Monthly Archives: August 2010

Harold Ford Jr. Sees No Political Future in TN

Former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. has made clear, in both his new book and a recent interview, that he and his wife, Emily, consider New York City their home now and Tennessee political endeavors are in the past. So says Clint Brewer, who has written a review of More Davids Than Goliaths that is combined with Ford comments in an interview.
Coming back to Tennessee to run again for statewide office, Ford said last week, is probably not an option.
“If I do run for public office, I trust we are going to live here,” Ford said in a telephone interview from New York. “If there is an elected political future, I suspect it will be here. I am not plotting a race or assembling a political team.”
“I doubt that will happen,” Ford said more pointedly of returning to Tennessee some time in the future to run for governor or U.S. Senate. “My wife and I still own a home in Memphis. As for a political future (in Tennessee), I don’t see that for the short term at all.

Brewer says the book “appears to be an attempt to define, and to some extent, close the door on the first chapter of a life spent as a full-time politician and the scion of one of Tennessee’s most powerful, and at times scandalous, political families…A central theme… is Ford’s close relationship with his father, who served for two decades in the 9th District seat before Ford Jr. took the seat over in 1996.
The book also deals directly with the 2006 Senate campaign, where Ford nearly became the first African-American elected to statewide office in Tennessee.
Some of Ford’s characterizations of his opponent, now U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, are less than flattering. At different points in the book, Ford calls Corker lazy in reference to his campaign work ethic and then states Corker was cocky when Ford called to concede on election night.
Perhaps the most serious charge, though, is that the Corker campaign benefited from, and was complicit in, the infamous “Call Me” ad run by the Republican National Committee. The ad featured a young, white actress bare at the shoulders claiming she met Ford at a Playboy party. The ad ends with the actress telling Ford to “Call me.” The ad was denounced in many corners as racist.

A spokesman for Corker disputes both Ford’s characterizations of the senator and that he was complicit in the ‘Call Me’ ad.
For contrast with Brewer’s straightforward treatment see previous post on a Ford-bashing review HERE.)

McWherter: Haslam PAC ‘Attempt to Buy the Legislature’

Bill Haslam has established a political action committee to help provide money to Republican candidates hoping to cement the party’s control of the state House and Senate in this fall’s elections.
Mike McWherter, the Democrat opposing Republican nominee Haslam in the governor’s race, says voters should be leery of the move.
“I view that as an attempt to buy not only the governor’s office but to buy control of the Legislature as well,” said McWherter.
The paperwork establishing Jobs4TN PAC was filed with the Registry of Election Finance recently, designating Haslam as chairman and Kim Kaegi, a veteran GOP fundraiser already working for his gubernatorial campaign, as treasurer.
“We are in the season of legislative races and want to be involved,” said Haslam in an interview. “A lot of people have been asking how to help more and this is a way to do it.”

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McWherter: Haslam PAC ‘Attempt to Buy the Legislature’

Bill Haslam has established a political action committee to help provide money to Republican candidates hoping to cement the party’s control of the state House and Senate in this fall’s elections.
Mike McWherter, the Democrat opposing Republican nominee Haslam in the governor’s race, says voters should be leery of the move.
“I view that as an attempt to buy not only the governor’s office but to buy control of the Legislature as well,” said McWherter.
The paperwork establishing Jobs4TN PAC was filed with the Registry of Election Finance recently, designating Haslam as chairman and Kim Kaegi, a veteran GOP fundraiser already working for his gubernatorial campaign, as treasurer.
“We are in the season of legislative races and want to be involved,” said Haslam in an interview. “A lot of people have been asking how to help more and this is a way to do it.”

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TN Weekend News Notes

State’s Bookeeping Behind Schedule
Tennessee normally spends about seven months closing out each budget year, but officials say a string of glitches implementing a new accounting system knocked the state off schedule. State agencies ended up taking twice the time they normally do to close out the 2008-09 budget year — and Comptroller Justin Wilson said he’s worried the next round of financial audits may also face delays.
“That’s a matter of some concern to me,” he told TNReport.
s of this month, the state has officially finished all audits and paperwork associated with closing up the budget books. The process, which was supposed to be completed by March, lasted 14 months. Not only do late audits send red flags to Washington administrators keeping an eye on the state’s federal spending, but they also force the Legislature to make decisions based on what could be inaccurate financial reports, said Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris.
Rest of the story HERE.
Corker Discloses He’s Still Rich
Sen. Bob Corker remains one of the wealth¬i¬est mem¬bers of the U.S. Sen¬ate with total assets in 2009 rang¬ing from $55.8 mil¬lion to $93.2 mil¬lion, accord¬ing to a finan¬cial dis¬clo¬sure state¬ment released Fri¬day and reported upon by Bill Theobald.
His largest assets included an office build¬ing in Chat¬tanooga and a shop¬ping cen¬ter in Maryville, each val¬ued at between $5 mil¬lion and $25 mil¬lion. He also reported large inter¬ests in pri¬vate invest¬ment part¬ner¬ships. His lia¬bil¬i¬ties ranged from $3.5 mil¬lion to $12 mil¬lion and were mostly mort¬gages on the prop¬er¬ties he owns.
Public Records Requests Leads to Firing?
The city of Memphis has fired its public records coordinator after she filed a request for public records from the city attorney, reports the Commercial Appeal.
Just a few hours after Bridgett Handy-Clay filed a Freedom of Information Act request for payroll records from the City Attorney’s Office, City Attorney Herman Morris terminated Handy-Clay’s appointment.
“I asked questions and instead of Mr. Morris dealing with it, he did what he did,” said Handy-Clay. “He terminated my appointment earlier today. It’s retaliation is all it is.”

For Whom the Judge Bell Toils
A Jamie Satterfield story on the curious case in Cocke Couty begins thusly:
Sour grapes. That’s what Cocke County General Sessions Judge John Bell is calling a prosecutor’s efforts to force him to pay both the costs of his ethics trial and the salary of special judges tapped to fill in for him while he serves a 90-day suspension.
Bell was convicted in June of violating judicial ethics rules for mishandling a small claims lawsuit and then enlisting an attorney friend to try to deep-six a resulting complaint against the judge. It was the third time in his relatively short judicial career that he had run afoul of the Court of the Judiciary, which polices judges.
As a result, his prosecutors, known as disciplinary counsel, sought to have him removed from the bench. Instead, the court ordered Bell suspended for 90 days. Because the state constitution bars the court from stripping Bell of his salary, the punishment amounted to a paid vacation, and disciplinary counsel Patrick J. McHale balked.
He has since filed a motion asking the panel to order Bell to foot the bill for expenses associated with the weeklong trial and the costs of hiring judicial fill-ins during his suspension.

Don Sundquist Gets Darts, Holds ‘Thank You’ Party

In a conversation prior to the 2009 Republican Statesman’s Dinner, former Gov. Don Sundquist was advised that his photograph was on display at the state GOP headquarters. His immediate reply:
“Was it on a board with darts in it?”
The conversation comes to mind (recounted in prior post HERE) as Sundquist this weekend is guest of honor at a “thank You” barbeque on the farm of Al Ganier, touching off a round of darts directed at Sundquist for supporting state tax reform including an income tax.
One dart, interestingly, came from the Tennessee Democratic Party. Back during the Sundquist tax wars, the state Democratic Executive Committee passed a resolution urging tax reform along the same lines that Sundquist was pushing.
The party press release this week:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester is curious if Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam and other Republican candidates for office will show up at former Gov. Don Sundquist’s “Thank You” barbecue this Saturday in Nashville.
Sundquist is hosting the barbecue at the home of friend Al Ganier, once accused of obstructing a federal investigation into government contracts. Ganier wound up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to the investigation.
“Everyone knows that the Haslams are friends and supporters of Sundquist, who unsuccessfully tried to push through a state income tax with the help of Bill’s father,” Forrester said. “The big question is, in light of the recent Haslam television ad touting Gov. Phil Bredesen and Gov. Ned Ray McWherter, will Mr. Haslam be seen with Sundquist? He didn’t include Mr. Sundquist in the ad. That’s an odd way for old family friends to treat one another.
“Mr. Haslam is obviously going out of his way to distance himself from the father of the Tennessee state income tax proposal. I also wonder how many other Republican friends of Mr. Sundquist will show up at the barbecue.
“Mr. Sundquist has been kind enough to financially support Republican campaigns over the years. Surely the candidates will show their appreciation and respect by joining Mr. Sundquist at his barbecue.” Forrester added.

Actually, former Gov. Ned McWherter fathered an income tax proposal long before Sundquist did. And while Bill Haslam’s father was involved in a side show to the Sundquist efforts, the Democratic party was had its own supportive resolution.
Nowadays, of course, any favorable mention of an income tax (IT) is deemed complete and total political poison. Candidates of both parties argue about who hates IT the most.
The Sundquist ‘Thank you” soiree has also prompted other commentary, notably including an entertaining post by Jenci Spradlin.
Not only did Mayor Haslam distance himself from Sundquist during the primary, but in one of his first commercials following the election, he seemed to give atta-boys to Governors McWherter and Bredesen, completely ignoring Sundquist. I suppose it is more politically advantageous these days to align yourself with two Democratic governors than it is with the most recent Republican governor.
… In the invitation to the event, Don and Martha write, “It’s been a long while since we’ve had a chance to get together… It’ll be a chance to catch up with old friends, share some memories, and enjoy a little old-fashioned family fun.” This coming out party is being paid for by the Sundquist Committee.
Yeehaw y’all! Who’s up for a game of hide-and-seek or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey? Let’s all wax poetic on how we ALMOST passed that darn income tax, or how all is forgiven for stopping on his good name. Olive branch anyone?
Generally speaking, “Thank You” is used to express gratitude or appreciation. What are the Sundquists grateful for? The letter continues, “We appreciate your friendship over these many years and want a chance to thank you in person.”
For a man who was repeatedly thrown under the bus by his friends and enemies, Sundquist picks a curious time to step out from the shadows, don’t you think? I wonder if Republican candidates will be advised to avoid the festivities. Perhaps the former Governor believes he’s counted long enough, and is finally hollering “olly olly oxen free!” to signal that it is safe for his friends to come out of hiding without losing the political game
Indeed, maybe it is getting safer to at least offer quiet acceptance of Sundquist. Martha Sundquist donated $2,000 to the Haslam gubernatorial campaign back in July – before the primary. That, it is suggested, indicates that the Sundquists did take side.
Don himself has made only one donation this year, according to Registry of Election Finance records. That was $1,000 to the Tennessee Young Republicans PAC. (Haslam and Zach Wamp gave only $250 each; Ron Ramsey donated $300.)
Sundquist’s leadership PAC, meanwhile, has been laying low so far this year. But then, it did so in 2008 as well until shelling out $66,000 to Republican legislative candidates in October.
The biggest provider of funds to the Sundquist PAC (named Majority Tennessee) was the Sundquist Committee, his old campaign account that has been kept functional. The committee gave the PAC $50,000 or the $66,000 in 2008.
The Committee hasn’t given the PAC anything yet this year. But it is paying for Saturday’s party, according to the invitation.

Democratic Lawyer: Republican Fincher’s Disclosures Don’t Add Up

(Note: A related Roy Herron press release is at the end of this post.)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A prominent Democratic lawyer is asking federal prosecutors to investigate whether Republican congressional candidate Stephen Fincher omitted debts and assets in financial disclosures maintained by the U.S. House.
The Fincher campaign dismissed the allegations brought by Covington attorney J. Houston Gordon, a former state Democratic Party chairman, as a political stunt on behalf of Roy Herron, the Democratic nominee in the open 8th District race in northwestern Tennessee.
“Stephen Fincher filled out all required disclosure forms honestly and in good faith,” Paul Ciaramitaro, Fincher’s deputy campaign manager, said in an e-mail. “Roy Herron’s camp is using one of his political hatchet-men to gin up a sideshow.”
Fincher in the disclosure statements said his only assets were about $60,000 in farm income last year and another $124,000 through May of this year. That led Gordon to question how Fincher could round up $250,000 to lend his campaign in the closing weeks of the tumultuous GOP primary.
“Mr. Fincher indicated that he and his spouse have no liquid assets of any kind — no checking accounts, no savings accounts, no money market accounts, no stocks, no bonds,” Gordon said in a letter sent this week to the U.S. attorney in Memphis.

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Judge Orders Black and Zelenik to Mediation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Davidson County judge has ordered a lawsuit involving state Sen. Diane Black into mandatory mediation.
The defamation lawsuit was brought by Aegis Sciences Corp., a drug testing company owned by Black’s husband, concerning campaign ads from Black’s Republican primary opponent, Lou Ann Zelenik.
Black edged Zelenik earlier this month in the primary for the 6th District congressional seat. Zelenik filed a countersuit, saying Aegis’ lawsuit was an attempt to silence her.
The Tennessean reports that Judge Hamilton Gayden told attorneys during a hearing Friday that the “courts are very reluctant to interject themselves into political disputes.”
He gave the parties until Sept. 27 to conduct the mediation. If a settlement is not reached in that time, then Gayden said the lawsuits will go forward.

AP Reports on Chattanooga Mayor Recall Effort

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — There’s a political rumble in Chattanooga, a recall effort by tax-protesting tea partiers and others aimed at a mayor who would rather be talking about new Volkswagen jobs and the success of a redeveloped riverfront.
Mayor Ron Littlefield won’t even comment about his antagonists who are close to collecting enough recall signatures to force an unscheduled mayoral election, possibly on Nov. 2. Critics of the mayor, who is one year into his second and final term, are mostly upset about him pushing through a property tax increase.
Recall petitioners who have been knocking on doors near the end of a 75-day effort are optimistic. Election officials Friday said the count of valid signatures they have delivered is 8,525, less than 500 short of the total needed before a Monday afternoon deadline.
Regardless of how many signatures are gathered, election officials say the recall effort is likely headed to the courts before there is any election. If recall petitioners get enough voter signatures, Littlefield and other prospective candidates would have until Sept. 9 to collect 25 voter signatures and qualify to be on the ballot.

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Reagan Farr Resigning as Revenue Commissioner

News release from the governor’s office:
Governor Phil Bredesen today announced that Tennessee Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr will leave his administration effective September 1, 2010. Farr plans to return to the private sector following his tenure at the Department of Revenue, which began in 2003. Farr was named commissioner in 2007.
“Reagan Farr has played a key role in our efforts to create new jobs and attract capital investment during my time in office,” said Bredesen. “I appreciate his contributions to the success of my administration and thank him for his service to the people of Tennessee.”
“I’ve been honored to have helped Governor Bredesen make his vision for our state a reality over the past eight years,” said Farr. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done at Revenue to streamline our processes, manage our budget and to develop innovative new approaches to providing incentives to attract capital investment and new jobs to our state. We’ve accomplished much and now I look forward to returning to private business.”
During Farr’s tenure with the Department of Revenue, Tennessee was applauded for its collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in recruiting jobs to the state. Since January 2003, Tennessee has attracted more than 190,000 new jobs and attracted $33 billion in new capital to the state, consistently placing among the top five states in the U.S. for business climate.
Prior to joining state government, Farr was with the accounting firm Ernst & Young. In 2009, he was named by Southern Business and Development magazine as one of “Ten People Who Made a Difference” along with Governor Bredesen and ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber. Farr is a graduate of Louisiana State University where he received a degree in economics and he received a law degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

More on Election Day Glitches

Different Opinions
State Election Coordinator Mark Goins and Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, both have written opinion pieces for the Tennessean on the Aug. 5 voting foulups.
Mancini laments “numer¬ous and well-documented real-world instances in which the (current voting) machines did not work prop¬erly” and says things would have been better if the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, requiring new paper-trail machines, had been implemented.
Goins declares that, “In the over¬whelm¬ing major¬ity of Tennessee’s 95 coun¬ties, the elec¬tions went great” even though “human errors have been dis¬cov¬ered in the process.”
Meanwhile, in Memphis
Jackson Baker gives an overview of how the Aug. 5 election “refuses to go away” in Shelby County.
Last week the Shelby County Election Commission formally certified the August 5th election and issued a report chalking up a now infamous election-day glitch to “human error” without effect on any final outcome.
But this week the number of litigants seeking to overturn that election has swelled from two to ten, as the entire slate of Democratic candidates defeated in races for countywide positions has joined in a revamped lawsuit which contends that the election results are “incurably uncertain.”
The suit, filed in Chancery Court Tuesday, will probably be combined with an earlier one which sought injunctive relief on behalf of two litigants, Regina Morrison Newman, the incumbent Trustee who had sought reelection, and Minerva Johnican, candidate for Criminal Court clerk. Or so said Newman, who is functioning as a lawyer for herself and other litigants.