Wednesday, September 27, 2017

With beatdown from Roy Moore in Senate runoff, Luther Strange's political career tumbles -- adding to the list of politicos that our blog has helped bring down

Luther Strange and Mike Pence
That sound you hear this morning -- timber! -- is Luther Strange's political career falling in the forest. The other sound you hear is from members of our Legal Schnauzer staff patting themselves on the back.

Strange's loss to Roy Moore in yesterday's Alabama GOP runoff for a seat in the U.S. Senate marks the sixth major political/legal figure that our little blog has helped take down. And that doesn't count a federal judge who might have been denied a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court because of our reporting.

Does our staff deserve a pat on the back? Given that our hard-hitting and accurate reporting on Alabama corruption has caused us to be cheated out of our jobs, our home of 25 years in Birmingham, our savings, almost all of our personal belongings -- and also led to my unlawful arrest and incarceration, plus a shattered arm and bogus criminal charges for my wife, Carol -- well, I'd say we deserve some congratulations, even if it is self-applied. (Also, financial support, via the PayPal button on the upper right side of the blog is much needed and greatly appreciated.)

It doesn't take our staff long to congratulate each other. There's only Mrs. Schnauzer, myself, and a third member of our team whose identity will remain under wraps for now. But his contributions to our work here cannot be overstated. We hope to introduce you to him someday.

As for the political pelts hanging from our wall, let's take a brief look at each one, in more or less reverse order:

( 1) Luther Strange -- By almost all accounts, Strange's political demise grew from his decision to accept an appointment to Jeff Sessions' Senate seat from hideously corrupt Alabama Gov. Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley. Strange apparently accepted the appointment in exchange for having his state attorney general's office go light on Bentley. It was such a blatant quid pro quo that it even made many Alabama conservatives want to wretch. But here is a key point to remember: Bentley would not have been radioactive if we hadn't broken the story of his extramarital affair with top adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. It's possible the mainstream press never would have picked up on the Bentley story if we had not broken it. Without our reporting, Strange does not make a devil's deal with Bentley -- and Strange might have beaten Moore in yesterday's runoff. Goodbye, Luther.

(2) Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley -- How many one-man blogs (plus two staff members) have taken down a governor? I can't think of any -- and make no mistake, Legal Schnauzer took down Bentley, who resigned on April 10, 2017. We reported on both the affair with Mason -- and its financial implications -- well before anyone else. Attorney Donald Watkins picked up on the story, at his Facebook page, not long after we broke it. But it was roughly seven months before the mainstream press took serious notice.

(3) Cooper Shattuck -- The former chief legal counsel at the University of Alabama resigned in December 2016. That came just eight days after former Bentley security chief Wendell Ray Lewis filed a lawsuit naming ACEGOV, a nonprofit that Shattuck formed, apparently to funnel money to Mason. We were among the first news outlets to report on Shattuck's role in forming ACEGOV and its central role in the Bentley scandal. We were the only news outlet to report on Shattuck's own problems with sins of the flesh, and those revelations likely weakened his position as top lawyer at the state's flagship university.

(4) Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- Mason was the first casualty in the Bentley scandal, resigning as senior political adviser in March 2016. She left with these words: "My only plans are to focus my full attention on my precious children and my husband who I love dearly." The old "I want to spend time with my family" excuse. It never seems to go out of style.

(5) Mike Hubbard -- The former House Speaker was convicted on 12 felony ethics charges in June 2016. Bill Britt and his team at Alabama Political Reporter played the lead role in breaking and reporting that story, but we played an important supporting role by providing analysis that readers were not likely to find in the mainstream press.

(6) Mark Fuller -- The former U.S. district judge, who butchered the Don Siegelman case and sent two innocent men (Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy) to federal prison, resigned in August 2015 after a wife-beating incident came to light. A number of news outlets reported on the wife-beating story, but we had earlier broken a story about court records that showed Fuller's divorce from his first wife involved allegations of physical and emotional abuse. That helped establish a pattern of abusive behavior -- making it hard for the mainstream press and judicial establishment to ignore the story -- and it probably played a key role in Fuller's forced resignation.

Finally, we have . . .

(7) Bill Pryor -- The U.S. Circuit Judge widely was considered the front-runner as Donald Trump's choice to fill the late Antonin Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The seat, however, went to Neil Gorsuch, of Colorado, with Pryor fading badly to third. Several knowledgeable observers have said they believe our reporting on Pryor's ties to 1990s gay pornography via cost Pryor a lifetime appointment on the nation's highest court. Who am I to argue? With the RussiaGate investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller closing in, it appears doubtful Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Pryor's No. 1 booster, among other things) will be around long enough for Pryor to get another chance.

Speaking of Jeff Sessions, perhaps he will be the next name we can add to our list. Wouldn't that be interesting?

In summation, our "Little Blog That Could" has helped take down, or greatly reduce the influence of, a U.S. senator, a governor, a governor's senior adviser, chief counsel of Alabama's flagship university, a House speaker, a U.S. district judge, and a U.S. circuit judge who appeared headed for SCOTUS.

I'd say Legal Schnauzer, in spite of everything our team has been through, makes a difference in trying to bring a sense of integrity to Alabama public life. I like the sound of that, and we are deeply grateful for our readers, sources, and supporters who have made it possible.

We might be a team of three, but it takes a village to bring down sons of bitches like Luther Strange. We come from a village of smart, tough cookies -- and, together, we have more sons of bitches in our sights.

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