On Campfield, Carr and exchanging campaign contributions

State Sen. Stacey Campfield and Rep. Joe Carr a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday they had agreed to exchange campaign contributions but a misunderstanding has left Campfield on the short end of the arrangement – at least temporarily.

Carr’s latest Senate campaign disclosure shows $6,200 in contributions from Campfield – $5,200 in a personal donation and another $1,000 from the senator’s reelection campaign, both dated Dec. 28. Campfield said Carr had told him the senator’s re-campaign would be receiving donations from Carr’s political action committee, Joe PAC. Campfield, in turn, said he agreed to contribute to Carr’s campaign.

Later, however, the senator said he decided – “in the last days before the filing deadline” for disclosure reports – that he would instead “just stay out” of Carr’s Republican primary campaign against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Campfield faces Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs in the GOP primary.

Believing Carr had already sent him the money, Campfield said, he sent money to Carr thinking it would be treated as a refund.

On his own state campaign disclosure, filed in January, Campfield lists the $1,000 sent to Carr’s campaign as a “returned donation.” He said in an interview that he thought of the $5,200 the same way.

As it turned out, however, Carr has not sent any funds to Campfield.

Carr said Tuesday that he still planned to send Campfield $1,000 through Joe PAC but had assumed the $5,200 from Campfield was a straight donation of personal funds. If Campfield wants a refund, however, Carr said it will be sent.

Joe PAC was set up to help Republican candidates for the state Legislature, Carr said, and distributed “almost $100,000” during the 2012 election cycle.
“Stacey is a friend and colleague. I help friends and colleagues,” said Carr.

Carr and Campfield are jointly sponsoring legislation intended to curb crossover voting in primary elections. Both had the bill (HB1884, as amended) scheduled for votes in committees of the House and Senate Tuesday, but in both cases voting was delayed until next week.

The bill requires voters to agree, before casting a primary ballot, with a printed statement declaring: “The party of the primary election that I am voting in most closely represents my values and beliefs.”

In the Senate State and Local Government Committee, the vote was postponed after Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, suggested the wording of the statement could be improved grammatically. Campfield agreed to prepare an amendment revising the language before next week’s meeting.

Carr presents himself as far more conservative than Alexander in his current campaign, leading to speculation that Democratic and independent voters crossing over into the Republican primary might be prone to back Alexander instead of Carr.

Carr said he does not believe there will be any appreciable Democratic crossover voting in the U.S. Senate primary because Democrats will instead want to vote in the contested Democratic primary between Knoxville lawyers Terry Adams and Gordon Ball.

Both men said there was no discussion of Alexander benefiting from crossovers in their planning of the bill. Instead, they say it is intended as a step to make sure that primary election participation is limited to those who sincerely support the party.

Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said there appears nothing in the Carr-Campfield swap to run afoul of Tennessee’s campaign laws, though it could raise a question under federal rules that he is not as familiar with.