MONTGOMERY, Ala. - WHNT News 19 has learned new details about the governor's dark money organization, including a more complete breakdown of spending and a better sense of its current financial state.
The group, the Alabama Council for Excellent Government or ACEGOV, was set up in February 2015. Its top stated purpose was to promote the governor's agenda. ACEGOV is a 501(c)(4), a type of non-profit that has flourished after the Citizens United decision. Politicians use them to raise and spend money without disclosing donors.
We broke the story that the group raised $90,600 in its first year. Now we have a better picture of where that money went.
ACEGOV initially drew attention in the wake of former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Head Spencer Collier alleging that Governor Bentley had an affair with his former Senior Political Advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Mason had long been paid by Bentley's campaign for communications work, but she also said she was paid $15,000 by ACEGOV.
The group's tax form, a 990, shows the group paid $22,500 for work that Mason's firm could have provided, but an attorney for the group now says they paid others besides Mason for such work, accounting for the difference.
The group also spent $28,000 on polling. Now, ACEGOV's attorney, Richard Raleigh, tells WHNT News 19 that money all went to conduct a single poll of 500 people.
The poll results showed conservatives supported the governor's effort to increase revenue rather than cut services.
Raleigh says the $10,099 spent on fundraising went to a professional fundraiser, not Mason. He did not provide any other details.
Of course, the big question remains: Who gave the governor's dark money group $90,000 dollars in the first place?
But if they told us that, it wouldn't be called dark money.
ACEGOV's attorney says they don't have permission to disclose donors. But he says the money did not come from the Bentley campaign.
Raleigh says the groups assets remain in the ballpark of where they were at the end of last year, when their tax form showed they had $27,026 left.
But he says there have been expenses related to lawsuits and investigations.
Raleigh says if that continues, "ACEGOV will be out of money soon."