Johnny Kampis: Could scandal derail Robert Bentley’s Alabama broadband plans?

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The scene has been repeated ad nauseam over the past two weeks: Gov. Robert Bentley makes a scheduled stop to discuss a new industry or an economic development plan and, instead of questions about the issue at hand, he is peppered with queries about his alleged affair with a former staffer.

Take an exchange in Franklin County two weeks ago. Bentley visited to tout his plan to use federal tax dollars (with a 10 percent state match) to build a broadband network across the state, primarily to aid rural areas that have limited or no broadband access.The firestorm created by the controversy has raised questions about Bentley’s ability to lead, throwing his entire agenda into question.

Bentley tried to keep a brief media exchange that followed his meeting with Franklin County leaders focused on broadband, to little avail.

After saying he had no plans to resign, Bentley asked, “Who else has a question about broadband?”

In response, he got, “Governor, this isn’t a question related to broadband, but …”

To which Bentley tersely replied, “Let’s take broadband.”

The conversation meandered more toward scandal than broadband as the questions continued, as the video below shows:

Bill Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama, told Watchdog.org on Monday that Bentley has gotten pushback from lawmakers in the past — see the governor’s tax increase plan in 2015, for example — but this scandal has taken the rhetoric to a new level.

“I think that further weakens his position, and that’s bad for the citizens of Alabama because he can’t provide the leadership we need in order for our state to make progress,” Stewart said.

Last week, both chambers of the Alabama Legislature — the House by a 71-24 vote, and the Senate by a 22-10 vote — chose to override Bentley’s budget veto. The governor argued the budget should include another $85 million for Medicaid.

Read more.

 • • •

 is a content editor at Watchdog.org, and is helping to start the organization’s Alabama Watchdog bureau in his home state. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com, FoxNews.com and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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