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Leaked Recording Draws Shock and Ire

By Bill Britt

Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—A taped recording of a private meeting between Gov. Robert Bentley and the ALGOP Steering Committee was recently leaked to’s Chuck Dean. Several members who were present at the meeting say the written report was a heavily edited version of what actually took place.

Committee Vice Chair, Districts 4 and 5, Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle), Jackie Curtiss chair of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama, and retired Alabama Power executive and ALGOP Treasurer David Wheeler where in attendance, and each recalls a similar story that paints a more troubling picture of the October 7 meeting.

ALGOP Chair Terry Lathan was contacted for this report, but contact was not completed before publication deadline.

Of the members who spoke on and off the record, most believed the recording was leaked to by someone in Bentley’s inner circle.

Each describe the tone of the meeting as contentious, the Governor as condescending, and the story as a misrepresentation of the discussion as a whole.

Rep. Henry, an outspoken firebrand of the Republican party, expressed dismay and resentment at what he labeled “The Wrath of Bentley Show.”

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“It was basically an hour of him telling us how awesome and how impressive he is, and has been over the last five years, and that if we, in the steering committee, didn’t understand that taxes needed to be raised, and that Alabama needed more revenue, then we didn’t understand all the facts like he does,” said Henry.

The meeting’s stated purpose was to see how Bentley and ALGOP might work together going forward.

Wheeler recalls, “My understanding was that the Governor wanted to hear our concerns and issues. That’s what I was expecting when I left home,” but that’s not how the meeting progressed. “We were brought down there to be scolded,” said Wheeler. “The first 15 to 20 minutes he was griping that we didn’t give him any support…then he said, I wanna hear what you guys are for rather than what you are against.”

Curtiss said the meeting was like watching the A&E show Intervention. “It was like that….we were not smiling…there was no shouting,” she recalled. “The room was a little tense, and the tone of the Governor’s voice was not the warm and loving Dr. Bentley. It was direct. Cold.”

“If you heard the tape, if we could ever get our hands on that recording, the people of Alabama would get to hear the sniveling, little, cry baby Governor that we have,” said Henry. “I’m telling you, it would be the catalyst for Recall legislation in this State.”

After campaigning on “No new taxes,” many in the Republican party called for a recall vote to remove Bentley from office. However, the State Constitution provides no such mechanism. Henry would like to see such a provision added to State law.

Wheeler took issue with how the piece took sections out of context, such as when he was asking Bentley about allowing the people to vote on gaming, as introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston). The Governor had asked for ideas on how to solve our budget problems said Wheeler. “He said ‘I wanna hear what you guys are for, rather than what you are against.’ He said job creation was priority one with him. And I simply said, ‘If job creation is priority one, why not give Sen. Marsh’s plan, which creates 11,000 jobs without costing the State any money…let’s not just have a knee-jerk reaction and kick something to the curb just because we personally don’t like it.’”

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With that suggestion Wheeler said, “He {Bentley] went off on a tangent about how the Senate had been hijacked by the gaming interest, and how gambling attracts the people who can least afford it, the corruption, yada, yada, yada. It was obvious that he didn’t want to talk about Marsh’s plan at all, regardless of what the benefits might be.” Wheeler said he never suggested that gaming was the solution to the State budget woes, but that it could be part of a plan. “We all know gambling is not the answer, it’s just one of the things we can do. There is no silver bullet that will solve our problems, but we need to put every option on the table.”

Henry who has not been afraid to challenge the Governor in the past, said he was impressed that the Steering Committee members present pushed back against what he characterized as Bentley’s assaults. “He slapped every-single-person in that room at least once, verbally,” said Henry…. “One of the best quotes came from Jackie Curtiss. Bentley had been whining, and when I say whining, I mean he was whining; we hadn’t supported him enough, and did all these different things. Then, he says, ‘I think y’all have forgotten everything I’ve done. I saved the State $1.2 billion, cut State government 12 percent,’ and listed up 4 or 5 other things, reduced unemployment. Y’all forgotten about that and all you’re focused on are these tax revenues that we need.” I was so proud of her when she said, ‘Sir. We haven’t forgotten. That’s the reason we reelected you.’”

Curtiss remembers her statement as being a spontaneous reaction to the Governor criticism. “You know, he’s still the Governor. And although I disagree with taxes” said Curtiss, “I don’t think he’s a bad person and I’m going to respect his office.”

The controversy over who leaked the tapes remains a mystery at this time, but like most things in Montgomery, secrets don’t remain secrets for long. The general consensus is that the leaked tape and resulting article initially favored Bentley. However, in the political arena the leaker is rarely rewarded. For now many ALGOP members and others are concerned that Bentley’s team is playing fast and lose with the facts.

Henry recalled Bentley quoting his high approval ratings despite his recent divorce. Henry felt the manner in which he related the poll numbers was a disturbing sign of arrogance. Henry questions internal polls coming from the Governor’s office, “They are bogus,” said Henry.

ALGOP Chair Terry Lathan told Bentley that his tax plan was damaging the Republican brand, but Henry thinks it is more than just Bentley.

“We have a cloud that hangs over us in the State of Alabama right now, and that cloud is the result of a Governor who lied to the people, a Speaker who claims the very Ethics Laws we hung our hat on the first year we got elected, are unconstitutional, and a Republican supermajority who raised taxes on the people of Alabama,” said Henry. “That cloud causes everything we do to be viewed with suspicious eyes from the public…and they are correct…until we straighten this out, we’re not gonna get anything done.”

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Bentley has said he wanted to be the greatest Governor the State has ever elected. Current opinion among State leaders is that Bentley has careened seriously off-course, and without correction, his legacy is doomed for obscurity or worse.


Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.



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