U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and his wife, Brenda, contributed a combined $605 to President Barack Obama’s inaugural committee, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Political observers may find the donations unusual because the Ooltewah Republican supported Mitt Romney and generally lines up against Obama whenever possible.
Records show Fleischmann was the only Tennessean in Congress to give at least $200 to the president’s second-term kickoff. Even the Volunteer State’s two congressional Democrats aren’t listed in the report naming inaugural donors, who gave more than $43 million.
Fleischmann contributed $300 and his wife donated $305. It’s possible that other Volunteer State lawmakers pitched in. People who gave $200 or less did not have contributions documented and itemized in Federal Election Commission records.
A Fleischmann aide acknowledged the donations Tuesday in a statement to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
“Congressman Fleischmann’s record shows that he fervently opposes the President at practically every turn,” Fleischmann spokesman Tyler Threadgill said in a written statement. “However, in the spirit of democracy he and his wife did attend a bipartisan event as part of the inaugural ceremonies.”
Threadgill said Fleischmann’s contributions covered the cost of two tickets for an official inauguration event. He said he didn’t know specifics beyond that.
Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann says he has avoided much of the social circuit in Washington but discovered a different way to bond in 2011, when he went out for the congressional Republican baseball team and found camaraderie, reports the Chattanooga TFP. On Thursday at Nationals Park, Fleischmann was the only Tennessean on either team in the annual Dems-versus-GOP showdown — a distinction he’s held for three consecutive years.
“I wanted to be a major league ballplayer growing up,” he said, “so it’s amazing to have fun with everybody — even those on the other side — and play at a big-league park.”
The congressman had some help representing Tennessee and its 3rd District. Before the game, Fleischmann’s eight-term predecessor, former Rep. Zach Wamp, was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame. Heralded for his .500 career batting average and slick shortstop skills, Wamp thanked the fans and threw out the first pitch.
Despite the Chattanooga connection, Wamp and Fleischmann aren’t tight. Wamp’s 26-year-old son Weston unsuccessfully challenged Fleischmann in last year’s Republican primary.
They differ on baseball, too. Wamp is a Braves fan while Fleischmann, a childhood New Yorker, loves the Mets. (Common ground exists, however: Both men said their Tennessee-bred sons cheer for the Braves.)
For the second time, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is asking a Nashville judge to seal court records that would reveal his campaign’s inner workings, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. The Ooltewah Republican’s goal is to prevent political opponents from seeing or distributing 1,800 pages of polling research, internal emails and strategy memos. Someone suing Fleischmann requested the documents as part of the civil discovery process.
In a filing, Fleischmann’s attorney said the congressman would supply the papers as long as they’re hidden from public view.
“The Court should order that any of these documents filed with the Court should be placed under seal, only to be opened in accordance with a subsequent court order,” the motion for a protective order states.
Fleischmann, an attorney, is joined in the motion by his co-defendant, Chip Saltsman, the congressman’s longtime political adviser and onetime Washington-based chief of staff.
Both men are fighting a defamation lawsuit stemming from claims in a three-year-old Fleischmann TV ad. Documents filed in Davidson County Circuit Court this week show the case is set for trial Feb. 24.
Political operative Mark Winslow filed the lawsuit. During the 2010 Republican primary, he worked for Fleischmann’s toughest opponent, former Tennessee GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith.
In an interview Friday, Winslow attorney Gary Blackburn said Fleischmann’s polling data motivated Saltsman to create “negative ads” that twisted the truth and ruined Winslow’s professional reputation.
“If a congressman’s tracking the success of lies,” Blackburn said, “shouldn’t the public be allowed to know that?”
Through a spokesman, Fleischmann declined to comment. He has described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and politically motivated. Saltsman, a well-known Republican strategist who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s first visit to Oak Ridge was short and busy, but he still came away impressed, according to Frank Munger. Cantor was keynote speaker Thursday at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, offering his views on budget battles in Washington, taking a few light jabs at the White House and showing he’d done a little research on Oak Ridge before he arrived and went straight to the stage.
“From the beginning, I know that Oak Ridge has been one of America’s strongest forces for peace,” Cantor said, referencing the Atomic City’s role in the World War II Manhattan Project.
The Virginia Republican tied the early atomic work on weapons, which ultimately were used to “help break the back of the Soviet Union” in the Cold War, to Oak Ridge’s pioneering role in producing radioisotopes for cancer therapies, which he called proof “of the serendipity of science.”
He said these were “amazing feats” and a source of inspiration and innovation.
Cantor said there’s a lot of discussion in Washington these days about the proper role of the federal government, and he said it is “appropriate and desirable” for federal policy to serve as a catalyst for the discoveries that take place at the facilities in Oak Ridge.
“The job in Washington is to encourage the innovation,” he said. “It is not to allow gridlock to stand in the way.”
Following his remarks, Cantor got a 25-minute tour of the Y-12 National Security Complex.
He fielded a few questions from the news media, and then was whisked away to speak at a $500-a-plate fundraiser for his host, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
— Note: See also the Chattanooga Times-Free Press report, HERE.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is getting a lot of opinions from a lot of people as he weighs the pros and cons of taxing items purchased over the Internet, according to Michael Collins. Gov. Bill Haslam wants states to have the power to collect the tax, arguing it is money that is already owed. Some small businesses in Duncan’s Knoxville-based congressional district take the same position and say it’s a matter of fairness: They already are required by law to collect the tax and send it to the state, but out-of-state online retailers are not.
Calls to Duncan’s congressional offices, on the other hand, are running roughly 12 to 1 against Internet tax legislation pending in Congress. Even his own staff is divided. A couple of his close advisers are encouraging him to support the bill. Another argues it amounts to a tax increase and that he should vote no.
“I’m feeling a lot of pressure from both sides of this bill,” the Knoxville Republican conceded this week.
So where does he stand? “I don’t know,” Duncan said. “I’m still thinking about it.”
He’s not alone. The three other East Tennesseans in the U.S. House — Reps. Phil Roe of Johnson City, Scott DesJarlais of Jasper and Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah — all said they are undecided about the bill known as the Marketplace Fairness Act. All three congressmen are Republicans.
“From a fairness standpoint, your small local retailers are at a disadvantage and, right now, frankly, you do owe that tax,” Roe said. “The flip side of that is, hey, this is a foul. Nobody wants to pay more taxes.”
Tennessee’s two U.S. senators — Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — both voted for the bill when it cleared the U.S. Senate earlier this month on a 69-27 vote.
The Tennessee Republican Party on Monday denied leaking in-house personnel files that benefited U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s first campaign, reports the Chattanooga TFP. State party attorney Bill Outhier couldn’t pinpoint the source beyond the denial.
“Your speculation is as good as mine,” he said Tuesday.
Originally stored at state GOP headquarters in Nashville, the documents inspired a 2010 Fleischmann campaign ad that attacked Republican rival Robin Smith. A TV voiceover charged that Smith paid “lavish bonuses” to staffers while she was state party chairwoman and financial times were tough.
Fleischmann campaign consultant Chip Saltsman produced the ad using former Smith aide Mark Winslow’s Tennessee Republican Party personnel file, which included salary information and a mutual confidentiality clause. Saltsman later said he obtained the file when an unknown source left it on his garage steps.
Winslow sued Fleischmann and Saltsman for defamation and the Tennessee Republican Party for breach of contract.
“The state party had the documents,” Winslow attorney Gary Blackburn said. “They escaped to Mr. Saltsman. We still don’t know how.”
The ad aired late in the 2010 3rd District Republican primary race. Fleischmann beat Smith by 1,415 votes and steamrolled the Democratic nominee. He won re-election in November.
An Ooltewah attorney, Fleischmann has called Winslow’s case “frivolous,” but he declined to comment Tuesday. The congressman was unable to corroborate the “lavish bonuses” claim in a deposition last year.
In a separate deposition, state party chairman Chris Devaney testified the personnel documents didn’t come from him or the party.
“You know, just like every document at the party — the place is under lock and key,” Devaney said. “And you know, I believe that the place is secure.”
State Rep. Curry Todd lived rent-free for an undisclosed amount of time in the expensive Nashville home of a prominent lobbyist in 2011, according to The Tennessean. State ethics law forbids lobbyists from providing gifts, including housing, to lawmakers. The lobbyist, Chuck Welch, regularly worked on legislative issues that passed through the House State and Local Government Committee, which Todd, R-Collierville, chaired until he was removed in late 2011.
That came after Todd, who had sponsored legislation allowing guns in places that serve alcohol, was arrested on DUI and gun charges in October 2011. He was pulled over by Metro police less than a mile from the lobbyist’s Green Hills home.
Todd acknowledged last week that he has stayed at Welch’s house on a number of occasions, but wouldn’t clarify how long he lived at 2004 Lombardy Ave. in 2011. The home sold last year for $460,000, and rent for a four-bedroom house would have been in the range of $2,000 per month.
Welch, who did not respond to a request for comment, is the managing director for the Nashville office of the influential lobbying firm Farris, Mathews and Bobango. Until his arrest, Todd wielded significant power at the capitol in his role as chairman of the House committee.
Thanks to a generous carve-out in the state ethics law, the free housing may not constitute a violation because Todd and Welch are long-time friends.
Both Welch and the firm regularly lobbied on bills considered by Todd’s committee, including the ongoing issue of how utility poles are regulated across the state. The lobbying firm’s clients include the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association. Welch’s other lobbying clients include tw telecom, the American Legal Finance Association and the Tennessee Development District Association.
Todd said his close personal friendship with Welch “has not affected my independent judgment as a lawmaker.”
Todd declined to answer questions regarding his living arrangement with Welch. His prepared statement referred to the carve-out in the state ethics law that allows for gifts to be exchanged between lobbyists and lawmakers in cases of close personal friendships. Such gifts are not required to be reported annually.
…Todd said he met Welch over 45 years ago when he was a student at Treadwell High School, where Welch’s dad coached Todd’s basketball team.
“To this day, I consider Chuck Welch a true and close friend,” Todd said in his statement to the newspaper. “In addition, I have interacted with Mr. Welch on a professional basis related to my duties as a state representative multiple times. Like any lobbyist in Nashville, Mr. Welch visits with all legislators on a regular basis.”
Legislation designed to prohibit “mountaintop removal” coal mining in Tennessee — killed in a House subcommittee for five consecutive years — is back for another try in 2013 with a new sponsor and a new committee to decide its fate.
The “Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act” (HB43) is the first bill filed by freshman Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, who serves on the 19-member Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that will rule on the proposal under a committee realignment for 2013 by House Speaker Beth Harwell.
In past years, similar legislation always died in a subcommittee of the House Conservation and Environment Committee, which was abolished by Harwell with its responsibilities over environment-oriented bills assigned the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The latter committee also has an eight-member subcommittee — Johnson is not on the subcommittee — that will take the first action on the bill.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator says he thinks the issue of “overall temperament” will come up during former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing to be defense secretary.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker says the issue is whether Hagel is “suited” to run a big government department such as the Pentagon.
Corker isn’t saying that he has questions about Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska.
Corker tells ABC’s “This Week” that he thinks there are “numbers of staffers who are coming forth now just talking about the way he has dealt with them.”
While Corker says he begins the confirmation process “with an open mind,” he says that senators will be listening closely to what Hagel has to say on all matters, including Israel and Iran.
Since July 2011, Chuck Fleischmann’s campaign has earmarked $51,523 in donor funds to pay Chip Saltsman’s legal fees in a lawsuit 600 miles away from Washington, D.C., according to Chris Carrolll. Campaign finance records show the latest payment, $15,000, came on Nov. 14. Fleischmann’s office announced Saltsman’s resignation as chief of staff a month later.
After spending $1.3 million on the 2012 election cycle, the Fleischmann campaign reported $50,990 on hand and $226,538 in debts, according to the latest filings.
Last week, Fleischmann and his Nashville-based attorney declined to respond to inquiries about whether the Republican congressman’s campaign will continue paying Saltsman’s bills this year. Saltsman and his attorney did not return a detailed phone message seeking comment Thursday.
The legal fees stem from a 2-year-old Davidson County Circuit Court lawsuit filed by a rival political operative. Former Robin Smith aide Mark Winslow is suing Fleischmann and Saltsman over advertising claims the duo made in the 2010 election. Winslow seeks $750,000 in damages.
Fleischmann edged Smith and became the Republican nominee after a bitter 3rd District primary season. The lawsuit alleges defamation, inducement to breach a contract and invasion of privacy.
After Fleischmann’s campaign consulted with the Federal Election Commission in 2011, the agency determined that using donations to defend Saltsman was allowable because the lawsuit involves “allegations directly relating to campaign activities engaged in by Mr. Saltsman.”
…Meanwhile, attorneys continue to litigate the lawsuit, which is entering its third year after being filed in January 2011. Gary Blackburn, Winslow’s attorney, filed a motion to add the Tennessee Republican Party as a defendant last week.
A trial could be months away, Blackburn said.