Ethics panel finds probable cause Alabama governor broke the law

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.
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After an investigation that lasted more than a year, the Alabama Ethics Commission on Wednesday found probable cause that Gov. Robert Bentley (R) violated the state's campaign finance and ethics laws.

The commission determined that Bentley had used public resources for his personal interests, used money from his campaign to pay the legal fees of his former political adviser Rebekah Mason, and improperly received a campaign contribution and made a loan to his campaign account outside of the window allowed by law. These violations are all Class B felonies, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, and the ethics commission's decision now sends the investigation to the Montgomery County district attorney.

In March 2016, state auditor Jim Zeigler filed a complaint claiming that Bentley and Mason were having an affair and that the governor was fraudulently using state resources to carry it out, and a state corrections officer who ran against Bentley in 2014 also filed six ethics complaints against him. "The ruling of the Ethics Commission is only one step in holding Gov. Bentley accountable," Zeigler said. "The next step can be taken by the district attorney or the House Judiciary Committee."

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The Alabama House Judiciary Committee is considering impeachment charges against Bentley, with a hearing tentatively scheduled for next week, and he's already under investigation by the Alabama state attorney general's office, reports. Bentley has denied any wrongdoing. For more on the scandal, watch's handy video guide below. Catherine Garcia

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.