Governors gone bad: Alabama’s Bentley latest on a long list
The “Luv Guv” and former church deacon Robert Bentley isn’t the first US governor to resign amid allegations or findings of ethics violations and other infractions.
Bentley made his announcement Monday after being booked into the Montgomery County Jail and pleading guilty to two misdemeanors: failing to file a major contribution report and knowingly converting campaign contributions to personal use.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Bentley had to resign from office within one hour of his guilty plea.
But he’s far from being alone among governors who have left office either because they were convicted in impeachment proceedings or forced to resign as salacious scandals swirled around them.
Some other cases of gubernatorial transgressions:
Guy Hunt, a Republican, was in his second term as governor when he was removed from office in 1993 after being convicted of illegally using campaign and inaugural funds. He was fined $211,000 and sentenced to five years’ probation — but, pardoned in 1998, he ran for governor again. He lost. Hunt died in 2009.
Jim Guy Tucker, a Democrat, was elected lieutenant governor in 1990 and became acting governor in 1991, when then-Gov. Bill Clinton began his presidential campaign. Tucker served the balance of Clinton’s term and was elected in 1994. He resigned in 1996 after being convicted of two of seven charges against him stemming from the Whitewater case — the failed real estate deal also involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. Later that year he was sentenced to four years’ probation and ordered to serve 18 months under house arrest, but was allowed to leave to attend church, family gatherings or to go to a job.
John Rowland, a Republican, was elected to a historic third term in 2002 — but by 2003 admitted that he lied about who paid for renovations to his summer home. During a more than three-year federal investigation, there were tales of gold coins buried in backyards, bags of money clandestinely dropped off in state parking garages and free trips for Rowland. He resigned in 2004 and pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit theft of honest services and tax fraud. He was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison and was released after about 10 months.
Trouble arose again for the convicted felon after he was indicted in 2014 for trying to hide his involvement in congressional campaigns. He was sentenced in 2015 to 30 months in prison for seven crimes — including five felonies — associated with a conspiracy to break federal campaign law promoting open elections by requiring public reports on all campaign expenditures. He surrendered to federal prison in 2016.
Rod Blagojevich became the first Democrat elected as governor of Illinois in 30 years in 2002 and was sworn in for a second term in January 2007. By 2008, he was taken into federal custody on corruption charges and accused of “conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits” by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a US senator to replace US President-elect Barack Obama. In 2009, state Democrats and Republicans voted unanimously to remove Blagojevich and to bar him from holding political office in Illinois again. He skipped the impeachment hearings and instead chose to appear on “Larry King Live,” “The View,” and “Good Morning America.” Sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison, he reported to the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Colorado in 2012.
George Ryan, a Republican, was elected governor in 1998. He was indicted in 2003 on federal charges of taking payoffs, gifts and vacations in return for government contracts and leases while he was secretary of state. In 2006, he was convicted and sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for racketeering, conspiracy and fraud. He was released in January 2013 to home confinement. That restriction ended in July of that year.
Edwin Edwards, a Democrat, served four terms as governor. After an investigation that lasted more than two years, he was indicted in 1998 in a racketeering conspiracy to extort millions after prosecutors said he asked for payoffs from people who applied for riverboat casino licenses in New Orleans in the 1990s. Convicted in 2000, he began serving a 10-year prison sentence in 2001 and was released in 2011. In 2014, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress with the support of his then 35-year-old wife, who he met as a prison pen pal. The 89-year-old was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia in 2016.
Eliot Spitzer was a former state attorney general whose reputation as a scourge of white-collar crime propelled him to the governor’s office in 2006. The Democrat resigned in 2008 after facing allegations — but no charges — that he was tied to an international prostitution ring ensnared in a federal investigation. In a statement at the time, he said he could not allow his “private failings to disrupt the public’s work.”
Bob McDonnell, a Republican, was sworn in as governor in 2010. By 2014, he was convicted on federal corruption charges and sentenced to two years in prison. He remained free, pending appeal, and the Supreme Court threw out his conviction. Charges involved gifts he and his wife received from a businessman, including a Rolex watch, a $15,000 check for their daughter’s wedding and other items that are legal under Virginia law.
Arch Moore Jr., a Republican, served in the West Virginia House of Delegates and six terms in the US House of Representatives. He was first elected governor in 1968 and served two consecutive four-year terms. In 1984, he was elected to a third term but by 1990 he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of extortion, mail and tax fraud and obstruction of justice and agreed to plead guilty. He was sentenced to nearly six years in prison, but was released in 1993. He died in 2015.