Tag Archives: Chip Forrester

New pro-Democrat PAC launched with $100K, makes two $10K donations

Knoxville’s state Rep. Gloria Johnson was one of two Democratic state legislators presented with a $10,000 check Thursday at a news conference announcing formation of Battleground Tennessee, a new political action committee.

Former state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester and Bill Freeman, a Nashville businessman and Democratic activist, said the PAC has initial funding of $100,000 from two $50,000 checks written by Freeman and Olan Mills, a retired Chattanooga businessman, and a goal of spending about $250,000 to help Democrats gain ground in the Republican supermajority Legislature.

“What we’re trying to do is fight fire with fire,” said Freeman.

“For too long the progressive community has operated at a distinct disadvantage in the face of numerous right-wing PACs.,” Bill Freeman, PAC Chair said. “Today, we turn the tide with Battleground Tennessee, our answer to the Far-Right.”

Two of the biggest Republican-oriented PACS are those set up by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. In their most recent disclosure statements, filed in April, Harwell’s PAC reported a cash-on-hand balance of $559,478 while Ramsey’s PAC had $403,146.
Forrester said the PAC will make donations in party primaries and will “absolutely not” get involved in races for seats on the Democratic State Executive Committee. The former chairman has individually backed some challengers to current executive committee members.

The executive committee, to be elected on Aug. 7 by Democratic primary voters, can elect a new party chairman in January. Forrester repeated Thursday that ‘I am not a candidate for party chair and I will not be a candidate for party chair.”

The first two $10,000 PAC checks went to Johnson and Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville. Both have no primary opponents, but expect strong Republican attempts to unseat them in November.

“Those two are the highest Republican targets in the state,” said Forrester.

Kevin Teets, a former Democratic party executive director, will serve as director of the PAC. He will evaluate campaigns after the Aug. 7 primary and recommend other races where PAC donations can best help elect Democrats, Forrester said.

He said that could include the 4th Congressional District seat now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who has faced considerable controversy since his 2012 election and is facing a challenge in the GOP primary from state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville. Teets worked for former state Sen. Eric Stewart, the Democratic nominee in 2012 who lost to DesJarlais in the general election.

A new round of internal conflict among TN Democrats

There is currently a war going on over control of the Democratic State Executive Committee, observes Frank Cagle.

A group of insurgents has already tried to oust the party chair, former state Sen. Roy Herron. Herron is pro-life and is considered too conservative by many Democrats. So former chair Chip Forrester is recruiting candidates to win more seats on the executive committee and oust Herron and install a new chair more in line with progressive thinking.

Locally, former Democratic state Sen. Bill Owen, who serves on the state executive committee and on the Democratic National Committee, is being challenged by former Knox County Commissioner Mark Harmon. When the coup was attempted to remove Herron, Owen sided with Herron. He is part of current majority of the committee that argues the Democrats lost three of five Congressional seats, seven of 14 state Senate seats, and 21 of 49 House seats during Forrester’s tenure.

Forrester supports Harmon.

Forrester denies he is seeking to return as chair, but if his slate wins control he will be able to influence who does get the job—and it won’t be Herron. The number of seats lost during his tenure was a debacle for state Democrats. I think it can be argued that having President Obama at the top of the ticket and the retirement of long-serving Democratic incumbents also played a role. But regardless, Democratic voters will decide by their votes whether to retain Herron or support Forrester’s slate.

Herron will be chair during this election cycle and he faces a daunting task. The Democrats can’t find anybody to run against Gov. Bill Haslam. More longtime incumbent Democrats are retiring from the state Senate in districts that have been trending Republican. Given their depleted ranks they probably would be better off not fighting among themselves.

It will be good for the Republicans to have the Democrats fighting over who’s on their executive committee while the Republicans are winning elections for public offices.

Note: The Tennessee Journal reports Forrester helped recruit challengers to incumbent Democratic State Executive Committee members including Elisa Parker of Franklin, the party’s vice chairman, and attorney Jim Bilbo of Cleveland. And there’s this quote from former Chairman Forrester:

“I am not running for chair. I will not run for chair. I will not be drafted for chair in 2015.”

Registry dismisses complaint against Haslam; Forrester could re-file

The board charged with enforcing Tennessee’s campaign finance laws Wednesday voted to dismiss a complaint filed against Gov. Bill Haslam for refusing to disclose how much he personally paid veteran politial operative Tom Ingram.

The complaint was one of two filed against the Republican governor by Chip Forrester, former chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. The other was filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission, which dismissed it in a closed-door meeting Sept. 11.

Both alleged that Haslam’s personal payments to Ingram involved political advice and were thus the equivalent of the governor making a personal contribution to his 2014 reelection campaign. State law permits unlimited self-financing of a campaign, but requires that the payments be reported to the Registry of Election Finance.

The Registry board voted 3-1 to dismiss the complaint. All three yes votes were from Republican members of the panel. The no vote came from Chairman Henry Fincher, a former Democratic state representative from Cookeville who said he would prefer to grant Forrester’s request that the vote be postponed so he could gather more information to present the panel. Norma Lester of Memphis, the only other Democratic member present, abstained.
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Ethics complaint against Haslam dismissed; Campaign finance complaint remains

The Tennessee Ethics Commission voted in a closed-door meeting Wednesday to dismiss a complaint filed against Gov. Bill Haslam by former state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester, according to an attorney for the governor.

Still pending is a similar complaint filed by Forrester with the Registry of Election Finance.

“I can tell you that we are very pleased with this result because it was the correct one,” said Joseph A. “Woody” Woodruff, an attorney representing Haslam in dealing with Forrester’s complaints.

“We are satisfied with the result,” said David Smith, a spokesman for the governor. He said attorneys representing Haslam were retained by the governor’s reelection campaign.

Forrester said he was disappointed to learn of the dismissal, believing the governor violated the law by failing to disclose payments made with his own money to veteran lobbyist and political consultant Tom Ingram.

He contends the payments amounted to the goverrnor self-financing his own 2014 reelection campaign, which should be disclosed under state law. The governor has said only a “miniscule” amount of the advice he received from Ingram from early 2011 until July 1 this year involved politics.

Ingram and The Ingram Group, a firm he founded, were paid more than $600,000 by Haslam’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Haslam has said he began making payments to Ingram from his own pockdet after taking office in January, 2011, and continued doing so – refusing to disclose the amounts – until July 1, 2013. At that point, Ingram began receiving $5,000 per month for political consulting from the campaign, according to gubernatorial spokesmen.

Complaints filed with the Ethics Commission must be kept secret by the commission under state law, but the parties involved may publicly talk about them. Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, declined to confirm or deny dismissal of the ethics complaint.

The Registry of Election Finance complaint is scheduled for a hearing on Oct. 9. Both Forrester and Woodruff said they did not attend Wednesday’s closed-door Ethics Commission meeting, but plan to be on hand for next month’s Registry meeting.

Woodruff, who is with the Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden, declined to elaborate on why he believed the commission’s dismissal was correct. But other attorneys say the dismissal could have simply been a jurisdistrictional issue with the Registry deemed the proper agency to handle the case.

In general, the Ethics Commission deals with enforcement of lobbying and conflict-of-interest laws while the Registry deals with campaign financing laws. The statute Forrester contends was violated by Haslam’s refusal to disclose is part of the state’s campaign financing law.

Haslam Appoints Traughber to Ethics Commission

Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Charles Traughber, who recently retired as chairman of the state Board of Paroles, to a seat on the Tennessee Ethics Commission, which will hear a complaint filed against Haslam in October.

“I think Charles has been around a while and there’s nobody who would question his ethics,” Haslam said.

Former state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester, who filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission over Haslam’s failure to disclose personal payments to lobbyist and political operative Tom Ingram, certainly did not do so.

“I am pleased that the governor filled out the board and pleased that he chose someone of Mr. Traughbert’s caliber,” said Forrester in a telephone interview.
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Forrester Files Ethics Complaints Against Haslam

NASHVILLE – Former state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester filed complaint s with two state agencies Thursday alleging that Gov. Bill Haslam has violated state law by refusing to disclose the personal payments he made to Tom Ingram for political consulting.

“Gov. Bill Haslam is hiding the truth from Tennesseans just like he’s hiding his tax returns,” said Forrester at a news conference announcing the complaints – one filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission, which enforces lobbyist-related laws; the other with the Registry of Election Finance, which enforces campaign finance laws.

Both cite Haslam’s acknowledgment that he paid Ingram, a veteran political operative and lobbyist, out of his own pocket for consulting during 2011 and until July 1 of this year. At that time, the governor’s office says Ingram began receiving payments of $5,000 per month from Haslam’s 2014 reelection campaign in lieu of the undisclosed private payments.

Haslam spokesman David Smith said “the governor is aware of the filing” but otherwise had no immediate comment.
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Freeman, Forrester Get OFA Board Seats

Two of Tennessee’s top Democratic fund-raisers have joined the national board of Organizing for Action, the group that works to turn grass-roots action into legislative support for President Barack Obama’s initiatives, according to The Tennessean.

Real estate executive Bill Freeman and former Tennessee Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester said they recently accepted invitations to join the 30-member board. The appointments represent something of a coup for Democrats in red-state Tennessee, which Obama lost to Republican Mitt Romney by 20 percentage points last fall.

“It’s an honor to help the president with his national legislative agenda, and I know I will work extremely diligently to see that agenda realized,” said Forrester, who got his picture taken with Obama after the president’s speech in Chattanooga on Tuesday.

That agenda includes immigration reform, stricter gun control laws and climate change legislation. Organizing for Action also bought a TV advertisement that aired on CNN just before Obama’s Tennessee speech, in which he announced a proposal to cut the corporate tax rate, reform the tax code and create more jobs.

Organizing for Action grew out of another “OFA,” Obama for America, the president’s campaign organization. The new group is organized under the federal tax code as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization,” allowing it to raise unlimited amounts of money.

Forrester on ‘Shakedown Bill’ Haslam’s Fundraiser for GOP

Statement from state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester on state Republican fundraiser at governor’s residence:

“We’re now 77 days into Gov. Bill Haslam’s first term. In that time, we have not seen any inkling whatsoever that Republicans have a jobs plan — or even any ideas to put struggling Tennesseans back to work.
On the other hand, we have seen plenty of proposals that: grow the size of government, attack teachers, attack science, restrict religion, blow the tops off our Smoky Mountains, build a state mint, turn away affordable health care, disenfranchise voters, micromanage local school districts from Nashville, make government less transparent, waste millions of tax dollars and stifle economic growth — BUT most of all, protect the financial interests of their big dollar campaign donors.
Tonight, those titans of industry are coming to the governor’s mansion to pay the piper. Shakedown” Bill Haslam is hosting a fundraiser for the Tennessee Republican Party at $3,000 to $25,000 a ticket — all this smack dab in the middle of legislative session.
What kind of message does this send to the everyday man who can’t afford to spend a year’s salary on Shakedown Bill’s one night soiree?

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Republicans Rev Up Rhetoric Against Bart Gordon

Talking to a Washington reporter who was doing a story on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s pitch about how vulnerable he is to a Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon has triggered a feeding frenzy of GOP rhetoric.
Not that it amounts to anything of consequence at this point, other than indicating the general lay of the Tennessee landscape today, where Republicans believe Obama will bring them victories in 2010 and Democrats don’t know exactly what to do about it.
The relevant remarks in the report from Roll Call, which began with commentary from Tennessee-raised political operative Brad Todd and the NRCC’s on distaste in Gordon’s 6th District for President Obama and the Democratic congressman new inclination to vote more with his own party:
Obama never campaigned in Tennessee, Gordon pointed out. Besides that, there was a “cultural issue” that came into play in last year’s presidential election.
 
Obama “seemed to be too urbane” for 6th district voters, Gordon said. “If you’re from some of those small counties, [Obama was] some guy from Chicago that speaks differently than you.”
 
Gordon acknowledged that racism was also a factor in Obama’s performance in the district.
“Unfortunately, there was probably a little bit of that, but it was more just being urbane,” Gordon said.

Seizing the exploitable opportunity thus presented by Gordon, Republicans happily went into rage mode from Washington to Nashville to Murfreesboro. A sampler:
A sampler from the flow of emailed outrage in Republican releases Thursday:
-From the NRCC’s Andy Sere (also quoted in the original Roll Call article) early in the day:
“Bart Gordon’s comments are nothing short of shameful. With a 25-year Washington record, you’d think he’d have more to offer Middle Tennesseans than negative attacks, lock-step liberalism and race-card politics. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.”
-From Lou Ann Zelenik, Rutherford County Republican chairman recruited by NRCC to run against Gordon in 2010, in calling for Gordon to apologize for insulting consituents with his “appalling” remarks:
“When you have spent 25 years in Washington and cannot find the time during a 30 day recess to visit the 15 counties you represent, I suppose you start to think we can’t understand ‘urbane.’ Tennesseans know bad policy when they see it. That’s why Obama lost and that is why Tennesseans understand that Gordon is out of touch with the district.”
Addressing Gordon’s charge of racism, Zelenik said, “I cannot imagine what would lead a Congressman to insult his constituents in this manner. The idea that Tennesseans vote based on race is a suggestion I reject entirely. The suggestion that Tennesseans are racists is particularly disturbing when it comes from a person who is supposed to represent our values.”
-From state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney:
“Here in Tennessee we’re sophisticated enough to know that President Obama’s big government, tax and spend policies won’t benefit our state and that’s why he didn’t do well in this district… Unfortunately, Rep. Gordon has decided to align himself with the liberal left by voting for Speaker Pelosi’s cap-and-trade national energy tax and President Obama’s government takeover of health care.”
The Gordon/Democratic response was relatively tepid.
-Gordon’s statement issued from his office as reported by the Nashville Scene and the Daily News Journal:
Congressman Gordon was asked by a reporter if racism was the reason Barack Obama did not do well in Tennessee. Gordon responded by stating no. He went on to say that Obama did poorly because he did not campaign in Tennessee and was a candidate from a large urban area with whom many Tennessee voters could not relate.
This judgment was based on 30 years on voting history in Tennessee.
Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton who were from rural areas
were able to do well, while urban Democrats like Michael Dukakis and
John Kerry did poorly.
-State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester, choosing to attack Zelenick:
“Lou Ann Zelenik has a history of making reckless statements,” Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said. “Her blog has referred to the President as a Nazi and a socialist, and her statement regarding Congressman Bart Gordon is just more outrageous rhetoric. Zelenik is using a page right out of the old race-baiting playbook.
“It’s these types of irresponsible actions that caused Zelenik to lose the Republican primary for state representative in 2008. Even though she outspent her opponent five to one, members of her own party who knew her best said ‘no’ to Lou Ann Zelenik.”