By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A super political action committee is working against U.S. Rep. Diane Black in the Aug. 2 primary and its sole contributor was formerly the chief fundraiser for Black’s opponent, Lou Ann Zelenik.
Black’s campaign charges that this violates federal rules that require PACs to operate independently from campaigns. Zelenik’s campaign vigorously denies any coordination with Citizens 4 Ethics in government.
The political blog Open Secrets reported this week that thousands of dollars raised by Citizens 4 Ethics has come from Andrew Miller of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition.
The group has spent more than $30,000 on the 6th District primary, according to the Federal Election Commission. Miller told The Associated Press that he contributed the more than $180,000 raised by the PAC and that the money spent so far is to target Black, who edged Zelenik in the 2010 primary and went on to win the seat.
“Every one of the things we’re doing is opposing Diane Black,” said Miller, adding that the PAC is a separate entity and not connected to the Zelenik campaign.
Miller resigned as finance chairman of the campaign in May. Campaign chairman Jay Heine echoed Miller’s detachment.
“We have had no involvement” in the Citizens 4 Ethics organization, Heine said.
However, Black campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said the group is tied to Zelenik and alleges it is violating certain FEC requirements by not reporting the total amount of money it has raised and spent, noting FEC records only showed a contribution of a little over $105,000 from Miller.
“This is more of the same dishonest and unethical campaigning we’ve come to expect from Lou Ann Zelenik,” Baker said. “She’s reached new levels of desperation in her campaign, coordinating with this shadow group that is financed by one person — her former finance chairman — and is in violation of campaign finance law.”
Miller acknowledged missing a filing deadline and said he’s spoken with FEC officials and “we’ve corrected everything.”
“This is my first run at a super PAC,” Miller said.
Miller is chairman and CEO of Tennessee Freedom Coalition, which has among its primary goals stopping the growth of “radical Islam” and spreading news about the “realities of Sharia.” Among its activities was sponsoring a speech by anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
Zelenik also has been vocal about her stance on Islamic issues. She caused a firestorm before the 2010 primary when she said that plans to build a mosque in a Nashville suburb posed a threat to her state’s moral and political foundation.
She said in a statement: “Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilization and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them.”
Zelenik later told the AP she didn’t think her statement would hurt her campaign, adding that the new mosque is unnecessary because “we have a mosque here in Murfreesboro already.”
Opponents spent two years trying to halt construction of the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, but a federal judge ruled last week the county must allow the congregation to worship there as soon as the building is ready.
In more recent news concerning Zelenik, a Wilson County judge is weighing a criminal contempt charge against her for allegedly failing to appear in court for a legal deposition.
Earlier this year, Zelenik prevailed in a lawsuit that accused her of defamation for a campaign advertisement attacking Black. A judge granted Zelenik summary judgment in the case.