A nationwide analysis of contributions to political causes indicates that the Haslams are the leading family of “elite donors” in Tennessee.
The Sunlight Foundation last week released a list of the “1 percent of 1 percent” — 31,385 people nationwide who represent just .01 percent of the nation’s population but who made 28 percent of all political contributions involving campaigns for president and congressional offices in 2012. (Link HERE)
In Tennessee, 430 individuals made the list, contributing almost $17.3 million as a group.
Eight of the “elite political donors” in Tennessee are members of the Haslam family, including patriarch James “Jim” Haslam II, who founded Pilot Corp. as a young man. He and his son James III, or “Jimmy,” made the top 10 for Tennessee.
Jimmy Haslam was No. 5 with $176,550, his father seventh with $159,450.
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
Tennessee political action committees reached record levels in both number and in handing out contributions last year as the Legislature’s new Republican supermajority was elected, according to a report by the Registry of Election Finance.
A total of 611 PACs registered to donate to Tennessee’s state-level campaigns for 2012 and gave a total of $8,185,652 in contributions, almost all to candidates running for the state Legislature, the Registry said in its annual report.
The PACs spent another $2,003,603 in “independent expenditures,” which do not go directly to a campaign but are spent independently to help elect or defeat a legislative candidate. Typically, most is money spent on attack advertising.
That compares to 540 PACs registered in 2010 and making direct donations to candidates totaling $6,777,264 plus independent expenditures totaling $1,995,503. In 2010, there was also a gubernatorial election underway – unlike 2012 – and PACs were giving more money to Gov. Bill Haslam and other candidates. In 2012, only a couple of PACs donated early to Haslam’s 2014 re-election fund.
PACs thus spent a total of about $10.2 million in 2012 trying to influence campaigns compared to $8.9 million in 2010.
(Note: The Registry 2012 report is HERE; a list of all registered 2012 PACs and their donations, HERE.)
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.
Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy’s congressional campaign says the Shelbyville lawmaker raised nearly $436,485 during the first quarter in his bid to oust “scandal-ridden” U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., in the 2014 primary, reports Andy Sher. Tracy has raised more than twice the $205,000 that state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, said last week his exploratory committee has amassed.
And Tracy said he still has $400,000 in cash on hand after expenses.
Tracy’s finance chairman, Shane Reeves, said in a news release Sunday the senator’s “robust fundraising totals coupled with his strong grass-roots organization put him in the best position to defeat the scandal-ridden incumbent.”
,,,Campaign finance reports for the Jan. 1-March 30 period are due today to the Federal Election Commission.
DesJarlais last month held a major fundraiser in Washington. He has yet to release his first-quarter report. But Tracy’s campaign noted the senator’s first-quarter figures far exceed the $68,000 DesJarlais reported in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Reeves said Tracy’s figures “speak volumes.”
Some of those signed on as supporters of state Rep. Joe Carr’s “exploratory campaign” for the 4th Congressional District seat made political donations to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in this year’s campaign, reports Chris Carroll. Records show at least four of Carr’s early boosters — including a powerful auto dealer, a physician and a former Rutherford County GOP chairman — gave DesJarlais a combined $12,900 during his 2010 and 2012 campaigns for Congress.
Carr’s exploratory committee is headed by auto dealer Lee Beaman, a big fish in Middle Tennessee Republican circles who has given $7,400 to DesJarlais.
Asked about his $2,000 DesJarlais contribution this year, Murfreesboro dentist Dr. Nate Schott said he cut a check “long before I found out what happened.”
…DesJarlais spent $1.26 million on his re-election, depleting his current campaign balance to $16,000, records show.
Campaign manager Brandon Lewis has said: “We are confident that we will continue to receive support from like-minded conservatives and small-business organizations.”
But Dr. Ron McDow, a retired family medicine physician and owner of a medical device company, said he regrets the $1,000 he contributed in 2010. He’s in Carr’s camp now.
“I haven’t read everything that’s been published, and these things all occurred well before Dr. DesJarlais ran for Congress,” McDow said. “But Joe Carr doesn’t have the baggage hanging over him.”
The Campaign Finance Institute , which advocates some public financing of political campaigns, has done a state-by-state review of political contributions to races for governor and state legislature seats, ranking states in order of the percentage of population that made donations.
The review used the years 2006 and 2010, which CFI says were years in which most states had both gubernatorial elections and legislative campaigns. There were 33 such states in 2006 and 35 in 2010. (In Tennessee, where we have legislative elections every two years, 2006 was incumbent Gov. Phil Bredesen’s reelection year 2010 was the open-seat election won by Gov. Bill Haslam.)
The review shows Tennessee ranked 30th of the 33 states in 2006, with 0.67 percent of the state’s voting age population making donations to political campaigns. In 2010, Tennessee ranked 23rd out of the 35 surveyed states, with 0.89 percent of voting age population making donations.
The highest percentages were in Vermont and Rhode Island, which alternated as No. 1 in the two years surveyed. Both states have systems where public funding matches small donations from individuals. In 2010, Vermont was tops at 5.86 percent of adults donating to campaigns.
The lowest percentages were in states with higher populations – Florida, New York and California. In 2010, Florida had the lowest percentage, 0.22 percent.
Bills calling for some sort of public finances system have occasionally been introduced in Tennessee, though not in the last couple of legislative sessions. Those introduced previously all died in committee without a vote.
The CFI study, including the state-by-state table, can be seen by clicking on this link: 20121220_StateDonorParticipation-2006-V-2010.pdf
Revelations about 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais didn’t prevent some big corporations and his Republican colleagues from donating to his re-election campaign, reports Chris Carroll. Political action committees representing at least 15 corporations and interest groups — including the National Pro-Life Alliance — gave more than $25,000 to the Jasper Republican after the Huffington Post published the revelations Oct. 10. The story brought national attention to Tennessee’s 4th District and the congressman’s claims of anti-abortion credentials.
More groups, the Tea Party Express among them, ponied up after the Chattanooga Times Free Press published an Oct. 28 interview with a second woman who had an affair with DesJarlais while he was her physician.
Asked whether the revelations affected their support for DesJarlais, Tea Party Express spokesman Taylor Budowich said the group believes the economy is the most important issue.
“We focus exclusively on the candidate’s stand on how to right America’s fiscal woes,” Budowich said. “We have made no decisions about 2014 in any district.”
A National Pro-Life Alliance representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Campaign finance records released this month also reveal that the Jasper Republican’s late-campaign donors included 16 House colleagues — all men, all Republican and none from Tennessee — who gave a combined $48,000. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, the third-ranking House Republican, donated $5,000 a day before the election.
A $2,000 contribution came from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, one of two congressional DesJarlais backers who responded to a Times Free Press inquiry.
“Chairman Issa looks forward to continuing to work with Congressman DesJarlais as he pursues the best interest of his district and our nation in the coming Congress,” Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said Friday.
DesJarlais sits on Issa’s committee. The other respondent was U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma.
“‘No comment’ is Congressman Lucas’ response,” Lucas spokesman Laramie Adams said.
Two fellow physicians-turned-politicians, Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and Tom Price of Georgia, gave money after crucial parts of the controversy were published and confirmed by DesJarlais.
According to the American Medical Association, it’s misconduct for a doctor to have a sexual relationship with a patient.
Political action committees connected to the health industry gave a combined $71,000 to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ successful re-election effort, according to the Chattanooga TFP. But at least six PACs that gave to DesJarlais’ 2012 campaign, including local insurance giants BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Unum, said they won’t give again in 2014. “Anytime you support someone, you have an association with them,” BlueCross spokesman Roy Vaughn said. “That becomes difficult if their behavior is something that doesn’t reflect well on your organization.”
Another half-dozen PACs representing health professionals, hospitals, nursing homes and health insurance companies said they haven’t decided on DesJarlais. The remaining 15 that donated to the physician-turned-congressman did not respond to a Chattanooga Times Free Press inquiry.
DesJarlais said he plans to seek a third term in 2014.
Excerpt from a News Sentinel story on leading political donors in East Tennessee: In a national campaign, fundraising is a process that starts years in advance and is often assisted by professional experts — people like Kim Kaegi.
The Tennessee fundraising guru has worked for Romney and Bob Corker during the current election cycle, and while she declined to speak for the Romney campaign, she did provide insight to campaign fundraising generally.
Candidates hire Kaegi to gain access to her vast network of contributors, and the consultant said her role includes writing, organizing and implementing a fundraising plan. It also includes a more fundamental task — dialing for dollars.
“I’m on the phone all day long,” she said. “It’s what I do.”
Asked how she appeals to a high-level donor, Kaegi cited the importance of fundraising events. In September, for example, a Knoxville fundraising luncheon that included Ryan raised around $1 million.
“Donors are event-driven,” said Kaegi. “If not for any other reason, it’s a timetable. It’s a deadline to make a contribution.”
In recent decades, the ranks of East Tennessee’s elite political contributors have been led by the Haslam family, which built the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops. Besides opening their own wallets, company founder Jim Haslam and current Chairman Jimmy Haslam have worked to drum up financial support from their own networks. (Jimmy Haslam’s brother, Bill Haslam, is Tennessee’s governor.)
The next generation of Pilot leadership may take a different approach, if previous habits are any indication. In September, former PepsiCo President John Compton took over as Pilot’s CEO, but Compton has little history of political giving. According to the Federal Election Commission, Compton’s only contributions during the current election cycle were to PepsiCo’s Concerned Citizens Fund.
A statement on behalf of Jim and Jimmy Haslam said they are supporting candidates that share their belief that the federal government is too large and inefficient, and that the country is better served by giving more rights back to the American people. The statement said Compton would not have a comment.