By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In the hidebound thinking of Montgomery’s political class, any appointment made by Gov. Robert Bentley is suspect, at best, most likely double-dealing. However, despite the initial unease with the appointment of Steve Marshall as Attorney General, there seems to be hope that he is the man for the job.
So, there’s a new Sheriff in town, and that could be a very good thing.
After being sworn into office, Marshall’s speech hit all the right topics with tones of humility, honesty and a willingness to tackle the tough issues.
Having spoken with Marshall over the weekend, I am encouraged about the future of the Attorney General’s Office. Friends I trust speak highly of his ability, integrity and work ethic.
My impression is that he will be a more hands-on Attorney General than his predecessor, who was little more than a reluctant occupant of the office who operated it like an absentee landlord.
When Alice Martin was hired as Chief Deputy, she took charge of an office which had been allowed to become factious and in many instances unscrupulous. Martin cleaned house, provided strong leadership and fought to bring probity back to the Office of Attorney General.
In his speech, Marshall pledged a commitment to rooting out and to prosecute public corruption without political concern. If his promise to fight crime is real, he will have no greater ally than The Alabama Political Reporter, save perhaps Special Prosecution Division Chief Matt Hart, whose long history of fighting public corruption is legendary.
Marshall said if Bentley is under investigation by his office he will recuse himself from the case. If Bentley is not being investigated, he will inform the public. This announcement at least gives the people some understanding as to what is happening with Bentley.
What we know is that Bentley is believed to have used State resources to facilitate his dalliance with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his married senior adviser. It also seems clear he may have used State Law Enforcement to destroy the reputation of his former friend, Spencer Collier. Recently it was discovered that Bentley used campaign contributions to pay Mason’s legal fees while she was a State employee and failed to handle his campaign account properly. Some of these actions appear to be indictable offenses, but is there enough for a jury to find him guilty?
Meanwhile, Bentley lives in an imaginary world in which he is not only charming and handsome, he is also very popular and loved. Latest polling numbers have Bentley’s favorability number below 28 percent. When almost three-quarters of the State dislikes the Governor, his political capital is nonexistent, and without that Bentley is finished.
So, Marshall’s appointment may be once act that was without the stink of Bentley’s incompetence, arrogance and hubris. If Marshall keeps the promises he made upon taking the oath of office, then he may very well be the brightest star in the political firmament known as insular Montgomery. If not, he will be yet another ambitious politico discarded on the dung heap on Goat Hill.
We should pray for the former but for now, Godspeed General Marshall, your leadership is greatly needed.