Alabama Mornings’ ShowPrep for April 1st, 2016…

Bentley has burner phones?

Gov. Robert Bentley personally bought multiple inexpensive, disposable cell phones last year at a Best Buy in Tuscaloosa, according to current and former employees of the electronics store.

The revelation that Bentley purchased disposable “burner” phones comes as he attempts to politically recover from allegations by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier that Bentley had a sexual relationship with former top political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Collier told AL.com last week that while he worked for Bentley, the governor was a text message user and frequently changed cell phones.

At the same time…

But Bentley’s office only provided one short string of less than a dozen text messages between him and Mason in response to an AL.com public records request last year seeking text exchanges from his state cell phone, saying that he did not text often on that phone.

The response did not indicate whether Bentley texted often on any personal phones, and no records of his personal cell phone usage have been released to the public.

The sources are anonymous and help AL.com’s argument that Bentley is hiding stuff…

Two employees – one current and one former – of the Best Buy location in the Midtown Village shopping center in Tuscaloosa told AL.com Thursday that they had each personally sold a single disposable cell phone to Bentley last year.

“[U]p until the scandal came to light, Bentley HIMSELF would by (sic) little burner phones … I witnessed it with my own 2 eyes and even sold him one,” the current Best Buy employee wrote via online message. “I sold to him once, saw him purchase twice.”

The current employee said that on both occasions, Bentley purchased inexpensive AT&T flip phones, “the type you buy minutes for. They cost around 15 bucks.”

The former Best Buy employee corroborated the general thrust of the current employee’s story in a phone conversation Thursday morning.

“I just remember Governor Bentley coming into Best Buy. And he purchased one,” the former employee said. “There was one other man with him. I don’t know if he was security; he wasn’t dressed like security. He may have been an advisor or a friend or something.”

The former employee confirmed that the phone Bentley purchased was an inexpensive AT&T flip phone that retails for about $15. It remains unknown whether Bentley used the phones himself or gave them to others. It also remains unknown whether he or Mason ever used them to text one another.

If this was anyone but AL.com. I would believe this but because it is, I am highly skeptical.


Did the Governor divert money from the University of Alabama to the Masons?

Let us start with a terrible quote…

Jon Mason refused to speak with AL.com about the ways he and his wife earn money, citing an ongoing state Ethics Commission inquiry into Rebekah Mason’s activities. He instead provided a two-sentence statement via email Tuesday evening.

“An unfair Ethics complaint has now been filed against my wife,” the statement said. “I have been advised that until that matter has been resolved, I should not respond further to media inquiries.”

Here is the breakdown…

Since 2010, University of Alabama records show UA has paid JRM Enterprises – a Tuscaloosa-based advertising, marketing and design company founded in 2005 by Jon Mason and operated by him ever since – a total of $245,600, categorizing the payments under “service and professional fees.”

Chris Bryant, a spokesman for UA, clarified Wednesday evening via email that the payments “were for marketing and advertising services provided by JRM.”

The payments continued through last month, as the university disbursed $45,450 to the company via PayPal on Feb. 9 alone.

In 2014, UA paid JRM $20,050, UA’s records show. That same year, Jon Mason disclosed on the Statement of Economic Interests (SOEI) form he filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission that his household received profits of between $10,000 and $50,000 via JRM.

In 2013, UA paid JRM $96,200, but Mason reported that JRM’s profits that year were between $10,000 and $50,000 as well. Despite the fact that UA records show that the university paid JRM $30,000 in 2012, Mason failed to report any JRM income on his SOEI form that year.

Rebekah Mason did not detail JRM profits on either of the two SOEI forms she filed, which covered the period from 2012 to 2013, though she did note that her husband earned at least $1,000 through the company in 2012.

Jon Mason’s financial ties to the University of Alabama predate his January 2011 appointment by Bentley to the position of executive director of the Governor’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, known as Serve Alabama.

The university paid Jon Mason $3,750 a month between August and December 2010, according to UA records, which categorize the payments as payroll. He remained on the payroll in early 2011, according to the records, which show that UA paid him $2,321.43 in January 2011 and $2,027.42 in February 2011. A listing on the University of Alabama’s website identifies him as an instructor, but provides no information about what classes he may have taught or what department he may have worked in.

Bryant said via email that the “[p]ayroll expenses were for his work as a meteorologist at WVUA from July 2010 to January 2011.” WVUA is a TV station owned by UA’s board of trustees that serves the Tuscaloosa area.


Trump vs. Women = We all lose

Just how bad are Donald Trump’s problems with women? Bad enough that roughly seven out of 10 women voters in recent polls say they have a negative impression of him. And that was before the news coverage of his threat to “spill the beans” about Ted Cruz’s wife and his talk about punishing women who have abortions.

Trump is already so dangerously underwater with female voters — who represent a majority of the electorate — that it raises questions about whether a GOP ticket led by the billionaire could lead to a historic gender gap and blowout defeat.

The percentages of women who had an unfavorable or negative impression of Trump in recent public polls are staggering: 67 percent (Fox News), 67 percent (Quinnipiac University), 70 percent (NBC News/Wall Street Journal), 73 percent (CNN/ORC) and 74 percent (ABC News/Washington Post).

“Those are stunningly unfavorable numbers. It would be tremendously difficult for Donald Trump to win the general with those kinds of numbers,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “Historically, I can’t imagine anyone having worse numbers with women. But historically, there’s never been anyone like Donald Trump.”

Trump does not acknowledge the deficit he faces with women voters, and has instead claimed that he will be “the best thing that ever happened to women.”

Yet from the start of primary season, Trump has struggled with female voters in Republican primaries. In the 17 states with entrance or exit polls, Trump has run better with men than with women in every one of them, by an average of 7 percentage points.


John Kasich is a spoiler for Trump?

I am not so sure…

On Thursday, though, Kasich didn’t limit himself to five reasons, hammering Trump on a range of fronts. Here are some of his sharpest jabs.
— “As a commander in chief and leader of the free world, you don’t get do-overs. You need to be able to get it right the first time.”
— “We know about his comments on abortion, which would put women in a very difficult position. And we know that he has since moved to correct those in one way or another.”
— “He actually talked about the use of nuclear weapons both in the Middle East and Europe. You wonder about his hand or his thumb getting any close to the critical button that presidents are in charge of.”
— “He says we should basically abolish the Geneva Convention, which was created to make sure that we had fair treatment for anybody who could be captured in war and that somehow we ought to abolish the Geneva Conventions and engage in, I guess, more torture, which doesn’t sit well with any of the people who have served our country so honorably, like (Arizona senator and former prisoner-of-war) John McCain.”
— “He’s called on NATO to basically be abolished although I can’t figure out what his position is today. I happen to believe that NATO needs to be strengthened and turned from basically solely a military organization into an intelligence and policing organization that can work across borders.”

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