Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2014 reelection campaign netted only about a $120,000 gain in the first six months of the year because of expenditures that included payments to three campaign workers who were also on the state’s payroll.
The campaign reported $347,913 in contributions from Jan. 15 until July 1 of this year, along with $226,968 in spending. Thanks to earlier fundraising and an $8,320 carryover from the 2010 campaign, the governor’s re-election fund still had a balance of more than $2 million cash on hand.
The disclosure also shows Haslam is continuing to list $3.5 million that he personally put into the 2010 campaign as a loan to the 2014 campaign, meaning he can use surplus funds from the 2014 effort to repay himself with campaign money if he chooses.
So far, Haslam has no announced opponent to his reelection.
Top donors on the contributor list include Tom Beasley, a founder of Corrections Corporation of America, and his wife, Wendy, and Joseph Gregory of Piney Flats, part of a family that became wealthy through King Pharmaceuticals, and his wife, Lucinda. Each donated $7,600, the maximum permitted by state law for an individual.
Top donation from a lobbyist group during the period was $6,000 contributed by the Nashville lobbying firm of Johnson Poss.
Top expenditure in the period was $27,500 in total payments to Jeremy Harrell, who during the period also served as director of constituent services for the governor’s office. He has been paid $6,943 per month for his state government job, according to a state website listing state employee salaries.
Harrell served as political director and deputy campaign manager of Haslam’s 2010 campaign before assuming his state position after the governor’s inauguration in January, 2011.
David Smith, spokesman for the governor, said Harrell will take unpaid leave from his state job effective today to begin working full-time for the reelection campaign.
“Starting Jan. 16 of this year, when he (Harrell) needed to do some work for the campaign, he would take (temporary) leave without pay,” said Smith.
Two other gubernatorial office staffers, East Tennessee field director Harlow Sumerford and West Tennesee field director Wendy Carter are listed “political staff” receiving payments from the campaign. The positions are part of the constituent services division that has been overseen by Harrell.
In Carter’s case, payments total about about $6,500, including some identified as “wireless service,” an apparent reimbursement for telephone cell service charges. In the case of Sumerford, who was appointed to his government job in April, they total just over $2,000.
“They do a variety of political events after hours and on weekends” when not engaged in state government duties, Smith said.
Both continue in their dual roles, which is a fairly common practice for state employees working for a boss engaged in a campaign for reelection. State law prohibits government-paid staff from doing political work while on state time – an aide to Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, was dismissed last year for allegedly violating the rule – but permits them to spend personal time in campaign activities.
Note: David Smith, in a call after this appeared on the News Sentinel website, points out that while on leave for campaign work earlier this year, Harrell was not drawing his state salary and thus did not make the $6,943 per month salary listed in the story while drawing campaign pay.