WASHINGTON (AP) — A shadowy Tennessee company donated more than $5 million to a prominent conservative super political action committee days after establishing itself.
So who’s behind one of the largest batches of election contributions this year? There’s a questionable trail.
Campaign finance reports filed late Thursday show that the political committee, FreedomWorks for America, received seven donations totaling $5.28 million from Knoxville-based Specialty Group Inc. The money, which accounted for about 90 percent of FreedomWorks for America’s donations during the first 15 days of October, is helping pay for TV ads supporting conservative candidates for federal office.
An Associated Press review of Tennessee business records showed that Specialty Group filed its incorporation papers on Sept. 26, less than a week before it gave several contributions to FreedomWorks worth between $125,000 and $1.5 million apiece. The Specialty Group appears to have no website detailing its products or services. It is registered to a suburban Knoxville home.
Specialty Group’s opaque contributions provide another example of the marked changes to the campaign finance system, in which corporations and individuals can spend unlimited sums of money to support candidate. Major donors, including those to a super PAC benefiting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have been caught routing significant donations through corporate entities, effectively cloaking their identities.
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Corrections Corporation of America has expressed interest in buying a state-owned prison southwest of Nashville as part of a strategy it’s pitching to most state governments as a partial cure to their budget shortfalls, according to The Tennessean.
The private prison operator has set aside $250 million to embark on the national effort. In informal conversations with state corrections officials in Tennessee in recent weeks, Nashville-based CCA cited South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tenn., as a possible target.
“(State) officials have been intrigued and want to learn more, but that has been the extent of the conversation so far,” said Tony Grande, chief development officer with CCA.
Last month, the company sent letters to 48 states informing them of the initiative. In the letter, CCA said it’s trying to replicate what it considers a successful deal last year involving the 1,798-bed Lake Erie Correctional Facility in Conneaut, Ohio, which CCA acquired in exchange for a 20-year contract to manage that prison plus other guarantees.
Steve Owen, a CCA spokesman, said the company plans to follow up with other states to make them aware of the company’s new program and possible cost savings.
By Adrian Sainz,Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kara Middleton and three other Occupy Memphis protesters huddled together in a small tent on a cold, rainy afternoon, wearing jackets and trying to keep their shelter from blowing away as wind gusts strafed the tree-lined downtown square.
They are part of a small but well-organized group that has planted itself in Civic Center Plaza just steps from City Hall and a federal building that holds the office of the U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee. They are airing grievances against their government, weeks after the Occupy Wall Street movement began protests in New York. The numbers in Memphis vary from a handful to up to 100 at different times of day.
Middleton and her Memphis partners were completing a live Internet stream from their location, where Occupy Memphis has set up signs emblazoned with words of protest, sleeping tents and assigned areas for their various “working groups” to meet. While they have different complaints, many say that the government no longer represents the majority of U.S. citizens, what they call “the 99 percent.”
“What I would really like to see is the representatives that we elect, that they go to Washington to actually represent us and they don’t represent corporations, that they vote for the people and they vote according to what we want instead of what money interests want,” said Middleton, 41.
The official “occupation” of the plaza began Oct. 15.
There are other occupy efforts in Tennessee. Marches have been held in Knoxville, Johnson City and Nashville. A few dozen protesters in Nashville have been camping at Legislative Plaza across the street from the state Capitol since holding an initial rally there on Oct. 6.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has been awarded a $1 million grant to fund innovative ways to improve the state’s college completion rates.
Gov. Bill Haslam joined other state education officials Monday in making the announcement that Tennessee is one of 10 states to receive a grant from Complete College America, a national nonprofit organization. Thirty-three states applied for the grant.
Tennessee will use the funds to focus on three areas: help students determine the courses they need to earn their degree, develop tools for students and campuses to evaluate and award credit for prior learning and provide technical assistance to help institutions achieve their specific completion targets.
The Republican governor says the grant, in addition to other education reforms the state has implemented or proposed, shows “Tennessee really is trying to push forward.”
Note: The Haslam handout is below.
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A national organization working to curb Muslim influence has nine chapters in Tennessee, reports The Tennessean, and the one based in Nashville is the largest in the country.
ACT! for America sums up its mission in four words: “They must be stopped.”
The “they” in question are Muslims, who ACT! for America’s leaders insist are involved in a stealthy jihad to destroy the United States from the inside out, replacing the Constitution with the Islamic legal code known as Shariah. The Virginia Beach, Va.-based national nonprofit claims 150,000 members and spreads its message through books, websites, radio ads, cable television and the work of local chapters.
It has become a potent political force in Nashville, home to the largest ACT chapter in the nation. Local members have opposed new mosques and lobbied for laws limiting Islamic influence — including a new state anti-terrorism law that originally referenced Shariah law.
Their message appeals to Bible Belt Christians, who fear that Islam and secularization threaten their way of life, and Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel, who see Muslims as the enemy of that nation. Members point to the 2009 case of Carlos Bledsoe, a Muslim convert and former Tennessee State University student who confessed to murdering an Army recruiter in Little Rock.
…ACT has nine chapters in Tennessee: Middle Tennessee — based in Nashville — Cleveland, Hermitage, Jackson, Lebanon, Knoxville, Memphis, Morristown and Niota. Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a Boston-based anti-Islam group, said he’s not surprised that ACT has caught on in Middle Tennessee.
“The extent to which ACT has been successful in Nashville reflects its strong leadership nationally and locally and the frustration of many citizens with the failure of Nashville’s civic leadership and the media to deal with this threat,” he wrote in an email.