Mike McWherter: Haslam has created a ‘culture of corruption’

Mike McWherter, the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor who lost to Republican Bill Haslam, told Roane County Democrats last weekend that he’s not running against Haslam in his bid for reelection next year. But he blasted the incumbent for creating a “culture of corruption” within state government.

In the speech, McWherter links the federal investigation of Haslam-family-controlled Pilot Flying J and the seven guilty pleas by its former employees to “corporate fraud” charges with the Haslam administration’s approval of a trio of contracts with companies having some sort of tie to administration officials.

McWherter, currently a member of the TVA board of directors, harkens back to things he said in the 2010 campaign – deploring, for example, Pilot “price gouging,” which was depicted by Haslam then as basically honest mistakes, long since corrected – as exemplifying “a culture of corruption which management, at the very best, allowed.”

The federal investigation, he says, shows more of the same is afoot in the company.

“Now this same culture of corruption is invading state government at its highest level,” McWherter said in his prepared remarks,

Here’s the text of McWherter’s speech as provided after an inquiry (with editing in the form of inserting paragraph marks and correcting what seemed a typographical error):

Thank you for that nice introduction.

It is a privilege and an honor to be with you today. Some of you may not realize the significance of this gathering, but this has historically been the event where a democrat who is seeking the nomination for governor or who has been through the primary and has become the nominee would be appearing to kick off their campaign.

So, this event has a huge amount of history behind it. With all that said, I want to make clear that although I am delighted to be here, I am not a candidate for governor in 2014.

At this time I am not sure who that nominee will be for Governor or Senator, but I want to say that whoever emerges – and someone will – they’ll have my full support.

I hope those nominees will be persons who are willing to be fully disclosed in their financial dealings. Disclosure is so important for the people’s trust.

Candidates who won’t disclose, have something to hide. That’s because they have something to fear the public knowing. If you remember, the very first official act of the Governor upon being sworn in, was to repeal the disclosure rules for himself and his cabinet.

After claiming he was a founder in building Pilot Oil Company to its present form, and even claiming he was President of Pilot Oil, he still refuses to come clean with Tennesseans about his finances that involve Pilot.

Now we are in a situation where our present Governor’s company (Haslam’s company in which he claims to have helped build), has at present, at least 7 people who have plead guilty to corporate fraud.

A culture of corruption which management, at the very least, allowed. They profited by cheating their customers.

These are the same people who gouged those fleeing north from the hurricanes. They gouged them in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and even as far north as Kentucky as they were seeking refuge for their families from the flood waters.

Now this same culture of corruption is invading state government at the highest level. Pilot Corporation may not admit guilt for price gouging these refugees, but they don’t deny it either.

These are difficult statements, but someone has to address the facts here.

We have a situation where the company Bridgestone which was headed by the Commission of Finance, who has since fled the country to Spain, got the contract to perform all maintenance for state vehicles.

We have a situation where the Commission of General Services, who has since resigned, gave acompletely non-bid contract to furnish cars to the State of TN. That has never been done in the modern history of Tennessee.

We have a situation where the Governor was an investor in a company they employed to lease space for the State of TN – Jones Lang LaSalle. Come on! – that is just wrong!

Ladies and gentlemen, the people of TN deserve better government. This has never been a state where the leadership – in this case, Republicans, have enabled the wealthy to profit from the taxpayers. It is up to you to help inform voters what is going on. Talk to people – let them know what is going on.

Working families are busy raising children, supporting schools, paying bills, taking care of elderly parents. Because their lives are so busy, it makes them vulnerable to being taken advantage of – they don’t have time or the resources to protect themselves from being taken advantage of. They are simply trying to get through each day, and they do not have time to research.

The lack of media coverage gives freedom to those who would take advantage. That is why it is up to us to help inform. We must be vigilant and vocal if we are going to protect a future in this state for our children.

That is my challenge to you. If the voters of this state understand the culture of corruption being brought on them, they will react, but it is up to us to inform them.

I am willing to do my part, I hope you will join me for the sake of our working families of this state.

Thank You