Tag Archives: contributions

Grand Jurors Question How Sheriff Dodged Indictment in Campaign Finance Case

Two McMinn County grand jurors in 2010 complained to an investigator that the jury foreman and an assistant district attorney tried to influence their votes in a politically fraught case, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The grand jury in July of that year voted not to indict sheriff candidate Joe Guy for campaign finance violations. Guy went on to win the election and is now McMinn County sheriff.
Later, two grand jurors told an investigator they felt improper influence was brought to bear in the jury room by foreman Joel Riley and Paul Rush, assistant district attorney in the 10th Judicial District.
No action was taken, records show. None of the other 10 grand jurors who sat on the case was interviewed, and the investigation was closed.
But both grand jurors told the Times Free Press they still believe Riley and Rush tried to influence their votes.
…The initial complaint alleged that a woman who worked for Gentry and Joe Guy told family members that Guy had given her and her husband cash and asked them to write him checks as campaign contributions.
The initial complaint alleged that a woman who worked for Gentry and Joe Guy told family members that Guy had given her and her husband cash and asked them to write him checks as campaign contributions.
Guy’s statement was slightly different. He told Haynes that Joy Early had come to him with the small contributions. He said he believed they were from deputies and others who didn’t want Frisbie to know they were giving to Guy.

Cooper Expects FEC to OK Texting for Dollars

The small print at the bottom of ads for federal politicians may soon get a new wrinkle — one that tells you to contribute to candidate X or Y by texting on your mobile phone, reports The Tennessean.
The proposal comes from Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, who said he expects the Federal Election Commission to give its final approval to the idea sometime this week.
“More and more people use their phones for just about anything,” Cooper said in an interview. “It’s so convenient.”
A whole generation of Americans, he added, has grown up with texting as central to their lifestyles. And Americans are used to texting to donate to charities of all kinds.
Different candidates, Cooper said, would have different five-digit codes that could be listed on their advertising.
The idea is to encourage more people to contribute to campaigns through small-dollar donations, counteracting the influence of millionaires and billionaires who max out in their contributions to candidates and political action committees and give unlimited amounts to Super PACs and other groups.
“It allows small donors to have a louder voice,” Cooper said

Burchett PayPal Campaign Donations Went Into Personal Account

Four electronic donations to Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s 2010 election totaling $2,000 were not recorded on his campaign finance disclosure reports as required by law, reports Mike Donila.
The money was deposited into an “Elect Burchett” PayPal account, an online system that allows people and businesses to transfer money via email. In four other instances, records show that a combined $1,600 was shifted out of that PayPal account and into Burchett’s personal PayPal account, which at times he has used to buy goods from Ebay, an Internet auction site.
The transfers and how the money was used also were not recorded on disclosure reports. The eight transactions took place between Jan. 26, 2010, and Oct. 28, 2010.
Burchett, a Republican, became mayor Sept. 1, 2010. The mayor blamed his estranged wife, Allison Burchett, for the campaign finance law violations, saying he did not have access to the Elect Burchett PayPal account and was unaware funds were moved into his personal PayPal account.
“My wife set up this PayPal account, handled all funds deposited in the account and was the only person with access to the account,” Tim Burchett said in a one-page “press release” that he gave to the News Sentinel.

Judges Can Can Continue Making Political Contributions

In January, the Tennessee Supreme Court adopted an overhauled code of conduct that applied to judges across the state, intended to draw a clear line between courts and politics.
But days before the new conflict-of-interest rules were to take effect on July 1, the Tennessean reports that the court issued a little-noticed order reversing one of its reforms: Judges in the state will be allowed to make political contributions — despite being expressly banned in the original, widely celebrated changes.
Some legal experts say the change of direction is questionable.
“The better practice is for judges to err on the side of staying out of politics,” said Adam Skaggs, attorney with New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “Judges would be well served to avoid injecting themselves in heated partisan debates.”
At least 27 Tennessee judges have donated to political campaigns this year, according to the Davidson County Election Commission. Nearly all the donations were under $1,000.
There were a few exceptions, however.
Outgoing General Sessions Judge Mike Jameson gave the largest sum, a $1,400 contribution to his former colleague Phillip North’s bid for state Senate. And Judge John McClarty of the Court of Appeals for East Tennessee contributed $1,000 to the re-election campaign of Rep. JoAnne Favors of Chattanooga.
…The Tennessee Bar Association supported lifting the ban.
“The courts have held that money is speech,” said Allan Ramsaur, who leads the association. Unless there is a compelling reason to override First Amendment rights, he added, donation restrictions “are pretty much frowned upon,” in addition to being vulnerable to legal attacks.

Small Donors Don’t Matter Much Anymore?

Small-dollar donations make up a relatively minuscule part of the money that fuels congressional incumbents, including those in the Tennessee delegation, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics reported by The Tennessean.
Take, for example, Sen. Bob Corker, who is seeking the Republican nomination for a second term in Thursday’s primary. Corker has raised $14.1 million when contributions to both his campaign and his personal political action committee are considered.
Of that, about 2 percent, or $271,090, is from donors who gave $200 or less, the center’s breakdown of Federal Election Commission reports shows.
Small-dollar percentages for other incumbents include:
• Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin: $42,144 — 2 percent of $1.77 million.
• Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood: $53,317 — 4 percent of $1.43 million.
• Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper: $22,192 — 3 percent of $934,349.
• Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump: $43,921 — 2 percent of $2.02 million.
• Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville: $70,287 — 8 percent of $924,523. Cooper’s figure is for his campaign committee only. He does not have his own PAC.

TN Donations to Presidential Candidates Plunge From 2008 Level

Tennessee contributions to presidential candidates reached $3.65 million by the end of March, down from $7.3 million at the same time four years ago, according to a Tennessean Washington Bureau analysis of campaign finance data.
The donations to candidates don’t include money flowing to various super PACs, which are largely pulling funds from bigger states and swing states. Fundraisers peg much of the blame on the economy, which scraped bottom between elections.
As the state’s unemployment rate climbed to a peak of 11 percent in the summer of 2009, donors closed their wallets — and many of them haven’t opened them again, fundraisers say.
“People that used to be able to give $5,000 now give $2,500,” said Chris Devaney, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
“The people involved are still donors, but it’s just not as strong as it once was. Political donations are disposable income.”
Devaney said he has noticed a particular dip in donations from the construction and real estate industries, which were hit hard by the recession.
Tennessee donations to Democrats tumbled from just under $2 million four years ago to about $790,000 this year — a 60 percent drop. That’s pretty close to the 63 percent drop in contributions to Democrats nationwide, attributable in part to the lack of a Democratic presidential primary.
Tennessee donations to Republicans decreased by 46 percent, from $5.34 million to $2.86 million. That’s a more dramatic drop than the 31 percent GOP fundraising decline nationally. But four years ago, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson was running for the Republican presidential nomination, boosting the state’s GOP campaign donations.
Thompson had received $3.43 million from Tennessee donors by this time in 2008, while Arizona Sen. John McCain — who ultimately won the nomination — had raised just $565,800.

Democrats Say PAC Bill Makes Corporations ‘Super People’

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE – Republicans are pushing a last-minute change to weaken campaign finance laws and make it easier for corporations to give to political campaigns.
House Bill 3281 would remove disclosure rules that require corporations to register as political action committees in order to give to candidates. Additionally, the bill removes aggregate PAC limits that prohibit candidates from receiving all of their funding from PACs and, for the first time, would allow insurance companies to donate to candidates.
“Under these new rules, corporations aren’t just ‘people,’ they are super-people that receive special privileges and access that everyday Tennesseans can’t get,” Forrester said. “Instead of using the last few minutes of this legislative session to put Tennesseans back to work, we’re seeing an extreme move that hurts the working and middle class families by putting special interests ahead of our families’ best interests.”
The law, if passed as amended by Casada, would allow corporations to adhere to the PAC donation limits, currently $10,700 per candidate, but would allow them to donate as individuals, effectively giving corporations a “best of both worlds” situation.
“If Rep. Casada is dead set on treating corporations like people, why not apply the same contribution limits to them as we do to human beings?” said Forrester.
Background
During the discussion of the amendment, Rep. Casada either misrepresented or outright lied about the impetus for this last minute legislation, namely, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. Casada stated that the law passed in 2011 requiring corporations to file as PACs in order to donate to candidates was a “mistake” and was “out of compliance” with the Supreme Court decision. This is absolutely false. Citizens United addressed Independent Expenditures, and expressly confirmed that bans on corporations donating to individuals are still legal.
Video: Rep. Casada says during the House State and Local Government Committee that this amendment would put the state in compliance with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wswJdGVOJMQ
Court Unlikely To Stop With Citizens United – Eliza Carney, National Journal Dec 18, 2010
“The court’s dramatic reversal does not threaten the existing ban on direct corporate and union campaign contributions. So while those players may now lavish money from their treasuries on independent campaign expenditures, they still may not donate directly to candidates.”
Life After Citizens United – NCSL: “the ruling does not directly affect state laws”

Knoxville Lawyer, Fred Thompson in Lawsuit Contending Political Contributions Swayed Judge’s Decision

From R. Neal at Knoxviews:
Noted Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball is co-lead counsel on a blockbuster case filed in the Illinois Supreme Court involving State Farm, a $1 billion class action lawsuit, and an allegedly corrupt judge. Former Senator Fred Thompson, who recently led an effort to block “tort reform” liability limits in Tennessee, is co-counsel.
According to the lawsuit, State Farm and its lawyers got an Illinois Supreme Court Justice elected by pumping $2.5 to $4 million into his campaign through PACs, and six months later the judge cast a deciding vote to reverse on appeal a $1.05 billion class action consumer fraud judgment against State Farm involving bogus replacement parts for wrecked cars.
The plaintiffs seek to have the reversal vacated and the original judgement restored to “correct a judgment obtained through fraud and concealment.” They allege that “State Farm’s extraordinary financial and political support for Justice Karmeier’s 2004 campaign created a constitutionally-unacceptable risk of bias such that his participation and vote to reverse the $1.05 billion judgment deprived Petitioners of their due process rights.” They had previously requested the judge to recuse himself from the case but he refused.
UPDATE; Chicago Tribune story HERE.

Report Lists ALEC Donations to State Legislators

Excerpt from a National Center for Money in State Politics news release:
For decades, some of this nation’s largest corporations have courted thousands of conservative lawmakers at annual conferences of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Along with the food, drink, and dancing, member attendance to the conference comes with access to hundreds of industry-drafted bills that their hosts would like to see passed by state legislatures and Congress.
And, like any good courtship, ALEC’s member corporations and associations were generous to their state-lawmaker partners when it came time to get serious about the relationship.
How serious?
An examination of campaign donations made by ALEC corporate members dating back to the 1990 election cycle shows that they contributed $12.2 million to state-level candidates who were ALEC members, with 98.4 percent of that money going to incumbent and winning candidates, many of whom could vote on proposed legislation. Additional analysis reveals that $11.9 million of the $12.2 million went to Republicans. Click here to download the database.
Over the seven (10 for some states) election cycles covered in a donor-data analysis by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, ALEC corporate members contributed $516.2 million to state-level politics: $202.1 million to state-level candidates, $228.3 million to high-dollar ballot-measure campaigns, and $85.8 million to state political party committees.

A quick skim through the list of contributions shows a sprinkling of donations to Tennessee lawmakers including state Reps. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, and Curry Todd, R-Collierville; as well as former Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, (now in Congress) and former Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet. Most of those donations are in fairly modest amounts of $200 to $500.
Full news release HERE.

TN Takes the Lead in Allowing Liberal Giving to Politicians

(Note: This is an unedited version of a column written for Sunday’s News Sentinel. Edited version HERE.)
Our staunchly conservative state legislators have decided to be liberal in at least one sense, that being allowing generosity in donation to political campaigns.
Indeed, a review of a National Conference of State Legislatures listing of campaign contribution limits in all 50 states – last updated in 2010 – it appears that not only did the our legislators vote in June to allow themselves to collect direct corporate contribution; they will allow companies to give them bigger contributions than any other state that imposes limits on campaign contributions.
A handful of states – Oregon, Utah and Missouri, for example – still have no limits whatsoever on what any entity can give to candidates for state office. Tennessee first adopted limits on campaign contributions in 1995, a legislative reaction to the state government corruption scandal of the day, known by the FBI code name “Rocky Top.”
Our new law, enacted as SB1915, got most attention for authorizing direct corporate contributions. But it also raised the limits on how much money can be donated to candidates, declaring the old 1995 limits should be adjusted for inflation, retroactively. The result was about a 40 percent increase in contribution limits.
(Registry of Election Finance chart with the new limits compared to old limits HERE.)
The new law also calls for automatic inflation increases in the future, giving Tennessee a head start at remaining at the head of the liberalized donation pack – or PACs – in the years ahead.

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