Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announces a state settlement with BP for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, July 2, 2015, at the Capitol building in Montgomery, Ala. 
Photo by Albert Cesare/Montgomery Advertiser/AP

Sex scandal forces Alabama’s Republican governor to resign

When it comes to political scandals, Alabama residents haven’t had it easy in recent years. Even before this year, two of the state’s former governors – Guy Hunt (R) and Don Siegelman (D) – wound up behind bars. So did former Alabama state House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R). State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) was thrown off the bench for ethics violations – twice.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/10/17, 9:30 PM ET

Sex, ethics scandal forces Alabama Governor Bentley to resign

John Archibald, columnist for the Birmingham News, talks with Rachel Maddow about the sex and ethics scandal that forced Alabama Governor Robert Bentley out of office, and the further political fallout that could affect others like appointed Senator…
But arguably the most cringe-worthy story of them all is the tale of Gov. Robert Bentley (R), who resigned yesterday as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
The resignation of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley came amid allegations that he tried to cover-up an adulterous affair with a former adviser. He announced the move on Monday night, shortly after being booked on two campaign-related charges – failure to file campaign disclosures and failure to disclose economic interests. […]

Bentley’s exit comes as the state’s House Judiciary Committee wrapped up its first day of impeachment hearings following the release of a tawdry report detailing the governor’s alleged affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
The extra-marital affair and its embarrassing details were brutal enough – as a candidate, Bentley frequently touted his Christian values – but the former governor’s widespread misuse of public resources made this a criminal matter.

And given the circumstances, Bentley may be resigning in disgrace, but he should be thrilled to have avoided incarceration. As the Birmingham News’ John Archibald explained on the show last night, the Alabama Republican was facing the possibility of four felony counts, each of which carried a serious maximum sentence. Now, however, Bentley will avoid jail time as part of a deal in which he resigned, vowed never again to seek public office, and committed to repaying the state for some of the money he misspent.

The governor’s departure from office, however, doesn’t necessarily end the controversy.

There are a variety of figures and officials directly tied to Bentley’s sex and ethics scandal who will face additional scrutiny going forward, and that includes Sen. Luther Strange (R), whom Bentley appointed to fill Alabama’s vacancy in the U.S. Senate after Jeff Sessions became the attorney general. Strange discouraged state lawmakers from pursuing impeachment against Bentley because, as the former state attorney general, he said his office would oversee the matter. He then accepted the governor’s offer to serve in Washington, walked away from the investigation Strange was ostensibly overseeing.

The GOP senator reportedly intends to seek a full term, though he’ll now carry quite a bit of baggage with him.

As for the governor’s office, Bentley’s power now shifts to Republican Kay Ivey, who’s served as lieutenant governor in recent years. The Birmingham News’ John Archibald wrote last year that lawmakers in Alabama’s state legislature “whisper she’s unfit to serve as governor,” but she nevertheless now has the office.

Alabama

Sex scandal forces Alabama's Republican governor to resign