Tag Archives: bob

Corker: Don’t Sell TVA… But Maybe Give It Away

Tennessee Valley Authority might be better off severed from Uncle Sam, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker tells the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.
Corker said he isn’t pushing to sell TVA to try to cut the federal debt, as President Obama proposed last month in his fiscal 2014 budget plan. With nearly $25 billion in debt, TVA probably wouldn’t fetch enough from buyers to pay what it owes, Corker said.
But new approaches for TVA, including converting the agency to a nonprofit corporation or transferring ownership to TVA distributors and customers, might help improve the utility, Corker said.
“I’ve not been comfortable with the federal government involvement with TVA and thinking that that is going to lead TVA to a great place,” Corker told the Times Free Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I worry that over time the fact that TVA is controlled by the federal government but in a laissez-fair manner could leave it less and less as an identity to drive economic growth in our state.”
Corker is splitting with most other Tennesseans in the Congress who have balked at a proposal in the Obama budget plan to conduct a strategic study on cutting TVA loose from the federal treasury.
“Reducing or eliminating the federal government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives and no longer require federal participation, can help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path,” the White House says in its budget plan.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said that spinning off the nation’s largest public utility could mean higher electricity prices for the seven states that the authority serves. Just the talk about selling TVA has hurt its bond values and raised TVA’s effective borrowing costs, Alexander said.
Even U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican who denounced Obama a “socialist” in January, said the president’s suggestion to privatize TVA is “unsupportable and inexplicable.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority no longer receives any federal funds and is an independent federal corporation that relies entirely upon electric ratepayers to fund its $11 billion-a-year budget. TVA does enjoy the implied backing of the federal government through its federal ownership, which helps the agency maintain a top bond rating and borrow money at a lower rate than do private utilities
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Cagle on Tom Ingram, ‘Ghostbuster’ for Millionaire Republicans

Frank Cagle devotes his weekly column to Tom Ingram, depicted as “the Ghostbuster for millionaire Republicans.”
He is being paid by Bill Haslam as a consultant. He is being paid by Pilot Flying J as a consultant. Should Alexander have a tough primary race, Ingram will no doubt be called on again. Last year he was a highly-paid campaign consultant for Corker, who had no credible opposition.
But this time the “fixer” has some liabilities of his own. He has been discovered to be lobbying for a coal company to get access to the state-owned Catoosa Wildlife Management Area while being a consultant to the governor. And he was not registered as a lobbyist with the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. (Hat tip to the News Sentinel and WTVF-TV Nashville.)
Ingram’s overlapping roles over the years as the go-to campaign consultant, Senate staffer, lobbying and public relations group owner, and personal adviser to the Haslams are a tangled web and no one but Ingram knows where all the strands intersect.
To get his clients out of the current mess, Ingram will have to earn his money.
ngram’s relationship with the governor and his seeming indifference to the rules requiring him to report his lobbying activity has a whiff of arrogance his clients don’t need at the present time
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TN Gets Piece of $500 Million Generic Drug Settlement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee will receive a portion of a $500 million settlement with generic drug manufacturer Ranbaxy.
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced Thursday that Tennessee will receive more than $5.5 million. The settlement resolved claims that Ranbaxy sold inferior drugs and made false statements about how they were made.
The claim sprang from a whistleblower complaint that alleged the company manufactured, distributed and sold generic pharmaceuticals that failed to meet Food and Drug Administration standards for strength, purity and quality.
The 26 products in question were made at two plants in India between 2003 and 2010.
A team from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units conducted the settlement negotiations with Ranbaxy on behalf of the states.

Note: The attorney general news release is below.

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IRS Tea Party Targeting Involved TN Group, Draws Senator Protests

Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West on Saturday welcomed news that Congress may investigate the IRS after the agency admitted it targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, reports the Times-Free Press.
West said the Chattanooga Tea Party is among the 75 groups the agency admitted last week were victims of deliberate bureaucratic foot-dragging.
“It’s a scandal. It is the heavy-handedness of a bureaucratic government agency that has gone awry,” West said by telephone.
He noted that House Republicans are talking of holding hearings and said people of all political persuasions should support them.
“If they can do it to grass-roots tea party groups one year, they can to it to left-wing Occupy Wall Street people the next year. Either way, it’s wrong,” West said.
“Unless there’s an investigation and heads roll, unless some people lose their jobs over this, then we know this is just political. They got caught; they were going to feign an apology and move on.”
He said the Chattanooga Tea Party filed its application for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status in 2009. He said the IRS “stonewalled and delayed” and asked “inappropriate” questions of the fledgling group. In mid-2011 or early 2012, with no ruling on the application, the agency wrote asking for additional information, West said.
Meanwhile, tea party and patriot groups around the state and nation had begun comparing notes and concluded the foot-dragging was deliberate.
In March 2012, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker were among those who signed a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman seeking assurance that patriot and tea party groups were being treated fairly.

Note: Press releases from Corker and Alexander are below.

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Corker, Alexander Vote to Let States Tax Internet Sales

The U.S. Senate voted 69-27 on Monday– with Tennessee’s senators joining the majority — to give states the power to collect taxes on online purchases, discounting arguments that the legislation amounts to taxing the Internet.
“It’s a tax that is already owed,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Maryville Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “It’s a tax that some people are paying and others are not, even though they owe it.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, also voted in favor of the measure.
“I applaud the Senate for passing this states’ rights bill that will give states like Tennessee the flexibility to collect the revenues that are due under current law if they choose,” Corker said in a statement released after the vote. “I think most Tennesseans would agree that we are fortunate not to have a state income tax, and to ensure that remains the case, it’s important our sales tax system works. Today’s vote is a step in the right direction in making sure local brick-and-mortar businesses and online retailers are on the same playing field.”
…In a floor speech shortly before the vote, Alexander portrayed the bill as matter of fairness and states’ rights because, he said, it allows governors and legislatures to decide whether they want to require out-of-state sellers to collect the tax and remit it to the state — something that in-state sellers already are required to do.
“This is common sense,” Alexander said. “This is fairness.”
Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam testified in favor of the legislation, telling a U.S. House committee that Tennessee is believed to be losing as much as $400 million each year in uncollected taxes on online purchases.
If collected, that money could be used to help pay for infrastructure improvements, mitigate the rising cost of higher education and even cut taxes, Haslam said.

Full News Sentinel story, HERE.

Corker Golfs With Obama; Partner Chambliss Sinks Hole-in-One

From the News Sentinel:
Just weeks after breaking bread with President Barack Obama during a rare dinner at a fancy restaurant near the White House, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker scored another rare invitation on Monday: A chance to golf with the commander-in-chief.
The Chattanooga Republican was one of three senators invited to play golf with Obama — an invitation usually extended only to the president’s closest advisers and friends.
The golfing party, which also included U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., arrived at the first green at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland around 1:20 p.m. under overcast skies. Obama, wearing a blue jacket and baseball cap, chipped his a shot beyond the hole and later appeared to miss a putt.
Corker, also casually dressed in a gray sweater and khakis, tossed Obama a ball from about 15 feet. Later, the two stood together and chatted as Chambliss and Udall putted.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said the golf outing was in keeping with Obama’s recent efforts to reach out to lawmakers of both parties, but Republican senators in particular, to see if they can find common ground on challenging issues, such as deficit reduction.
“He’s willing to try anything,” Carney said, when asked if Obama believes golf is conducive to discussions on policy.
Corker, who joined a handful of other Republican senators for dinner with Obama back in March, indicated he saw no harm in a little golf-game bonding.
“With the major fiscal issues our country is facing, not to mention foreign relations issues around the world, anytime you can get the president’s ear for a few hours, I think that’s a good thing,” the senator said in a statement released by his office.
Corker was rated one of the best golfers in Congress by Golf Digest as part of its 2011 list of Washington’s Top 150 Golfers. Corker came in 12th on the list, right behind Udall. At the time, both golfers had a handicap of around 2.
During Monday’s outing, Obama, who has the highest handicap of the foursome, paired up with Udall, who has the lowest. Chambliss and Corker, aided by Chambliss’ hole-in-one on the 11th, won the match.

From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — So much for overshadowing your rivals, Mr. President.
Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss didn’t seem fazed by a rare congressional invitation to golf with President Barack Obama Monday, sinking a hole-in-one on the par-three 11th hole. The ace shot helped lead Chambliss and GOP teammate Sen. Bob Corker or Tennessee to victory over the Democratic duo of Obama and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall on an outing meant to strengthen ties between the president and Congress.
Chambliss told reporters upon his triumphant return to Capitol Hill that “everyone went crazy” when he made the shot and there were high-fives all around. The president retrieved the Chambliss’ ball from the hole, while Corker took a picture.
“I told him since I made the hole-in-one, he ought to give us everything we want on entitlement reform,” Chambliss said with a smile. That’s Washington speak for legislation to change benefits like Social Security and Medicare.
Obama took the senators to a favorite course at Maryland’s Andrews Air Force Base, where he frequently plays on weekends with aides and friends. He once took along House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and has also included Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., but this was his first outing with any lawmaker in his second term.
The afternoon game added a recreational twist to Obama’s months-long effort to strengthen ties with lawmakers, hoping some quality face time now can lay the groundwork for compromise on pressing issues down the road.
The foursome played under overcast skies that seemed to threaten rain that never came. Their game was cut short on the 15th hole so the senators could get back for a vote to allow states to tax Internet sales. The casually-dressed lawmakers had to rush in and shout their votes from the Senate’s cloakroom since they did not have time to put on ties that are required in the chamber.
Corker said they agreed not to say much about what happened on the course, other than Chambliss’ ace shot. “We talked a little business but mostly enjoyed just being out there,” Corker said.

Alexander, Corker Back Internet Sales Tax Bill in Senate Vote

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON, April 22 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) released the following statement today on the U.S. Senate’s decision, by a vote of 74-20, to begin debate on the Marketplace Fairness Act, of which he is a lead cosponsor:
“This legislation boils down to two words: states’ rights,” Alexander said. “We ought to support states’ rights by letting Tennessee and other states decide whether they want to collect taxes that are already owed, and how to treat businesses fairly in the marketplace. Tennessee wants to avoid a state income tax and treat businesses fairly in the marketplace, and it shouldn’t have to play ‘Mother, May I?’ with the federal government to do so.”
The senator spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in support of beginning debate on the legislation. Today’s vote to begin debate follows a March 23 vote by the U.S. Senate to pass an amendment to the budget resolution supporting the Marketplace Fairness Act. Both votes included a majority of Republicans.
Alexander said the Senate “sent a clear message in support of the 10th Amendment, saying that states should have the right to collect, or not collect, sales taxes from all who owe it and close a tax loophole that picks winners and losers in the marketplace.”
The Marketplace Fairness Act would grant states the option to require that remote businesses, such as those selling online or through catalogs, collect sales taxes on purchases within states’ borders. Currently, remote businesses do not have to collect sales taxes in the states they sell into, while brick-and-mortar businesses do, creating a price disadvantage.
Alexander sponsored the legislation along with Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and a bipartisan group of 26 other senators, including Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). The legislation also has the support of Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, as well as other Republican governors and conservative leaders across the country.

Note: A statement from Corker is below.

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Corker Doubts TVA Sale Idea Viable

The idea of selling the Tennessee Valley Authority is continuing to get bad reviews from Republicans in Tennessee’s Congressional delegation, reports the News Sentinel.
In the 2014 budget submitted to Congress, the Obama Administration said it “intends to undertake a strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, including the possible divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole.”
In a written statement, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Thursday that “While unfortunate but true, TVA as a going concern today is probably worth less than its debt and its rates have become increasingly less competitive, so if the goal is deficit reduction, I doubt this idea gains much traction.”
In the past, Corker has been critical of how TVA is run, focusing particular attention on the board nominees submitted by Republican and Democratic presidents.
In October, Corker said that “On most days in Washington, I fear the federal government is going to destroy TVA”, adding that “I’ve wondered if the governors wouldn’t care more” about the agency and provide better oversight and leadership.
…The idea of a TVA sale also drew fire on Thursday from U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr., of Knoxville.
“This proposal is part of a Presidential budget that has received very bad reviews and is not likely to go anywhere,” Duncan said in a statement. “It is also something that has been proposed in the past and been determined to be a very bad idea.”

Corker Lobbied Harwell on U.S. Senate Nomination Bill

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker called House Speaker Beth Harwell for the first time ever to voice his concerns about a bill that would let state legislators pick the Republican and Democratic nominees for the U.S. Senate, reports WATE-TV.
Under the bill, which has since been sidelined for the year, Corker could face having to convince Republican legislators to make him the GOP nominee in 2018 when he’s next up for reelection.
In a phone interview with 6 News, House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) said she approached Rep. Brooks about removing the bill from the committee agenda after she received a phone call from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
According to Harwell, Corker said he did not support the current legislation but agreed that improvements could be made.
Harwell said the two, “had a pleasant conversation and discussed ways to improve the dialogue [between Nashville and Washington, D.C.]”
Harwell said Sen. Corker had never contacted her before about a piece of legislation in Nashville, but she is glad this bill led to what she hopes to be improved dialogue in the future.
On Tuesday Sen. Corker was asked about the bill in Nashville today and said: “This is up to the general assembly to decide, but my sense is that Tennesseans are a very involved citizenry who like their ability to vote and make those kinds of decisions.”

Legislator Nomination of U.S. Senate Candidates Debated, Delayed

Sen. Frank Niceley has postponed a Senate floor vote on a bill that would let state legislators pick party nominees for the U.S. Senate after harsh criticism of the measure Monday from Tennessee’s Democratic chairman and a Republican colleague.
Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, requested the vote be rescheduled for the last day of the 2013 legislative session. As a practical matter, given the hectic nature of proceeding on a session’s last day, that likely means it will wind up being put off until next year.
The bill (SB471) calls for the Republican state legislators to meet in caucus to choose the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate and Democratic legislators to do the same for choosing a Democratic nominee. It would take effect on Nov. 30, 2014, meaning Sen. Lamar Alexander would be selected under the present system of contested primary elections.
State Democratic Chairman Roy Herron characterized the bill Monday as an effort by “reactionary and radical Republicans” to “steal the people’s right to vote to nominate our United States senators.” He called on legislators to amend the bill so it would not apply to Democrats, leaving the party to select its nominees by election.
When the bill came up on the floor Monday night, Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, denounced the measure as “entirely self-interested” for legislators.
“This bill is anti-democratic. This bill smells of elitism and cronyism. It would open a system that could in the future be ripe for corruption,” said Kelsey.
Two other Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, urged Niceley to delay a vote so Tennesseans could become more familiar with the proposal and let their views be known.
Norris also questioned whether the measure could achieve Niceley’s stated goal — prodding the federal government, through the Senate, to show more respect for states’ rights — if Tennessee is the only state to pick Senate nominees via the Legislature. Niceley said three other states — Arizona, Louisiana and Wyoming — are considering the idea and Tennessee can be a leader.
He said the bill has already accomplished good by getting the attention of Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker.
“Our senators have called and talked to more House and Senate members in the last two weeks than they have in the last 20 years,” Niceley said.