Category Archives: campaign finance

Corker hosts TN fundraisers for out-of-state Republicans

Fretting over the possibility of U.S. Senate Republicans losing their majority in Washington, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is sponsoring two political fundraisers for embattled out-of-state incumbents, reports the Times-Free Press.

Corker plans to host an event for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., on Sept. 23 at his Chattanooga home, according to an email sent to potential donors by the Tennessee lawmaker’s fundraiser, Kim Kaegi.

And Corker has enlisted Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to allow another fundraiser to take place on Sept. 26 at the governor’s mansion here in Nashville (to benefit Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.)

…Tickets for “hosts” at each of the noon-time luncheon events are $2,700, while participants pay $1,000 per ticket. The price tag is $5,400 for couples.

“As we enter the last 67 days before the November election,” Kaegi’s email says, “the importance of maintaining a Senate Majority has become a central focus. Senator Corker has committed to hosting two colleagues later this month in TN: Kelly Ayotte at his home in Chattanooga and Marco Rubio at the Executive Residence in Nashville.

“Whether or not you can attend in person, we hope you will consider participating with a financial gift,” Kaegi’s note continues. “Attendance starting at $1,000. The individual giving limit for each is $2,700 per person/$5,400 per couple. Any amount is welcome. Please send checks made payable to each candidate to me at the address below, and we will forward to the campaigns with a note from Senator Corker. Thank you and have a great Labor Day Weekend. – Kim.”

Kaegi also says others “to consider supporting” include U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., with a “Nashville event date pending,” as well as Republican Joe Heck, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Kaegi is the go-to fundraiser for top Tennessee Republican officeholders with a roster of clients including Corker, Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Durham invested campaign funds with political donor

A state campaign finance audit shows Rep. Jeremy Durham invested money from his campaign, his political action committee and his personal bank accounts into the company of well-known Republican donor and activist Andrew Miller, reports the Tennessean.

Miller, who was scrutinized in 2014 after another GOP lawmaker invested money in his company, confirmed Monday he’s been contacted by the state about Durham’s investment.

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, an entity within the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, is investigating whether Durham, R-Franklin, used his campaign funds for personal use or anything else that would be deemed a violation of state law.

“Yes, the state did contact me for clarification on an investment Jeremy’s campaign made. I have provided them that information and they seemed satisfied with our response,” Miller said in an email to The Tennessean.

On Monday, Drew Rawlins, executive director of the bureau, confirmed Miller’s company had provided information. Rawlins said Miller provided details about the amount of money Durham had invested in the company, along with the payouts Durham received from those investments.

Tennessee law states candidates can’t use campaign funds for personal purposes.

…When asked Monday if the information pertaining to these investments showed any illegal activity by Durham, Rawlins said, “We are still looking at it, so I can’t really say yet.”

On Monday, Nashville defense attorney Peter Strianse confirmed he is representing Durham in relation to an investigation by local U.S. Attorney David Rivera into Durham’s use of campaign finances and a possible tax violation. Durham has received two subpoenas, Strianse said. Late Monday, Miller said he has not been contacted pertaining to the federal investigation.

Feds now investigating Durham’s campaign finances

Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into campaign expenditures by embattled Franklin Rep. Jeremy Durham, according to The Tennessean.

Nashville criminal defense attorney Peter Strianse said he was recently retained by Durham.

“The U.S. attorney’s office in Nashville has opened up a matter based on the allegations that were carried in your newspaper,” he said. “I think the government has an open mind about what they’re investigating.”

The federal government has issued two subpoenas to Durham for records related to campaign finance issues and a possible tax violation, Strianse said. He said Durham was complying with those orders.

“Mr. Durham’s going to cooperate fully with their investigation,” Strianse said. “We feel confident once they take a look at the records and understand what happened they’ll see there’s no violation of any law.”

…In June, Drew Rawlins, executive director of the bureau, told The Tennessean it violates state law to use campaign funds for personal purposes.

On Monday, Rawlins confirmed that he talked to the U.S. Attorney but did not provide them with any information from the state’s audit.

“We will not stop our audit because of the U.S. Attorney’s probe,” Rawlins said.

TN GOP lawmakers not opening their wallets to Trump

Excerpt from a Tennessean report on presidential campaign fundraising in Tennessee, which overall shows Hillary Clinton still leading in money collection though Donald Trump has grained ground in the last couple of months:

Not one of the nine Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation – including U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn who had a primetime speaking slot at the Republican National Convention and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who was considered a vice-presidential candidate – have written a check to Trump, a trend that has expanded beyond Tennessee.

Only two Republican members of Congress have donated to Trump, according to a Fortune analysis of his latest campaign contributions.

In Tennessee, Reps. Jeremy Durham, Kelly Keisling and Bill Sanderson and Sen. Mae Beavers, who served as chairman of the state’s delegation to the RNC, are the only lawmakers to give money to the billionaire this election cycle.

By comparison, at this same point in the 2012 election, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney received at total of $24,000 from four of Tennessee’s Republican members of Congress, including Blackburn, and three state lawmakers – House Speaker Beth Harwell and Sen. Jack Johnson and Beavers.

Romney also received two $2,500 donations from Gov. Bill Haslam during the same time period. Although Haslam has not written a check to Trump, his father, James Haslam II, who also donated to Romney in 2012, has given the presidential candidate $2,700.

Clinton, meanwhile, has received $7,700 from five Tennessee Democratic lawmakers – or 15 percent of the 33 seats the party holds between Congress and the state legislature – during the 2016 election cycle.

The Democratic lawmakers to give to Clinton are: U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Reps. Craig Fitzhugh, Harold Love and Raumesh Akbari, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

During the same time period in the 2012 election, President Barack Obama received $2,100 from five Democratic state lawmakers.

Beavers selling Trump stuff for PAC profit

State Sen. Mae Beavers and her husband, Jerry, are selling homemade Donald Trump campaign materials with profits going to Beavers’ political action committee rather than the Republican party or the Trump campaign, reports The Tennessean.

Beavers, who served as a Trump delegate and chair of Tennessee delegation at the Republican National Convention, has a booth at the Wilson County fair this weekend as well as a storefront operation.

Interested buyers will be able to choose from a host of different options ranging from $15 hats and T-shirts to $3 buttons and $5 yard signs.

Although the material, which features Trump and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s name on it, may look official, it was actually printed by the Beaverses.

“My husband and I have purchased it,” she told The Tennessean, explaining that the couple spent $5,000 to print gear that includes camouflage, red, black or blue hats and black and blue T-shirts that go as large as 2XL.

On Friday, Beavers said the fact that she’s selling homemade Trump gear, which she said was all made in the United States, is not an unusual practice.

“Everybody’s doing this all over the state,” she said. Continue reading

Durham campaign audit finds money discrepancy, questionable ‘investments

A $191,000 discrepancy exists between bank records and financial disclosures for Rep. Jeremy Durham’s main campaign finance account, according to a memo from the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance that’s part of an ongoing state investigation.

A further excerpt from The Tennessean report:

Bank records show Durham’s campaign account on March 31 had a balance of $6,857, according to the memo obtained by The Tennessean. But Durham’s first quarter financial disclosure, filed on June 6, states the campaign had $198,254.

“At this time a determination cannot be made as to the accuracy of Rep. Durham’s campaign balance due to investments, failure to report contributions and other transactions,” states the memo, dated Wednesday.

Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, wouldn’t say whether the state found any illegal acts by Durham. But Tom Lawless, chairman of the board, said the memo raises questions.

“There are indications there may be some serious violations, and we want to garner the facts so we can take the appropriate remedies,” Lawless said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The registry, an entity within the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, started investigating Durham in June after the Tennessee attorney general provided a signed statement from a former campaign worker accusing Durham of using campaign funds for his private business. Continue reading

Kaine schedules Nashville fundraiser

Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine has scheduled a high-dollar fundraising event in Nashville for Aug. 23, reports The Tennessean. The dinner and reception will be at Valentino’s Ristorante to benefit Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

An invitation for the Hillary Victory Fund campaign fundraiser obtained by the Tennessean lists a fundraising level of $33,400 per couple to serve as hosts of the event at the West End Avenue restaurant, which is co-owned by prominent Tennessee Democratic fundraiser Bill Freeman. Hosts who haul in that amount a host reception and receive preferred seating.

Attendees are to pay $10,000 a couple for the lower champion level, which includes cocktails and dinner.

Kaine, Clinton’s vice presidential candidate and a U.S. senator from Virginia, came to Nashville three years ago to be the keynote speaker of Jackson Day, the annual fundraiser for the Tennessee Democratic Party.

During the Democratic primary, Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, three times visited Nashville, which is home to Tennessee’s top Democratic donors, including Freeman and attorney Charles Robert Bone, who were both Nashville mayoral candidates last year.

Note: For the presidential campaign thourgh July 15, Clinton has already raised more than $1.8 million in Tennessee, according to the FEC. Trump’s Tennessee fundraising total is at $304,750.

Independent expenditures mostly flopped in legislative races

The outcome of last week’s primary elections in state legislative races were a mixed bag for groups with an education reform agenda in next year’s session of the Tennessee General Assembly, the results perhaps indicating an overall negative for those advocating charter schools and vouchers.

The striking theme in legislative races was that challenged incumbents won in both Democratic and Republican primaries in 44 of 46 contests. The two notable exceptions: The defeats of Rep. Jeremey Durham, R-Franklin, who had suspended his campaign after an attorney general’s report declaring he had sexually harassed 22 women, and Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, who was jailed a few days before the primary for allegedly stealing opponent Mark Lovell’s yard signs.

Both of the losers had been targets for six-figure independent expenditure attacks by PACs oriented to education issues. In Durham’s case, the attack ads were led by Stand For Children, a group focused largely on charter schools, and most of the ads came before the public disclosure of what the attorney general called “sexual interactions” with women and Durham’s campaign suspension. Thus, they may have had little to do with Durham’s landslide loss to challenger Sam Whitson.

Todd, on the other hand, had been targeted with more than $100,000 in attack advertising by Tennessee Federation for Children, which focuses almost exclusively in pushing school vouchers. The returns show Lovell won in early voting, which had ended before Todd’s arrest, which could indicate the early July AFC ads had an impact on the outcome. Continue reading

Sunday column: Independent spenders educating voters?

Speculating on trends on money in Tennessee politics, halfway through the 2016 election season:

In the 2014 legislative elections, the cheapest seat in the House was won by state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, who reported spending a total of $235.38 in winning re-election. In a solidly Democratic district, he had no primary opponent that year, but he did have a token Republican foe who reported spending exactly $200.

The most expensive 2014 House seat, going by total campaign expenditures, went to Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, who spent $270,141 to be re-elected. In a solidly Republican district, he had a primary opponent who was outspent substantially, but no November foe. Continue reading

On uncoordinated Stand for Children spending

Stand for Children’s two political action committees that are spending heavily in Tennessee campaigns this summer – more than $700,000 in the case of an independent expenditure group and about $130,000 in direct donations – tell the Nashville Scene’s Steve Cavendish they don’t coordinate efforts.

Excerpt from the article, entitled “Stop the Dark Money Now:”

So, I called Dan O’Donnell, the Nashville director for the organization, and asked him about the money (in particular a mailer attacking Nashville School Board incumbent Will Pinkston).

“I found out about that when you did,” he said, then went through an explanation. Stand for Children Tennessee PAC, which he works for, is completely separate from the Stand for Children Tennessee Independent Expenditure Committee. Even though O’Donnell’s PAC gave huge donations directly to the campaigns for Thom Druffel, Miranda Christy, Jackson Miller and Jane Grimes Meneely, there was absolutely no coordination between that money and the tens of thousands of dollars spent by a committee controlled by the national office of the same organization. An organization that shares national leadership. And money. And whose address on 18th Avenue South is exactly the same. And spent money on exactly the same candidates.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

I reached out to Krista Spurgin, who was responsible for the spending, which in the case of every candidate but Jackson Miller represented more money than the candidates were able to raise on their own.

“My current title is National Campaigns Director, but I am concurrently serving as the Stand for Children Tennessee IEC Chair,” Spurgin said. So a political operative in Denver, who shares the same leadership as the locals here in Tennessee, is directing hundreds of thousands of dollars into local school board races from a slush fund of charter advocates in Oregon.

If you don’t think this is an erosion of democracy, you’re not thinking about it hard enough. The current campaign finance system, which lets so-called social welfare organizations launder unlimited money from rich interests — in this case money from Walmart and Microsoft billionaires — into local races, is asinine. They are picking candidates who support their worldview and turning on a firehose of attack ads, direct mail and digital marketing.

Note: Previous related post HERE.