|"Luv Guv" Bentley's mugshot, which likely never would have been taken|
without reporting here at Legal Schnauzer.
Does a blog make a difference in your life? If you live in Alabama -- or care about Alabama-related events on the national stage -- this blog certainly does.
Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Gov. Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley's resignation from office. Legal Schnauzer broke the story of Bentley's affair with "adviser" Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- and its associated financial and legal implications -- roughly seven months before the mainstream media (MSM) began to take it seriously. The first story on the Bentley scandal, anywhere in any form of media, was published here at Legal Schnauzer on Aug. 31, 2015.
We were way ahead of everybody in naming Rebekah Mason as a central figure in the scandal. Our guess is the MSM never would have touched the story if we hadn't broken it and followed up with key details. In fact, al.com (especially "reporters" John Archibald and Chuck Dean) spent months attacking my journalism on the story. They were more interested in sweeping the story under their GOP-tinted rug than actually pursuing it:
Archibald and colleague Chuck Dean had spent part of those seven months blasting me and my reporting. Archibald claimed my reporting "offered . . . 'sources.' Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke."
Dean, undoubtedly pissed that I had outed him as a customer of the the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, offered this critique: "Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact." (Can someone define an "unsubstantial" rumor? I guess that is in contrast to a "substantial" rumor?)
Archibald, of course, was happy to go on The Rachel Maddow Show in spring 2017 and take credit for "breaking" the story, even though he was seven months late to the party.
Speaking of taking credit for the work of others, we have lawyer/businessman/Facebook "journalist" Donald Watkins, who repeatedly has taken credit for breaking the Bentley-Mason story. His most recent effort to falsely claim credit for breaking the story came three days ago. Much of Watkins' early reporting on the Bentley scandal focused on hints that the governor was having a homosexual affair with his security chief.
Watkins didn't even have the gender issue correct, and never mentioned Mason's name until well after we had broken it. Yet, just three days ago, he took credit for breaking the story. Perhaps that kind of fundamental dishonesty is the reason Watkins is up to his neck in federal investigations. (Given that many state and federal prosecutors are utterly lacking in integrity, it's also possible Watkins is being targeted because his skin is black and is seen as a threat to Alabama's conservative establishment.)
Did our reporting on the Bentley-Mason scandal come with risk? Absolutely, as spelled out in a post last April:
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.
The Bentley story hardly is the only one where Legal Schnauzer has made a difference. Here is a rundown of stories where our reporting either helped bring down, or significantly weaken, a corrupt political figure:
( 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 [Roy] 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 badpuppy.com 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.
In short, our journalism has had a profound impact on the following institutions -- the Alabama Governor's Office, the Alabama House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the federal judiciary. And we are working on stories that could help bring down more crooked public figures -- in Alabama, Missouri, and beyond.
Do blogs make a difference in your life? They sure do, especially this one. The one-year anniversary of "Luv Guv" Bentley's exit seems like a good time to remember that.