Here’s the thing Gov. Robert Bentley and his former chief adviser Rebekah Mason are learning about political scandals — they have legs. And once they’re off and running another shoe falls seemingly every day.
For the Luv Guv, the latest boot on his throat is the nearly unbelievable tale of a state-owned helicopter being used the day after Christmas in 2014 to fly his wallet from Tuscaloosa to Ft. Morgan after Bentley and his ex-wife got into a row and he stormed out, jumped into his truck and drove to their beach house.
Yes, if you’ve been in a coma for the past week, men were actually paid to climb into a helicopter in Montgomery, fly to Tuscaloosa, pick up a wallet and fly it to the coast. Hopefully such an important wallet was seat-belted in and given a helmet?
This sounds like the kind of audacity one might expect from “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” I can just imagine host Robin Leach yelling in his British accent, “The governor’s mansion was recently outfitted with a chocolate Jacuzzi in the master bedroom and each day his beloved Pekingese pups, Mitzy and Stinker, dine out of taxpayer-funded, diamond-encrusted bowls specially made to look like Alabama Coach Bear Bryant’s famed houndstooth hat! And if that’s not enough, Governor Bentley’s wallet is never far away as a state-owned helicopter shadows his every move, ready to zoom down should the governor find himself at exotic locales like Wal-Mart, Denny’s or a seedy motel!”
Bentley has tried to defend himself from the criticism one might naturally expect once people realized a guy who is slashing the state budget and pushing for tax increases had his wallet flown to him via helicopter. He told media he needed the wallet for security purposes and because he wanted something to eat.
Bentley and his Alabama Law Enforcement chief, Stan Stabler, both claim the guv wasn’t the one who ordered the wallet choppered in and are throwing the blame on ousted ALEA chief Spencer Collier. Collier, of course, says he had nothing to do with ordering the life flight for Bentley’s wallet. Either way, it’s estimated this four-hour trip would have cost $5,000 if performed by a private company.
I’ll admit I don’t like going places without my wallet either, unless it gets me out of paying the tab. But I can’t think of a time I would’ve been willing to spend $5K to have my wallet delivered to me. I wonder if Bentley would have paid $5,000 of his own money to get it?
The concept that having the wallet was an emergency situation pushes the bounds of credulity, unless it’s bullet proof. The governor stomped off to go to his beach house, so what was the danger? As far as food goes, assuming the house was left empty he could have called and had his well-paid girlfriend order him a pizza or even provide her credit card to a restaurant so her lover wouldn’t starve. Let’s also remember he IS the governor. Most places probably would have spotted him a sandwich or two that he could have paid for the next day.
The argument now is really about who ordered the helicopter. While there’s definitely a spin that using the whirlybird to retrieve “important” documents and such isn’t out of the ordinary, most citizens aren’t buying that one. So it’s down to whether Collier’s telling the truth or Stabler is covering for his boss, because if Bentley did order the copter to fly his wallet down, most of us might consider that an abuse of power and misuse of government property.
The shoe that’s dropped on Mrs. Mason is a detailed recounting of her behavior once the jig was up and the infamous sex tapes went viral. (Probably a bad choice of words. Sorry.) Cliff Sims, who runs the online publication Yellowhammer, on Sunday posted a story detailing the cloak-and-dagger way in which he gained access to the Bentley-Mason breast-cupping audio tapes that stopped clocks in Montgomery.
Sims wrote about his relationship with Mason and clearly had good access to the governor’s top adviser. He described her reaction when he called about the tapes.
“The morning after I obtained the audio recordings I spoke on the phone with Rebekah Mason for almost an hour. It was a roller-coaster conversation that made it abundantly clear that, in spite of Mrs. Mason’s communications background and the obvious dangers of carrying on an affair with the governor, there had not been much thought given to what they would say if they were ever caught red-handed,” Sims wrote.
“She wanted to hear the recordings. I told her that was not possible. Then came the excuses. Sometimes when you’re a woman working in politics, she said, you have to just let inappropriate comments roll off of you like water off a duck’s back. I stopped her from continuing and told her the recordings did not support that narrative. I could feel her anxiety growing. ‘What should I do?’ she asked.”
Sims says he advised her to simply tell the truth but she asked for time to think and consult with the governor and ultimately offered no statement before Yellowhammer published the story detailing what was in the tapes.
I have friends who live in Montgomery and work in the political industry there, and while visiting them a few weeks ago we discussed what was happening and what the likely outcome might be. One seemed to think the worst of the storm had passed, but I cautioned them to remember political scandals bleed out slowly — especially in cases where the elected official tries desperately to hang onto power.
Rebekah Mason has already done the smart thing and bailed, headed home, drawn the curtains and turned off the social media. Her husband hasn’t followed suit yet, but I can’t imagine the pressure to leave won’t eventually get to him.
The Luv Guv is still in there fighting, though. The aeronautic stunts with his wallet won’t help his case. And even as I write this it’s being reported Collier is suing Bentley, Mason and Stabler for allegedly trying to intentionally ruin his reputation.
The shoes are likely to keep dropping.
The governor may have had champagne wishes and caviar dreams when he came into office, but this political nightmare stinks like rotten fish. He’d best serve the state by taking the next chopper out of town and staying there.