Ingram no longer a paid consultant to Haslam

Veteran political operative Tom Ingram has confirmed that he’s no longer serving as a paid consultant to Gov. Bill Haslam, ending a financial relationship that dates back to 2009.

“We’re still friends and I’d do anything I could to help him personally,” Ingram said in an interview.

He declined comment on reports the move was sparked by the governor refusing to follow Ingram’s advice on some matters, including Insure Tennessee. Ingram said he decided it was best to end official consulting “to avoid any issues or questions.”

As founder and leader of the Nashville-based Ingram Group, a public relations and lobbying firm, Ingram is also a registered lobbyist for 16 clients during the 2015 legislative session, according to Tennessee Ethics Commission filings.

Haslam initially retained Ingram, who has also acted as political advisor to U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, when he initially began campaigning for governor in 2009. After the election, Haslam shifted from paying Ingram through his campaign account to paying an undisclosed fee with personal funds.

In 2013, former Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester filed a complaint with the Registry of Election Finance contending that Haslam paying Ingram for advice with personal funds was, in effect, self-financing of a campaign that should be publicly disclosed. The Registry dismissed the complaint on a 3-1 vote, but Haslam began paying Ingram through campaign funds, rather than personal funds, once his re-election effort got underway in late 2013.

The Haslam campaign wrote its last $10,000 check to the Ingram Group in December, records show.

In a new report filed last week and covering the first six months of this year, through June 30, the Haslam campaign reported no itemized post-election contributions while spending $243,475, leaving a cash-on-hand balance of $1,045,923.

An email request to Haslam staff for comment on termination of Ingram’s paid consulting service and elaboration on some campaign expenditures brought no response last week. The single biggest expenditure was $98,000 paid to Tyler Productions for “professional services” — perhaps presumably production of videos promoting Haslam initiatives such as “Tennessee Promise,” “Drive to 55” and “Reconnect Tennessee” that appear on the governor’s website.