By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On election night, after winning his second term by a landslide, Gov. Robert Bentley was not celebrating. He was too busy directing an investigation for a tape that could expose his affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
The scene at the Governor’s suite at Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery was far from celebratory, according to the several individuals present. “Total chaos, confusion and paranoia,” is how one former staffer described the nights events. “Rebekah had convinced the governor that someone had leaked tapes that would publicly reveal their affair,” said a staffer present at the victory party.
Instead of preparing for his victory speech, Bentley was huddled with top law enforcement officers demanding they interrogate anyone who might have leaked the tape. Ray Lewis, then head of Bentley’s security detail, tried to reason with Bentley, as did then-ALEA Chief Spencer Collier, but he was angry and wanted answers. “He was yelling, and demanding to know who had the tape, and who had leaked it,” said a former aide. “He was out of control.”
According to those present at the Renaissance, the evening began pleasantly with the Governor entertaining members of his family in his suite at the hotel. Not all of his children were present because some had already broken with their father over Mason, a staffer recalled.
Tensions began to rise after the family insisted that Mason not be allowed in the Governor’s suite. “Rebekah thought it was her’s and the Governor’s night, and Mrs. Bentley and the family was stealing it from her,” recalled a staffer. “She was so angry, I don’t doubt she started the rumor about the tape to create a crisis, so the Governor would need her.”
Several former members of Bentley’s inner circle also believe Mason would invent a crisis to keep control over Bentley. “She had to have him need her, all the time,” said an aide.
At Bentley’s insistence, Collier and Lewis did have individuals questioned. One individual, who had to sit for the uncomfortable interview, remembered, “It was humiliating and scary first, to be thought a traitor, and second to be questioned by a man wearing a gun.”
One law enforcement officer left the Renaissance party and drove a half an hour away, to wake up a staffer who was rumored to have leaked the tapes. As it turned out, the individual had never heard that a tape existed until the interrogation.
This is not the first or last occasion where Bentley ordered law enforcement to participate in what is now known as a cover-up of his and Mason’s affair. Bentley tried to have Collier arrest his son and daughter-in-law, after the daughter-in-law threatened to expose the affair by text message. Collier refused the order.
On election night, female staffers upset over Mason’s attire complained they felt her bustier was too revealing. When Bentley caught wind of the complaints, he chastised the other females present. “She was half naked and looked like a trailer park prostitute,” said a former female aide who was at the election night party, “But Bentley was all smiles.”
“If you notice in the group staff picture, Gov. and Mrs. Bentley are not holding hands,” said a staffer, “…Rebekah would tell the Governor not to hold Mrs. Bentley’s hand because ‘she made him look like he was weak and had bad taste, she would say,’” the staffer recalled.
“On a night we should have been celebrating his reelection, the Governor was having those who helped him get reelected questioned for disloyalty,” the former aide said. “I had heard for months that he was using law enforcement like Gestapo, but this was the first time I witnessed it firsthand.”
According to several sources, the FBI is particularly interested in Bentley’s use of law enforcement to facilitate and cover-up his relationship with Mason, a married mother of three.
Current and former staff say Mason is still advising Bentley, and that she has now made several secret trips to his office in the Capitol.