Tennessee’s Bill Haslam gets a “worth watching” note in a listing of “Worst governors in America” by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
Thought: Would that be considered a dishonorable mention?
The organization’s review of Haslam mostly questions his lack of transparency and cites recent reports on outsourcing contracts and his involvement with lobbyist Tom Ingram.
Both the CREW news release and the comments on Haslam are reproduced below.
Here’s the news release:
Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its second report examining shady and unethical conduct by the nation’s governors. In compiling the latest edition of its Worst Governors in America report, CREW reviewed the job performance of the governors of all 50 states before identifying the 18 worst. While laws related to ethics, open records, financial disclosure, and campaign finance vary greatly from state to state, CREW found these governors’ actions troubling by any standard.
“CREW’s research reveals many state leaders aren’t always looking out for their constituents’ best interests,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “It seems some governors are more interested in what their states can do for them rather than what they can do for their states.”
The report divides governors into three tiers — those who are the worst of the lot, those whose conduct raises serious questions about their leadership, and those who engaged in some conduct troubling enough to suggest their actions merit close scrutiny.
The six worst are Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
The middle six are Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.
Finally, those governors worth watching are Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Highlights of the report include Gov. Robert McDonnell, currently under investigation by federal and state authorities after he and his family accepted thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from the chief executive of a Virginia dietary supplement company for touting his products; Gov. Rick Perry, who has used multimillion-dollar state programs as slush funds to reward political allies and donors; and Gov. Rick Scott, who proposed an initiative to require drug testing for new state employees and welfare recipients — boosting the profits of a chain of medical clinics he co-founded.
In the course of its investigation, CREW noticed some disturbing trends, namely poorly crafted state ethics laws and a lack of vigorous enforcement that allow governors to abuse their offices with few or no consequences.
Sloan continued, “The problem of our elected leaders using their positions to benefit themselves, their families, and their friends goes well beyond the Capital Beltway.
Some of those named in this report could give Boss Tweed a run for his money.”
Link to the report is HERE.
And here’s the section of the report dealing with Haslam.
TRANSPARENCY Gov. Haslam has repeatedly flouted transparency standards. In one example, Gov. Haslam issued an executive order almost immediately after taking office rolling back financial disclosure requirements for executive branch employees, including the governor. Gov. Haslam’s lack of transparency about his finances has made it difficult to fully assess his conflicts of interest. Since he took office, the state has spent millions of dollars to buy a building from his former business partner, he signed legislation benefitting a former business associate, and the state has funneled business to a real estate services firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, Gov. Haslam invested in before becoming governor. The governor’s aides pushed to increase the size of a state contract with Jones Lang LaSalle without going through a competitive bidding process.
In addition, Gov. Haslam used personal funds to pay a top political advisor, who is also a registered lobbyist, which meant the payments were not a matter of public record. News of the private payments surfaced publicly in May 2013, together with revelations that the consultant, Tom Ingram, lobbied state officials while secretly on the governor’s payroll. Mr. Ingram said he did not lobby the governor directly but appears to have regularly contacted top aides in the governor’s office, including his chief of staff. Mr. Ingram also failed to register as a lobbyist for a client on whose behalf he lobbied state government. In addition, e-mails show Mr. Ingram engaged in campaign work for Gov. Haslam while he was being privately paid, which may violate state laws requiring campaign expenses to be reported on disclosure forms. In June 2013, Gov. Haslam said he would begin paying Mr. Ingram through his campaign.
MISMANAGEMENT A federal judge ruled Gov. Haslam overstepped his authority and impinged on First Amendment rights when he imposed a curfew leading to the arrest of Occupy Nashville protesters.
PARTISAN POLITICS In May 2011, Gov. Haslam signed controversial legislation requiring voters to show photo identification, though a few months later, even before the law took effect, expressed concern that the new requirement would make it “unnecessarily hard” for some people to vote. In 2013, Gov. Haslam signed a subsequent bill prohibiting voters from using photo identification issued by counties, municipalities, or other states when voting in person.