The Strange Story Of How Alabama Corruption Threatens To Infect The U.S. Senate

That's Senator Starnge on the right, and Governor Dormammu on the left...

That’s Senator Strange on the right, and Governor Dormammu on the left…

Personally, I love the idea of Congress having a “Senator Strange.” The movie almost writes itself, with a Senator who has magic powers and who says things like “By the Hoary Hordes of Hogarth! Point of order!”

But not like this.

Now bear with me. This is a complicated story and will take a while, but as Keven Costner says to James Earl Jones (as Terrance Mann) in “Field of Dreams,” “It’s a good story.”

And a really, really strange one, in more ways than one..

When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.

You see,  Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid  impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.

An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.

Sure.

Bentley invaded the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, saying that  he “had made a mistake” by saying “inappropriate things” to his aide, and apologized to Mason , her family and to the people of Alabama. On April 5, 2016, an impeachment resolution against Bentley was filed in the State Legislature, which appointed a special counsel to lead an investigation into the impeachment charges. Then, in November, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked that the investigation be halted pending “related work” by his office. This was widely interpreted to mean that Strange, also a Republican but not an ally of Bentley’s, was overseeing his own investigation of whether charges should be brought against Bentley.

Trump was elected President on November 8, and ten days later he announced his intention to nominate Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. On December 6, 2016, Strange announced that he was a candidate for the soon to be vacant seat, meaning that he would run in the 2018 election, if he wasn’t appointed to fill the vacancy by Bentley.

With the wolves gathering at  his door, however, that’s exactly what Gov. Bentley did. He appointed the man who was overseeing his current impeachment investigation to the U.S. Senate, thus creating a vacancy in the Attorney General’s post. Then he appointed a new AG named Steve Marshall (no relation), who many doubt will vigorously pursue an indictment against the governor.

Can you say, “Appearance of impropriety”?

I can’t imagine a better example of how the law can’t anticipate everything, making ethics indispensable.   There is an Alabama law prohibiting a governor from appointing himself to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, but nobody foresaw a situation where a governor facing impeachment would interfere with the investigation by appointing a political adversary and the Attorney General overseeing the investigation to fill the slot. This is entirely legal, and spectacularly unethical.

Some in the state wonder if Strange’s request to the legislature wasn’t part of a deal with the Governor, in anticipation of a Sessions departure.  “He definitely slowed down the impeachment process, which put the governor in a place to actually appoint him. That’s the problem we have,” said Ed Henry, the legislator who brought the original  impeachment motion to a vote.  “He stopped an impeachment process and then in turn accepted the nomination to the Senate. I believe the damage is already done.”

For this to have been a pre-arranged  quid pro quo would have required that Strange and Bentley both believe that Trump would win, however. Hmmmm. Maybe they were in league with the Russians too…?

Yet it requires no conspiracy theory to conclude that for Strange to accept Bentley’s appointment makes him complicit in a sequence of events  that appears corrupt. It is too redolent of the Roland Burris affair, when now jailed former Illinois governor Rod Blagojavich was caught selling a Senate appointment. Burris swore in an affidavit  that he had had no contact with the governor prior to his appointment to a Senate seat he had no qualifications for, and then as soon as he was safely on office, suddenly remembered that he had met with “Blago.”

The newly minted Senator Strange, had he been an ethics hero—and shouldn’t we be able to expect our elected officials to be ethics heroes?—could have foiled Bentley, inspired Alabamans, and proved that he would be a worthy Senator when he ran in 2018, if he had simply turned down the appointment, saying,

“I am grateful and honored that Governor Bentley felt that I was qualified to represent the citizen of Alabama in the U.S. Senate. However, I feel I would betray the trust of those same citizens if I were to accept the post under these circumstances. As the lawyer for the people, I am obligated to undertake and oversee a fair and objective investigation of serious allegations against the Governor, and this raised a conflict of interest for me, pitting my personal political ambition against my duties in my current position. Moreover, should I accept the Governor’s offer, it would raise doubts regarding the functioning of the legal system as well as my personal integrity. Therefore I must decline the appointment.”

Nah.

Now, however, the Senator has proven himself unworthy of his new job by accepting it.

Strange!

doctor-strange

__________________________

Pointer: valkygrrl

Facts: AL.com 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

 

26 Comments

Filed under U.S. Society

26 responses to “The Strange Story Of How Alabama Corruption Threatens To Infect The U.S. Senate

  1. Mike

    Seems like it was a bad idea to let States Attorney General anywhere near the investigation. The special counsel should have been the only one conducting the investigation and Strange should have turned over everything he had uncovered, strange he didn’t. Since Strange was an appointee of Bently he was already in an unethical place in the first place. His first client is the Governor, himself. He should have already asked for a special counsel himself if his investigation began before the order from the state senate. Just some more nasty politics. I think the only reason I stay sane is because you, Jack, keep calling out these people.

    • Rich in CT

      The Attorney General’s client is the people, not the Governor.

    • Opal

      In Alabama State’s Attorney General is elected not appointed by the governor. “Big Luther” was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. The ethics of the investigation is a whole other can of worms. The new State’s Attorney General is from a neighboring county to where I live. His reputation is pretty solid and we are hoping for a final resolution to Governor Horndog.

      • Wait—you DON’T think it was just a platonic relationship????

        • Opal

          Oh, no. And the trip they all (Gov., girlfriend, and girlfriends husband) to the inauguration on a state plane may be technically legal, but it’s not sitting well with Alabamian’s. One could say it’s seen as unethical.

      • Mike

        Forgive my confusion, because there were a lot of people being appointed, in the above ethics mess. Sessions is being appointed to US Attorney General, Luther Strange was appointed to Sessions old Senate seat. And Steve Marshall has been appointed to Luther Strange’s old office of State’s Attorney General. That is a lot of appointments going on. Oh, by the way, you said the State’s Attorney General is elected not appointed. I will forgive your confusion. You must have missed the part above where it said that Steve Marshall was appointed. So there are some instances in Alabama’s history, that the State’s Attorney General is not elected to the position. So thank you for correcting me, and you’re welcome.

        • I have no idea what you think you’re saying. In Alabama, AG’s are elected, just like US Senators are elected, except when a vacancy occurs between elections. I didn’t say anything to the contrary.

          • Mike

            I thought I was replying to Opal. Somehow it appears to have taken that reply meant for Opal and put it as a reply, to your reply, to Opal. I will say that I am 100% sure that I clicked on the reply hyperlink for Opal’s comment.
            Perhaps I should have calmed down a bit more before replying to Opal’s comment. I do think they should have been more polite correcting my mistake. I can understand you confusion Jack. My comments are especially mean in response to your comment.

            • Opal

              Mike, you wrote, “Since Strange was an appointee of Bently he was already in an unethical place in the first place. His first client is the Governor, himself. He should have already asked for a special counsel himself if his investigation began before the order from the state senate.” In his position of States Attorney General he wasn’t an appointee. He became an appointee to the US Senate and thus no longer part of the investigation.

  2. Don’t people know they are going to be called out for corruption with such *obvious* plays?

    Ole Guv must really be in an existential crisis.

  3. Rick M.

    And I thought the Democrats in Massachusetts were crazy!

  4. Joe Fowler

    -I can’t imagine a better example of how the law can’t anticipate everything, making ethics indefensible.-
    Indispensable-? I’m guessing…(Gotta love spell check)

  5. Jack, to challenge the Dr. Strange lore rattling around your head (and give you an ear worm of a somewhat different slant) I suggest the following link, which (incidentally) happens to apply to the topic at hand quite well:

    ‘Dance a little side step’ is what Bentley is doing, and doing quite well. Wonder if he can perform choreography as well as Charles Durning? Charles got an Academy Award nomination for this little bit.

    Note that the movie (and musical) were really based on true events (I grew up not far from there).

  6. Rick M.

    What they really need is Maura Healy to fix this mess.

    • Or a pony nuke.

      I hear Iowa would be a great National Capital, centrally located and fairly balanced left vs right.

      Then again, Iowa residents might not like that in their backyard, given what D.C. has done to the local neighborhood the past 100 years.

      (need I say that my tongue is firmly inserted in my cheek?)

      • Rick M.

        Well, Willy, I was hoping Maura could take Elizabeth Warren along for some fund raising. A year or so away may help us a bit.

  7. Wayne

    “Lex Luther” Strange looks a little like the DC Comics character, don’t you think? Anyway I think this is a case of “tit for tat” huh?

  8. I’m frustrated. Please bear with me.

    It’s stories just like this one that add to our social & political divisions and adds to the chaos across the country. People feel like they can’t do anything to stop all the bull shit; in some ways they’re right. People wanted “change” when Obama was originally elected, the only change they really got was a tactical change from the left who labeled anyone that disagreed with their policy a racist, other than that the people got the status quo of ever increasing partisan bull shit. The people were still looking for that serious change in how our government is operating during this last election and Trump was the only one that was offering them that change, the people took the bait, we’ve got Trump, the left has moved further away from the center and the right has flushed the last of their ethics down the drain.

    Do you ever get the feeling that illogical social chaos and division among the people is becoming more and more prevalent across the United States and our leaders don’t seem to be spending any of their political capital to slow the trend, instead what we see is rhetoric from our leaders that seem to support illogical social chaos and division among the people?

    Some may say that the chaotic trends, such as these, have always been there and it’s all just typical politics, I disagree! I’ve been around for quite a while and I see that the trend is much more wide spread and “permanent” than any single political event can explain. The trend is showing us that the core things that make us who we have been, who we currently are, and who we have the potential to be are being manipulated by the destruction of root moral character and replaced with division.

    When I was young I had hope for the future, my hopes for future generations, my children and grandchildren, are being squelched; is that what our leaders want?

    Do our leaders, and future leaders, see chaos as a method of pushing them to the top of the political ladder?

    Has acquiring of the goal of individual/party political supremacy superseded or completely replaced the goal to serve the people?

    Have the people become the tool of the politicians instead of the politicians being the tool of the people?

    Is anyone else feeling the crushing of “the people” under the weight of our continuously expanding government?

    Division might temporarily make some of us feel stronger than those we oppose, but in the end, division will destroy the initial reason that drove the founding fathers to structure our nation in the manner in which they did. Our freedoms rest on the heavy laden shoulders that We the People are better together than we are apart; we have forgotten that and the result is that our politicians have forgotten that too.

    One of my favorite quotes came from a friend of mine, he is a wiser man than I.

    If we want change in our lives the change must begin in us.

    This also applies to our politicians; If we want our politicians to change, the change must begin in us.

    P.S. Yes I know that some of that was repetition from January 2016.

    • dragin_dragon

      Maybe a repetition, but truer words were never spoken. The most of the problem is the none of the politicians or bureaucrats see any reason to change. The system we are currently running under, best described as “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” has been around too long and is so pervasive that even the new, idealistic fire-brands are fairly quickly subverted. As a for-instance, how many do you think believe taking a monetary gift is OK, as long as it’s reported…or, if nobody finds out about it?

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