Sen­a­tor crit­i­cized for ties to gov­er­nor

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

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.

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