Alabama Lawmakers Using Illinois' Blagojevich Playbook to Impeach 'Love Gov'

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks with former aide Rebekah Mason.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks with former aide Rebekah Mason.NBC News

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Corky Siemaszko

Alabama lawmakers seeking to impeach their scandal-scarred governor are tapping the playbook Illinois used to remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office.

Gov. Robert Bentley was not in attendance when the House Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to adopt a set of rules for how to proceed and begin debating whether there were grounds to boot the two-term Republican from office.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley speaks with former aide Rebekah Mason.NBC News

“We’re having to create this as we go because we haven’t impeached anybody since 1915,” committee spokesman Clay Redden told NBC News. “They left no documentation behind. So the committee is using the Blagojevich rules Illinois used.”

Blagojevich was impeached in 2009 for abuse of power and corruption and ousted from office. He is now serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison for, among other things, trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by then President-elect Obama.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks back at the crowd as he returns home with his wife Patti in Chicago after he was sentenced by Judge James Zagel to 14 years in prison for his convictions on 18 corruption counts, including trying to to auction off President Barack Obama's old Senate seat on Dec. 7, 2011.Charles Rex Arbogast / AP, file

Bentley is accused of sleeping with top political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason and punishing a whistle blower. He has steadfastly refused to resign even as the scandal has upended his administration.

Both Bentley, a 73-year-old sometime Sunday school teacher, and his alleged mistress have denied having a sexual relationship.

But steamy excerpts from a purported telephone conversation between them have cast doubts on those claims.

And Bentley has admitted to at least making "inappropriate comments."

The state House got involved after 23 representatives in April — most Republicans like Bentley — signed impeachment articles accusing the governor of corruption and neglect of duty.

The alleged adulterers were outed by the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency who said he was fired because he refused to cover up Bentley's alleged affair with Mason.

Mason later resigned. But her husband Jonathan Mason, a former TV weatherman, still works for the governor. He is the state's $91,400-a-year head of the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. He is also standing by his wife.

"I wanted to share that I long ago resolved the personal issue playing out now for everyone this week," Mr. Mason said in a March Facebook post after the scandal erupted.