Weekend Update 6/11/2016: His idea of ethics is disobeying the law
It’s just a mess:
So Mike Hubbard, the self-proclaimed architect of the GOP takeover of the Statehouse, the consensus most powerful man in Alabama politics, the standout with his hand out, was convicted on 12 of 23 counts of using his office to fatten his own substantial wallet… Gov. Robert Bentley is hip-deep in his own sorta-sex scandal, facing the threat of impeachment and federal investigation. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore may get gaveled out of office for the second time, because his idea of “ethics” is disobeying the law…
—John Archibald, writing for AL.com
See, the governor has been in trouble for a while because of a sex scandal that involved misappropriation of fund. He’s a very anti-gay, pro-family, moralizing scold who was having an affair with a married staff member. Before proof of the affair surfaced (in the form of recordings of very family unfriendly phone call), he was already under investigation for doing things like using a state-owned jet to fly the staffer and himself to Las Vegas to attend a Celine Dion concert, among other questionable uses of public funds and resources. The staffer with whom he had the affair was given salary increases that raised eyebrows even before rumors of the affair surfaced. In a separate issue, the husband of the staffer, who is also a state employee, received a very large raise in a year when no one else in the entire agency he worked at received even a token increase in salary. That’s only scratching the surface on the governor. I’ll come back to him.
Then there is the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, Roy Moore. Moore has been suspended from the bench pending an ethics investigation over orders he wrote instructing judges in the state not to obey the U.S. Supreme Court ruling which made marriage equality the law of the land. Moore was previously removed from office over his refusal to remove a gargantuan granite Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse (in addition to insisting on starting court sessions with a prayer and other activities). Alabama voters returned him to office when he ran for election again the next time he could. If he is removed again, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Alabamians don’t re-elect him yet again.
There are several other problems. The Lt Governor, Kay Ivey, former state Treasurer, has been dogged by questions about why the state’s pre-paid college tuition program suffered a loss of $408million in value under her watch. There are, therefore, people worried about whether she is up to the job of filling the governor’s job if he does resign or is impeached. The threat of impeachment had been held at bay for a long time by the Speaker of the House, but it was also hampered by those worries about the Lt. Governor.
The governor also has managed to force some members of state law enforcement out of their jobs to delay and complicate the investigation into the allegations against the him. Oh, and that recording of a sexy phone call between the governor and the staff member? It wasn’t because law enforcement was tapping his phone. No, the governor’s wife had long suspected her husband was having an affair, and she left started secretly recording him to get proof!
One of my favorite odd details of this whole mess, if you see any news stories list the governor’s name this way: “Governor Doctor Dr. Robert Bentley” the second use of doctor isn’t a typo. Back in 2010, because he was running with the campaign slogan, “Alabama’s economy needs a doctor,” Bentley tried to get his medical title (he’s a dermatologist) on the primary ballot, but Republican party rules forbade nicknames, and they said that also mean titles, even if they were legitimately earned. So Bentley went to court and had is name legally changed to “Dr. Robert Bentley.” Some of his opponents made some very funny comments about what kind of person legally changes their name to look better on a ballot, and he then legally changed his name back to “Robert Julian Bentley,” but a lot of Alabama pundits like to remind voters of the temporary name change by using the longer title.
The legislature is so corrupt, and corruption has been a way of life in Alabama politics for so long, that no one knows what’s going to happen next. Maybe Ambrosia Starling, the drag queen who emerged as one of the most articulate and unflagging criticism of Judge Roy Moore is available to fill one of those vacant offices: Ambrosia Starling on Roy Moore: ‘It takes a drag queen to remind you liberty, justice is for all’.