Willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency.
These are the three of the four rationales given in Representative Ed Henry’s articles of impeachment against Governor Robert Bentley, introduced in the Alabama House last week. We now know–or have overwhelming circumstantial evidence suggesting–that Governor Bentley had a sexual relationship (while married) with a political advisor (also married). We also know (or “know”) that the methods Gov. Bentley used to keep his affair secret were highly unethical, and very possibly illegal, and that public money was used at various points to either buy secrecy or line pockets.
And yet, indications are that Rep. Henry’s articles of impeachment seem destined to go nowhere. Even though the relationship between the Governor and the legislature is not especially friendly right now, the plans for impeachment have been locked up in the House Rules Committee and may never see the light of day. This is probably just as well for members of the legislature, as the rationales given for impeachment are all too applicable to the legislature as a whole.
Alabama is no stranger to “corruption in office.” We seem to be very good at identifying that people in office are corrupt, and yet very bad at either removing them from office or at making sure safeguards and penalties are put in place to prevent it from happening all over again. Local reporters find that Alabama is one of the most corrupt states in the nation, with illegal legislative corruption being called “very common,” and legal legislative corruption “extremely common.” The current Speaker of the House is under indictment right now for misusing the power and influence of his office. Immediately following his indictment, the voters of his district returned him to office. The ethics laws that Republicans came into power pledging to enact are now under fire from the legislature sworn to uphold them.
Willful neglect of duty? Look no further than the legislature’s failure to pass a budget that funds the Medicaid program at anything approaching an adequate level. If the budget under consideration currently goes into effect, we may very well lose the money that the federal government gives to Alabama to run Medicaid because Alabama will have failed to hold up its end of the bargain. Losing that money will effectively destroy Medicaid in the state, and throw the healthcare of thousands of adults and children into crisis.
Incompetence? The articles of impeachment say that Bentley has “exhibited poor judgment and continues to make decisions that are detrimental to the people of this state.” I agree. I also think that destroying Alabama’s Medicaid program, which the legislature is considering by passing this budget, would be much more detrimental to the people of this state than any actions Governor Bentley has taken surrounding his affair.
In a just world, the Alabama legislature would be well on our way to removing our corrupt governor from office. They would also, however, have to remove some of their own in order to be consistent with their own standards. And holding themselves to their own standards has never been our legislature’s strong point.