House candidate files final report after $10K penalty

Jason Emert, who lost by 28 votes to state Rep. Eddie Smith in last year’s Republican primary for the state 13th House District seat, has been fined $10,000 for failure to file a final campaign finance report with the Registry of Election Finance.

But Emert, who has moved from Knoxville to Lafayette, La., after the loss, filed the missing report a day after the Registry board voted to impose the penalty last week and is now asking the panel to reconsider its action at its next meeting.

In a telephone interview, Emert said he was optimistic that the fine would be at least lowered substantially — as is traditional for the Registry in cases where a candidate provides a missing report and offers an explanation. Emert said the Registry staff was “gracious and courteous” in helping him resolve the matter last week.

Emert said he had attempted to file the fourth-quarter 2014 report online, but apparently did something wrong and it was not received by the Registry. Afterward, Emert said he neglected the matter while busy in relocating to Louisiana with longtime partner Lauren Thibodeaux, a native of the state, and setting up health care business ventures there.

The final report shows Emert put the $4,707 balance remaining in his campaign account after the August primary election toward repaying loans he had made to his campaign. But that still left another $68,000 in loans that have now been written off, according to the report.

Emert got 2,306 votes in the primary. Smith got 2,334 and went on to win the seat in the November general election, unseating former Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is planning another run against Smith in 2016.

The Registry board also got a report Thursday on an audit of Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2014 re-election campaign’s financial disclosures that found only one minor glitch, subsequently corrected.

The audit found the Haslam campaign neglected to report a $98,000 payment due to Tyler Productions in Nashville as an “obligation” in its third-quarter disclosure as it should have done, though it showed up in the fourth-quarter report when the payment was actually made. The campaign has filed an amendment to its third-quarter disclosure that lists the payment as an financial obligation due at the time.

The auditors reviewed a random sampling of Haslam receipts and expenditures; not every item in the voluminous disclosures starting in 2011 and continuing through December 2014. Haslam spent about $5 million on his re-election campaign still has a balance of just over $1 million in the account.

Haslam defeated an array of little-known candidates in both the primary and general elections by landslide margins. Runner-up in the Republican primary was Mark “Coonrippy” Brown of Gallatin, while Charles V. “Charlie” Brown of Oakdale was the Democratic nominee in November. Neither of the Browns reported any contributions or expenditures to the Registry in their campaigns.