Monthly Archives: July 2014

Alexander poll: Alexander 53 percent, Carr 24, Flinn 5

A poll done by an adviser to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander shows the senator holding a 29-point lead in the Republican primary, according to The Tennessean.

Alexander stands at 53 percent in a ballot test conducted July 27-29 by North Star Opinion Research, an adviser to the Alexander campaign. State Rep. Joe Carr, whom Ingraham campaigned last week, stands at 24 percent, and Memphis physician George Flinn stands at 5 percent.

The campaign released the results at The Tennessean’s request Wednesday. A previous poll, taken before Ingraham’s visit and before an endorsement of Carr by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, showed Carr trailing Alexander by 32 percentage points.

Carr says the race is much closer. He cites a poll taken earlier this month on behalf of Tea Party Nation that showed him 7 percentage points behind Alexander.

According to North Star, 17 percent of like Republican voters were undecided or refused to respond. North Star president Whit Ayres said in a summary memo that undecided voters typically break disproportionately toward the challengers, but “even if that occurs, Senator Alexander’s lead is sufficient to produce a comfortable margin of victory.”

Yes, Ol’ Tom is retiring (or semi-retiring) today

The News Sentinel had a farewell luncheon for me yesterday, the highlight being presentation of a Charlie Daniel cartoon drawing of yours truly with a caption saying, “Remember, it’s Humphrey on the Hill, not Humphrey over the hill.”

I will continue the blog and writing a Sunday column for the News Sentinel, plus some other stuff from time to time. I’ll also be helping out a bit at The Tennessee Journal. So I’ll still be around, just not quite as busy as in the past 30 years of working for the News Sentinel as a fulltime employee.

Some fellow bloggers have had kind things to say about my exit from the fulltime scene, including fellow KNS blogger Frank Munger HERE and Knoxviews HERE.

The Nashville Scene, HERE, raises the question of who will follow me in the News Sentinel Nashville position. The answer, at the moment, is no one. The position is frozen and the CA’s Rick Locker will be sending stuff to the KNS as well as the CA on a more regular basis. That has developed in the last week or so, since Tom Chester talked with Steve Cavendish, who penned the piece and who once was a very good student in a journalism class I taught.

And I’ve had many folks wishing me well. Thanks to everyone who has done so.

Judge orders mediation in Pilot Flying J lawsuit

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered mediation in a lawsuit targeting the truck-stop chain owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

The suit claims Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J fraudulently withheld fuel rebates and discounts from customers. Pilot earlier settled similar claims in a class-action lawsuit for $85 million. A few companies opted out of that settlement.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/1uKOqe1) that some plaintiffs’ attorneys this week objected to the ordered mediation. They said they need to take discovery first to determine what was stolen from their clients.

A Pilot attorney disagreed, saying an audit provided by the company gives an “absolutely full picture” of the damages.

Pilot also recently agreed to pay a $92 million penalty to avoid criminal charges against the company.

Corporate ownership of KNS, CA changing

CINCINNATI – The E.W. Scripps Co. will say goodbye to newspapers, including the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and hello to radio in a merger and spinoff transaction with the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper.

Further from the report appearing in the News Sentinel

The deal calls for Milwaukee-based Journal Communications Inc. to merge its 13 television stations and 35 radio stations into Cincinnati-based Scripps. Both companies will spin off their newspaper assets into a new publicly traded company, Journal Media Group.

The deal is subject to the approval of shareholders and regulators. It is expected to close in 2015.

The newly formed newspaper company will be based in Milwaukee, employ about 3,600 and generate annual revenue of more than $500 million. The deal will make Scripps the nation’s fifth-largest independent broadcasting company. It will remain in Cincinnati and be controlled by the Scripps family.

The boards of both companies have approved the transaction. The Scripps family has agreed to relinquish its 130-year control of Scripps newspapers as part of the deal.

“We are excited about what this merger offers. These are two great companies with strong journalistic and business traditions,” News Sentinel Publisher Patrick Birmingham said. “The new arrangement will allow the newspaper company to focus what newspapers do best, serving the information needs of their communities while reinventing themselves for the digital future.”

The leader of Scripps’ newspaper division, Tim Stautberg, will be CEO of the newly formed newspaper company, while Journal Communications CEO Steve Smith will be its non-executive chairman.

Stautberg said the company will be a “focused local media business with a print tradition” that will have the ability to expand beyond its 14-market footprint following the merger.

“I think it’s Scripps’ way of giving its newspapers the best opportunity to enter a new chapter of their life, free of debt, free of substantially all of the pension obligations,” Stautberg.

TDOT shelves 13 road projects, Haslam calls for conversation

Facing cuts of more than $850 million for Tennessee highway and infrastructure improvements, state and local leaders are bracing for potentially catastrophic economic effects that could put at least 1,000 jobs at risk and slow the state’s economy, reports The Tennessean.

Unless Congress intervenes with money to refresh the soon-to-be depleted Highway Trust Fund, federal transportation leaders will shut off funding to state agencies by Aug. 1, triggering cutbacks across the nation.

While the House on Tuesday voted in favor of a short-term measure that would contribute about $11 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, Senate leaders have yet to vote for the funding measure.

Ahead of potential cutbacks, Tennessee transportation officials have shelved the start of 13 road projects totaling more than $200 million from fiscal year 2014 until 2015.

Those 13 projects would be just the start of cutbacks if TDOT’s budget drops from $1.8 billion to about $900 million because its federal funding is cut.

At a ribbon-cutting event Wednesday to mark the opening of the newly widened Mack Hatcher Parkway in Franklin, Gov. Bill Haslam said changes in how the trust fund gets money from gasoline taxes must be made.

“There’s a conversation that needs to be had on the national level as well as the state level about how we’re going to fund roads going forward,” Haslam said. “I think anybody who thinks we can keep doing what we’re doing now and get the same quality that we have now is kidding themselves.”

…To potentially solve the problem, Sen. Bob Corker announced a plan to increase the gasoline tax by 12 cents. Haslam says Corker’s plan is a great “starting place” for possible change.

Fleischmann bashes Wamp; Wamp bashes Fleischmann

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s campaign is launching its fourth television attack ad in about two weeks against Republican challenger Weston Wamp today, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

The ad, set to run in the Chattanooga and Knoxville markets, criticizes Wamp’s involvement in an insurance brokerage company launched by Wamp’s employer that connects clients with Affordable Care Act health plans.

“Weston is founding director of a company invested in Obamacare. Why would he criticize the president when Obama is making him money?” the Fleischmann ad asks.

Meanwhile, Wamp has a new TV spot, too. It bashes Fleischmann for flooding the airwaves with political attacks.

“So Chuck Fleischmann’s running negative TV ads … again. But we’re not slowing down. There’s too much to get done, and right now, nobody’s doing it,” the Wamp ad script says.

Wamp works for Lamp Post Group, a startup incubator in Chattanooga that has helped fund and launch dozens of companies. He consults with startup companies on marketing and press strategies.

The new Fleischmann ad seeks to convince conservative voters that Wamp would not oppose President Barack Obama or the ACA because one of those companies is American Exchange. The Chattanooga-based insurance brokerage group makes its money by connecting people with subsidized health insurance made possible by the health care law.

Alexander acknowledges Joe Carr’s existence — by attacking him in mailer

From a Michael Collins story:

With the primary just days away, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election campaign is doing something it has avoided doing for months: It is finally acknowledging the existence of Republican challenger Joe Carr.

Alexander’s campaign is attacking Carr by name for the first time in a flier sent to voters in several Middle Tennessee counties where Carr is presumed to have his strongest support.

The two-page pamphlet, which began showing up in voters’ mailboxes Wednesday, contrasts Alexander’s record with Carr’s and points out that Carr voted for the Common Core education standards as a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. Carr now opposes Common Core and has made it one of the tenets of his Senate campaign.

“Can We Trust Joe Carr in the United States Senate?” asks the flier, a copy of which was obtained by the News Sentinel.

The handbill, distributed a week before the Aug. 7 election and on the heels of an Alexander internal poll showing the two-term senator with a 32-point lead, marks a shift in strategy for his campaign. Though Carr has pounded Alexander relentlessly throughout the campaign, Alexander has mostly ignored him and has refused to even mention him by name until now.

Alexander’s campaign said the flier is an attempt to clear up misinformation about his record.

“We’re setting the record straight because some of Sen. Alexander’s opponents are trying to confuse voters about his record,” said his campaign spokesman, Brian Reisinger. “Lamar is going to be senator the next six years, and we wanted to be sure voters in some Middle Tennessee counties were clear about his record.”

Note: Carr’s responsive news release is below.
Continue reading

Rep. Matthew Hill under attack for dealings with brother legislator

Phil Carriger, challenging Rep. Matthew Hill in the House District 7 Republican primary, has a new ad contending that the House Local Government Committee chairman and his family have engaged in “unethical campaign practices,” reports WJHL TV. Hill says the ad is despicable and shows Carriger is “in the mud.”

However, a review of the Hills’ campaign finance filings over the years shows Carriger’s claims are based on facts.

The ad, called Fishy Family Finances, among other things accuses Rep. Hill of taking thousands in campaign contributions and steering that cash into his family’s businesses.

“Politics really is the family business in more ways than one,” the ad says.

Carriger says he’s not accusing the Hills of doing anything illegal, but he does feel “there are conflicts there.”

“From the evidence it looks like they’re getting this PAC money in and they’re running it through the companies they own and then do the marketing for the campaigns,” Carriger said. “It looks to me like the Hill family is getting some income through their PACS coming through their companies.”

Our review of campaign finance filings shows Rep. Hill has given two family businesses, both of which are now run out of homes, a lot of money from his campaign over the years. In fact, those disclosures suggest if Hill wasn’t in office those two companies likely wouldn’t have received $49,696.13 in business over the years.

One of those businesses is Sterling Strategies. “This is a PR company that my brother owns,” Hill said.

Rep. Timothy Hill says he runs Sterling Strategies out of his home in Blountville. Timothy says the “boutique” company he created in college now has five to 10 customers a year…”It’s mostly PR and advertising… We have also done fundraising. I have done mailers and fundraising for multiple candidates across the state…we’ve done video production.”

From 2008 to 2012, his brother has remained one of those customers. Records show since 2008 Matthew has paid the company $34,430.47 for a variety of campaign services including advertising, professional services, fans, fundraising and radio advertising.

Right Way Marketing is the second company in question. “I own a minor percentage of it, but Timothy is the one that runs this,” Hill said. That may be true now, but his 2014 statement of disclosure of interests reveals Matthew was the director of the mostly campaign-based marketing company up until April of this year.

Tennessee Conservative Union leaders back all three Supremes

News release from Tennessee Conservative Union:
The leadership of the Tennessee Conservative Union voiced their support for Tennessee Supreme
Court Justices Gary Wade, Sharon Lee and Cornelia Clark in the upcoming retention election. TCU Chairman Lloyd Daugherty and Executive Director Kelvin Moxley cited the justices’ fidelity to the state and federal constitutions as sufficient reason to retain the three members of Tennessee’s highest court.

“Both Kelvin and I believe that partisan politics should not be a part of judicial selections. The current effort to unseat these three fine jurists is not borne out of some notion of a continued pattern of power usurpation or rogue judicial conduct. Indeed, the stated reasons for opposing them have nothing to do with their rulings or conduct,” said Daugherty.

Daugherty said, “Partisan politics should not enter into the court system. To allow such undermines the rule of law that is so vital to an orderly and civil society and launches us down a road traveled by Boss Crump and Tammany Hall where justice is dispensed based on what political party you support.”

TCU has always looked favorably upon conservatives of all stripes, whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, who support and advance conservative policies and respect for the Constitution. There are a lot of new people involved in politics, and they need to look back at TCU’s record. TCU has shown that the old way of choosing good judges can work.

While we realize that this position is different from our dear friend Ron Ramsey (who will be inducted into the TCU Conservative Hall of Fame) and Lt. Governor Ramsey has accomplished an amazing amount for conservatives, we also recognize that when one party holds all the power, whether it is Republican or Democrat, problems will arise.

In 1996, the Tennessee Conservative Union led the fight against sitting Supreme Court Justice Penny White over her failure to uphold the death penalty and the constitution. She subsequently lost the retention vote and was removed from the court. We do not see this sort of rejection of the Constitution by this court, thus can see no reason not to retain these three justices.

TCU is the oldest conservative organization in the state, and was founded during the Reagan primary campaign of 1976.

How to vote ‘no’ on Supremes: Instructional video passed along by Ramsey

Below is a copy of a message sent to those who have signed up for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s emailing, including the video — produced, as you’ll note, by Tennessee Forum — that goes with it:

Dear Friend,

Earlier this year I started an educational effort to inform voters, victims rights advocates, the law enforcement community and business leaders about our opportunity in August to change the Supreme Court. The response to that effort has been outstanding. A group called the Tennessee Forum began a grassroots movement, victim’s rights advocates are speaking out and even the Republican State Leadership Committee is spreading the message.

The word is out that Judges Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade are liberal Democrats who don’t share our Tennessee values. It is now time for action. That is why this video is so important. Early voting is going on right now and the ballot is very long. Voters need to know exactly how to throw these liberals out.

So, if you want a conservative court that interprets the law and does not legislate from the bench, please SHARE this video. Email it to your address book, post it on Twitter and share it on Facebook. Show it at family gatherings. Whatever you can do. Spread the word. Let your conservative friends know exactly how to vote REPLACE.

Share this video and tell everyone to vote REPLACE on Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade.

Sincerely,

Ronald L. Ramsey
Lieutenant Governor
Speaker of the Senate