|Gov. Robert Bentley's mugshot|
Is Bentley's plea deal a good deal for Alabama citizens? The answer is absolutely not, and that's because it essentially says, "Cover up your crimes, and it's likely to benefit you." We will explain in a moment.
All three of the posts with links above -- the last one showing that Mason and her husband, Jon, had made almost $1 million during the Bentley Administration -- were published before any other news outlet (mainstream or otherwise) wrote about the Bentley/Mason scandal.
One could argue that a one-man blog -- one written by a journalist with more than 35 years of professional experience -- took down a state's most powerful politician. That point is important for a couple of reasons: (1) It's unclear if today's news ever would have happened without our reports from Aug. 31, and Sept. 1-2, 2015; (2) While al.com has wrongfully received credit for breaking the story at multiple national outlets (yes, you, Rachel Maddow and The Washington Post), the story actually has been an embarrassment for mainstream media (MSM); in fact, it's shown MSM reporters in Alabama too often are ethically compromised, reluctant to report aggressively and accurately on their conservative favorites.
Al.com reporters John Archibald and Chuck Dean spilled serious amounts of ink trashing me, claiming my posts offered only "smoke" and no "proof" -- and my blog had "dubious" credibility. Deep in the bowels of the House Judiciary Committee's Special Counsel Report are e-mails that suggest Dean more or less was working as a public-relations agent for Mason and the Bentley administration. (See p. 38, Exhibit 5-CC, bentleyinvestigation.com.)
Does that mean I'm a smarter, better journalist than the MSMers on the Alabama horizon? I will leave that question for others to answer. But this much is clear: I had better sources than they did, and I didn't have to answer to politically sensitive editors in a Deep Red state who might want the story squelched. My sources on this story were impeccable -- and they knew I would listen when they talked. Their need to remain anonymous has only grown as the Bentley story picked up steam, but I dearly wish I could give their names, so they could take a bow. If there are heroes in this, they are the ones. They have taken personal risks to provide a public service to a state they care about deeply.
My sources weren't the only ones who took risks. Nine days after I broke the Bentley/Mason story, my wife, Carol, and I were subject to an unlawful eviction in Greene County, Missouri (on Sept. 9, 2015). I had an assault rifle pointed at my head, Carol's left arm was shattered, and she likely sustained a concussion from having her head banged against a wall multiple times, and being body slammed butt-first to the ground before a deputy yanked on her limbs so violently that the bone in her left arm was snapped in two above the elbow. We know Carol's arm never will be the same, and we've seen signs of jumbled thinking that suggests her brain might never be the same either. And get this: Bogus criminal charges -- for trespass and assault on a law-enforcement officer -- were filed against her.
Are Bentley and Mason evil enough to be involved in something like that? Well, multiple reports have indicated Bentley unlawfully sought use of state and federal criminal data bases to target me (and attorney/Facebook journalist Donald Watkins) in retaliation for our reporting. Does that sound a bit like the intimidation campaign we now know Bentley conducted against Heather Hannah, a former assistant to First Lady Dianne Bentley? It sure as heck does.
From a journalism standpoint, this much is clear: Legal Schnauzer and Donald Watkins were way ahead of the pack on the Bentley/Mason story, during a seven-month time frame when the MSM did it's best to stamp out the fire. Numerous news outlets have reported that the scandal started in March 2016, when a tape of sexy talk between Bentley and Mason found its way to the press. But that is wrong. The scandal started with my initial reports in late August and early September of 2015 and took fire with two key series from Watkins -- "Forbidden Love" and "Executive Betrayal."
It's possible the sexy tape never appears if the mainstream press succeeds in trying to shush and discredit Watkins and me. It's also possible Bentley serves out his term as governor, without the work of two reporters who are not tied to the MSM and its usual accoutrements -- layers of editors, big-box advertisers, and political suck-ups.
As for the Bentley resignation plea deal, we still are trying to digest what it means. But a report at al.com includes this tweet from Chris England, a member of the House Judiciary Committee:
Due to Governor Bentley's resignation, the work of the impeachment committee is no longer needed. We are adjourned.
What? Who says your work no longer is needed? The Special Counsel's report makes clear that Bentley, his staffers, and associates failed to provide (or heavily redacted) key documents that were requested and subpoenaed. Dozens, likely hundreds, of e-mails, texts, phone records, and financial statements were not provided. And the Special Counsel made clear this, alone, was grounds for impeachment.
Team Bentley engaged in blatant stonewalling and cover-up, but England's words suggest they are going to get away with it. Is evidence of criminal acts included in all that material that was withheld from investigators. The answer likely is yes. But we know this absolutely: That material, produced on public time, with public resources, belongs to the public. It should be revealed to the public, and no deal should be finalized until all that information is turned over. If that information is not made public -- with under-oath interviews from subjects who skipped them the first time around -- Alabamians should pitch a collective fit.
Gov. Bentley's administration has failed, but his cover-up (so far) has succeeded. We will have more on this subject in a post tomorrow.