The yearlong implosion of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s political career has, even by the standards of Southern state government, moved at a snail’s pace. But nearly 13 months after a bitter ex-state employee announced to the world that the Republican governor had been having a long-term affair with an aide, Bentley’s slow-burning scandal may finally be coming to a boil.
The Alabama House Judiciary Committee is expected to begin considering Bentley’s impeachment from office on Monday, three days after the committee’s attorney released a 3,000-page report on Bentley’s affair with his married chief adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
The 130-page summary of the committee’s investigation—which merited its own web domain—reads more like a rejected Nancy Meyers script treatment than the result of a government investigation: texted professions of undying love, indiscreet assignations in the governor’s office, and accusations that the governor directed a bodyguard to break up with his mistress for him.
The last item, a result of what the committee characterized as “increasing obsession and paranoia,” has prompted allegations that Bentley used state resources to conduct—and, apparently, to break off—his affair.
Bentley, in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary, denies that a “physical affair” took place, but he has apologized for making “inappropriate remarks” to Mason.
His impending impeachment may be the least of his worries, however. On April 5, a state ethics commission found probable cause to believe that Bentley had violated both the #Alabama Ethics Act and the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Although the details of the specific allegations are sketchy, they are Class B felonies. If the the Montgomery County district attorney decides to charge Bentley with the crimes and he is convicted, he could face 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000 for each violation.
At first glance, Bentley’s looming impeachment proceedings appear to be a long time coming. Articles of impeachment for “Willful Neglect of Duty” and “Corruption in Office” were first introduced by members of the Alabama House of Representatives on April 28, 2016. But for a “family values” conservative who once taught Sunday school, Bentley’s likely political downfall is a shocking departure from the public image he cultivated for nearly two decades.