MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Secretary of State John Merrill, whose office oversees campaign finance in Alabama, says he cannot find any item in state law that would permit the governor's campaign expenditure to cover legal expenses for Rebekah Mason, once his senior political advisor.
The governor's annual campaign finance report shows that his campaign fund paid an attorney's office nearly $9,000 in January of 2016, nearly three months before accusations surfaced that Bentley and Mason were having an affair. Bentley's personal attorney, Bill Athanas, confirmed to WHNT News 19 that the money covered legal work for Rebekah Mason.
While Merrill did say he could not find any way that state law would permit such an expenditure, he added the state's code also does not provide for any punishment, if, in fact, the payment did violate state law. That will change beginning in the 2018 campaign cycle, Merrill said.
Merrill says it is possible the Alabama Ethics Commission could get involved, and he says he is confident they are aware of the situation.
The Secretary of State also said his office would notify the governor's office that they do not believe the expense was permissible. He says it will be up to the governor's office to determine whether they attempt to make it right or let the situation develop.
We have reached out to the Governor's office since the conversation with Merrill early Thursday afternoon, but we have not heard back yet.