Tag Archives: campaigh finance

More on Haslam donations to legislator campaigns

Gov. Bill Haslam has sent funds from his political action committee to 43 incumbent Republican legislators, including a dozen who face opponents in Thursday’s primary election, according to a report filed last week with the state Registry of Election Finance.

Haslam took $150,000 from his 2014 re-election campaign leftovers and transferred it to his PAC, registered as JOBS4TN. He then distributed the PAC money to the incumbent lawmakers, most of them facing no opposition to re-election either in the primary or general election.

“Those folks who have been really helpful to us, we want to make certain that we help. You aren’t governor by yourself. It really takes the right people in the Legislature to help you,” the governor said in a comment passed along via email from spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals.

The legislators reported receiving Haslam donations while facing Republican primary opposition are Sens. Doug Overbey of Maryville and Dolores Gresham of Somerville along with Reps. David Alexander of Winchester, Mike Carter of Ooltewah, Jimmy Eldridge of Jackson, Jeremey Faison of Cosby, Curtis Halford of Dyer, Gary Hicks of Rogersville, Kelly Keisling of Byrdstown, Charles Sargent of Franklin, Curry Todd of Collierville, Ron Travis of Dayton and Tim Wirgau of Buchanan. Continue reading

Haslam puts $150K into legislative campaigns

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has opened his wallet for state legislative campaigns throughout the state.

According to the final campaign finance reports to be filed before the Aug. 4 primary, Haslam gave $150,000 to his political action committee, Jobs4TN. The committee then contributed all but $4,000 of that amount to the campaigns of 44 lawmakers.

Top recipients got $6,000 each from the PAC, including Bo Watson of Chattanooga and Randy McNally of Oak Ridge in the Senate; and Charles Sargent of Franklin, Beth Harwell of Nashville, Eddie Smith of Knoxville , Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga, Mark White of Memphis, Steve McDaniel of Parker’s Crossroads and Pat Marsh of Shelbyville in the House.

The governor also directly gave $3,000 to Nashville Sen. Steve Dickerson, who faces retired physician Ron McDow.

Bo Watson joins legislators’ PAC club

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson has become the latest state legislator to set up his own political action committee, naming the new entity BowPAC and declaring it will help provide the “fuel of funding” for future Republican political successes in Tennessee.

About 30 of Tennessee’s 132 legislators — most of them Republicans — now have their own PACs, kept separate from their re-election campaign accounts, in accord with a trend that has slowly grown since Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey set up RAAMPAC in 2003.

The Legislature’s senior member, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, finally joined the PAC trend late last year by creating McPAC. In an April disclosure McPAC reported a cash-on-hand balance of $36,356 after initial fundraising efforts — most of the money coming in contributions from 26 special interest PACs.

Watson chipped in $500 to McPAC through a personal check, Registry of Election Finance records show. He gave $1,000 to RAAMPAC last year. Now that he has set up BowPAC, of course, he can have the PAC make such donations instead of himself. The PAC name, by the way, ties into both Foy “Bo” Watson’s nickname and the Hixson lawmaker’s penchant for wearing bow neckties.
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Casada: Campaign finance texts warrant Durham’s resignation

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, who declined to join other GOP leaders in calling for Rep. Jeremy Durham’s resignation over sexual harassment allegations, says things are different in allegations he violated campaign finance laws, reports The Tennessean.

Casada cites text messages from Durham to Benton Smith, a former legislative assistant, campaign worker for Durham as well as an employee of Durham’s company, Battleground Title and Escrow. The messages indicate Durham transferred money from his campaign account to the company.

Casada said there is a clear difference between the text messages involving Durham and Smith and the harassment allegations Durham is facing.

“This is empirical, this is measurable, it’s his own words indicting him, where the harassment charges were she said this and he said this,” Casada said. “There was nothing to show who was right or who was wrong. It was rumors, hearsay, that kind of thing. This is Jeremy’s own words saying ‘Do this, take money out of my campaign account and put it in my business account.’ ”

…Casada’s comments come one day after the state registry of election finance board voted to audit and investigate Durham’s campaign finances dating back to 2014. The board plans to issue subpoenas for Durham’s personal bank accounts, his campaign accounts and his business bank accounts.

In a Thursday morning email to The Tennessean, Durham declined to say whether he planned to resign if the latest allegations were deemed credible.

“I think we should let the process run its course and stop rushing to convict people in the media before they have the opportunity to address the situation in a legitimate forum,” he said.

“Nothing illegal or unethical was done and I’ll be happy to fully cooperate and present any relevant information to the panel of people tasked with reviewing campaign finance matters. To suggest taking any action before that point seems premature.”

On Wednesday, Durham called Smith a “disgruntled former employee.”

Starrett boasts of $728K in campaign cash

Republican Grant Starrett raised $91,699 from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 for his GOP primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., in the 4th Congressional District, reports the Times-Free Press.

Starrett finished the year with $728,773 in cash on hand, according to the attorney’s Federal Election Commission fourth-quarter filing.

But $226,561 in debts and obligations takes that down to $500,000 as the 27-year-old attorney prepares to do battle with DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician.

DesJarlais won the 2014 contest by 38 votes over GOP challenger Jim Tracy in the sprawling, largely rural district that stretches from Bradley County over to Murfreesboro in Rutherford County.

Starrett’s total nine-month haul in 2015 for this year’s challenge was $917,846… including) $226,561 came from personal loans made by Starrett himself.

“Raising more than $900,000 in nine months shows that conservatives continue to rally behind Grant Starrett’s visionary campaign for Congress,” said Tommy Schultz, Starrett’s campaign manager. “Tennesseans are looking for a faithful conservative like Grant who will go to Washington and fight for our country’s future.”

Starrett, who was born and raised in California, continued to receive the vast majority of his contributions from outside Tennessee, let alone the 4th Congressional District, according to the candidate’s latest disclosure.

And DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson noticed.

“Grant Starrett has raised less than 1 percent of his funds from within Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District,” Jameson said. “His campaign can try to spin this however they like, but the fact is Grant has gained no support in the district.

“Now,” Jameson charged, “his plan is to use huge sums of out of state money to try and buy a congressional seat. Unfortunately for him, the Fourth District is not for sale.”

Bill would require TN candidates to disclose credit rating

Two Republican legislators are proposing that candidates for public office in Tennessee be required to publicly disclose their own credit rating within a general “range” to let people know whether they are fiscally responsible on a personal basis.

State Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, says the inspiration for HB1433 came from a constituent who asked him if there is some way candidate claims of dedication to fiscal responsibility could be verified for voters.

“Before an election, candidates constantly say how they’re going to balance the budget and make sure government lives within its means,” Sexton said in a telephone interview Sunday. That raises the question, he said, of whether the candidates “mean what they say.”

After researching the matter, Sexton said, disclosure of each candidate’s personal credit rating seemed the best answer. The National Conference of State Legislatures, he said, advised that Tennessee would be the first state in the nation to enact such a disclosure requirement if the bill passes. It was filed last week with Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, as Senate sponsor.

Under current law, all candidates for state and local office — including incumbent officeholders who have no opposition to their reelection — must file a statement with the Tennessee Ethics Commission listing their sources of income and investments wherein they hold a stake of $5,000 of more. The bill would add credit ratings to the list of disclosure requirements.

The bill calls for reporting the candidate’s credit rating within a “range” that encompasses five categories.

The first is zero, which Sexton noted has been deemed by Dave Ramsey, who has a popular Nashville-based radio talk show on personal finance, is arguably the best rating of all — potentially meaning one has no debt reported whatsoever.

The second category is a score or 700 or above; the third 699-650; the fourth 649-550; the fifth — and the worst — is 1-549.

When asked, Sexton disclosed his own personal credit rating specifically as 825, which is excellent, according to the website Credit.org. There, anything below 550 is deemed a “poor” credit rating. Ratings from 550-620 are classified as “subprime,” those 620-680 as “acceptable” and those 680-740 as “good.”

Sexton said he sees the bill as a way to enhance transparency and assure truthfulness. It is officially dubbed “The Voter Accountability and Transparency Act.” He declined to predict how the measure will fare when the full General Assembly considers it in the 2016 session that begins in January.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said.

Fincher still tops in TN congressional campaign cash

Among the state’s nine U.S. House members, Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump continues to lead in stockpiling cash for the 2016 elections, according to October reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Fincher reported almost $2.7 million cash on hand in his most recent report. Runner-up was Blackburn with a little more than $2.1 million, followed by Black at $1.4 million and John J. Duncan Jr. of Knoxville with a little more than $1 million.

At the other end of available campaign cash was Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais of South Pittsburgh, who held just $208,000 — less than Grant Starrett, who is challenging the 4th Congressional District incumbent and reported $693,000 in the bank. Starrett’s total is within a few dollars of being identical to the amount held by Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis. Excepting DesJarlais, no other Tennessee congressman has an announced opponent so far.

Note: This post originally incorrectly stated Cohen’s total. It has been corrected.

On Hillary Clinton and CCA campaign donations

A spokesman for Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of American tells the Tennessean it’s no big deal that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced she will not take campaign contributions from CCA or other private prison operators.

Clinton has also declared that, if elected, she will push to end federal government contracting for private prison operation. Her move comes after reports that a lobbying firm, which is retained by CCA, has donated about $240,000 to the Clinton campaign.

“Hillary Clinton has said we must end the era of mass incarceration, and as president, she will end private prisons and private immigrant detention centers,” campaign spokesman Tyrone Gayle said in a statement to The Tennessean.

“She believes that we should not contract out this core responsibility of the federal government, and when we’re dealing with a mass incarceration crisis, we don’t need private industry incentives that may contribute — or have the appearance of contributing — to over-incarceration.”

…Lobbyists represent multiple people frequently, and that doesn’t mean there are ties between a lobbyist’s separate clients, argued CCA spokesman Jonathan Burns.

“CCA has not donated money to the Clinton presidential campaign, nor have any lobbyists donated to the campaign on our behalf. We hardly think it’s newsworthy that professional critics of our industry have persuaded a candidate to stop doing something that she already doesn’t do,” Burns said in a statement.

“We do think it’s unfortunate that they advocate against the benefits we provide without themselves offering any real solutions to the serious challenges our corrections and detention systems face.”

CCA is the largest private prison company in the country. In addition to managing three Tennessee prisons and one of Metro’s detention centers, it houses thousands of inmates and immigrants across the country in prisons and detention centers.

Critics argue CCA and other private prison companies have a financial incentive to keep inmates in prison, or to keep their beds full. Private prison companies have denied those allegations, arguing they do the best they can to keep communities safe.

Starrett banks more cash than DesJarlais; has TN donors

Challenger Grant Starrett held the fundraising edge over incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in third quarter fundraising, but it wasn’t by much and the congressman continues to dominate contributions coming from people in the 4th Congressional District, reports the Times Free Press.

Federal Election Commission filings show 27-year-old challenger Starrett, an attorney from Murfreesboro, raised $92,909 in the July 1-Sept. 30 period versus $78,360 for DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician who two years ago was reeling from revelations about his scandalous pre-congressional personal life.

But when it comes to cash on hand, Starrett holds a better than 3-to-1 advantage over DesJarlais, who won the GOP primary in 2014 by a cat’s whisker against state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville.
…Starrett’s campaign war chest stood at $693,510 on Sept. 30. DesJarlais reported $208,186 cash on hand, according to his disclosure. Starrett has raised $599,586 in the past two quarters. During the second quarter he also loaned his campaign $226,561.

Starrett’s campaign manager, Tommy Schultz, said in a statement that “the goal of every campaign is to raise as much money as possible, as early as possible. And we’re doing just that.”

…DesJarlais’ campaign has criticized Starrett, a California native who lived in Williamson County outside the 4th District before deciding to run and moving to Murfreesboro, as an opportunist who is “simply using his parents’ money” and family ties to run.

Starrett’s 4th District contributions included $250 from Joseph Riley of Etowah, who listed himself as a U.S. Army officer, and Jim Barrier of Columbia.

Other Tennessee donors outside the 4th include attorney/lobbyist Lee Barfield of Nashville, brother-in-law of former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; and David Colquitt, a regional manager with Pilot Flying J, the firm owned by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and his family, which gave $1,000.

Dewitt Thompson of Nashville gave $200. His address matches that of Dewitt Thompson IV, who is a part owner of the Nashville Predators hockey team.

Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Richardson Williams of Knoxville gave $500 to Starrett.
Contributors outside Tennessee included several investment bankers and financial advisers from California, New York and Jackson, Wyo.

Fleischmann banks $800K for reelection campaign

Third District Republican congressman Chuck Fleischmann tells the Times-Free Press that he raised more than $250,000 in the third quarter that ended Sept. 30 and will report this week to the Federal Election Commission that his total campaign cash on hand is nearly $800,000.

“We’ve been very fortunate again,” Fleischmann said in an interview Friday. “This year we have had three robust quarters. We will be filing with a cash-on-hand [amount] in excess of $785,000, which is really a wonderful situation for us to be in.”

Fleischmann said he believes the “vast majority of our constituents now in my third term have been able to see what I have been able to do as an effective leader in our Congress, working on so many endeavors, and they wanted to make a statement that they wanted me to remain as their congressman. And I’m feeling thankful for that.”

While he doesn’t know if he’ll get a GOP challenger, Fleischmann said he wanted this year to “remain absolutely certain on the political side that in the event we did get a big challenge that we would be vigilant, diligent and well prepared. And we are.”

In a solidly Republican district, Fleischmann first won the 2010 GOP primary in a multi-candidate, brutal slugfest to succeed then-U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. He then easily won the general election.

But residual ill feeling from the 2010 GOP primary, a low campaign war chest and what has been described as Fleischmann’s sometimes-awkward public style helped contribute to his drawing GOP primary challenges in 2012 from Weston Wamp, son of the former congressman, and Athens businessman Scottie Mayfield.

Fleischmann won with 39 percent of the vote in that contest. In 2014, the younger Wamp challenged him again in a hard-fought, bitter contest that Fleischmann won by less than 2 percentage points.

Then last spring, state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, told the Times Free Press he wasn’t ruling out challenging Fleischmann. Even as he was saying it, supporters were pushing him to run and predicting he would…. Asked about Watson, Fleischmann said “he has not told me one way or another. Obviously he’ll have to make that decision.” The congressman said “the great thing about Bo is that we’ve retained our friendship and relationship throughout this process.”