Several of my fellow Alabamians have told me that I should feel OK about the election of Robert Bentley as governor, even though he's a Republican. "Bentley might not be your No. 1 choice, but at least he's an honest man--which is more than we can say about Bob Riley over the past eight years."
Bentley hasn't even taken office yet, and he's already showing that we can take that "honest man" business and pitch it out the window like yesterday's bath water. (Sorry, I'm revealing my Ozarkian, hillbilly roots.)
How do we know? Bentley has announced that he is going to take the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling and put it under control of incoming Attorney General Luther Strange. That's the same task force Riley used like a club to close Alabama gaming facilities that were providing competition for his financial benefactors, the Mississippi Choctaws of Jack Abramoff fame. That's also the task force that Bentley said during the 2010 campaign he would "dismantle."
Sebastian Kitchen, a reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser, asked Bentley about his earlier statement regarding the task force. The governor-elect's reply was weak:
Bentley said leading up to the election that he would dismantle the task force. When asked about those comments by the Montgomery Advertiser in October, Bentley responded that "when I said dismantle the task force, I meant dismantle the current task force and current approach using state troopers."
He expressed concerns about using state troopers for raids and said "I just wouldn't use that approach." But, Bentley said, the law must be enforced and "I still want the attorney general to take care of that."
What happened to Bentley's campaign promise to dismantle the task force? He apparently forgot about it when he started receiving pressure from Riley's corrupt cronies.
Those cronies would include the fine lawyers at the august Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant, which received more than $530,000 to assist the Riley task force.
Bradley Arant, of course, is the firm that employs Rob Campbell, who just happens to be Riley's son-in-law. For good measure, guess which law firm used to employ Luther Strange as a partner? Why, that would be Bradley Arant, too.
We have seen an ever growing body of evidence that indicates Bradley Arant is one of the most corrupting influences in Alabama. The firm has helped pull the levers on the unlawful machinations of the Riley years, and Bentley now has signaled that he is going to let it continue.
Bentley did get one thing right. In saying that the task force will move under the attorney general's office, he seemed to distance himself from the Alabama Supreme Court decision that essentially made Riley the "supreme magistrate" of the state, giving him law-enforcement duties that supersede those of the attorney general. That decision overturned roughly 25 years of legal precedent, and Bentley's decision to move the task force out of the governor's office at least shows he has some clue about this notion called "separation of powers."
Still, Bentley's failure to keep a campaign promise was not an encouraging sign from a politician who is supposed to be a straight shooter. Before you know it, Bentley will be throwing off his glasses and poofing up his hair, looking more and more like "Boss Hog" Bob Riley.
Bentley has talked about changing the culture of Montgomery. That's not exactly the way to go about it.