By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A national group advocating for a large-scale school voucher program in Tennessee is launching a massive media campaign to persuade lawmakers to expand the program proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
An official familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on Friday that the state chapter of the American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on broadcast television, cable and radio advertising — a vast amount for political advertising or issue advocacy in the state.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the group has not made the amount public.
Haslam told reporters this week that he plans to stick with the narrower plan he proposed in his State of the State address, which he predicted would be “hotly debated” anyway.
Haslam’s proposal would limit the program to 5,000 students in failing schools in the academic year that begins in August, and grow to 20,000 by 2016.
Georgina Vines talks with freshmen legislators about their orientation sessions…. and one who made a trip to Washington for an ALEC meeting, too. “It’s not government civics.”
That’s how newly-elected state Rep. Roger Kane, a Knoxville Republican, described orientation and GOP caucus sessions that he’s attended in Nashville to get ready for when the General Assembly begins meeting in January. The Legislature will have a large freshman class with 22 new House members and six new senators.
Representing the new 89th District in Northwest Knox County, Kane said the GOP caucus session in particular was not something he remembered studying. The vote was done by a secret ballot.
“I thought it would be more of a voice thing,” he said.
….Orientation covered everything from security to offices. A tour of the newly-renovated Capitol was given. Presentations were made by the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“They want us to be prepared so in January everything is not overwhelming and new,” he said.
Democrat Gloria Johnson, elected to represent the 13th District, also attended the sessions.
“As I am still teaching, I haven’t had the time I would like to get familiar with things there, so the day was definitely beneficial for me,” she said.
The Nashville meetings were Nov. 26-27,and then Kane went to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28-30 to attend a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC paid the transportation and expenses at the Grand Hyatt of freshmen legislators, Kane said.
He was the only newly-elected lawmaker from East Tennessee to attend the ALEC program, he said. Johnson did not attend, saying she chose instead to meet with constituents in her district.
…Kane said the group acknowledged it had taken some missteps and planned to focus in areas where it feels it’s the strongest. Its website said ALEC works on the principles of free markets and limited government.
“I’m being inquisitive and figuring out what these groups do for me, how I can be a part of it or not be a part of it,” Kane said.
Virginia Abernathy, an 80-year-old retired Vanderbilt professor, is the focus of a Tennessean story on her role as “an emerging leader of the white supremacist movement.”
Abernethy appears on the Tennessee ballot as running mate to Gatlinburg-area filmmaker Merlin Miller, who is running for president of the United States. They are listed as independent candidates on the Tennesee ballot, but represent the American Third Position Party, or A3P.. The whites-only political party was formed “to represent the interests of White Americans,” according to its website. It has run a handful of candidates for offices as varied as the Mesa, Ariz., City Council and the New Hampshire governor’s office. Republicans in New Hampshire called A3P the party of “despicable racists.”
Abernethy calls all the attention misguided but amusing.
“I think it’s hilarious,” said Abernethy, speaking from the corner office on the Vanderbilt campus that is hers for life as a professor emerita of anthropology and psychiatry. “I’m 104 pounds exactly. I’m punching above my weight, to hear the SPLC tell it.”
She politely would like to set the record straight.
She is not a white supremacist, Abernethy said.
She’s an environmentalist and a scientist. She opposes most immigration. She’s a feminist who helped put an end to Vanderbilt professors calling female medical students “girls.” She’s a Christian and a European-American.
She is also, she said, an “ethnic separatist.”
“Separatism says, ‘Birds of a feather flock together,'” Abernethy said. “I say, ‘Let them.’ What I see is rampant racial discrimination against European-Americans. And I am not in favor of discrimination.
“I see African-American groups and Asian-American groups and I feel that we should respect our identity as European-Americans as well.
“I do not see anything whatever wrong with that.”
Two Tennessee Democratic legislators have resigned from the American Legislative Exchange Council, which this summer is the target of a national campaign from critics contending it has become a secretive, corporate-controlled lobby for conservative causes.
Tennessee Republican legislators attending ALEC’s national convention in Salt Lake City last week, however, say the organization has made them better lawmakers by enhancing an exchange of ideas and information between the public sector and the private sector.
“It’s an organization that promotes the principles on which this country was founded — free markets and free enterprise,” said Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, deputy speaker of the state House, a member of ALEC since 1989 and a member of its national public sector board of directors.
ALEC is largely financed by its private sector members. Two groups leading the anti-ALEC campaign — Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Color of Change — say 30 major corporations have recently abandoned membership, including General Motors and Walgreens last week. Others quitting range from Walmart and Coca-Cola to Amazon and Miller Coors.
There are Tennessee groups critical of ALEC as well.
“We think Tennessee legislators are being bought and paid for by an exclusive network of corporate lobbyists and special interest groups,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action.
A conservative advocacy group says it’s spending almost $1 million on ads to corral support for an upcoming Senate effort to overturn Environmental Protection Agency rules that require cuts in toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants, reports The Hill. Tennessee’s Sen. Lamar Alexander is a top target. American Commitment is running ads starting Friday in four states taking aim at “Obama’s war on coal” — the phrase critics use to allege the EPA rule and other White House policies create costly burdens that will kill jobs and raise power costs.
The ads running in Tennessee, West Virginia, New Hampshire and Maine urge senators to support Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) resolution to overturn the rules that EPA finalized late last year. A vote on Inhofe’s plan is expected as soon as soon as next week.
One of the ads urges Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who opposes outright killing the EPA emissions rules, to change course and support Inhofe’s plan. “Is Senator Lamar Alexander joining Obama’s war on coal? It looks like it,” the ad states, alleging that a vote against Inhofe’s plan is “a vote against Tennessee.”
The West Virginia ad urges Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has frequently broken ranks with the White House on coal policy, to rally colleagues in favor of Inhofe’s plan, stating: “Senator Joe Manchin may vote right, but will he lead others to stand up to Obama?”
The other ads are focused on Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), according to American Commitment.
Inhofe is trying to overturn the EPA rules — which require cuts in mercury and other emissions — using the Congressional Review Act.
In a City Paper article, Steve Hale reviews some of the national controversy swirling around the American Legislative Exchange Council–it’s losing some big corporate sponsors and recently announced a decision to drop past pushing for restrictions on voting and pro-gun bills – as well as ALEC’s Tennessee ties. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, there are 44 Tennessee state legislators with ties to ALEC. The largely Republican list includes the highest-ranking Republican leadership in both chambers of the legislature, but it also names five Democrats.
On a board of directors made up of 15 legislators — with eight more serving on an executive board — two are Republicans from Tennessee: Rep. Steve McDaniel, who has been an ALEC member since 1989, and Rep. Curry Todd, who serves as the state’s public sector chairman.
Each state has a public and private chairperson. Tennessee’s private sector chair is Patricia Cannon. She was formerly the director of state government affairs for pharmaceutical corporation Allergan Inc. According to her LinkedIn profile, she now holds the same position at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.
(Note: A bill to require disclosure of those producing model legislation in Tennessee was killed this year with Todd making the motion to table the measure. Previous post HERE.)
Todd could not be reached for comment and phone calls and emails to an ALEC spokesman were not returned.
After ALEC’s announcement, the group sent out a statement attributed to McDaniel in which he applauded the decision to “refocus [their] efforts.” In an interview with The City Paper, he confirmed his position with the organization as well as Todd’s and Cannon’s. Not surprisingly, his view of ALEC is unfailingly positive.
“Because I believe in the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, personal responsibility and all those things, I think that business ought to be involved with coming up with legislation,” he said. “If you don’t communicate with the people who are creating the jobs and who are being regulated by government, you don’t get a rounded full story of what’s going on. I think ALEC’s a good model to allow that to take place.”
McDaniel said he couldn’t point to a single ALEC bill this session and argued that even when model bills are used in the state, they’re often changed throughout the legislative process to a point where he wouldn’t call them “ALEC bills.”
Along with the aforementioned gun and voter-ID laws, watchdog groups have pointed out parts of the scientific education bill, which Gov. Bill Haslam recently allowed to pass into law without his signature, that mirror sections of an ALEC model bill. Indeed, some language from the model, focused on classroom discussions about climate change, can be found in legislation across the country.
A report from Hank Hayes:
Amid the roar from engines inside Bristol Motor Speedway, a grass-roots conservative group tried outside the track to put the pedal to the metal on increasing voter turnout.
American Majority distributed printed information attacking the federal government’s debt only steps away from its NASCAR Nationwide series show car and five driving simulators inside its tent on BMS’ Vendor Row.
One American Majority card distributed from the tent read: “For too long, the media, Hollywood and entrenched politicians have had a louder voice in shaping the future of this nation than the American people. It’s time to put Americans back in the driver’s seat!”
The Purcellville, Va.-based group is sponsoring a Nationwide series car for more than 30 NASCAR races this year with rookie driver Jason Bowles behind the wheel of a red, white and blue Dodge Challenger.
A renewed effort to grant state recognition to Indian tribes in Tennessee has won approval of a House subcommittee.
The measure proposed by Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, grants recognition to three tribes – the Remnant Yuchi Nation, the Tanasi Council and the United Eastern Lenape Nation of Winfeld – and allows other groups to apply with the Tennessee Native American Council for recognized status.
The council is to evaluate other groups, using criteria set forth in the bill (HB2284) and make recommendations to future General Assemblies..
Similar legislation has failed in the past and in 2010 the now-defunct Tennessee Indian Affairs Commission tried to grant recognition to six tribe. The commission’s action was declared void, however, in a lawsuit brought by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. (Note: Post from back then is HERE.)
An American Research Group, Inc. poll of Tennessee voters finds Rick Santorum — who has had no organized campaign going in the state — leads the three candidates who have had campaigns going at varying as a prelude to the March 6 presidential preference primary.
From the company’s website: Rick Santorum leads the Tennessee Republican presidential primary with 34%. Santorum is followed by Mitt Romney with 27%, Newt Gingrich with 16%, and Ron Paul with 13%.
Santorum leads Romney 36% to 28% among self-identified Republicans, followed by Gingrich with 21% and Paul with 5%. Among self-identified independents and Democrats, Paul leads with 31%, followed by Santorum with 28%, Romney with 25%, and Gingrich with 3%.
Santorum leads Romney 33% to 26% among likely Republican primary voters saying they will definitely vote in the March 6 primary, followed by Gingrich with 18% and Paul with 13%. Santorum leads Romney 36% to 32% among those saying they will probably vote.
Santorum leads with 40% among likely Republican primary voters saying they are supporters of the Tea Party, followed by Gingrich with 21%, Romney with 17%, and Paul with 11%. Among likely primary voters saying they are not supporters of the Tea Party or are undecided about the Tea Party, Romney leads with 34%, followed by Santorum with 29%, Paul with 14%, and Gingrich with 12%.
Santorum leads Romney 30% to 23% among men, followed by Gingrich with 18% and Paul with 16%. Santorum leads Romney 37% to 31% among women, followed by Gingrich with 13% and Paul with 9%.
Lincoln Memorial University has levied charges of antitrust violations at the American Bar Association in a U.S. District Court lawsuit affter receiving an email from the organization denying the university’s law school accreditation.
More from the News Sentinel story:
The lawsuit claims the John J. Duncan Jr. School of Law in Knoxville met all the standards for accreditation but was denied approval by the bar association as a means of limiting the number of law schools and therefore the number of lawyers practicing across the country.
“If you, as an institution, meet the standards and they refuse to accredit us, the only logical inference is they’re trying to keep a law school out of competition,” said Sydney Beckman,vice president and dean of the law school.
The Harrogate-based university is asking the court to grant the school provisional accreditation and $3 million in damages, plus attorneys fees.
The school has also filed an emergency motion seeking a temporary restraining order requiring the bar association to remove the notice on its website informing the public of Lincoln Memorial’s denial and distribute a second notice that its accreditation is instead being held in abeyance until the court rules.
Officials at the American Bar Association declined to comment on the suit Thursday on advice from legal counsel, a spokeswoman said.