention Virginia, and “Sweet Home Alabama” is a rollicking little tune, so maybe we shouldn’t read too much into it.

    On the other hand, Lynyrd Skynyrd was a band that worked the Confederate flag into its logo and the National Review once hailed “Sweet Home Alabama” as one of “the 50 greatest conservative rock songs,” so it’s more likely that the song was picked intentionally. Stewart does love Confederate symbols. “Sweet Home Alabama” even takes a shot at Canada — more, accurately the Canadian rock star Neil Young —so it certainly seems to fit the current Trumpian zeitgeist.

    Meanwhile, the liberal website Slate cited Stewart’s song choice as just one more example of how he’s pandering to the most atavistic elements of the Virginia electorate. In the Slate writer’s words: “He’s a carpetbagger, but for racism.”

    Actually, both of them have it wrong. “Sweet Home Alabama” is not a conservative anthem, and it’s certainly not a cover song for racism. It is, though, one of the most misunderstood political songs of all time, one that’s even been the subject of scholarly study.

1 month ago

Low voter turnout expected for primary

(Wikicommons)

We are less than four weeks away from our June 5th primary. Those of us who follow Alabama politics have pointed to this year as being a very entertaining and interesting gubernatorial year.

However, last year’s resignation by former Governor, Robert Bentley and the ascension of Kay Ivey from Lt. Governor to the Governor’s office has put a damper on the excitement we anticipated in the governor’s race.

Kay took over the reins of state government and her appearance as a seasoned veteran of state politics seems to resonate with voters. Polling indicates that the governor’s race is hers to lose.

Therefore, the less she does may be the best course. Her support is a mile wide and an inch deep. A slip and fall could derail her train.

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Her perch reminds me of a story surrounding the last truly colorful southern governor, Edwin Edwards of Louisiana. Ole Edwin had a wide lead like Kay’s in the polls a few weeks prior to his race for reelection as governor of the Pelican state. The press asked him about two weeks out about his significant lead in the polls. Edwin’s reply was, “Yeah, the only way that ole Edwin
can lose this race is to get caught in bed with a dead woman or a live boy.”

Tommy Battle, the popular Mayor of Huntsville is poised to make a formidable run at Kay in the closing weeks. He has some money in the bank and will come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with a good friends and neighbors vote. The Evangelical Roy Moore voters appear to be coalescing around Evangelist Scott Dawson.

My guess is that Walt Maddox, the young 45-year old Mayor of Tuscaloosa is benefitting from a grass roots support among African American voters in the Democratic primary. If indeed this is the case, Maddox will be favored to capture the Democratic nomination.
Will Barfoot has emerged as the frontrunner in the closely watched open Montgomery/River Region Republican seat. Incumbent State Senator Paul Bussman is in a close contest with Cullman City Council President Garlan Grudger. Polling indicates that this one may be too close to call. Bussman’s departure from the GOP Senate Caucus has given his constituents the
perception that he may be rendered ineffective. This district is politically savvy.

Veteran educator, Wayne Reynolds, may be poised to win the State Board of Education District 8 seat in the Huntsville-Tennessee Valley area being vacated by Mary Scott Hunter. Mary Scott and Sam Givhan are battling for an open state Senate seat in Huntsville. This race is one of the best Senate races in the state. Both Givhan and Hunter are heirs to great Alabama legacies.

Givhan’s grandfather was legendary Black Belt State Senator Walter Givhan. Ms. Hunter’s daddy, Scott Hunter, is one of Bear Bryant’s famous quarterbacks.

Speaking of legends, Alabama political icon, Milton McGregor, was laid to rest a few weeks ago. He would have been 79 today. Montgomery’s Frazer Memorial Methodist Church was overflowing. A good many of the state’s past and present political powers were there, including several past governors and a sitting U.S. Senator.

One of the state’s most famous and personable preachers, John Ed Mathison, presented a masterful sermon. He is a great man. He and his wife were best friends with Milton and Pat.

It was actually a joyous political homecoming event. As folks were visiting and reminiscing, one of Alabama’s most prominent pulmonary physicians, Dr. David Thrasher, who has been a doctor to many famous Alabamians and was one of Milton’s pallbearers was visiting with me and said, “Steve, I was at Governor Wallace’s funeral when Franklin Graham spoke and it
doesn’t compare to this.” Then he quipped, “Steve, I got a call from Billy Graham. He said that he had met a nice guy at breakfast by the name of Milton McGregor. Milton said to tell John Ed to remind the people down here that if they did good and believed in Jesus that they could be a winner too and join him.” That’s what John Ed said.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 month ago

Alice Martin and Luther Strange appear to have both sought appointments from Robert Bentley when they should have been investigating him

(Facebook, Wikicommons)

Alabama has been through a lot over the last few years. A speaker of the House was convicted and a governor lost his office over an affair with a political operative/concubine provided by a shady special interest group.

It hasn’t been great and the attorney general of the state has been absent in most of these issues through recusals. Now, as we look for our next AG, one of the candidates is former District Attorney Alice Martin, who until recently was running around the state claiming she never sought an appointment from Robert Bentley and implying current Attorney General Steve Marshall was tarnished for doing so.

This argument doesn’t really make sense because Marshall recused himself, clearing the way for Gov. Robert Bentley to be taken down. Also, because this is Alabama, Martin obviously sought the appointment as well and wrote e-mails to the governor’s office:

I trust the Governor will consider my qualifications and experience to serve as the first female and 50th Attorney General for the state of Alabama should the seat be vacated,” she wrote. 

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Birmingham radio host Matt Murphy called her out on this weeks ago, and produced a “Thank You” note that Martin tried to pretend she didn’t know she wrote:

Murphy: Alright so once again, I’m just trying to get some clarity, that you, when you went to go meet with the governor, you didn’t consider that to be an interview?

Martin: When I got in there, it was not an interview, it was what does the office-

Murphy: I mean did you think it was an interview?

Martin: Well, he said come over and visit, he didn’t say come over you’re being considered

Murphy: But I mean you wrote the governor after and thanked him for the interview.

Martin: I don’t know if I did or not.

Murphy: I mean I have the note…

Martin: And that’s fine if I did.

Murphy: That’s your letter to governor right?

Martin: Yes.

Why this matters: The attorney general position is important and the state has seen Luther Strange allegedly kill an investigation into Gov. Bentley in order to get an appointment. Now we are learning that Martin was involved in an investigation into the governor while seeking an appointment as well. Martin claims she played no role in the investigation, but that appears to be untrue. She wrote an e-mail to eventual Bentley foil — Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks — saying that her role was to provide “legal oversight and administrative support for this investigation since opened,” seeking her recusal after the fact, according to The Gadsden Times.

Luther Strange sought an appointment from Gov. Bentley when he should have been investigating him, and now it appears Martin did the exact same thing.

DaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN in Huntsville.

2 months ago

Republican Ritchie Whorton kicks off re-election campaign

(Whorton Campaign)

Incumbent Republican Ritchie Whorton has announced that he is seeking a second term as the State Representative for District 22. District 22 covers the Northeast section of Madison County and parts of Northwest Jackson County.

Whorton is inviting the public to attend his kickoff event and meet and greet
on Saturday, May 5th from 4-7 p.m. at Owens Cross Roads Methodist Church, 9177 Highway 431South, Owens Cross Roads, Alabama. Food and live entertainment will be provided and casual dress is encouraged. The event is family friendly.

Whorton’s record consistently ranks him as one of the top conservatives in the Alabama State House of Representatives and he was among the first to call for former Governor Robert Bentley’s resignation from office.

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Whorton said, “It is an honor to represent the people of District 22 and I will continue to work for opportunities to strengthen our economy, create a more efficient state government, and represent their values.”

“Our state has faced many challenges over the past four years and we need to remain focused on creating new jobs, improving opportunities in education for our children, and working to balance our state’s budget.”

A small business owner and a strong advocate for economic development, Representative Whorton brings his experience to the Commerce and Small Business and Economic Development and Tourism Committees. Whorton also serves on the Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee and the Small Business Commission for the State of Alabama.

“There is still work to be done and I am committed to having a positive impact on the future of our state,” said Whorton. “I’ve got deep roots in our district and I will continue to work for opportunities to strengthen our local and state economy. For the past four years, my commitment has been to the people of District 22 and fighting on their behalf.”

Whorton is a co-owner of All-Star Enterprises, Inc. and he and his wife, Shirley, an educator, have been married for more than thirty years. Residents of Owens Cross Roads, the Whortons worship at Owens Cross Roads Methodist Church and are involved with a variety of community activities. They have two daughters, McKenna and Kylee.

“I am humbled and blessed to have the support of this district. I’d like to ask for your support again on June 5th in the Republican Primary so we can continue to move our district forward.”

The Alabama Republican Primary is June 5, 2018. More information about Whorton and his campaign may be found on his campaign website.

2 months ago

Robert Bentley grand jury ends with request to boost Alabama state law

File photo of former Gov. Robert Bentley (Photo: Jamie Martin)

A grand jury has closed an investigation surrounding Gov. Robert Bentley and others without new indictments, but with an urging to strengthen the state ethics law.

According to a grand jury report given to reporters Wednesday, the grand jury did not indict any additional individuals. Panel members said they found “serious concerns about current state law that hinder successful prosecution.”

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Among the problems, jurors said the state ethics law covers spouses, but not romantic relationships.

Bentley faced an ethics investigation and an impeachment push amid accusations of an affair with a former top staffer.

The announcement from special prosecutor Ellen Brooks came almost one year after Bentley stepped down and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor campaign finance violations.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Alabama lawmaker, lobbyist charged in bribery scheme

(J. Williams, M. Connors/FB)

An Alabama legislator and a lobbyist who once chaired the Alabama Republican Party were arrested Monday on conspiracy charges related to payments made to another lawmaker to advance an insurance bill, prosecutors announced.

State Republican Rep. Jack D. Williams of Vestavia Hills and lobbyist Marty Connors were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and mail fraud. The California-based owner of Triana Health diabetes treatment centers, G. Ford Gilbert, was also arrested.

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Prosecutors said in a statement announcing the trio of arrests that Gilbert had paid then-state Rep. Micky Hammon, who was the Republican majority leader, to push legislation in 2016 that would require the state’s dominant insurance company to cover treatments at Triana clinics.

Prosecutors said Connors, who was lobbying for the bill, knew about the payments to Hammon, and recruited Williams to use his position as a House committee chairman to hold a public hearing on the bill. Williams also knew of the payments and acted to help Hammon, “who, as everyone in the scheme knew, was experiencing grave financial problems,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

It was unclear from court records if any of the three men have an attorney.

Hammon was removed from the Alabama Legislature last year when he pleaded guilty to illegally using campaign funds for personal use. A judge in February sentenced Hammon to three months in prison for felony mail fraud. No additional charges were announced against Hammon.

Williams has served in the House of Representatives since 2004. Connors served as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party from 2001 to 2005.

The charges announced Monday is the latest in a string of corruption investigations that have ensnared Alabama politicians.

Former Rep. Oliver Robinson, a Democrat, pleaded guilty last year to taking a bribe for using his legislative position to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s prioritization of a pollution site in Birmingham.

Last year, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign finance charge and stepped down amid accusations of an affair with an aide.

In 2016, former Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted of ethics violations including using his public office to drum up clients and investments for his businesses.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

AUDIO: Birmingham radio’s Matt Murphy confronts Alabama GOP AG hopeful Alice Martin over Robert Bentley ‘interview’ contradictions

Tuesday on Talk 99.5’s “Matt and Aunie Show,” show co-host Matt Murphy and Republican Alabama Attorney General hopeful Alice Martin had a heated back-and-forth over Martin’s claim she had not “interviewed” for the Alabama attorney general vacancy that opened up after then-Attorney General Luther Strange was appointed to the U.S. Senate.

Martin had raised the issue about the merits of current Attorney General Steve Marshall’s appointment by then-Gov. Robert Bentley, who at the time was under an investigation headed by Martin by the Alabama Attorney General’s office.

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“If memory serves me correctly, you expressed concern when we had you on in February about the process by which [Steve Marshall] achieved that post,” Murphy said. “And I asked you a question – I just want to clean this up – regarding your interest in the job because you were acting attorney general at the time. And I think you said publicly since then you didn’t ask for the position.”

Martin responded by explaining she expressed interest upon learning of Bentley’s decision to appoint Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate but denied she had received an interview.

“Somebody was going to get that appointment,” she added. “What I hoped by saying ‘I will do it’ is that I could control that situation because whoever took that appointment was going to have to recuse from the Bentley investigation, which I had been running. But I wanted somebody who I knew would appoint, which I would have, somebody who had a background doing public corruption work and would go all the way to the end of the road.”

She went on to indicate she wasn’t satisfied by the progress made in the Bentley investigation to date.

“What happened to that grand jury investigation, folks? I think taxpayers want to know,” she said.

Murphy asked her again if she perceived her meeting with Bentley after the news of Strange appointment was an interview, to which she replied it wasn’t.

“When I got there, it wasn’t an interview,” Martin said.

Murphy then asked if she had written Bentley and thanked him for the interview.

“I don’t know if I did or not,” she replied. “And that’s fine if I did.”

Murphy then revealed his possession of a thank you note to Bentley from Martin, which according to Murphy said, “Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the appointment to serve as Alabama’s 50th attorney general.”

“Yes, that is what I said,” Martin said.

From there, the two debated the propriety of Martin seeking the appointment.

“How is it appropriate if you were over the investigation for the governor that you asked for something of value from the person you were investigating?” Murphy asked.

Martin cited the Alabama State Bar’s opinion that it was not inappropriate for Strange to have asked for the U.S. Senate appointment from Bentley, which she argued applied to her circumstances as well.

After a lengthy back-and-forth, which Murphy accused Martin of having “misrepresented herself” and then citing a February appearance, which Martin denied having the interview, Murphy pressed on.

“Were you lying then, or were you lying to the governor?” Murphy said.

“Thank you very much,” Martin replied. “I think I’ve answered the question.”

“So you misrepresented yourself during our first interview?” Murphy said.

“I don’t believe I did,” she answered.

In the February interview, Murphy asked Martin about interviewing for the position, to which Martin said did not consider her meeting with Bentley to be a job interview.

“He never asked me any questions about serving as the attorney general, so I don’t consider that it was a job interview,” she said. “I was asked to come, and by law, I was the acting attorney general.”

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

3 months ago

Alabama Senate delays vote on power of lieutenant governor

A proposal to strip the powers of Alabama’s lieutenant governor was delayed Thursday in the state Senate.

The proposed constitutional amendment would remove the lieutenant governor as Senate president and make the primary responsibility of the position to succeed the governor if he or she resigns, is impeached or dies. It would also require the lieutenant governor to run on the governor’s ticket.

The Senate voted to carry over the bill, meaning it could come up for debate again on Tuesday.

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Sen. Gerald Dial, the Republican sponsor, said Thursday that previous lieutenant governors have abused the position.

“Everyone spends our taxpayer money sitting in that office running for governor,” Dial said.

Critics questioned what the point of the job would be if its powers were stripped.

“Would there be any other purpose to this position other than to wait for the governor to die or be impeached?” said Sen. Phil Williams, a Republican. “I feel like we’re creating a hollow position.”

Gov. Kay Ivey has spoken out against the bill. She most recently held the position of lieutenant governor and became governor last year after former Gov. Robert Bentley quit amid a sex scandal with an aide.

The lieutenant governor’s position is currently vacant. Republicans Will Ainsworth, Twinkle Cavanaugh and Rusty Glover and Democrat Will Boyd are running to fill it this year. Ainsworth condemned the constitutional amendment.

“It would stop all power,” Ainsworth said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh said the bill was a priority, although it faces a tight deadline for passage in the House before the session finishes at the end of March. If passed, voters would decide whether to change the constitution.

(Image: Rep. Will Ainsworth & Gerald Dial)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

6 months ago

How Paul Finebaum paved the road for Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate

 

Saturday morning, the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman made a tenuous argument that current U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) could be blamed for the election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

According to a thread initiated by Politico’s Daniel Strauss, the indefatigable Lyman postulates Byrne’s lackluster effort in the 2010 Alabama gubernatorial race led to the election of Robert Bentley.

In an interview with the Decatur Daily, Bentley blamed current Gov. Kay Ivey in part for Jones’ upset election win over Roy Moore.

“Changing the date of the election was the biggest factor in Doug Jones getting elected,” Bentley said to the Daily’s Mary Sell.

Strauss countered Bentley’s claim by saying it was actually Bentley himself that made the Jones’ victory possible.

Lyman followed up by offering an Alabama politics-style version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon and tied what he called “a generally lackluster campaign” from Byrne as why Bentley ascended to the governorship and was able to set all of this in motion.

However, there was one factor that Lyman completely ignored in his synopsis of the forthcoming blockbuster movie “How we got here with Doug Jones in 2017.”

In the 2014 book “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football,” sports talker and SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum credited himself for Bentley’s successful 2010 bid for governor.

Finebaum recalled that having Bentley on his radio show as a guest during the 2010 election cycle to discuss how he was once the “personal dermatologist” to legendary former University of Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

At the time, Finebaum’s show was syndicated throughout the Southeast, but it had more of an Alabama focus and was still broadcasted out of Birmingham, as opposed to Charlotte, N.C. where it is now.

Finebaum, in his book, claimed that the Alabama football coach was more influential in the state than the governor. The radio host contended that Bentley’s appearance on his show was what propelled Bentley to a win in that election.

Finebaum wrote about Bentley, “When people ask him about me, he says, ‘That’s the man who got me elected.'”

If Finebaum (as he claimed) was indeed the reason Bentley was elected, and Lyman has an argument with his chaos theory of what led to Jones’ win, then couldn’t it be said Finebaum was responsible for now Sen.-elect Doug Jones?

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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6 months ago

Rick or Bubba? Who received more write-in votes for Alabama’s senator?

Rick Burgess & Bill “Bubba” Bussey

 

 

More than 20,000 write-in votes were cast on Dec. 12 for Alabama’s special Senate election, along with the expected names of Luther Strange and Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Republicans Martha Roby (Montgomery), Bradley Byrne (Mobile), Mike Rogers (Tuskegee), Robert Aderholt (Gadsden) and Gary Palmer (Vestavia Hills) all received votes to be Alabama’s next senator.

Of the delegation, Roby claimed the most with at least 15 votes.

Birmingham radio hosts Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey both received several votes.

While Bussey earned 5 votes, Burgess was the choice of the duo with 7 votes.

Dianne Bentley, ex-wife of former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in April over allegations of finance and ethics violations, beat out her former husband 4 votes to 2.

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7 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Senator pens a truly Strange column that insults readers’ intelligence

(Luther Strange/Twitter)
(Luther Strange/Twitter)

 

 

Did you see the Sunday guest column at al.com by Alabama’s temporary U.S. Sen. Luther Strange? It would be risible if it weren’t also so insulting to readers’ intelligence.

 

Entitled “The importance of taking on corruption,” Strange’s column bragged (in effect) that “the National Association of Attorneys General asked me to deliver the keynote speech to their National Anticorruption Academy,” and then detailed all the reasons why fighting corruption supposedly is “a subject I know a lot about.”

 

To an extent, it’s true: Strange organized a task force that – often without his direct involvement – did prosecute, and win convictions of, a number of corrupt public officials.

 

The obvious reality that Strange’s column ignores is that Strange then completely undermined public confidence in the political system’s freedom from corruption. Just by allowing himself to be considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate by the same governor his own office was investigating, Strange did as much to promote public cynicism as anything in recent memory.

 

Even if there was no “deal,” no quid pro quo, or even no “wink and a nod,” between Strange and then-Gov. Robert Bentley, the appearance of a corrupt bargain was so obvious, so strong, and so toxic that Strange should have avoided it like the Ebola virus.

 

The rule is simple, indeed as simple as the rule governing sexual harassment: If you wield great authority over a person, then don’t ask, much less accept, favors from that person.

 

It’s even worse when you hold authority over someone who himself wields great power. Your ability to receive a truly significant favor, in such a case, is especially large – and the temptation for you to adjust accordingly how you exercise your authority over him grows tremendously.

 

And if it all involves public office in a republic, then the effect on public trust of any such situations should be a very large part of one’s behavioral considerations.

 

In his column, Strange completely, almost obtusely, misrepresented the nature of the issues at play in the Senate appointment. Here’s what he wrote:

 

When Jeff Sessions became United States Attorney General, I was faced with a dilemma. Governor Robert Bentley asked me to fill his seat in the Senate. I believe in serving when called and I wanted to do what was best for the people of Alabama, but Bentley was under an investigation for ethics violations. In some circumstances, I might have worried that leaving the job of Attorney General would undermine that investigation.

 

Earth to Strange: That wasn’t what the “worry” should have been. The assumption was not that the investigation would be undermined because Strange left it; the assumption was that the investigation would be undermined – or that Bentley would hope it would be undermined – because Bentley gave to Strange the plum job Strange seems to have wanted for his entire adult life.

 

People didn’t see Strange’s acceptance of the Senate job as “serving when called” but as “taking when offered.” And they certainly didn’t think it was obvious that such a problematic appointment was “what was best for the people of Alabama.”

 

That paragraph of Strange insults our intelligence.

 

Again, let’s avoid assuming there really was a corrupt bargain. Even so, for Strange to still refuse to acknowledge the serious problem of appearances here, and the importance of restoring public faith in the system at the very time when the system has been repeatedly rocked by corruption, is for him to fail to credit the essential role public trust plays in a vibrant representative democracy.

 

Rather than penning this column, Strange for now should have just faded into the political evening. We’re still dealing with the unwanted fallout from the Strange assumption of the Senate seat, and we aren’t yet ready to offer the temporary senator a benediction.

 

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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7 months ago

Quin Hillyer: Mitch McConnell helped create this mess in Alabama

Mitch McConnell (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Mitch McConnell (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

 

If ever there is legitimacy to playing a “blame game,” it exists right now with regard to the mess Alabama Republicans face in a special U.S. Senate election that should not be occurring in the first place.

In order of approximate chronology rather than of seriousness, here are all the places the blame lies – with the obvious caveat that by far the largest part of the blame lies with Roy Moore, if the allegations against him are even close to being true.

1) Luther Strange. I am reliably informed that numerous people, wise and experienced, advised Strange not to allow his name even to be considered for appointment to the Senate under the unique circumstances then existing. If he wanted to be the senator, he should have run under his own power, not as the selection of the very governor Strange was supposed to be investigating on criminal charges. The appearance of a conflict of interest was too obvious and too appalling.

2) Robert Bentley. Of course the governor should not have done any of the things that compromised himself in the first place – but, having done so, he should never, ever have considered Strange for the appointment. See above.

3) Mitch McConnell and his minions/Political Action Committees (henceforth: MMMPACs). MMMPACs, having failed to learn the lessons of earlier interferences in state elections (for example, opposing Marco Rubio in Florida, Ben Sasse in Nebraska, and others who proved to be excellent senators), decided to waste some $9 million on behalf of the un-re-electable Strange. Even worse, MMMPACs tried to act as bully-boys, threatening candidates and campaign consultants that if they opposed Strange, they would never work in/have no future in Republican politics ever again. Potentially strong candidates – ones who could have defeated both Strange and Moore – were thus bullied out of the race.

4) Governor Kay Ivey. She was wrong, both practically and I believe legally, to call for the special election this year. Practically, a cash-strapped state should not be spending $15 million to run an election when there would really have been no harm in waiting until a regular election in 2018. Also practically, the unique circumstances of the Bentley scandal meant that the political waters were too roiled to allow the public a “normal” and thoughtful consideration of the potential candidates, with too little time for some potentially good candidates to get organized enough to make the race. Finally, while nobody challenged her in court, I am convinced that once Bentley had called the election for 2018, nothing in state law allows a governor the power to unilaterally change a duly called election date. In short, this election should not have been held until November of 2018.

5) Mo Brooks. This is the least of these blame points but it warrants inclusion on this list. The conservative with the best chance of sneaking past Strange into the runoff with Moore chose an ill-conceived tactic that blew up in his face, by airing a TV ad with video of Brooks being interviewed at the scene of the shooting of Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Scalise’s staffers themselves were outraged, and were quoted complaining that Brooks appeared to be trying to profit politically from the assassination attempt.

6) Strange and MMMPACs. Together, they ran one of the most despicable campaigns I have witnessed in more than four decades involved in or covering politics. They poisoned the well with harshly negative, even vicious, and at least somewhat untrue attacks against both Moore and Brooks. (The worst was the one insinuating that Brooks somehow was weak against ISIS!) And when they weren’t wrongly attacking their opponents, they were running ads for Strange that were so trite they insultingly played into national stereotypes about supposedly simple-minded Alabamans. So obnoxious were their tactics that, if basing the judgment on the campaign alone, neither Strange nor McConnell should ever hold office again.

7) Donald Trump. He, too, should have stayed away from a state’s party primary. By jumping in before the first primary, he helped (at least at the margins) Strange ward off the challenge from Brooks. Well, if the national pooh-bahs wanted “anybody but Moore,” the only way by then to stop Moore was for Brooks to edge past Strange into the runoff. As I said the very day qualifying for the race closed, Strange had no chance on God’s green Earth to defeat Moore in a runoff if those were the two candidates who emerged.

It is time for a hard and fast new rule: National party committees and so-called “Leadership PACs,” and their affiliates, should avoid all direct financial involvement in party primaries. Sure, they can and ought to try to recruit good candidates, but their recruiting pitch should be this: “We can help line you up with good strategists and workers and policy briefings, and we will commit to raising X amount of money for you if you emerge as the nominee. But aside from that, winning the nomination is up to you; we are holding our money and our clout for use against Democrats in the general election, not to trash fellow Republicans in a primary.”

Mitch McConnell, Luther Strange and company utterly screwed up this whole election. They should hang their heads in shame.

Yellowhammer Contributing Editor Quin Hillyer, of Mobile, also is a Contributing Editor for National Review Online, and is the author of Mad Jones, Heretic, a satirical literary novel published in the fall of 2017.

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9 months ago

Ivey, Battle, Dawson, and Hightower Remain Atop AL Gubernatorial Fundraising Race

Again this month, incumbent Kay Ivey, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Alabama minister Scott Dawson, and state Senator Bill Hightower lead the fundraising charge in the Alabama governor’s race.

Ivey jumped in late but wasted no time raising large sums of cash. Thanks to a $25,000 boost from Regions Bank, she started September with a balance of  $1,000,2000. She spent a whopping $83,663 launching her campaign during the month, ending it with $1,157869 in cash on hand. Not counting a couple of major cash contributions (upwards of $50k), she raised $241,332 from everyday donors in September. Governor Ivey is riding the wave most incumbents enjoy while touting restored stability to the office following the forced resignation of her disgraced predecessor, Robert Bentley.

Not far behind Ivey is Tommy Battle. The Huntsville Mayor started September with $852,391 on hand, and he spent $35,975, finishing with a balance of $1,028,017. This makes him the only candidate besides Ivey to break the million-dollar barrier. Battle raised $211,506 from everyday donors and also enjoyed a major contribution boost of $25,000 from an individual donor. He’s popular among Huntsville-area business leaders and benefits from his economic development record in the Rocket City, which is filled with high-tech, high-wage jobs.

Finishing third in fundraising several months in a row is Birmingham minister Scott Dawson, who raised  $54,067 in September. Starting the month with a balance of $254,135, he spent about $9,400 getting his message out during the month and heads into October with a balance of $301,004. Dawson was bolstered by the endorsement of Mike Huckabee, as the former Arkansas governor drew comparisons between he and Dawson as ministers in the political arena, while announcing his support for his Alabama friend on the Rick & Bubba Show. Dawson also benefits from a grassroots network across Alabama—a state that’s proven its affinity for those outside the political establishment.

Close behind Dawson in cash raised in the governor’s race, but ahead of him in cash on hand, is Alabama state Senator Bill Hightower. The Senator started the month with a balance of $537,708. He spent just over $40,000 in September and finished the month with a principal campaign balance of $546,222. From everyday donors, Hightower raised $47,306. Popular among south Alabama business leaders, the affable Senator is working hard to show how his private sector business achievements translate into broadening the geographic scope of his campaign as a statewide political leader.

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10 months ago

Tax Payers Still On The Hook For Bentley, Literally

As reported by Fox 10 News, former Gov. Robert Bentley is still reaping the benefits of Alabama tax dollars, using them to help fight a civil suit brought against him last year.

According to a statement given to Fox 10 by Gov. Kay Ivey’s press secretary said,

“All state employees and officials are provided legal representation by the state’s self-insurance fund in lawsuits based on acts committed within the line and scope of their official position. That coverage continues even after the official is separated from service as long as it relates to conduct that occurred during state service.”

Currently, Bentley is being sued for wrongful termination and defamation by former Alabama Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier. Collier was fired by Bentley in 2016 and claims that his termination was because he refused to lie to the Attorney General on Bentley’s behalf.

While the state funds available for Bentley’s defense can only be used for civil suits not criminal cases, Alabama tax payers could still be handed a hefty legal bill. Civil suits can often take years to resolve and depending on the attorney, can cost well over $100,000.

Furthermore, if Bentley decides to settle the suits against him, then a portion of that settlement will also be paid by the funds.

Last April, the former governor was booked in the Montgomery County, Alabama Sheriff’s office, after cutting a deal that allowed him to avoid a heavy sentence. As part of that agreement, he was compelled to immediately resign his office and give up his retirement and security benefits. He was charged with two misdemeanors for ethics violations for which he will have to pay fines and serve over 100 hours of community service.

However, to the chagrin of most Alabamians, Bentley refuses to exit the stage quietly. Just last month he was reported as saying “I’m the best Governor Alabama’s ever had by far.” Now it seems Bentley has added insult to injury by costing Alabama even more precious tax dollars.

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11 months ago

Exclusive: A Behind The Scenes Look At Luther Strange’s Senate Appointment

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange

When Alabama rang in the New Year last January, Luther Strange was its Attorney General. At the time, his office was investigating Robert Bentley for crimes the former governor committed in his zeal to hide his affair with Rebekah Mason. Before Bentley resigned, he appointed Strange to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat in the U.S. Senate.

Because Strange was appointed by the man his office was investigating, a cloud has followed him since. Strange recently sat down with Yellowhammer to tell his side of the story, as did some of his critics.

For context, we must rewind to last November. Donald Trump won the presidential election on November 8th and ten days later announced that Jeff Sessions would be his new Attorney General. This appointment created a vacancy for Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat, which a host of Alabama Republicans was eager to fill. However, it was the embattled Governor’s job to appoint a successor. Bentley interviewed some twenty people for the job, including some of Strange’s opponents in this summer’s Senate race, who are now among his loudest critics for taking the appointment.

Some six weeks later, on December 27th, Strange and Bentley met, as Bentley required of anyone he was considering for the fill the vacant seat. That’s where we started our interview with Luther Strange. Specifically, we talked about the fact that some of his detractors have accused him of going to Bentley’s office that late December day to cut a deal. Their theory is that Strange told Bentley he’d drop the investigation in exchange for an appointment to the United States Senate. To this, Strange replied:

First, my former office prosecuted Robert Bentley after he appointed me, which obviously would not have happened if I’d cut a deal with him.

Second, Alice [Martin] and Matt [Hart] would have never gone for that. Matt Hart would have thrown me in jail if I’d gone to them with something that preposterous.

My first order of business when I was elected in 2011 was to create a special division to stop public corruption. I hired Matt and Alice, and staffed them with a half-dozen former FBI agents as investigators and told them to follow the truth wherever it leads. They removed Sumter County Sheriff Tyrone Clark from office for human trafficking—the first Sheriff impeached in Alabama in over a hundred years. In all, they convicted over two dozen corrupt public officials including the most powerful one in the state, House Speaker Mike Hubbard. That resulted in our budget being zeroed out by the legislature controlled by our own party. So again, we were hardly in the favor-swapping business because our own political party was stripping our funding. Plus, to drop the governor’s investigation in exchange for the appointment, I would have had to get prosecutors like Matt and Alice to agree to it. That’s an insult to that entire unit whose very mission was fighting corruption.

To that point, Representative Ed Henry told Yellowhammer,

No one believes that Luther ever said “give me this job and I’ll make your investigation go away.” The issue with Luther is we all knew he had enough to indict Robert Bentley. So, by Luther taking that meeting, it was kind of like he’s got this metaphorical loaded gun on his hip. Sure, he may not have ‘pulled it and pointed it at him’ by asking for the appointment, but if you’re the unarmed guy, you don’t stop thinking about this loaded gun that this man can and will use if he has to. Does that affect the way you view the situation and the decisions you ultimately make? You better believe it does.

I asked Senator Strange if he simply asked Bentley for the appointment in that late-December meeting, and again, he said no.

No. When Jeff [Sessions] said he was going to be the next U.S. Attorney General over a month earlier, I made a formal announcement that I was running for his Senate seat. I was already out running, regardless of who he was appointing to that seat. When the governor asked me if I’d accept it if he offered it, I told him I would, but I never asked him for the seat. I also told the governor that it was of utmost importance if he did appoint me that he must appoint someone to take my place who had the integrity and courage to keep that public corruption unit going, and Steve Marshall has obviously done that. In fact, that’s the same unit that prosecuted Governor Bentley, as I said earlier.

State Representative Paul Beckman, an attorney who serves on the Alabama House Judiciary committee and was heavily involved in Bentley’s impeachment investigation, views it much the same as Ed Henry.

Look, no one is saying this was illegal; it’s a matter of ethics. Luther’s office was in the middle of a criminal investigation of Bentley, so it just doesn’t look good for Bentley to turn around and appoint the man who’s investigating him. He took the appointment under questionable circumstances, and that took the decision out of the hands of the people. The undecided voters in this election represent a larger group than normal and I think that’s one reason why. You have to do what’s right and instead of waiting for it to play out, Luther created the stigma that now hangs over him.

The other significant issue surrounding Strange’s appointment happened nearly two months earlier. By late October, the news of Bentley and Mason’s affair had been known to the public for several months. The House Judiciary Committee was investigating Bentley as part of a possible impeachment proceeding for his misconduct. To that end, the Committee had hired a special counsel, Jack Sharman, to head their investigation.
On November 1, Strange and his team met with state legislators about their impeachment investigation at the legislators’ request. In that meeting, Strange said his team expressed concerns that the House investigation would hurt their criminal investigation. As he told Yellowhammer,

We didn’t want to mess each other up, so they said they’d wait till our investigation played out. But they were under pressure from their membership to do something so they said, ‘If you don’t mind send us a letter to that regard.’ It was just procedural, so they could avoid our key witnesses that might be testifying in front of a grand jury and we didn’t want to jeopardize that process.

Two days later, Strange wrote the follow-up letter asking the House Judiciary Committee to pause their investigation of Bentley. That letter read, in part, “I respectfully request that the Committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones, who was at the meeting, seemed to think pausing was the right thing to do. In his news release at the time, he stated, “As I said at the first meeting on the Articles of Impeachment, this committee would work cooperatively with other investigating agencies and today’s action testifies to that…We are temporarily suspending activity at the attorney general’s request, but we are not abdicating our responsibility. Everything the committee has done remains in effect.”

To this, Rep. Beckman said that while he respects Jones’ decision, he didn’t see the conflict. “First, the Committee never voted on this ‘pause for the cause’ idea. The AG’s office was pursuing a criminal matter, and we were pursuing a civil matter, an ethics violation. So, I disagree with the premise that the two investigations were conflicting. It wasn’t until Ed Henry had the courage to stand up on the House floor and point out that we were failing to do our constitutional duty by sitting back and waiting that we resumed the impeachment investigation. Once we restarted, Jack Sharman’s findings that played a big roll in Bentley’s resignation.”

Strange also pointed out that after he was in the U.S. Senate, Ellen Brooks was handing the A.G.’s investigation and she also asked the House Committee to pause, over her concern of double jeopardy. “The point is,” Strange said, “it’s not uncommon for prosecutors to ask for such a pause to protect the integrity of their investigation.”

To cut to the core of the issue, I asked Strange if he asked the legislative committee to pause the Bentley case so Bentley could appoint him to Sessions’ seat. Following is his reply:

No, that’s impossible. The meeting with the legislators was a nearly week before the presidential election and two weeks before Trump’s announcement that Jeff would be his new AG. Virtually every poll said Hillary Clinton was going to win the election. When I agreed to the legislators’ request for a meeting and sent the letter two days later, neither I nor anyone else knew Donald Trump was going to win the election and appoint Jeff. To suggest I delayed it to get Jeff’s Senate seat means I would have known what was going to happen two weeks in the future. Also, as I pointed out earlier, that theory would have required the participation of Matt, Alice and the public corruption unit, and that would have never happened.

Rep. Beckman doesn’t dispute the fact that Strange had no way of knowing who’d win the presidential election, but he says that doesn’t matter.

Of course, he didn’t know if Trump would win, but that’s not the issue. Luther Strange was in a great position—he had absolutely nothing to lose by delaying Bentley’s investigation, regardless of who won the presidency. If Trump won, we all knew Jeff Sessions would get appointed to something…everyone knew that his Senate seat would be vacant. So it’s reasonable to conclude that Luther was thinking that if he delays the investigation and Trump wins, he has a great shot at Sessions’ Senate seat. Or, if Trump loses, he can stretch the Bentley investigation out until just before the 2018 governor’s election, then get a conviction on Bentley, and he looks like a hero and he becomes governor. He had a strong card to play either way. All of this is just my personal opinion, but Luther had time on his side, with nothing and to lose, regardless of how the presidential election turned out. He was holding all the cards.

Strange said if that were true, he would have been the one to ask for the November 1 meeting. But as he points out, it was the legislators who reached out to him, not the other way around.

My team and I met with the legislators because they asked for the meeting. They sought us out, so Alice Martin, Matt Hart, and I met with them. This included House Judiciary Chairman Mike Jones, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and a few others. We were being responsive to them, and as Mike Jones indicated, we expressed our concerns in an honest attempt to preserve the integrity of the investigation. The bottom line is, they would have never gotten a letter from us asking for a pause if they hadn’t come to us and asked for the meeting in the first place.

In the final analysis, it seems no one seriously believes Luther Strange broke any laws or arranged any sort of back room deal. Those with strong opinions seem to fall into one of two camps: one group believes his acceptance of the appointment was unethical and that he should have waited until this special election to run, removing any appearance of wrong doing. Others believe he did what any of the others Bentley interviewed would have done if they’d been asked to go to the U.S. Senate: accept the appointment and enjoy the advantage of running as the incumbent.

In two short weeks, the voters will have their say in the matter. On August 15th, we’ll then find out if there will be a Republican primary runoff or if one candidate will emerge as the Republican nominee to face the Democrat (likely Doug Jones) in the fall.

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11 months ago

Alabama’s Kay Ivey Is One of the Nation’s Most Popular Governors

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) is the sixth-most popular governor in the United States, according to Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings. Ivey’s approval rating currently sits at 64 percent — a full 18 points higher than President Donald Trump.

By in-state approval rating, the nation’s ten most popular governors are all Republicans. However, seven of the ten most unpopular governors are also members of the GOP.

In order of approval ranking, America’s ten most popular governors are: Charlie Baker (R-Mass.), Larry Hogan (R-Md.), Matt Mead (R-Wyo.), Doug Burgum (R-N.D.), Dennis Daugaard (R-S.D.), Kay Ivey, Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.), Phil Scott (R-Vt.), Gary Herbert (R-Utah), and Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.), who tied with Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.).

After Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) resigned in the middle of his term amid scandal and impending impeachment, Ivey fulfilled her constitutional duty to assume the office of Governor. Ivey, born in Camden, Ala. in 1944, is Alabama’s second female governor and its first Republican woman to hold the office.

RELATED: Get to know Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, the next Governor of Alabama

Ivey took office before the end of the legislative session and signed several high profile bills, such as new laws protecting Alabama historic monuments and limiting the judicial application of the death penalty. She has also abolished several special departments and commissions created under her predecessor.

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1 year ago

After winning re-election, Bentley said people would see the “other side” of him

Governor Robert Bentley speaks with then-Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier (Photo: Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)
Governor Robert Bentley speaks with then-Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier (Photo: Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

Following his re-election victory, former Governor Robert Bentley reportedly told one of his confidants that political opponents would no longer see the “nice” governor. Instead, he warned that his “other side” would come out during his second term in office.

That’s according to Spencer Collier, the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) who was fired by Bentley. At the time, Collier was accused by the then-governor of abusing state funds. He endured months of ethics and criminal investigations, though he was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing by the Attorney General’s office in October of 2016.

In an interview with Huntsville’s WHNT, the former law enforcement leader revealed that he first noticed signs of Bentley’s souring character on election night in 2014.

“He actually made a statement to me, ‘First term, everyone saw the nice governor. This term, they’re going to see the other side of me,’” Collier told the station. “Well, I had never seen the other side of Robert Bentley. And he became arrogant, which is totally contrary to his personality, or used to be.”

Later that evening, Collier was ordered by Bentley to drive over 140 miles to track down salacious audio of a conversation between the governor and his alleged mistress, Rebekah Caldwell-Mason. He now acknowledges that it’s a trip he shouldn’t have made: it roped him further into impeachment and criminal probes against the former governor.

Since then, Alabama’s former top cop says he’s going out of his way to avoid harboring resentment toward the man he once considered a friend.

“I purposely did not watch his speech to resign,” Collier said. “I just chose not to. As bad as he has made our life, and I say our, my family’s life, I still try not to take joy in someone’s misery.”

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1 year ago

Alabama Auditor delivers positive report for two of four Bentley exit audits

Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler

Audits conducted in the wake of Robert Bentley’s resignation have returned all-clear, according to Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler.

Zeigler’s office informed now-Governor Kay Ivey that no items are missing from the state capitol or the historic Governor’s Mansion. In total, he has reported that more than 500 state assets are accounted for, totaling over $1.13 million in value.

The Auditor’s Office has not yet conducted audits on the governor’s mansion at the Blount estate in East Montgomery or the “Governor’s Mansion at the Gulf.” Both are expected to be completed this week.

Once the audits are complete, Governor Ivey will be responsible for the safe-keeping of all items.

Zeigler’s series of audits have already proven fruitful. Last week, he announced that he had located “Wanda’s Desk”- an infamous piece of furniture that had taken center stage in the Bentley corruption scandal.

“Wanda’s Desk” first appeared in a recording released by Yellowhammer News, in which the former governor references a past encounter with alleged mistress Rebekah Mason. While on the phone with Mason, he says if they are going to do “that” again, they will need to start locking the door and also consider moving the desk further away. He was presumably referencing executive assistant Wanda Kelly, whose Capitol office was just outside of the Governor’s.

Zeigler said the furniture had been moves six times since being near the governor’s office, and is now in use by a policy adviser in the Capitol.

“It was in storage for a while, for no apparent reason,” he said.

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1 year ago

President Trump calls to congratulate Ivey for becoming Governor of Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) received a personal phone call from President Donald Trump Thursday evening in which he offered his personal congratulations on her new job. Gov. Ivey’s office shared the personal moment with her constituents with a twitter photo depicting the conservation between the two leaders.

While not much is known about the phone call other than the fact that the president congratulated Ivey, it is pretty safe to say Trump was unlikely a fan of her predecessor, Robert Bentley. During the course of the presidential campaign, Bentley criticized Trump and endorsed one of his campaign rivals: John Kasich.

RELATED: Get to know Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, the next Governor of Alabama

Ivey assumed office following Bentley’s resignation, which came as a result of a year-long scandal surrounding his alleged affair with a political advisor and his attempts to use state resources to cover it up. Bentley took a plea deal admitting to the accusations that required him to resign and pay back money to the state.

In her short time in office, Ivey has fired Jon Mason – the husband of Rebekah Caldwell Mason – from his post in the governor’s office of faith based initiatives and signed a bill ending the practice of judicial override in death penalty cases.

In 2011, Ivey became the first Republican woman to hold the office of lieutenant governor. She safely won reelection in 2014 with over 63 percent of the vote. Now, she’s the first female governor of the state since Lurleen Wallace in 1986, but under largely different circumstances. Her term will mark the first time a Republican woman has ever occupied the Governor’s Mansion.

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1 year ago

While Bentley recovers from scandal, Alabama pastors pray and offer support

After Robert Bentley resigned from the Governor’s office shrouded in scandal, Alabama’s pastors are committed to cover him in prayer.

According to a recent article in the Baptist Press, the state’s church leaders are disappointed in the situation surrounding the disgraced former governor, but are devoted to offer spiritual support.

“More than anything, we need to pray for Gov. Bentley,” Alabama Baptist Convention President John Thweatt told the Press. He went on to say that public scandals like Bentley’s are “especially devastating for us when it’s a person who claims to be a believer.”

The publication notes that Pastors like Travis Coleman of First Baptist Prattville “reached out to Gov. Bentley, are praying for him and are willing to help him in any way possible.”

Recent reports revealed that Bentley- a former deacon at First Baptist Tuscaloosa- and his alleged mistress Rebekah Mason had been kicked out of the congregation after refusing to confess to the extramarital affair. The two had initially met at the church. Prior to that, the church’s pastor, Gil McKee, had delivered a pointed sermon that was likely directed at Bentley and Mason.

“Why is it that we think that people who are living in known, unconfessed, ongoing sin should be able to come into our churches where we are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and they should be comfortable?” McKee said. “The truth of the matter is that some of us ought to feel uncomfortable.”

Bentley resigned from office on April 10 after pleading guilty to two ethics misdemeanors. He will never be allowed to run for or hold public office again.

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1 year ago

Alabama political mystery solved: ‘Wanda’s desk’ has been found

As Alabama voters seek closure on the scandal surrounding Robert Bentley, one of the state’s greatest political puzzles has been solved. According to State Auditor Jim Zeigler, “Wanda’s Desk,” an infamous piece of furniture connected to the disgraced former governor, has been found.

“I located [Wanda’s Desk] in the basement of the state capitol,” Zeigler wrote on Tuesday. He said the furniture had been moves six times since being near the governor’s office, and is now in use by a policy adviser in the Capitol.

“It was in storage for a while, for no apparent reason,” he added.

Wanda’s desk” quickly became a political meme in Alabama since Yellowhammer first leaked audio of Bentley’s inappropriate conversation with Rebekah Mason.

In the recordings, the Governor calls Mrs. Mason “baby” and discusses how much he enjoys standing behind her and touching her breasts. He also references a past encounter and says if they are going to do “that” again, they will need to start locking the door and also consider moving “Wanda’s” desk further away, presumably referencing executive assistant Wanda Kelly, whose Capitol office is just outside of the Governor’s.

As efforts to remove Bentley from office, two state legislators- Reps. Ed Henry (R- Hartselle), and Johnny Mack Morrow (D- Red Bay) had tried to locate the desk, but were denied access to the area where Kelly’s office was situated.

Zeigler began the audit of the Capitol on Monday. Later in the week, the audits will move to Wynfield, the newer governor’s mansion in East Montgomery, and the governor’s office in the state capitol. Next week, they go to the “Governor’s Mansion at the Beach.”

Bentley was reportedly responsible for 257 state assets worth $891,682.54 at the historic governor’s mansion alone.

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1 year ago

The man who told Robert Bentley ‘I work for you’ is out as Alabama’s top cop

Stan Stabler, the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, has resigned his position.

Stabler, who became acting ALEA secretary in 2016 after Spencer Collier was placed on medical leave by Robert Bentley, was quoted in the House Judiciary Committee’s report as telling the former governor, “I work for you.”

Gov. Kay Ivey has named Hal Taylor as the interim ALEA secretary. Taylor has served as deputy chief of staff for the State Bureau of Investigations and ALEA chief of staff.

In a statement on the appointment, Gov. Ivey said, “Hal Taylor is a man of the utmost integrity who I trust during this time of transition to help in my vision of improving Alabama’s image. I also thank the hundreds of men and women in our state law enforcement ranks who work every day to protect us.”

With the firing of Jon Mason and now Stan Stabler stepping down, Gov. Ivey is making a point of cleaning up much of the mess left behind by Bentley.

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1 year ago

Rebekah Mason’s husband fired from Alabama government job

Jon Mason
Jon Mason

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Rebekah Mason’s husband, Jon Mason, has been fired from his state job as Director of SERVE Alabama, according to the Governor’s office. Mason was appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) back in 2011, and he was fired this morning.

SERVE Alabama falls under the umbrella of the Governor’s faith based and volunteer services. According to its website, the program is designed to to increase an ethic of service and volunteerism in the State of Alabama, strengthen the capacity of Alabama’s faith and community-based organizations, and promote collaboration among individuals and organizations striving to meet some of the greatest needs in the state.

Mason’s salary as director was $91,000 per year. He previously worked as a weatherman.

Mason’s wife, Rebekah, was at the center of the scandal that forced former Gov. Bentley to resign from office yesterday. She previously served as a close advisor to Bentley and allegedly engaged in a romantic relationship with him.

This article will be updated as more information on Mason is released.

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1 year ago

Three up, three down: heads of each Alabama branch of government removed in a year

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama has had a rough political year. Following the resignation of scandal-ridden Gov. Robert Bentley yesterday, each of the state’s three major political leaders has been removed in less than 365 days.

The heads of the state executive, legislative, and judicial branches were all removed (either voluntarily or by force) due to some sort of ethical misconduct. Here’s a refresher of what all went wrong in the Yellowhammer State.

Former Governor Robert Bentley (R)

The most recent of the scandals, Bentley’s story is perhaps the most wide in scope due to his position and resources. He formally announced his resignation yesterday and likely avoided becoming the first Alabama Governor to be impeached. Increased backlash against him followed the release of a report exposing details of corruption from within Bentley’s administration as he sought to cover up an alleged affair with his top aide, Rebekah Mason.

Bentley had been called on to resign by multiple state Republican leaders, including Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. The Alabaman Republican Party steering committee had issued a call for Bentley to step down on Sunday.

RELATED: ‘I’m sorry’: Robert Bentley apologizes and resigns following arrest, looming impeachment

On Monday afternoon, Bentley was booked in the Montgomery County Sherriff’s office, having cut a deal that will allow him to avoid a heavy sentence. As part of the agreement, he was compelled to immediately resign his office and give up his retirement and security benefits. He was charged with two misdemeanors for ethics violations and will be expected to pay thousands in fines and serve over 100 hours of community service. He also must repay over $8,000 to the state of Alabama.

Former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R)

Justice Moore was suspended without pay for his defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary found that Moore’s order instructing probate judges to violate the SCOTUS holding violated judicial ethics and suspended him from the bench for the remainder of his term.

RELATED: Roy Moore suspended from Alabama Supreme Court

Roy Moore’s removal from the Alabama Supreme Court late last year was actually his second time that he was booted off the bench. Moore was previously removed from the bench in 2003 when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was re-elected Chief Justice in 2013.

Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn)

Last Summer, Speaker Hubbard was convicted of 12 of 23 charges by a Lee County Jury in Opelika for using his political position for personal gain. Hubbard made millions of dollars in various schemes designed to leverage the power of his office to enrich himself, and now he is in state prison.

RELATED: Alabama House speaker Mike Hubbard convicted

Hubbard was at one point considered the most powerful man in Alabama politics. He successfully led the 2010 Republican campaign to re-take the State House for the first time since Reconstruction. After become the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Hubbard ruled with an iron fist.

After his conviction, former Yellowhammer CEO Cliff Sims wrote “Such a scenario would be a seismic political event, regardless of the individual; the Speaker’s post is arguably the most powerful position in state government. But Hubbard may have been the strongest speaker to ever hold the job, meaning his ouster will now lead to a power vacuum of tectonic proportions.”

Hubbard has since been replaced as speaker by Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

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1 year ago

‘I’m sorry’: Robert Bentley apologizes and resigns following arrest, looming impeachment

In front of a packed Old House Chamber on Monday evening, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley made his decision to resign official.

“I have decided it is time for me to step down as Alabama’s governor,” Bentley said. He said that he would now focus his time on serving the people of the state in other ways.
His resignation took effect immediately.

The announcement follows over a year of fighting back the shadow of scandal, as Yellowhammer first leaked audio revealing the intimate relationship between Bentley and his top aide, Rebekah Mason.

“There have been times that I have let you, and our people down, and I am sorry,” Bentley said.

On Monday afternoon, Bentley was booked in the Montgomery County Sherriff’s office, having cut a deal that will allow him to avoid a heavy sentence. As part of the agreement, he was compelled to immediately resign his office and give up his retirement and security benefits. He was charged with two misdemeanors for ethics violations and will be expected to pay thousands in fines and serve over 100 hours of community service. He also must repay over $8,000 to the state of Alabama.

Rumors had swirled earlier in the day that Bentley would soon resign, as the House Judiciary Committee held their first meeting to discuss their explosive impeachment report. Mid-day, the committee paused from their hearing amid news that the governor would step down.

Kay Ivey will soon be sworn in as the second woman governor of the state.

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