|Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah|
News of the affair broke on August 31, 2015, shortly after First Lady Dianne Bentley filed for a divorce that ended a 50-year marriage. Reports then showed that Robert Bentley's 2014 campaign paid more than $400,000 to Mason's company, RCM Communications, of Tuscaloosa--and Bentley had hired Mason's husband for a state position that paid more than $390,000 over a five-year period.
In short, public records showed that Rebekah Mason and her husband made more than $1 million during the Bentley administration. According to an al.com report about Bentley's latest campaign-finance report, another $76,000 went to Mason's company in 2015. (See campaign-finance report at the end of this post.)
Robert Bentley is not the only one, in the wake of his divorce, to hire a lawyer with a history of criminal-defense work. Rebekah Mason reportedly has hired Bobby Segall, of the Montgomery firm Copeland Franco.
The Alabama Council for Excellence in Government (ACEGOV) might be at the heart of the criminal concerns. Here's how we explained it in a post dated September 22, 2015:
What is the most likely source of criminal exposure for Mason and Bentley? Our sources say it is the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, also known as ACEGOV, a nonprofit organization with ties to three of the most powerful entities in the state--Alabama Power, the University of Alabama System, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who have tried to arrange a monopoly on state gaming in exchange for assistance with the state budget crisis.
Where does ACEGOV get its money? The council is not terribly forthcoming with that information, but in a general sense, the funds reportedly come from Bentley's leftover campaign resources. More specifically, our sources say, the money comes mostly from Alabama Power and the Poarch Creeks--and a significant amount of it has been funneled to Governor Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Cooper Shattuck, a former legal adviser for Bentley, formed ACEGOV in February before moving on to become general counsel for the University of Alabama System.
Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins, via reporting on his Facebook page, shined additional light on ACEGOV, calling it a "slush fund" for Mason. Here is how Watkins described it:
For over a year, the governor seemed oblivious to the hurt and pain he had caused to Mrs. Bentley and his children by his love affair with Rebekah. Since he was re-elected last year, Bentley’s primary concern has been figuring out how best to use the financial resources of the state, along with leftover campaign funds and the financial resources of friendly political groups, to support his romantic lifestyle with Rebekah.
In February, Governor Bentley established the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation. Bentley’s former legal advisor Cooper Shattuck formed the Council at Bentley’s request. The stated purpose of the organization is to “support Governor Bentley in his efforts to solve real problems and to make Alabama greater, stronger and more excellent for all the hardworking men and women who call this great state our home.” In reality, the Council is a slush fund that was set up to (a) fund Bentley’s love affair with Rebekah while concealing payments to her from the view of public oversight and accountability, and (b) stash money for life with Rebekah after the governor’s divorce from Mrs. Bentley.
Bentley funded the Council with excess campaign funds left over from his 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The Council has also received a $25,000 contribution this year from AEA and $20,000 from the Alabama Hospital Association.
Watkins posted those words on September 9, 2015. Bentley's latest campaign-finance report shows that on October 15, 2015, barely one month later, he paid $24,758 to the Melton Espy firm.
Is that a coincidence? We doubt it.