Alabama Ethics Commission finds probable cause in Bentley case


Mike Finnegan

The scandal that has been sitting in murky Alabama political waters for over a year now comes face-to-face with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley as the Alabama Ethics Commission voted yesterday evening that there is probable cause that Bentley violated state ethics and campaign finance law. The case will now go to the Montgomery County district attorney’s office for potential prosecution, according to the AP.

The scandal originally arose out of accusations introduced by State Auditor Jim Zeigler in March 2016 that Bentley misused funds to pursue and cover up an affair with one of his aides, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

The Ethics Commission found Bentley in violation of one count of ethics law and three counts of campaign finance law, all referring to the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

The ethics law violation, which came out of a 3-1 vote by the commission, regards Bentley’s use of public resources for personal interest. The first campaign finance law violation concerns improperly receiving a campaign contribution out of the 120-day time frame, while the second campaign finance law violation regards Bentley’s use of campaign funds to pay $8,912 in legal fees for Mason. Both violation findings came out of 4-0 votes. The third campaign finance violation, coming out of a 3-1 vote, concerns a loan Bentley made to his campaign account outside of the 120-day acceptable time frame.

If found guilty, Bentley would face Class B felonies, which are punishable with two to 20 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who was recently appointed to his position by Bentley, has recused himself from involvement with the case.