Senator criticized for ties to governor
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s Sen. Luther Strange got his appointment to Congress earlier this year from a governor who later resigned under the cloud of an ethics scandal.
The appointment by thenGov. Robert Bentley gave Strange the advantage of incumbency in the race to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. It also became his chief liability since Strange, as state attorney general, oversaw the investigation of Bentley.
“He’s got too many Bentley cooties on him. He can’t wash them off,” said Kevin Spriggs, a Baldwin County voter.
The sex-tainted scandal that ended Bentley’s political career is dragging into the U.S. Senate race as rivals try to capitalize on what they see as Strange’s Achilles’ heel.
Strange calls the criticisms unmerited and said he opened the investigation that eventually led to Bentley resigning and taking a plea deal.
“I asked the team I put together to follow the truth wherever it led. They did. So the governor resigned,” Strange said.
Bentley spent the past year bogged down in a sex-tainted scandal after recordings surfaced of him making provocative comments to a close female aide. Legislators began an impeachment probe over whether state resources were misused and complaints were filed to the state ethics commission.
Strange said he opened an investigation into what he called the “dueling allegations” between Bentley and his former law enforcement secretary Spencer Collier, who exposed Bentley’s relationship. Bentley accused Collier of misusing state funds. Strange’s office later cleared Collier.
But some people had misgivings about Strange’s dealings with Bentley.
Strange on Nov. 3 asked lawmakers to pause the impeachment investigation while his office did “related work.” Strange contends it was done because there was concern the impeachment investigation could interfere with what his office was doing.
In February, Bentley appointed Strange to Sessions’ seat and said he would hold the seat until 2018. The move irked some lawmakers who revived the impeachment push. The state’s new governor moved up the election to this year, where Strange faces a crowded field of challengers including U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and state Sen. Trip Pittman.
Pittman said Strange should not have sought a favor from Bentley when his office was investigating him.
“He’s got too many Bentley cooties on him. He can’t wash them off.” Kevin Spriggs, a voter in Baldwin County, Ala., speaking about Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala.