Ingram may not lobby Haslam, but does lobby top staff

Gov. Bill Haslam has insisted that Tom Ingram, a lobbyist who gives him private advice for an undisclosed fee, does not lobby him on behalf of other clients. But WTVF reports that Haslam administration emails show Ingram clients had “enormous access” to the governor’s top advisers.
The story’s prime example is Chris and Andrea Ball, who had been cited in 2012 for operating a staff leasing company without a license, the station says. They showed up at a bill-signing ceremony shortly afterwards and a Tennessean headline on a story reprting this asked, “Who Invited This Couple?”
At the time, Haslam aides told reporters it was a mystery who invited the couple to attend the signing of a bill that regulated staff leasing companies.
But emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show Haslam’s administration was well aware of the couple. The Balls had hired Ingram.
His firm sent regular updates about the Balls to the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate.
…In March 2012, Marcille Durham of the Ingram Group sent an email to Cate, “Andrea Ball would very much like to visit with you, however briefly, regarding the Department of Insurance action that is driving her out of business.”
Cate responded that he talked with the Department of Insurance Commissioner and is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
In April 2012, Ingram emailed Mark Cate about the Ball’s company, “Is there anytime today or tomorrow I can talk again about HR Comp Employee Leasing LLC.  This is a very troubling case.”
A month after that, the Balls appeared at the bill signing.
Then in July 2012, Durham complained to Cate about a specific “fraud investigator” with the state. She was concerned about the “level of  surveillance” on the Balls company.
Cate asked to be “kept in the loop.”
The emails show a level of access likely to make other lobbyists envious.
Ingram and his firm communicated regularly with Cate, even when he was on vacation in the Bahamas and on holiday weekends.

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