|Could Gov. Robert Bentley, and mistress Rebekah Caldwell|
Mason, have criminal charges in their futures.
Maybe that's why Bentley pressured law enforcement to target me and attorney Donald Watkins in an effort to shut down reporting about the gubernatorial love nest. Maybe he feared our reporting would go beyond groping and groaning and focus on abuse of the governor's official position. If so, Bentley was right to be fearful of that.
How do we know? Well, the story of the Bentley/Mason extramarital affair broke here, at Legal Schnauzer, last August--almost seven months before national news outlets, such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and Rachel Maddow Show, took notice last week. And we did not just ouline the story's "T and A" elements, the kind that tend to make a blog's page views soar. We also addressed the unsexy notion that the public trust had been betrayed, the state's government had been compromised, and criminal acts might be involved.
Consider the following words from our original report--and then we invite you to consider them in light of recent reports that members of Bentley's cabinet had received raises (double-digit percentage increases in some cases) that one state senator called "outrageous." From Legal Schnauzer on August 31, 2015:
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, sources say, quickly became more than just a communications director to Bentley. Their affair became so widely known that it diluted any moral authority the governor might have had. "He's been impotent as governor for at least the last six months," one source told Legal Schnauzer. "People have been going into his office and saying, 'Do what I want or I'm going to play the girlfriend card.' People have been running all over him."
What happens when an "impotent" governor allows people to "run all over him" because he's afraid they will play the "girlfriend card" if they don't get their way? Is that the kind of thing that leads to "outrageous" raises for cabinet members?
Well, consider some of the details about the pay-raise story, from Associated Press:
While many cabinet members are making more money this year, four cabinet members received raises of about $70,000, according to state pay records.
The salaries of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Jim Byard, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Administrator Mac Gipson, Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling increased from $91,014 to about $164,000. The pay increases were first reported . . . by the blog Inside Alabama Politics.
Did Byard, Gipson, Magee, or Ridling apply improper pressure to get their raises by playing the "girlfriend card" with Bentley? We don't have a yes-or-no answer to that question yet. But our blog raised the specter of such chicanery last summer.
As one of our sources said in the original report:
I have . . . been told that Bentley's trooper facilitated the affair, and that the state jet was used extensively to facilitate it. And that Bentley and Mason actually used it as a bedroom at times when Mrs. Bentley was still living in the mansion. . . . The use of state resources to facilitate an affair would surely violate state law. . . .
Here's how we tried to put the story into perspective--and this was almost seven months ago:
The Bentley-Mason affair, in the aftermath of Dianne Bentley's divorce complaint, has left the governor's administration teetering. Legal fallout from the affair could have ugly consequences, including Bentley's resignation and a possible criminal investigation.
It's no secret that sex "sells"--and helps drive blog page views. But has the Bentley/Mason story been about more serious matters? Yes, it has--right from the start.