In his latest campaign finance disclosure, state Sen. Stacey Campfield lists former Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale as providing an in-kind contribution valued at $1,000 to Campfield’s re-election campaign.
That’s because, Campfield said in an interview Wednesday, Ragsdale was reported as giving $100 to Richard Briggs, who has announced he will oppose the incumbent senator in next year’s Republican primary. In-kind contributions are those made other than in cash or check. Typically, they involve things like furnishing food for a reception or providing a room rent-free for a campaign event. Campfield says he believes Ragsdale, by donating to Briggs, effectively made an even bigger contribution to his campaign.
“I think it was a gift to me that he was endorsing my opponent,” Campfield said. “I’d honestly say that’s worth $1,000 to me. … Most people know the things that Mike Ragsdale represented and supported when he was in office … (and) that’s a clear distinction between my opponent and me.”
The House has approved and sent to the governor for his signature a bill that changes the pension system for state employees and teachers hired after July 1, 2014.
Drafted by state Treasurer David Lillard, SB1005 would create what is described as a “hybrid” between the present defined-benefits plan, which guarantees retirees a fixed pension based on years of service and earnings, and a defined-contribution plan, which has no guaranteed benefit level.
The bill passed the Senate 32-0 and won 71-16 approval in the House. All no votes came from Democrats.
Explaining his no vote, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh praised the proposal as well designed, but said it is simply not needed in Tennessee because the state retirement system has adequate funding — unlike those in many other states.
But Lillard and sponsors of the bill — Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and Steve McManus, R-Cordova — said long-range projections show the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System could face problems and the legislation will head them off, without affecting current state workers and teachers.
— Andrea Zelinski has details on the legislation:
A bill approved by a House committee on Tuesday will allow political parties and the Legislature’s partisan caucuses to more than double their contributions to state legislator campaigns.
The bill (HB643) by House Republican Caucus Leader Glen Casada would raise the current maximum donation from $40,000 to $150,000 in state Senate campaigns. For House campaigns, the maximum donation would increase from $30,000 to $75,000.
Casada earlier this year had previously planned to push legislation to completely repeal all campaign finance limits this year. But he said his thinking had changed after talking to others – including House Speaker Beth Harwell, who opposed a complete repeal – and the bill presented Tuesday is the replacement plan.
In practical effect, it would substantially increase the clout of the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the General Assembly, along with the state’s two party headquarters in funding legislative races. Current law already allows the caucuses and parties to accept unlimited amounts of cash from corporations, political action committees and individuals. The bill broadens there ability to spend such monies when collected.
The bill contains other provisions as well. One of them repeals an old law that prohibits insurance companies from directly donating to legislators’ political campaigns. Since state law, after a 2011 revision, allows other corporations to donate directly to legislative candidates, Casada said the measure simply puts insurance companies on equal footing with other businesses.
Tennessee may be contributing much less to state employee retirement accounts in the future based on a state plan to convert to a defined contribution plan, reports the Commercial Appeal. State Treasurer David Lillard will unveil details of his proposed revisions to the state pension plan Monday, and the state legislature will consider the changes with bills sponsored by Rep. Steve McManus, R-Memphis, and Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge.
Lillard’s proposal will change — for future hires only — the pension plan from a defined-benefits plan to a hybrid plan that includes elements of defined-benefits and defined-contribution programs.
Defined-benefits plans guarantee retirees a fixed pension benefit based on their years of service and earnings, while defined-contribution plans do not have guaranteed payment levels but rather specified contribution levels by the employer. The benefit payments may rise and fall with their underlying investments.
The state’s pension plan is part of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, established in 1972 and which today covers state government workers, employees of the state’s public higher education system, local public school teachers statewide and employees of about 485 towns, cities, counties, utility districts and other local entities that choose to participate in the state-run plan. All nonstate entities pay their own costs.
Perhaps on a bipartisan basis, state legislators are moving toward repealing Tennessee’s limits on political campaign contributions while requiring more rapid and complete disclosure.
Rep. Glen Casada, elected House Republican Caucus chairman last week, said Friday that concept is at the core of a “comprehensive” revision of state campaign finance law that he and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron hope to introduce in the 108th General Assembly that convenes Jan. 8.
U.S. Supreme Court decisions, along with the ever-increasing expense of campaigns, mean that contribution limits are no longer needed or desirable, said Casada.
“A campaign is, in essence, getting your message out,” he said. “That is free speech and free speech costs money.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, who was reelected to his post last week, told reporters that he has decided the time has come to “re-think” past support of campaign contribution limits because they are no longer effective.
“I’m coming around to that (repeal of limits),” Kyle said. “What we’ve found is that Republicans are so good at circumventing the law, why go through the effort?”
The limitations on contributions to political candidates in our fair state have become so meaningless that maybe it’s time to just get rid of them.
The thought is inspired by last week’s Registry of Election Finance decision to dismiss contentions that two political action committees violated the limits law. The facts were similar, but the case involving Truth Matters PAC perhaps is the best illustration.
Andrew Miller Jr., a politically astute Nashvillian of substantial wealth, started talking up establishment of a PAC with friends sharing his views a year or so ago. The views, it seems, are more conservative than those of many Republicans, and Miller has become known as “a RINO hunter.” Or, perhaps more properly, as a supplier of ammunition to RINO-hunting candidates. RINO, of course, stands for “Republican in name only.”
Truth Matters was set up in July with Miller giving the PAC $71,000. With the Aug. 2 Republican primary looming, the PAC — which consisted then of Miller and his brother, who was listed as treasurer — promptly distributed money to conservative Republican legislative candidates trying to unseat suspected RINOs or, in other cases, prevent their election.
Governor Bill Haslam hinted today he might back an incumbent Congressman who’s facing a tough Republican primary fight in East Tennessee, reports WPLN. But Haslam stopped short of full-on endorsement for Chuck Fleischmann. In the district that includes Chattanooga, Freshman Fleischmann is hoping to fend off several challengers. One is the 25-year-old son of Zach Wamp, who held the seat for more than a decade before Fleischmann. Another is Scottie Mayfield, a dairy executive who says he raised almost a half-million dollars in his first seven weeks running.
None of them has an official endorsement from Haslam yet, but the governor did say this: “I think I’ve actually already – prior to everyone else announcing – had already given Congressman Fleischmann – I think, a campaign contribution. And he is the incumbent which has, in the past, tended to get our support.”
Finance records show several members of Haslam’s family contributing thousands of dollars to Fleischmann’s campaign. But when a reporter said “That sounds like an endorsement,” Haslam answered he wouldn’t go that far.
Press release from Eric Stewart campaign:
Records show Congressman Scott DesJarlais received a large contribution from a Maryland-based nuclear energy company just days before he wrote a letter to government officials requesting federal loan guarantees for their project.
DesJarlais previously denied authoring the letters altogether in written correspondence with Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, but a USA Today investigation found letters with his signature written to the Office of Management and Budget asking for swift loan approval for USEC Inc.’s American Centrifuge project.
“Now we know why Congressman DesJarlais denied writing the letters,” said State Senator Eric Stewart (D-Belvidere), who is challenging Desjarlais for the fourth district seat this fall. “I support the project because it brings good jobs to Tennessee, but I am disappointed that our Congressman’s crass money grab has put the project at risk.”
One of the letters is dated November 4 and requests “immediate action on funding”, just 5 days after USEC Inc.’s Political Action Committee contributed $1000 to DesJarlais’ campaign, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
“How much is Congressman DesJarlais’ influence selling for these days?,” asked Stewart. “For over a year, he has refused to hold a live town hall meeting in this district to hear concerns of constituents, yet only four days after receiving a contribution from a lobbyist he writes a letter seeking funds for the project.”