Excerpt from a Politico article on how Republican U.S. senators – Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander being a prime example – are working diligently to assure they don’t face a serious primary challenger in 2014. “I’m running a Colin Powell military operation, which is assemble an overwhelming force, focus on a single target and have the stomach to see it all the way through to the end,” Alexander said in an interview.
The recent Washington controversies are giving the senators a unique opportunity to woo the right — whether it’s McConnell’s rhetoric against the Internal Revenue Service, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) railing at the White House for its handling of the Benghazi attacks or Alexander slamming Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for soliciting private donations to help with the implementation of Obamacare, comparing the situation to the Iran-Contra scandal.
And some of the senators are finding ways to push issues in Washington that resonate back home, including last week, when the Senate passed a McConnell-Alexander plan they called the Freedom to Fish Act targeting federal restrictions along a river their states share.
…Alexander ended the first quarter of 2013 with $1.8 million in cash and has stepped up his fundraising considerably since then. Last month, he pulled in $430,000 at a dinner at the Chattanooga home of his fellow GOP senator, Bob Corker, just days before a Nashville fundraiser pulled in $1 million more. Alexander later secured an additional $530,000 at a dinner on May 2 in Memphis, officials said.
…In this race, Alexander clearly recognized a primary as his biggest threat and wasted no time locking up support within his own ranks. Less than a month after the 2012 elections, Alexander had awarded campaign chairmanships to every Republican in the congressional delegation except Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who was ensnared in a sex scandal. Other big name Republicans in the state who could give him a serious scare in a primary were added as well, including Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Alexander even won the endorsements of the 13 living past GOP party chairs in Tennessee.
“He said if it’s necessary he would get some who were deceased, too,” Corker quipped.
With some charm and back-slapping, Alexander is also trying to ensure no state legislator emerges against him, either. After the state legislative session earlier this year, Alexander hosted a Nashville reception for state GOP lawmakers. And that came after he addressed the GOP-dominated Legislature with a red-meat speech attacking Washington mandates.
Some of the Legislature’s top leaders were among more than 50 candidates who failed to report 181 political contributions totaling $145,875 when the Registry of Election Finance conducted an annual “crosscheck” review mandated by a current state law.
House Republican Chairman Glen Casada, sponsor of a bill that critics say would undermine the present law, was found to have two unreported $1,000 contributions from political action committees. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, who staunchly opposed the bill, had more unreported donations than anyone on the list — 18 totaling $19,875.
Both men expressed surprise when contacted last week after Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, provided a list of the 2012 “crosscheck” results on request. Neither changed his position on the bill (HB643), which fell two votes short of passage on the House floor during the legislative session and which Casada plans to bring back for another try next year.
(Note: For the Registry’s list, click on this link: CrossIndexInfo.ods
A bill repealing the need for corporations to disclose political contributions and more than doubling the amount of money partisan caucuses can put directly into legislative campaigns fell two votes short of passage Wednesday on the House floor.
The bill (HB643) by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada would also repeal a law prohibiting direct political contributions to legislators by insurance companies, which now must form political action committees to make donations.
The vote was 48-41 with 50 votes required for passage. Thirteen of Casada’s fellow Republicans voted no on his bill, two others abstained and eight simply refused to vote at all – including House Speaker Beth Harwell, who was presiding over the chamber. Democrats unanimously opposed it.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada sponsored the bill, calling for passage as a means of bringing more political contributions into the state political system.
“Limiting money is limiting free speech,” declared Casada.
But critics faulted the bill for putting more money into state politics with less transparency. Perhaps the most impassioned protest came from Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, who said the flow of new money under the bill could be “perceived as unethical.”
“If you have received thousands and thousands of dollars, you may feel like your vote has been purchased,” she said.
“We are not bribeable,” replied Casada.
Other criticism came from Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, the Legislature’s only independent, who said insurance companies would make political donations and pass the cost on to customers paying premiums, and several Democrats who objected to repealing the disclosure requirement for corporations.
Casada said the corporate reporting of donations is unnecessary because candidates receiving the money would still have to disclose receipt of the money.
Critics pointed out that the Registry of Election Finance now matches corporate and PAC contribution reports of donations made with candidate reports of donations received – occasionally finding cases where a candidate failed to report a donation. The bill would have removed the ability to make such a check with corporate money.
Statement from Dick Williams, Common Cause of Tennessee:
House Bill 643 by Casada / SB 787 by Watson & Ramsey contain several revisions to the current campaign finance laws in Tennessee.
This bill has received little discussion in the public and in committee, but is scheduled for floor votes in this, presumably, last week of the session. Many of the provisions, when explained in the context of current state & federal campaign law are relatively non controversial.
The exception, so far, is the increase in the limits on contributions from PACs controlled by political parties or caucuses. While Common Cause/TN has some concern about the amounts of the proposed increases in those limits, we are more concerned about the effect of a provision that has received little attention to date. Section 5 of the bill would delete the word “corporation” from the definition of a PAC.
While section 3 of the bill clarifies that corporate or insurance company contributions are held to the same limits as are PACs, the deletion from the definition of a PAC means that corporations, like individuals, would not have to report their contributions to the Registry of Election Finance.
PACs, unlike individuals, are required to report their political contributions to the Registry of Election Finance. Since the definition of a PAC includes a committee, club, association or other group of persons who receive or make political contributions, the effect of Section 5 of this bill would mean that a small group or club that made contributions would continue to report to the Registry, but corporations would not. Certainly, the public would see this as unfair and inappropriate.
One of the important tools for the Registry to assure the accuracy of the campaign disclosure information is the cross-checking of PAC reports with those of candidates. Frequently, discrepancies are found and corrected. In most cases, the figures are reconciled as a bookkeeping error on the part of either the PAC or the candidate or both.
Although we are concerned about possible amendments to this broad captioned bill contrary to the public interest, we believe that Section 5 should be deleted, if the bill is adopted.
News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s reelection campaign:
NASHVILLE, TN – Senator Lamar Alexander’s re-election campaign today announced that the campaign raised more than $1 million in the first quarter.
“As senator and governor, Lamar Alexander has been standing up for Tennessee and we are ready to stand up for him. We raised more than $1 million in only 10 weeks and we are on pace to double that amount in the next quarter,” said Alexander for Senate Finance Chairman Steve Smith.
In April and May the campaign will hold four major Tennessee fundraising events. The first will take place at the home of Senator Corker in Chattanooga. Also in April the campaign will hold the “Salute to Ted Welch,” the former Republican National Finance Committee chairman who serves as Alexander’s Honorary Finance Chairman. Other events will take place during May in Knoxville and Memphis.
News release from Rep. Joe Carr exploratory campaign:
(Lascassas, TN) – Local businessman and state representative Joe Carr announced today his Exploratory Committee for Congress raised over $200,000 in his effort to become Tennessee’s next congressman from the 4th district. The Rutherford County native remarked how humbled he was for the outpouring of support.
“This certainly sends a great signal that Tennesseans are interested in a Joe Carr for Congress candidacy,” Carr said. “I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of friends and neighbors who believe in me, and I don’t take their trust in me lightly.”
In just six weeks the Joe Carr for Congress Exploratory Committee led by prominent Republican businessman and fundraiser Lee Beaman, raised a total of $205,479. “These strong numbers prove that people are devoted to Joe Carr, just as Joe Carr is committed to the conservative movement,” said Beaman.
“I have a good idea what it takes to get your message out to the people; hard work, smart planning and enough gas in the tank to make a campaign of this magnitude successful,” Carr remarked. “We’re a step closer to making a final decision on whether to jump in, but I can tell you one thing, all indications point to that direction.”
Carr, a 1981 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with 60 hours of graduate work is a consultant assisting industrial companies in the reduction of their electrical energy costs. In addition he and his wife Ginny own Cedar Snag Farms in Lascassas.
Carr was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 and currently serves as Chairman of the Government Sub Committee. He is a member of the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Right to Life, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raider Athletic Association, and Greenhouse Ministries. Carr is also an accomplished private pilot and member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association.
Carr has been married for 30 years to his wife Ginny, and they have three children, Erin, Maddie, and Joe, Jr. In addition he is a proud grandfather. Joe has lived in Rutherford County since he was a young boy and his family roots go back five generations in Rutherford County. Joe, Ginny and Joe Jr. are members of Believers Chapel in Murfreesboro.
While one bold plan to enhance to the political power of the Legislature’s partisan caucuses sank into the 2013 session sunset last week amid considerable media clamor and political rhetoric, a subtle plan with the same general goal was quietly positioned for passage.
Sen. Frank Niceley was author of plan No. 1, which would have allowed Republican state legislators to pick the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate while Democratic legislators chose the Democratic nominee.
The Strawberry Plains farmer pitched his proposal as a way to fix a broken Washington, delivering “a little history lesson” about how the Founding Fathers fashioned things so legislatures directly named a state’s U.S. senators until the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted in 1913.
Niceley’s critics focused on the simple fact that the his proposal would eliminate the right of average Republican and Democratic voters to choose their party standard bearers in a primary election. Another criticism was that the old pre-1913 system produced some real episodes of corruption in the legislative deal-cutting process — at least in other states.
Virtually ignored by both sides was the most intriguing aspect of Niceley’s plan: It would substantially reduce the impact of money in the political system.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to create a school voucher program in Tennessee continued its progression in the House on Tuesday as the state’s largest teachers’ union mounted an ad campaign seeking to defeat the measure.
The legislation carried by Republican Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville was approved 8-4 in the House Government Operations Committee and sent to the House Finance Committee.
The legislation, called the “Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act,” 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.
A competing Republican-sponsored measure seeks to broaden the number of students by not limiting participation to low-performing schools, and several special interest groups have spent millions of dollars on ads in support of such a proposal.
However, the Tennessee Education Association has shot back with an ad of its own denouncing voucher initiatives altogether.
The cost of the TEA ad — roughly $40,000 — pales in comparison to the amount of money being spent by special interest groups. But TEA chief lobbyist Jim Wrye said the group is hoping to draw more money to develop more ads.
PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (AP) — Proponents of liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge are vastly outspending a group trying to defeat the issue as it comes back for another vote.
The Mountain Press (http://bit.ly/13Vud7j ) reported proponent group Forging Ahead filed documents showing it had received nearly $27,000 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 26.
Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge reported it had about $3,400 in donations.
Voters narrowly approved a liquor referendum in November, but it was overturned after complaints that people who live outside the city were allowed to vote.
On Thursday, Pigeon Forge voters will again choose whether to allow restaurant liquor sales.
SPRING HILL, Tenn. (AP) — A Middle Tennessee court has temporarily barred Spring Hill from limiting residents to one political campaign yard sign per office.
According to The Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/YgGNpv ) in Columbia, the restraining order was obtained by George Jones, who is running for mayor of Spring Hill. He says a local ordinance limiting campaign signs to one per resident for each office is unconstitutional. Jones is a former mayor of the city of more than 23,000 residents.
Circuit Court Judge Robert L. Holloway issued the temporary order Wednesday, pending an April 5 hearing. The city election day is April 11.
Spring Hill City Administrator Victor Lay said the city will comply with the judge’s instructions, but he declined further comment.