|Rebekah Caldwell Mason, her husband Jon,|
and their three children
Rebekah Caldwell Mason owns RCM Communications Inc. of Tuscaloosa, which was handsomely compensated for its work in advertising and polling for Bentley's re-election campaign in 2014, according to records from the Alabama Secretary of State's Office.
First Lady Dianne Bentley filed for divorce last Friday after 50 years of marriage, and we reported yesterday that an extramarital affair with Mason was the primary source of friction in the governor's marriage.
Mason became Bentley's communications director after his 2010 election, and she served as press secretary for the 2014 campaign. Bentley hired her husband, former WVUA weatherman Jon Mason, in 2011 to serve as director of the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
It's not clear yet how much Rebekah Mason has been paid in taxpayer money since Bentley became governor. But between her pay from campaign funds, and her husband's pay from state resources . . . well, serving Team Bentley has been lucrative for the Mason family.
How lucrative? According to Lagniappe, a weekly publication in Mobile, the Bentley campaign paid RCM Communications more than $112,000 for advertising in 2013, the year before the election. That was the single largest expenditure from all campaign accounts for that year. From the article, titled "Rules Vague on 'Personal Use' of campaign finance money":
The year before an election, campaign committees across Alabama spent more than $4.5 million from their respective accounts in 2013, according to a review of recent reports. The expenses were ledgered against more than $15.4 million in itemized statewide cash contributions.
Besides Gov. Robert Bentley, who was the leading fundraiser in the cash category with $3.1 million last year, other leaders included Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey with $466,840.59, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard with $444,697.44, Sen. Roger Bedford with $396,615.73, Sen. Slade Blackwell with $379,550 and Sen. Arthur Orr with $343,010.00. . . .
Combined, Hubbard’s legal expenses were the second-largest single expense from all campaign accounts last year behind Gov. Bentley, who paid RCM Communications in Tuscaloosa $112,000 for advertising.
The payment for advertising was not the only money RCM received from the Bentley campaign in 2013. The total figure for that year is $143,700.75, with the additional funds coming in categories such as "polling/consulting," "travel," "lodging," and "administrative."
Lagniappe points out that candidates can dip into dangerous territory if they use campaign funds for "personal use":
|Rebekah Caldwell Mason, with|
U of Alabama coach Nick Saban
The FCPA more specifically prohibits expenses on household supplies, personal clothing, tuition payments, mortgage or rent, utility payments for a personal residence, admission or event fees for a country club or a social club, or any other expense, excluding food and beverages, which “would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a legislator.” The state’s Ethics Act defines the law further, adding that contributions to an officeholder or candidate shall not be converted for personal use.
Were the payments to Rebekah Mason's company made in part because of her personal relationship with the governor? The answer is unclear at the moment. But it is clear that she was paid well.
In 2014, during the months leading to the November election, RCM received $283,277.38 from the Bentley campaign. If my math is correct, that brings the company's total haul, over roughly a 14-month period in two calendar years, to $426,978.43.
When you add Jon Mason's state salary for that time frame, the Mason family brought in more than half a million dollars--in just more than one year's time. All from Bentley-related activities.
Speaking of Jon Mason, where does Rebekah Caldwell Mason's husband fit into this picture? We will take a look at that in an upcoming post.