Andrew Miller: ‘Ludicrous’ to suggest business ties led to Sarah Palin endorsing Joe Carrarah Palin backed Joe Carr backer, share business interest

Alaska business filings show Sarah Palin and Tennessee GOP Senate hopeful Joe Carr, whom Palin endorsed last week, both have a tie to Nashville millionaire investor Andrew Miller, a Carr supporter, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

Miller and Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, are among the owners of Rainbow Bay Resorts LLC, which operates what its website calls a “luxurious rustic fishing lodge” on Southwest Aslaska’s Bristol Bay watershed.

Filings with Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development show Miller and Palin have 22.5 percent interests in the business.

In a statement Miller charged the “Alexander campaign team is apparent trying to sell a story that Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Joe Carr is related to my personal ownership of an interest in an Alaskan fishing lodge.”

Miller said “there are numerous investors in that lodge and the investment by the Palin’s [sic] and I were made over a year ago, long before Joe Carr even thought about entering the Senate race against Lamar.

“The idea that the investment has anything to do with the Palin endorsement is ludicrous and insulting.”

Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Carr “was entirely in keeping with the conservative, Tea Party, Constitutional ideology that motivates her to support candidates who reflect those values.”

Miller generated headlines recently after the Federal Election Commission questioned whether a company Miller owned, Life Watch Pharmacy LLC, made a $9,564.54 corporate contribution to Carr after Miller had already hit the $5,200 limit on what he could personally contribute to Carr.

Carr said the $9,564.54 was interest on a $200,000 loan his campaign made to Life Watch, a transaction one expert has called highly unusual.

Miller is also spearheading a major independent expenditure effort in the U.S. Senate race with most of the funds attacking Alexander.

…Carr’s campaign did not answer questions posed by the Times Free Press. But Politico, which first reported the tie in, quoted a statement from Carr spokesman Kurt Bardella in which he said Palin’s endorsement is among a line of endorsements she has made this campaign cycle in other races

In Shelby, Republicans outspending Democrats $5-to$1 (or more)

The Commercial Appeal has done some number crunching on campaign spending Shelby County general election contests coming up Aug. 7.

For every dollar Democrats spent pursuing a countywide office in Shelby County during the first six months of this year, Republicans spent $5.

For every dollar Democrats spent in the three highest-profile countywide offices — mayor, sheriff, district attorney general — in that same time frame, Republicans spent $7.50.

Pare that down to just sheriff and DA, two high-profile law enforcement offices, and for every dollar spent by Democrats, Republicans have spent $16.

And when the pre-general election disclosures are filed by Tuesday’s deadline, the gap will likely widen.

It is hardly breaking news, of course, that Republicans would outspend Democrats, in this or many other similar counties. “They’ve always done that,” said Bryan Carson, the chairman of the county Democratic Party.

But the margins in this season of Shelby County elections are wide. In the 11 countywide administrative offices for which there are financial disclosures posted in the Shelby County Election Commission’s online database, Republicans spent $632,956 in the first six months of 2014; Democrats spent $127,753. (A handful of down-ticket races’ financial disclosures aren’t in the database, but it’s unlikely they would affect the final totals enough to change the larger point.)

Flinn bashes Joe Carr as well as Lamar

This is apparently a new twist in the Republican U.S. Senate campaign, at least in the press release war: One of Alexander’s challengers directly attacking the other:

News release from George Flinn U.S. Senate campaign:
Memphis, TN – Joe Carr, like Lamar Alexander has a history of flip-flopping on important issues, dodging key votes, and being involved in backdoor deals that don’t benefit Tennesseans but himself.

“Every voter should demand transparency from candidates and research their records before voting. Joe Carr, like Lamar has flip-flopped on issues such as common core (voted for race-to-the top/HB7010 which implemented common core), and openly supported the internet sales tax, (TN Report 5/23/2013) which aims to hurt small businesses, dodged important immigration votes (HB 1929 that gave children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition), and gambled with donations from individuals without their permission (Tennessean 7/16/2014). If Carr is willing to risk donations from those who trust him most for his own personal gain, what will he do in Washington,” said Dr. Flinn.

“We do not need another Senator who misleads Tennesseans by voting on bills the wrong way and then covering it up later with manufactured weak apologies, or just dodging the tough votes all together. We need a fighter, someone who will take the tough route. Joe Carr is version number two of Lamar Alexander,” said Dr. Flinn.”

“If Tennesseans cannot trust Joe Carr to be responsible to the people while he is here in Tennessee, how can they expect him to 10 hours away in D.C. It is time Tennesseans stand up and elect someone who Tennesseans can trust—not a career politician but a businessman and innovator. I will stand behind what I say, always being responsible to the people and I will not forget about Tennessee once I cross into the Washington beltway,” said Dr. Flinn.”

On the challenge to Sen. Ophelia Ford in Senate District 29

Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris, who is challenging Sen. Ophelia Ford in the Senate District 29 Democratic primary, says he’s never met the incumbent face-to-face and that’s a reason for him to run: She’s not a ‘present’ legislator.

Further from a Commercial Appeal review of the race:

“Performance means, at a minimum, you’ve got to attend,” Harris said in an interview last week.

The presence of Harris, a Yale-educated lawyer and professor at the University of Memphis law school, has injected some intrigue into the District 29 Democratic primary. Ford, who’s held the seat since 2006, is seeking re-election. Ricky Dixon, 56, a police officer and a previous candidate for elected office, and Herman Sawyer, 63, round out the four-person field.

… Harris, 35, raised a significant sum of money. He reported $37,452 in contributions during the second quarter and said Thursday he raised about another $20,000 since July 1. His roster of donors includes U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, First Tennessee Bank CEO Bryan Jordan, Tower Ventures president and Shelby County Schools board member Billy Orgel and developer Henry Turley.

Ford reported $2,500 in donations in the second quarter, all from three Nashville-based political action committees. Dixon reported $2,360 in donations. Sawyer reported $158.

… Reached on her cellphone Thursday, Ford, 64, questioned how a reporter obtained the number — it was listed on her qualifying petition with the Shelby County Election Commission, she was told — and then said she was in a meeting and hung up.

Reached the next day and told of Harris’ criticism of her lack of attendance during the session, Ford said, “I fell and broke my hip the last week of session. And I imagine that’s what they’re talking about.”

But she wouldn’t entertain more questions.

“This is not a good time,” she said, and hung up.

Dixon said he’s not focusing on Ford’s attendance, but said he’s sensing an appetite for change among the district’s voters. Dixon said public education is his No. 1 priority, followed by jobs and economic development.

He dismisses the idea that some outside the district reduce the race to simply a Harris-Ford showdown. He is the brother of former state senator Roscoe Dixon, and thinks his ties in Whitehaven and Westwood are deep.

…Harris’ criticisms of Ford go beyond merely attendance. He said Ford’s votes are consistently more conservative than her district’s views… According to an account of (a recent) event in the Memphis Flyer, Republican County Commissioner Terry Roland attended.

“Getting toasted by Terry Roland is consistent with what we have seen in the legislative record,” he said.

Why are conservative national Super PACs not backing Carr? Maybe because of Flinn

Within a general review of the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Andy Sher has some commentary on why Joe Carr has been able to get “celebrity conservatives” (i.e., Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin) to endorse him but not the arch-conservative national Super PACS with big money.

“We don’t have any intention of being involved in the Senate Republican primary in the state of Tennessee,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the Club for Growth, which has backed any number of challengers to GOP incumbents.

Asked why, Keller would only say, “Sometimes we get involved in races and sometimes you don’t.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund did not respond to an email request for comment.

Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Washington-based nonpartisan newsletter The Rothenberg Political Report, said these days one has to “pause before assuming that a sitting senator is just going to win a primary.

“But,” he added, “I’ll have to say it doesn’t look like there’s been the same consolidation of the support against the senator that we’ve kind of seen take place in the other races.”

Gonzales’ take is that Flinn’s being in the race has caused the largest groups “to pause about getting in” because they may perceive a “lack of consensus on the ground.”

Moreover, he said, “it is extremely difficult to beat an incumbent, particularly in a winner-take-all situation where you need to have everything to go right to thread the needle.”

In Tennessee, candidates don’t need a majority — 50 percent plus one person — to win an election. They can — and have — won with pluralities well below 50 percent. Outside groups’ calculation may be they “not only have to beat Lamar, but we have to beat Flinn, too,” Gonzales said.

On the race to succeed Joe Carr in state House District 48

The Daily News Journal has a rundown on the three Republicans competing for their party’s nomination in House District 48, which Rep. Joe Carr is vacating to run for the U.S. Senate. The article also gives considerable attention to the Democrats waiting to face the GOP primary winner in the fall.

Those hoping to succeed Carr on the GOP side are Adam Coggin, a member of the Rutherford County Commission and a director at the AdamsPlace retirement center in Murfreesboro; Rick Peppers, owner and operator of Angus cattle business Five Peppers Farm, and founder of an engineering company with his wife; and Bryan Terry, a Murfreesboro physician.

The winner of the Republican primary will face unopposed Democrat William “Bill” Campbell in the Nov. 4 general election for a seat John Hood and the late John Bragg once held for his (Democratic) party.

…A retired ordained minister who worked at the Wesley Foundation at Middle Tennessee State University for nearly 30 years, Campbell said he his running a grassroots campaign.

“I’m retired from the United Methodist Church and now have time to focus on the campaign,” Campbell said. “The ministry doesn’t allow a lot of time to be carved out for political campaigns. The needs of other people tend to come first.”

…(Quote from Coggin) “(O)ver the past several election cycles, the citizens have chosen a Republican because that person has represented their values and beliefs more so than the Democrat running against them.”

(From Terry) “The district is used to having a leader and a fighter. I have been able to lead on the issues and entered the race knowing it would be a dogfight. I will take that same energy to the Capitol.”

…(From Peppers) “I’m a conservative to the core… I believe in traditional marriage. I’m pro-life. I’m for parental consent at school. I’m against the legalization of marijuana. I’m pro-Second Amendment, and I’m 100 percent against both Obamacare and “ObamaCore,” Common Core. The respected Eagle Forum gave me an A rating for conservatism, and the NRA just gave me their highest rating of AQ.”

Campbell, however, contends that the Republicans who control the Tennessee General Assembly are not representing the values of the 48th District.

“They are out of balance, and they can’t seem to run the government very efficiently,” Campbell said. “Look at the problems that have been created with Tenncare and Medicaid.”

Huffman on deciding whether to close ‘disappointing’ virtual school

In a standoff over a struggling statewide cyberschool, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says he weighed pulling the plug on the school altogether.

Instead, at his urging, the next incoming class of new students at Tennessee Virtual Academy won’t be admitted — an action that has nevertheless put an education chief known for favoring school choice under unfamiliar fire from national reform groups.

The move to “un-enroll” 626 incoming students marks the boldest action yet in what has been a turbulent three years for the online virtual school operated by the for-profit K12 Inc., which has produced woeful test scores every year in Tennessee since a change in law paved the way for its 2011 arrival.

Because of the school’s third straight year of poor results in student growth, the commissioner had the authority to direct the closure of the school. Huffman chose a less harsh option, recommending that the Union County School Board, which contracts K12 to operate in Tennessee, stop admitting students for the time being.

The board obliged on Thursday, voting to request a waiver from the state to cancel enrollment of students it had recently accepted. Tennessee Virtual Academy’s some 1,200 existing students, who live across the state and take coursework from home, will remain part of the school.

Why not close it outright? Huffman noted Tennessee Virtual Academy students have shown improvement in years two and three, and that the challenges rest primarily with first-year students.

…The Washington-based Center for Education Reform issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns” the directive of Huffman. “It’s an outrage that these 626 legally enrolled students are now being forcefully turned away, just two weeks before the start of the school year,” said Kara Kerwin, the organization’s president.

In slowing down the growth of the Tennessee Virtual Academy, Huffman has had to take aim at an option he has supported exploring. In addition to low test marks, the school also has had high attrition, meaning kids have often gone back to their local districts with low proficiency marks.

“I believe that it’s important to try things like virtual education,” he said. “That’s why, at some level, it’s been disappointing to me to see the results.”

As for the Union County school system, Huffman called it “irresponsible” and “disappointing” for it to initially accept new students for this fall, alleging the board was alerted of its “Level 1 status” on June 15. Results from the 2013-14 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program for individual districts are to be publicly released next week.

Supremes relying on lawyers for financial, GOTV support in escalating fight

Tennessee lawyers are forming a bedrock of support for three state Supreme Court justices striving to win new terms, recently adding get-out-the-vote efforts to financial support, as court critics escalate attempts to convince conservative Republican voters that the judges are liberal Democrats.

Combined spending on TV ads by both sides in the campaign has now passed $500,000, according to figures collected Friday by Justice at Stake, a national organization that tracks state judicial elections. The biggest chunk of that — $246,475 — has been spent by Tennessee Forum, one of groups opposing retention.

So far uncounted is spending on direct mail advertising by both sides along with the radio ads and automatic phone messages, also known as robo calls, being employed by the justices’ critics.

A review of financial disclosures available shows that much of the money used by the judges has come from lawyers and law firms. The biggest reported donation so far is $25,000 from the American Board of Trial Advocates to Tennesseans for Fair Courts, a pro-retention organization that recently began TV ads attacking court critics.

Tennesseans for Fair Court, the justices’ campaigns and Tennessee Forum have registered with state’s campaign finance agency and thus eventually will be reporting sources of their funding, although some not until after the election. Some of the groups attacking the court, on the other hand, are set up so that donor disclosure can be avoided — funding that a Supreme Court campaign spokeswoman and others call “dark money” from outside the state.
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Haslam not alone in gubernatorial grumbling about immigrant children

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is hardly alone in his complaints Friday that the Obama administration is sending child migrants in the country illegally to small towns and cities without notifying state authorities, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Gov. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey said US border authorities releasing captured migrant children to relatives who themselves are in the US illegally is “illogical,” and Gov. Phil Bryant (R) of Mississippi charged that an “overreaching federal government” was involved in “covert immigration practices.”

A gaggle of governors and lawmakers, primarily from conservative states, has begun to complain more loudly in the past week about the mostly quiet transferral in the past nine months of some 30,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) from the border to all 50 states. Texas, California, and the Washington metro area have received the most children.

The situation is a result of a surge of children and teenagers who are traversing Mexico from Central America and then crossing into the US, largely in Texas. Their numbers have surged in the past year, overwhelming US border authorities. Most children who cross into the US illegally say they expect to be able to stay, and many may be right. By one United Nations estimate, as many as two-thirds of the migrant children – mostly from strife-torn countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – may have legitimate asylum claims.

…some of the states that have complained the loudest have seen the smallest influxes of the children, often by just the dozens or a few hundred.

Even Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, a Democrat, registered his concerns, though gently: “We need to make sure those kids are safe and cared for until we can get them back home. I think they should go home as soon as can reasonably be done.”

Charities and social service groups are helping the small US Office of Refugee Resettlement with housing and placing children. But that process is happening largely without any kind of state supervision or involvement, Haslam complained in his letter to Obama.

…For his part, Governor Bryant of Mississippi has threatened to block transports of children.

“To the extent permitted by law, I intend to prohibit the federal government or its agents from housing large numbers of new illegal immigrants in the state of Mississippi,” Bryant wrote in a recent letter. “Illegal immigration imposes real and substantial costs on the states, and it is unfair to expect the states to bear the costs of a problem created by the federal government’s failure to enforce the law.”

Note: Previous post, including text of Haslam’s letter to Obama, HERE.

Miller’s Super PAC spends $300K attacking Alexander, backing Carr

A political action committee founded by Andrew Miller, an arch conservative Nashville millionaire, spent more than $250,000 last week on media advertising that attacks U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and another $31,000 supporting Joe Carr, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Citizens 4 Ethics in Government also spent $15,000 in support of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who is facing a strong Republican primary challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, according to the independent expenditure reports filed with the FEC on Friday.

The filings show Miller and his brother, Tracy Miller, have put $240,000 into the “Super PAC” since April — $120,000 each. The bulk of the $250,910 spent attacking Alexander went to Jamestown Associated, a Princeton, N.J., political media firm known for handling ads against incumbent Republican congressmen.

Copies of the ad had not been made available to media on Sunday.

FEC disclosures filed last week also show $31,622 in spending for support of Carr by the Tea Party Patriot Citizens Fund, another conservative PAC. Carr, a state representative from Rutherford County, is apparently the best known of seven Alexander challengers in the GOP primary — though Memphis multimillionaire George Flinn has been outspending Carr on TV advertising, using his own money.

The tea party PAC had announced earlier that it would spend at least $20,000 for a “Beat Lamar” get-out-the-vote effort. The FEC disclosure labels most of the spending as going toward “e-marketing.”

Carr’s campaign previously disclosed receiving $9,564 in payments from Life Watch Pharmacy, a company controlled by Miller, prompting an inquiry from FEC officials. Miller had already contributed the maximum amount allowed under federal law Carr’s campaign as an individual, $2,600.

Carr told the Commercial Appeal that his campaign had loaned the company $200,000 earlier “as an investment” with a “guaranteed 6 percent return.”

“We checked with the FEC before we did it to make sure it was certainly OK. They absolutely said it was OK,” Carr said. “We even went and checked other candidates’ FEC filings to see if they had done similar things and indeed they had. So we did our due diligence in that regard.”

Miller told The Tennessean that the Carr campaign was part of a larger group of lenders that gave Life Watch cash up front while it awaited the settlement of legal claims by pharmacies against health insurers. The investment was “a pretty safe situation,” he said.