Real Losers and Lessons for the Future
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on April 25, 2016
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on April 25, 2016
Few people understand who the real losers are in the widespread public corruption scandal involving Governor Robert Bentley and his lover Rebekah Mason and in the concerted effort by legislators and the state attorney general's office to sweep these crimes under the rug. It is not the flawed figures at the center of the firestorm. It is the general public in the periphery.
The outcomes of these events are impacted by our disappointment in and anger at those who have betrayed the public trust and those who are protecting them. These outcomes are also impacted by our collective life experiences, societal views and inflamed passions. Civic engagement is often replaced by uncivil cynicism about government.
At this juncture, we have learned our lessons from those who have betrayed our trust and we must prepare for a better future. Without trust in government, our democracy further frays.
We are coming together to transform the misdeeds of flawed people like Robert Bentley, Rebekah Mason, David Byrne, George Beck, Del Marsh, Mike Hubbard, and the many Alabama legislators who have formed a human shield around Bentley into a realistic opportunity to implement serious ethics reforms that can restore public confidence in government.
We do not have to serve in government to make government serve us honestly and ethically. We can deliver the openness, integrity and accountability in government that we had expected our public officials to provide. We can replace their self-interest with a healthy dose of public interest.
I briefly touched upon these reforms in my April 3, 2016 Facebook article titled, “Turning Point”. This is the time for us to start the important work infusing greater integrity and accountability into the top echelons of state government.
The usual checks and balances in our state government have failed Alabamians miserably because the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government are all in the toilet together. Political party affiliation turned out to be a distinction without a difference. There is no respect for the rule of law or adherence to any minimum standards of decency in the governor’s office, attorney general’s office, or legislature. Terms like “family values”, “honesty in government”, “trust and accountability”, “law and order” and “equal justice” have turned out to be nothing more than catchy political soundbites.
Punishing crooks like Bentley, Mason, Hubbard and their co-conspirators, without implementing tougher ethics reform legislation, is too little too late. We need strong, effective reform measures to root out engrained public corruption. These measures must be maintained long-term.
We must depend on federal prosecutors from Washington to send all of the public corruption crooks to jail. Local federal prosecutor George Beck cannot get this job done because he is hopelessly compromised and retired on the job. Attorney General Luther Strange is compromised with his own “mistress” problem.
None of these public salaried crooks is indispensable. They have violated the public trust in ways that would make ordinary street criminal aspire to run for public office. They have encircled and protected their own in ways that would impress mafia crime bosses and drug dealers.
We. as voters, must lead the effort to get the state’s top leadership out of the toilet. Once we discover that an elected or appointed official has betrayed our trust, we must eject him/her from government with all deliberate speed. Working together, we accomplished this feat in former judge Mark Fuller’s case. Last year, we forced Fuller, who was a serial cheater, wife-beater, and habitual liar, to resign his lifetime appointment as a federal judge.
Bentley, Rebekah and Jonathan Mason, David Byrne, George Beck, and Mike Hubbard must follow suit. Del Marsh, the human shield legislators, and Luther Strange must have their “public service” jobs terminated by voters during the 2018 election cycle. They asked us for these leadership positions; we gave the jobs to them; then they ran from our fight to clean up the Bentley-Mason public corruption mess.
We must start working on effective ethics reform for the next legislative session. It is too late to get our reform legislation drafted, introduced and passed this session. Thoughtful consideration has to be given to the legislation we draft and this work has to be done by ordinary citizens in order to get it right. If not, the crooks in public office, lobbyists who pimp them, and mistresses, girlfriends, lovers, escorts and prostitutes who service their needs and desires in Montgomery will control the legislation’s fate and our destiny.
I have taken the lead in drafting the new ethics legislation. Those individuals who want to work on this legislation should send me their suggestions for the reform package via Facebook’s private message. We will use the lessons learned from Bentley’s “sex for power” scandal to write tough new legislation that will: (a) close existing loopholes in Alabama’s transparency laws, (b) repeal the legal framework for “dark money” transactions; (c) ban elected and appointed officials who commit public corruption crimes from collecting their public pensions; (d) prohibit the use of campaign funds to employ or entertain mistresses, escorts, and prostitutes; (e) prohibit the use of campaign funds to hire lawyers to defend elected and appointed officials against public corruption charges; (e) revoke the business license of any company registered to conduct business in Alabama that funds “dark money” transactions for mistresses and lovers of public officials in return for government tax credits, incentives and exemptions; and (f) prohibit lobbyists from furnishing female escorts and/or prostitutes to elected and appointed officials in exchange for favorable official action.
Please submit to me any additional reforms you think we need in this legislative package. We must tailor this legislation to address the broad scope of the public corruption activities revealed in the Bentley-Mason scandal.
After we prepare our ethics reform legislation, we will seek a sponsor in the House and Senate, and then ask all legislators to demonstrate their commitment to honesty and ethics in government by voting for the people’s ethics reform package. When the legislation passes, we fully expect Alabama’s new governor to sign it.
By the time the 2018 election cycle rolls around, we will know which gubernatorial, legislative, and judicial candidates support the voters' reform movement. The sole litmus test is ethics in government, not party affiliation, ethnicity, or other divisive labels.
The loud silence by Del Marsh, Mike Hubbard, the human shield legislators who are protecting Bentley, and all of the other top state public officials tells us that our job is large, but very much needed. Bentley’s refusal to resign as governor, together with the deafening silence of our public officials, evidences that our state government has become a den of thieves, marital cheaters and political “whores”. We must clean out this cesspool of corruption.
Let’s get busy. Send me your reform ideas.
By Donald V Watkins
The Meck Report/Blog