In the aftermath of House-Senate hostility at an end of the legislative session, the Senate Republican Caucus has decided to terminate a joint fundraising operation with the House Republican Caucus.
For years, the two GOP legislative caucuses have combined for fundraising to form the Tennessee Republican Caucus, which would solicit contributions and host events. The joint caucus then paid the fundraising costs and split the remaining money between the House Republican Caucus and the Senate Republican Caucus.
In the past two years, reports filed with the Registry of Election finance show the House Republican Caucus has received checks totaling $460,465 from the arrangement; the Senate Republican Caucus $425,590.
The Tennessee Republican Caucus still had a balance of $123,000 in the last report it filed, dated Jan. 25. That will now apparently be split between the House and Senate.Republicans as the arrangement ends.
The parting of fundraising ways, initially reported by The Tennessee Journal, follows what the political newsletter describes as a “legislative fiasco” on the final day of the 2013 session.
The House killed one of Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s top priorities of the year, a bill overhauling the state’s judicial districts for the first time since 1984. In what some described as retaliation, the Senate then killed House Speaker Beth Harwell’s top priority of the year, a bill giving a state board power to authorize creation of charter schools even when a local school board reject an application.
Ramsey has also decided to stop helping Republican representatives raise money except Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, the Journal said. Ramsey lives in Hill’s House district.
In the past, Ramsey has offered fundraising aid to multiple House Republicans, including two outspoken opponents of his judicial redistricting plan, Reps. Bill Sanderson of Kenton and Tim Wirgau of Buchanan.
Asked for comment, both Harwell and Ramsey replied by email.
“The Senate made a decision to end the joint fundraising efforts,” said Harwell. “That decision is fine with the House. I have a good working relationship with the lieutenant governor and all members of the state Senate and look forward to working with them on other projects.”
“I have many good friends in the state House and will continue to maintain those friendships,” said Ramsey, declaring the 2013 highly successful despite the speaker spat. “I look forward to working closely with Speaker Harwell and members of the state House to ensure the Republican majority’s strong record of success continues.”
Harwell and Ramsey have apparently not met since the session ended on April 20, though each has separately met for lunch with Gov. Bill Haslam.
The Journal reports there is also unhappiness within Republican legislator ranks over the House’s failure to approve a Ramsey-backed bill that would substantially increase the amount of money partisan caucuses can give to legislative candidates – from $40,000 to $150,000 in the case of a Senate candidate; from $30,000 to $75,000 for a House candidate. The bill fell two votes shy of passage in the House with Harwell declining to vote one way or the other, along with seven other Republicans.
Some Senate Republicans were also said to be miffed at learning the state Republican party last year set up a special “Governor’s Leadership Fund” to make donations to House Republican candidates.