A poll sponsored by an organization promoting expanded background checks for gun purchases found that 67 percent of Tennessee voters surveyed support the idea while 26 percent oppose it.
The survey of 500 Tennessee registered voters, taken May 22-23, was conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Americans United for Change. Similar results were found in surveys of Arkansas and Georgia voters, a news release says, indicating “even in dark red states there’s strong, bipartisan support for expanded background checks.”
A Vanderbilt University poll, conducted earlier in the month, asked Tennessee voters if they supported criminal background checks for gun purchasers and 90 percent said they do.
— Note: The PPP poll news release is below.
At least nine state legislators have signed up for a trip next month to Azerbaijan and Turkey that is financed by groups with ties to a famous Muslim imam, according to WTVF-TV. Five legislators went on a similar trip last year. In the waning days of this year’s legislative session, lawmakers debated whether proposed changes to the state’s campaign finance laws would open the door to foreign influence.
“If you want to know who contributes to my campaign, it’s as easy as the click of the mouse,” said Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, a Smith County Republican.
Still, what you won’t find online — and what Weaver did not mention — is that, in late May, a select group of state lawmakers will be jetting off for a 12-day, all-expenses paid trip, landing first in Azerbaijan, then heading a few days later to nearby Turkey.
The invitations came from a group called the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast — with the money coming from a sister group called the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians.
Both groups have ties to a movement headed by a moderate Muslim imam named Fethullah Gulen.
…(Memphis Republican Rep. Mark) White is one of the nine lawmakers who have accepted the invitation to go on the trip.
Others, according to a list provided to NewsChannel 5, are:
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville; Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah; Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville; Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis; Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis; Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis; and Terri Lynn Weaver.
Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons has also agreed to go, as has his assistant commissioner David Purkey.
…Fethullah Gulen has generally drawn praise for his moderate religious views and his message of tolerance. Time Magazine just named him to its lists of the 100 most influential people in the world.
But a U.S. State Department cable published by Wikileaks describes his movement as being one that “officially professes to be interested in ecumenical understanding, but whose roots are intensely Islamic.”
As 60 Minutes reported last year, the movement is also behind a secular network of science and math charter schools that began in Turkey and has now spread to the U.S.
One of those is in Memphis.
…House Education Committee Chairman Harry Brooks, a Knoxville Republican who has been helping to coordinate the upcoming trip, keeps in his office mementos from both Azerbaijan and Turkey from a trip he accepted last year. Brooks said that there were five Tennessee lawmakers on that trip.
Other lawmakers, according to Brooks, were: Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis; Rep. Joe Armstrong, R-Knoxville; Rep. Josh Evans, R-Greenbrier; and Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville.
It was trip that Brooks described as part economic development, part goodwill.
“What we gain is, one, an understanding of a society that wants to be a friend to this country,” he added.
But Brooks insisted that charter schools were never discussed.
Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican who once was New Jersey governor and then EPA administrator, made a pitch for the new political movement Americans Elect in a Knoxville speech, reports Georgiana Vines. She said people are growing increasingly disillusioned with the two-party system and concluded that neither the Republican nor Democratic parties deserve their support anymore.
“That is why I agreed to serve on the board of an organization called Americans Elect. It’s a nonpartisan effort to hold America’s first-ever online presidential nominating convention and to secure a place on the ballot for its presidential ticket in every state in the nation,” she said.
She said more than 2.5 million signatures have been amassed on petitions and earned a place on the ballot in 25 states.
Ileana Wachtel, Americans Elect national press secretary, said Friday the group is awaiting certification from the secretary of state for its candidates to be on the November ballot in Tennessee.
“We filed nearly 80,000 signatures (in Tennessee),” she said.
Blake Fontenay with the secretary of state’s office said a little more than 37,000 signatures have been verified and they need a little more than 40,000. They have until Aug. 16 to get on the ballot.
Whitman said the ticket will include a presidential candidate from one party and a vice presidential candidate from the other.
News release from Americans Elect:
NASHVILLE, TN, MARCH 28, 2012 – On Thursday morning, Americans Elect Tennessee
delegate volunteers Ronn Huff and Chris Farrar will file the Americans Elect petition with the Tennessee Elections Division for a line on the ballot for the 2012 presidential election. Americans Elect collected the signatures of 72,662 voters in Tennessee – far surpassing the state requirement of 40,039 – in support of more choice on the ballot this November.
Volunteers Huff and Farrar, a Democrat and Republican, respectively, are enthusiastic that a fundamental change to the nominating system will open up the political process in Tennessee and across the country, giving voters the chance to elect leaders who represent people, not parties.
Americans Elect invites all local media to meet in front of the Elections Office on the 9th floor of the Snodgrass Tower for a press briefing about Americans Elect’s national online primary and efforts in Tennessee before volunteers Ronn Huff and Chris Farrar submit AE’s petition for a line on the ballot for a directly-elected presidential unity ticket.
WHEN: Thursday, March 29th at 11 a.m. CST
WHAT: Filing Americans Elect petition for Tennessee ballot access
WHO: Ronn Huff, AE Tennessee delegate leader
Chris Farrar, AE Sewanee campus leader
WHERE: Tennessee Division of Elections
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 9th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
(Must present government-issued photo ID to enter building)