Monthly Archives: July 2012

Anti-Mayfield Ice Cream Ad, Financed by Outside PAC, Stirs Flap

A new independent expenditure ad in the 3rd Congressional District race says Scottie Mayfield is “good at ice cream, not so good on the issues.”
Mayfield campaign consultant Tommy Hopper, a former state Republican chairman, tells Chris Carroll that he thinks the ad sponsors got that line from Chip Saltsman, another former state GOP chief who is running the Chuck Fleischman campaign.
Coordination between the PAC running the ad and the Fleischmann campaign, of course, would violate federal campaign laws. Hopper suspects that’s what happened. Saltsman says not so.
“We simply do not believe that an out-of-state PAC with no known ties to Tennessee has any interest in our primary unless led here by one of our opponents,” Hopper said.
…Bankrolled by the Beaufort, S.C.-based Citizens for a Working America, the $165,000 ad campaign is the second time an independent, out-of-state political committee has spent money on the 3rd District primary.
Airing in Chattanooga and Knoxville broadcast markets, the anti-Mayfield ad includes an instrumental version of “Pop Goes the Weasel” and melting vanilla ice cream — direct hits on the dairy executive’s intelligence and political savvy.
“Scottie Mayfield: Good at ice cream, not so good on the issues,” the ad’s narrator concludes.
Mayfield’s advisers said recent remarks offered by Fleischmann chief of staff Chip Saltsman shed doubt on the campaign’s denials.
According to audio obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Saltsman, speaking for Fleischmann at a rally last week in Campbell County, said, “good ice cream, bad politics” in a rhetorical swipe against Mayfield.
“Chip’s comments are oddly similar to the overall theme of the ad,” Hopper said in an email, “and it’s a fact that the Fleischmann campaign plays fast and loose with the law and the facts.”
Saltsman laughed when greeted with Hopper’s allegation, adding that he has no ties to Citizens for a Working America.
“Don’t know them. But I’ve heard that comment about Mayfield having good milk or ice cream and bad politics or issues 100 times,” he said. “It’s something a lot of people say. A lot of people talk about it.”
The other independent expenditure came from the American Conservative Union, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that spent at least $30,000 on a July radio buy in support of Fleischmann.
Records show OnMessage Inc., an ad agency in Virginia, produced both ads.
Saltsman and OnMessage Inc. co-founder Brad Todd are Facebook friends, but the connections go beyond that. Saltsman was elected Tennessee Republican Party chairman in 1998, and Todd was the state party’s executive director in 1997-98, according to his LinkedIn page.
Todd did not return phone calls, but Saltsman said the two briefly worked together.
“He was at the party when I was elected, but I replaced him,” Saltsman said. Saltsman denied coordination and said he hasn’t spoken with Todd “since last winter.”
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said it’s difficult to prove “coordination” even though the Federal Election Commission has subpoena power over such matters.
…A $475,000 ad buy for Mitt Romney in December 2011 is the only other expenditure Citizens for a Working America has ever made, records show. As of Thursday, the organization was listed as based in Dayton, Ohio, but on Friday that was changed to Beaufort, S.C.
Despite requests from the Federal Election Commission to do so, Citizens for a Working America has not disclosed its donors. Norm Cummings, a Virginia-based Republican political consultant whose name is on the organization’s filings, could not be reached for comment.

Governor’s Brother Negotiates to Buy Cleveland Browns

Knoxville businessman Jimmy Haslam grew up rooting for the Dallas Cowboys and in 2009 he bought a minority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers, reports the News Sentinel. Now he’s negotiating to buy a controlling interest in the Cleveland Browns.
Haslam, president and CEO of travel center operator Pilot Flying J, could not be reached for comment Friday, but current Browns owner Randy Lerner confirmed he is in negotiations with Haslam.
A spokesman for Haslam said he was not available for an interview and referred questions to the Browns.
“We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private,” Lerner said. “Given that any transaction would require league approval, care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season.”
Browns President Mike Holmgren said Friday that “(Lerner) is giving up controlling interest in the team.”
Holmgren’s comments came in a news conference at the team’s training camp in Berea, Ohio. Holmgren said he and Lerner have discussed the matter throughout the summer.
Knoxville businessman Jimmy Haslam grew up rooting for the Dallas Cowboys and in 2009 he bought a minority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now he’s negotiating to buy a controlling interest in the Cleveland Browns.
Haslam, president and CEO of travel center operator Pilot Flying J, could not be reached for comment Friday, but current Browns owner Randy Lerner confirmed he is in negotiations with Haslam.
A spokesman for Haslam said he was not available for an interview and referred questions to the Browns.
“We are currently in negotiations and both sides have agreed to keep that dialogue and its details private,” Lerner said. “Given that any transaction would require league approval, care has been taken so that this process will not be disruptive to the organization, in particular the football team, as it prepares for the upcoming season.”
Browns President Mike Holmgren said Friday that “(Lerner) is giving up controlling interest in the team.”
Holmgren’s comments came in a news conference at the team’s training camp in Berea, Ohio. Holmgren said he and Lerner have discussed the matter throughout the summer.

Haslam Names Special Supreme Court to Hear Hooker Case

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed a special Supreme Court to hear a case from which all five Tennessee Supreme Court justices have recused themselves.
The special appointees are a group of highly qualified and diverse legal minds representing the three grand divisions of the state. They come from all practice areas and have more than a century of experience. The governor’s appointees are:
William M. Barker, who is currently Of Counsel at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C. in Chattanooga. Barker retired from the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2008 after a decade of service, three as Chief Justice. He began his service as a judge in 1983 when he was appointed Judge of the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial District. He received his bachelor of science from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga and his law degree from the University of Cincinnati.
Andree Sophia Blumstein, who is a member at Sherrard & Roe, PLC in Nashville. She has extensive experience in civil appellate litigation and recently received the Tennessee Bar Association’s Joseph W. Henry Award for Outstanding Legal Writing. Blumstein graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s from Vassar College. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt School of Law, and she holds a Ph.D. in Germanic languages and literature from Yale University.
George H. Brown Jr., who specializes in mediation and arbitration with Resolute Systems, LLC in Memphis. Brown retired in 2005 after serving 23 years as Circuit Court Judge of the 13th Judicial District. He served on the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1980. He received his bachelor’s from Florida A&M University and his law degree from Howard University School of Law.
Robert L. Echols, who is a member at Bass, Berry & Sims in Nashville. Prior to joining the firm, Echols served as Judge of the U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee for 18 years and as Chief Judge for seven of those years. He began his legal career as a law clerk for Chief U.S. District Judge Marion S. Boyd in Memphis. He received his bachelor’s from Rhodes College and his law degree from the University of Tennessee.
W. Morris Kizer, who has practiced law for more than 35 years, most recently with Gentry, Tipton & McClemore, PC in Knoxville. Kizer also served as Law Director for the City of Knoxville from 2004 until 2008. He received his bachelor of arts from Vanderbilt University and law degree from the University of Tennessee College Of Law.
The special Supreme Court will decide any appeal of Hooker et al. vs. Haslam et al., a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Court of Criminal Appeals appointment by the governor.

Note: Previous post HERE.

More on Maggart Vs. the NRA (and Courtney Rogers)

WPLN takes a look at the House District 45 contest where the National Rifle Association’s attack on Rep. Debra Maggart has made the House Republican Caucus Chairman the poster child (on billboards at least) for incumbent legislators facing challengers in next week’s primaries.
The tension could be seen at this year’s Statesmen’s Dinner – the Tennessee GOP’s annual fundraiser. Everyone at this soiree supposedly plays on the same team, but the NRA has made the family get-together a little uncomfortable this year.
“Take a picture, quick,” Maggart said, upon being caught in a hallway with the NRA’s Cox.
While the two exchanged pleasantries, Cox is making an example of Maggart so other Republicans think twice before stepping out of line with the gun lobby. The NRA had spent $75,000 at the end of June, with more activity since then. The unrelated Tennessee Firearms Association chipped in at least $10,000 to defeat Maggart.
These are unheard of totals for state legislative races, but Cox calls the independent expenditures appropriate.
“It’s our First Amendment right to assemble to petition our government,” Cox said in an interview. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Rep. Maggart calls the NRA’s campaign “bullying” and a stunt to raise more money.
“You know they’ve got to have a reason to collect your dues,” she says. “They’ve got to have a reason for people to send them a check.”
Maggart – herself a member – has been sending the NRA checks for years and contends she’s about as big a gun gal as she could be. She hosts a skeet shoot fundraiser. She has her carry permit. And she’s a regular at the range.
But at Guns and Leather, a store in Hendersonville with an indoor shooting range, what’s in the window may say it all – signs for Maggart’s opponent, political newcomer Courtney Rogers.
Rogers, a retired Air Force officer, says she’s even surprised at some of the NRA’s tactics, like plastering Rep. Maggart’s face on billboards with President Obama.
“I didn’t even know what to say,” she says. “I just looked up at it and said, “[Maggart] is not going to like that.”
Still, Rogers welcomes the NRA in her corner. And the outside spending may be paying off.
Campaigning door to door, Rogers has been getting a warm reception from gun owners like Jim Fitzgerald. He calls Maggart “wishy-washy” on the weapons issue.


Note: The Tennessean also revisits the subject today.
But there are signs the NRA is turning off voters too.
“Debra Maggart is a lifetime NRA member as I am as a lot of all of us are,” says Bill Taylor, a dentist in Hendersonville. “We may drop our membership because of that.”

Pikeville Mayor Charged With Misconduct, Felony Theft

Greg Johnson, who is in his third term as mayor of Pikeville, is free on $10,000 bond after being arrested Wednesday on charges of official misconduct and felony theft in the wake of a months-long investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office.
Further from the Chattanooga TFP:
Officials at Pikeville City Hall said Johnson had not come into the office on Thursday. City Hall staff also said he has not submitted any correspondence regarding his plans as mayor.
Johnson, 50, was first elected to the Pikeville Board of Aldermen at age 19.
Mike Taylor, district attorney in the 12th Judicial District, said Thursday that Johnson is charged with four counts of official misconduct and one count of theft in excess of $60,000 on grand jury indictments issued Monday.
Among the accusations is that Johnson spent more than $100,000 on used cars never put in the city fleet, cashed a check for $16,000 for his own use and took a monthly stipend from the city to pay for health insurance when he already had health insurance elsewhere.
The investigation, which covered the period between July 2010 and February 2012, arose from complaints made to the prosecutor’s office around the first of the year, Taylor said.
“Back in the late winter, I started receiving complaints initially about the purchase of some used vehicles that had been stored at [a] building at the industrial park there in Pikeville,” Taylor said.
Soon after, other complaints were made that the mayor “was using public monies for his own use,” Taylor said, so the district attorney contracted the state Comptroller of the Treasury Office.
Bledsoe County Sheriff’s Investigator Ricky Seals said Wednesday that Johnson surrendered at the jail after having his attorney contact local authorities.
Johnson could not be reached for comment, and messages could not be left on his home phone.
Johnson’s legal counsel, Dunlap, Tenn., lawyer Steve Greer, said Thursday he couldn’t comment until he sees the formal indictment and that his comments would be limited even then.
He did say, though, that Johnson probably will keep his mayor’s post for now.

Promised Pay Cut Doesn’t Make Commission Agenda

Members of the Loudon County Tea Party are calling on Loudon County Commission to make good on a promise to discuss cutting their pay in half, reports the News Sentinel.
The issue should have been on Monday’s commission budget workshop agenda, according to Wayne Schnell, a leader of the Cross-County Tea Party group.
“We are concerned that this issue is being swept under the carpet and will not be addressed,” he said.
When the commission’s budget committee recommended in May that commissioners take a pay cut to help balance the 2012-13 budget, most commissioners seemed to agree it was a good idea.
The committee proposed that yearly pay for commissioners be cut from $8,000 to $4,000.
“I thought that it was appropriate because we were asking other departments to make sacrifices,” said Commissioner Sharon Yarborough.
At the June commission meeting, Commissioner Don Miller provided data showing that Loudon commissioners are the fifth highest paid among Tennessee counties.
When it came time to vote on the budget amendments, however, the pay cut wasn’t included.
After a lengthy discussion, the commission voted to table the issue until the next budget committee meeting.
Schnell said he expected to see the item on Monday’s workshop agenda.
“Was this issue settled behind closed doors?” he said.
After Monday’s meeting, Yarborough said she had asked for the pay cut proposal to be put on the agenda. She later learned that other commissioners, as yet unidentified, asked that the issue not be on the agenda, she said.
Among their concerns was the fact that not all commissioners would be at the workshop. Commissioners Bob Franke and Austin Shaver were absent.
If some commissioners decided privately to remove the item from the agenda it would in effect be deliberating on the issue and a violation of the state’s open meetings act, according to Loudon County activist Pat Hunter.
“Agreeing in private not to discuss an issue is like voting against,” she said.

AG Questions Bill on Memphis-Shelby County Dispute

A new state law approved this year to settle a dispute between the City of Memphis and Shelby County governments over $6 million in in-lieu-of-tax payments by Memphis Light Gas and Water “is constitutionally suspect.”
So says a state attorney general opinion, reported upon by the Commercial Appeal.
The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Curry Todd at the county government’s request and was questioned during floor debates as another attempt at state legislative intervention in a Memphis-Shelby dispute. The bill, designed to settle the tax dispute in the county’s favor, was opposed by Memphis officials.
Before the law, MLGW (Memphis Gas, Light and Water) made payments in lieu of taxes based on its gas system operations county-wide to the City of Memphis, which could then distribute it to the county.
Shelby County claimed that the city owed it $6 million in payments on the basis of the utility’s sales of natural gas outside the city limits. The governments have argued over the issue for years, and the city filed a lawsuit last year claiming it had actually overpaid more than $86 million tbetween 1981 and 2000, demanding part of it back.
Shelby County pushed for the bill, which became Public Chapter 984, to require MLGW to make the in-lieu-of tax payments that it owes the county directly to the county government. It won approval in the state House on Jan. 23 on a mostly partisan 64-25 vote and the Senate on April 26, also on a mostly partisan 20-3 vote, with Republicans statewide voting with Shelby County Republican lawmakers in favor of the bill.
But the bill as passed applies in only two counties — Shelby and Knox — because it is limited to counties that have adopted county-charter form of governments under state law and which have municipalities operating municipal gas systems.
Atty. Gen. Robert Cooper, in an opinion released Tuesday, said the law treats the in-lieu-of tax payments in the two counties differently from other counties, where the municipalities “may” make in-lieu-of tax payments to other taxing jurisdictions but it does so without articulating any “rational basis” for doing so.
The opinion says the state Constitution does not prohibit the state legislature from making distinctions in law based on various classifications of local governments, but does forbid classifications that “contravene some general law which has mandatory statewide classification.” The opinion was requested by state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis.

Senator Seeks Review of K-12, Inc. ‘Virtual School’ in TN

Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, is asking state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to conduct an independent review of the operations of a for-profit virtual school operating under contract with the Union County school system, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.
In a letter to Huffman, sent Wednesday, Berke cites a study released this month by the National Education Policy Center that is critical of K12 Inc.’s national operations based on 2010-11 data.
K12 officials, which opened an online K-8 school with Union County for the 2011-12 school year, take issue with the center’s study. Company spokesman Jeff Kwitowski called it “deeply flawed” and filled with “numerous errors and wrong assumptions.”
Berke, a persistent critic of K12, noted in the letter that Tennessee’s First to the Top Act of 2010, which he co-sponsored, targeted several areas of education reform, including teachers and leaders, data, standards and assessment as well as “school turnaround.”
“The findings in the report indicate that schools operated by K12 Inc. fail in each of these four areas,” Berke said.
…”It will also be subject to the same accountability as other schools” such as priority and focus, Gauthier said. “So when we have school level results” which are likely this fall, “it will [be] part of that puzzle.”
“We think Sen. Berke’s request has merit, and we intend to look closely at the results and report back to him,” she said. “We don’t think AYP is the appropriate indicator, but we do think that we should look at value-added scores and overall achievement scores, and will do so in the coming weeks.”
K12 said the National Education Policy report “provides no evidence backing up this claim” that students managed by K12 are “falling behind” and “more likely to fall behind” in reading and math scores compared to brick-and-mortar schools.

Hawk’s Wife Ordered to Pay $20K to Ex-husband

A federal judge has branded a woman now accusing her legislator husband of domestic violence a deceitful trickster who cyberstalked an ex-husband, doctored emails to make it appear he was an adulterer and secretly changed a prenuptial agreement.
More from Jamie Satterfield:
U.S. Magistrate Judge William B. Carter has issued a ruling in which he assesses Chrystal Goan Hawk $20,000 for violating state and federal wiretapping laws in connection with her prior marriage to Greeneville millionaire James Roy Klumb.
Crystal Hawk is now the wife of state Rep. David Hawk, who represents the 5th District, and, in March, accused him of hitting her and knocking her to the ground. That charge is pending.
Rep. Hawk has insisted his wife was the aggressor, pointing a gun at him as he held their baby daughter. A hearing on the charge was postponed to Sept. 11, well after the Aug. 2 primary in which he faces three Republican challengers. His wife is an attorney and president of the Greene County Republican Women.
Crystal Hawk was fresh out of law school when, in 2004, she began dating Klumb, a Greene County businessman whose family business holdings include the Klumb Lumber Company. The pair wed in 2006.
Both, according to Carter’s opinion, were worried about infidelity. Klumb asked Crystal Hawk to draw up a prenuptial agreement to protect his family interests in the event of a divorce.
According to Carter’s opinion, Crystal Hawk drafted two — one meeting her husband’s wishes and signed by him and a second that would give her a big chunk of her husband’s assets should he cheat. She also drew up two versions of a related document and had her lover, attorney Todd Shelton, take the version benefiting her to be signed off by a judge. It did not appear from the opinion that Shelton knew that document had been altered.
Carter wrote that Crystal Hawk also secretly installed spyware on Klumb’s work computer and diverted email between Klumb and another woman. The email was innocuous, but Crystal Hawk doctored them to make it appear the pair was having an affair, according to Carter.
Although the couple eventually reached a divorce settlement in which Klumb proved the financial victor, Klumb via defense attorney Hugh Ward sued his now ex-wife for violating wiretapping laws through the use of spyware on his computer to snatch his emails.
Carter called Crystal Hawk’s actions “extreme and outrageous.” She also has to pay Klumb’s legal bills.


Note: This expands and replaces the original post.

Forrester: ‘Far-reaching Incompetence’ Warrants Voting Review

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE — With more than 1,000 wrong ballots cast in Shelby County, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged state election officials Thursday to review early voting ballots across the state.
“Republicans have spent the last two years talking about the importance of pure elections and yet they have failed over and over again to protect our voting rights,” Forrester said. “Their far-reaching incompetence and mismanagement has completely undermined our elections and any shred of faith voters may have had left in the process.”
Election officials confirmed to Memphis media that early voters in Shelby County cast more than 1,000 wrong ballots during early voting.
With so many mistakes, state officials should review early voting ballots ahead of the August 2 Primary Election — specifically in districts and precincts that were severely altered by redistricting — and report on the scope and magnitude of the “wrong ballot” mishap.
Initially election officials refused to acknowledge the widespread error, but thanks to the persistence of two concerned citizens, Joe Weinberg and Steve Ross, voters now have an understanding of the problem in Shelby County. So far state officials have failed to address whether the “wrong ballot” oversight is happening elsewhere in Tennessee.
“The taxpayers funding these elections deserve to know whether their vote counted or it was stolen because of incompetence,” Forrester said. “How big is this problem? When will it be fixed? Unfortunately, we don’t know because Elections Coordinator Mark Goins has not publicly addressed the issue that 1,000 wrong ballots were cast on his watch.”
Local election officials say they won’t lift a finger to fix this blunder. The pattern of neglect we see from our election officials is unacceptable.
“From the failed implementation of the voter-suppressing photo ID law to the disenfranchisement of law-abiding voters, we have called on Coordinator Goins multiple times to take some responsibility and fix the problems plaguing our elections, but it appears he’s more interested in playing politics than being accountable to voters,” Forrester said. “While we are proud to live in a state where citizens stand up to a neglectful government, our citizens deserve leaders who will hold themselves accountable for the errors happening under their command.”