On Gov. Haslam’s Latest Non-Disclosure

As a high-profile FBI investigation of Gov. Bill Haslam’s lucrative family business grinds on, a loophole in Tennessee law is increasing the secrecy that has long surrounded his personal wealth, reports the Commercial Appeal.
The scope and detail of Haslam’s assets are largely missing from his most recent Statement of Disclosure of Interests, an annual accounting of investments and income that elected officials are required to make public.
That’s because, much as former Gov. Phil Bredesen before him, Haslam created a blind trust that shields most of his vast financial portfolio from pubic disclosure. Haslam is acting in accordance with a state law that allows legislators, the governor and members of his cabinet to keep assets off disclosure forms when those assets are part of a blind trust.
The difference in the degree of disclosure is stark for Haslam, whose family business, Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J, is ranked by Forbes as the nation’s sixth largest privately owned company with $29.2 billion in annual sales:
As a candidate in 2010, Haslam listed 250 separate investments worth $10,000 or more.
In his latest disclosure, filed April 5, he listed only 11 such investments.
…Tennessee’s blind trust exemption to financial disclosure requirements appears much less restrictive than ones governing federal executive branch employees and public officials in Florida.
Federal law requires a member of the executive branch with a blind trust to estimate the worth of that trust by listing a range of its value.
Even more stringent, a bill signed last week by Florida Gov. Rick Scott requires public officials there to list the full value of a blind trust. In addition, Florida law requires public officials who form a blind trust to give a public accounting of individual assets placed in the trust.
Tennessee has no such requirements, said Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
Consequently, Haslam’s latest disclosure simply lists “Haslam Blind Trust,” as one of a handful of investments and sources of income along with Campbell’s name and address as trustee.
…In addition to the blind trust, Haslam’s April 5 disclosure lists 11 investments, including Pilot and three real estate ventures, Hasbitt II, Hasbitt III and LVL Properties. The report lists a new investment in an entity called Lost Valley Ranch Corporation. Details were unavailable.
He lists nine sources of income, including his gubernatorial salary, which he returned, Pilot, and PTC, Inc., a Pilot venture. State law requires office holders to list sources of income of $200 or more and investments worth at least $10,000 but doesn’t require a specific figure.
In contrast, Haslam’s 2010 disclosure of sources of income and investments covered 12 pages,.
…Bredesen…said he doesn’t recall the blind trust exemption being added to his bill (in 2006), but said he long considered financial disclosure requirements for the executive branch to be “extremely light.” That’s why he issued an executive order requiring the governor and top aides to disclose how much income they earn. Under that order, Haslam, who made a fortune in health care, disclosed he earned $7.8 million in 2007, for example.
However, Haslam rescinded Bredesen’s executive order when he took office in January 2011 and the rule no longer applies.

Leave a Reply