NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik in a lawsuit that accused her of defamation for a campaign advertisement targeting rival Diane Black.
The suit was filed by Aegis Sciences Corp., a drug-testing company owned by David Black. He is the husband of Diane Black, who won the election for the 6th District seat.
The 2010 advertisement showed Diane Black, who was then a state senator, handing a $1 million check from “Tennessee Taxpayers” to her husband.
In an opinion filed this week, a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court ruled 2-1 for Zelenik. The court found that the advertisement portrayed Diane Black as a big spender but did not imply that Aegis received graft.
A spokeswoman for Aegis declined to comment.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Chuck Fleischmann on Thursday turned back vigorous attempts by Republican rivals to deny them another term in Congress.
Fleischmann defeated dairy executive Scotty Mayfield and Weston Wamp, the son of the former congressman representing the 3rd District in East Tennessee.
“I look forward to returning to Congress to continue to fight for the conservative values I’m committed to,” Fleischmann said in an emailed statement.
With all precincts reporting, Fleischmann had 29,943 votes, or 39 percent, compared with Mayfield’s 23,772 votes, or 31 percent. Wamp had 29 percent.
Edwinea Murray, a retired Tennessee Valley Authority worker who lives in Hixson, said she voted for Fleischmann because she was disgusted by the tone of rival campaigns.
“They were slamming their opponents in the commercials more than anything,” she said. “I think a lot of that is unnecessary.”
USA Today has taken note of the Super PAC spending in Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District Republican primary as an example of the influence such groups can have. Two outside political action committees that have unleashed TV, radio and billboard advertising attacking Tennessee Rep. Diane Black’s congressional record are funded entirely by a businessman with close ties to her rival in next week’s Republican primary.
Andrew Miller, a Nashville health care investor, told USA TODAY he has pumped more than $260,000 into the two super PACs — Citizens 4 Ethics in Government and the Congressional Elections PAC — running anti-Black ads.
Miller previously served as finance chairman for the campaign of Black’s challenger, Lou Ann Zelenik. Miller also is on the board of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, whose top issues include opposing the spread of Islamic Sharia law. Zelenik is the group’s former executive director.
Miller said his spending helps an underfunded challenger compete against an incumbent.
“We’ve got to hold these elected officials accountable, and one of the most interesting ways has been the advent of super PACs,” he said. “The playing field can be leveled in ways it wasn’t before.”
The last-minute spending blitz by Miller in this little-noticed Tennessee House race underscores the potential of a handful of wealthy donors to shape November’s congressional and White House battles. Super PACs are a relatively new weapon in politics, unleashed by a pair of 2010 federal court rulings that allow unions, corporations and wealthy individuals to band together to raise and spend unlimited amounts in federal races.
Nearly three dozen super PACs that have raised at least $100,000 in the 2012 election have five or fewer donors, a USA TODAY analysis shows. Nearly a third of all contributions to the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future — the super PAC that has raised the most money — have come in chunks of least $1 million each.
Campaign-finance experts say super PACs’ greatest influence may be felt in House contests. In 2010, the average winner of a House race spent $1.4 million — a tiny fraction of the $730 million President Obama spent to win the White House two years earlier, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
News release from Lou Ann Zelenik
MT JULIET, TN – The Diane Black Campaign becomes more desperate after reports of falling poll numbers and lack of any grassroots support. Their candidate has become increasingly shrill in campaign appearances. It seems Diane Black’s campaign has come unhinged. The latest stop in Diane Black’s journey into the political gutter comes in the form of a slew of false and misleading attack ads smearing Sixth District Congressional Candidate Lou Ann Zelenik.
Zelenik Campaign Manager Jay Heine noted today “that Diane Black’s campaign is routinely wrong, dishonest or both about Lou Ann, her positions and her campaign. We are confident the voters of Tennessee will understand a desperate politician will say or do anything to hold on to power. If Diane Black can’t be honest about these basic facts, how can we trust any claim she makes?”
“Congresswoman Black has been misleading Republicans in agitated comments at campaign events about her record of voting to increasing the debt (S.365), funding Obamacare (HR 1, HJ Res. 48, HR 1473, S.365, HR 2608, HR 2055), slashing defense spending (S.365), increasing taxes on our mortgages (HR 3630 Dec 20th 2011) and funding Planned Parenthood (HR 1, S.365) – all votes on the record and all votes Diane Black is ashamed to own up to. Now, her campaign is spreading misinformation about Lou Ann Zelenik’s record and background.” Heine concludes “we’ve seen this before and it is wearing thin on voters.”
Lou Ann Zelenik’s campaign will not jump into Diane Black’s mud puddle. Lou Ann will continue to offer the voters a positive alternative based on the issues and her conservative principles. We will conduct our campaign in a manner that honors the people Lou Ann wishes to serve
News release from Diane Black campaign:
GALLATIN, TN — The Diane Black for Congress Campaign today called on Lou Ann Zelenik to disavow the false negative attacks being run by shadowy groups coordinating with her campaign and run an honest and ethical campaign. The group Citizens 4 Ethics in Government that is spending over $100,000 on false ads attacking Black was formed and is solely financed by Andy Miller, Zelenik’s Campaign Finance Chairman, and is in violation of at least one federal campaign finance law.
“Lou Ann Zelenik needs to cease and desist with the false and illegal campaign activities. We are calling on Lou Ann Zelenik to disavow the lies being spewed by a shadowy group her campaign is coordinating with and demand the ads be taken down. Not only is this behavior dishonest, it is illegal,” said Black spokesman Jennifer Baker. “The shadowy group attacking Diane Black with a barrage of false claims on TV is being financed and run by Lou Ann Zelenik’s campaign finance chairman and is in violation of the law. One would hope that if Lou Ann Zelenik is running to make federal laws in Congress she would follow federal laws in her campaign.”
The shadowy independent group called Citizens 4 Ethics in Government is running over a hundred thousands of dollars in false ads against Diane Black and is violating at least one federal law by failing to disclose its campaigns expenditures as required by the Federal Election Commission. (Specific FEC law cited below). The group also appears to be in violation of the coordination laws surrounding these secret groups. Andy Miller, Zelenik’s Campaign Finance Chairman, is the only donor to Citizens 4 Ethics in Government and filings show that he has given over $100,000 to the group. The group was formed recently to influence this race specifically. In addition to the group being formed, financed and run by Miller, the Zelenik campaign is telling supporters they are coordinating to “take out” Diane Black and keep Lou Ann’s hands clean.
“Lou Ann Zelenik will stop at nothing in her crazy vendetta against Diane Black and that includes telling vicious lies in coordination with a shadow group that is violating federal election law,” said Baker. “Our Country is in peril. We have a national debt that exceeds $16 trillion dollars and the citizens of the 6th Congressional District need an honest Congressman representing them who won’t put her own personal vendetta above the law or fixing our Country’s serious problems.”
Zelenik who resides in the 4th Congressional District, has rented an apartment in the 6th District for the purpose of running against Diane Black to satisfy her own personal vendetta. In her last losing campaign against Black, Zelenik ran one of the dirtiest campaigns in Tennessee history. The attacks Zelenik launched on Black were so false that Zelenik’s advertising team settled out of court; paying a monetary settlement and admitting that the negative attack ads they produced for Lou Ann Zelenick had no factual basis and they had no knowledge of any unethical behavior. (Settlement document attached to email) Now she is at it again, coordinating with shadowy groups that are violating the law and running hundreds of thousands of dollars in false attacks on Diane Black.
— UPDATE: This statement from the Lou Ann Zelenik Campaign Manager Jay Heine: “Andy Miller resigned from Lou Ann’s Campaign abruptly in May of this year, Tom Arnold assumed the Position of Finance Chair on June 1st of 2012. We have had no involvement in the Ethics for Government organization. Diane Black can’t even tell the truth about her own votes let alone tell anything factual in a press release attacking Lou Ann. We call on Diane Black to end her negative campaign ads and talk about the issues and explain why she voted to fund Obamacare, Increase the Debt Ceiling, and tax every new mortgage and re-finance in the US for the next 10 years. Diane Black should apologize to the people of Tennessee and make amends for her dishonest and disgraceful negative campaign tactics. Clearly the Diane Black campaign has gone crazy.”
A hint of bi-partisanship has emerged in one Tennessee congressional race, reports WPLN – albeit unspoken. Rep. Diane Black’s latest campaign ad refers to legislation introduced by a neighboring Democrat. Walking toward the camera on a factory floor, Rep. Black of Gallatin describes her frustration at Congress for not passing a budget in three years.
“I argued. I begged. I even got mad. Now I’ve found the answer – cut their pay.”
The first-term Republican says her plan would cut the pay of lawmakers when they miss budget deadlines.
“Her plan” was originally introduced by Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper as the “No Budget, No Pay Act.” Black is now a co-sponsor, and Cooper is nothing but complimentary of his Republican colleague.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
A spokesperson from Black’s campaign says “she’ll work with whomever” wants to balance the federal budget. Cooper says if more Republicans get behind his plan, it might actually have a chance of passing.
U.S. Rep. Diane Black has become the second prominent Tennessee Republican to be featured with President Obama on a billboard, this one in the Cookeville area and compliments of Lou Ann Zelenik’s campaign. The first, of course, was House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart.
News release from Diane Black campaign:
GALLATIN- The Diane Black for Congress campaign today unveiled a new television ad titled ‘No Budget. No Pay’. The new ad is airing on television stations across the Sixth Congressional District and it highlights legislation that Black has co-sponsored as a member of the Fix Congress Now Caucus.
“It is outrageous that we have to pass a law to get Congress to do its job, but we just can’t sit on our hands while the debt balloons and Congress continues to just kick the can down the road,” said Black. “It has been three years since Washington has passed any budget and we are over $16 trillion in debt. Our constituents have to do their jobs to get paid and so should Congress.”
Congress so routinely misses budget and appropriations deadlines that it is to the point where no one takes these deadlines seriously, since there’s no consequence for being late. ‘No Budget. No Pay’ would hold Congress accountable for not fulfilling its duties. The law says that if Congress doesn’t pass its budget and all its appropriations bills by the October 1st deadline, then Congress doesn’t get paid. Retroactive pay isn’t an option.
News release from Diane Black campaign:
GALLATIN- The Diane Black for Congress campaign today unveiled a new television ad. The television ad titled “First Law” is airing on television stations across the Sixth Congressional District. “First Law” highlights Black’s fight to repeal Obamacare and is focused on the fact Black authored the first law reversing a healthcare provision of Obamacare saving taxpayers $13 billion dollars.
“This election is about job creation. Repealing Obamacare and reining in out-of- control federal spending is essential to job creation. Diane Black has led on this issue and she is the author of the first law reversing a healthcare provision of Obamacare. We can always trust Diane to fight for conservative principles. That is why the National Journal has rated her the most conservative U.S. Representative,” said Black’s campaign spokesman Jennifer Baker.
Black was rated the most conservative member in the United States House of Representatives by the well-respected National Journal and she was the first freshman house member to have a bill signed into law. Black’s bill that became law reversed a portion of Obamacare saving taxpayers $13 billion dollars. Black is running for re-election in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District, which includes the following seventeen ( counties Cumberland, Cannon, Clay, Coffee, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, White and Wilson counties and a portion of Cheatham and Van Buren.
The ad may be viewed HERE.
Script is below.
Politically motivated slander suits are nothing new in Tennessee, and Davidson County Circuit Judge Joe P. Binkley seems to have found more of the same in Black v. Zelenik, going so far as to state that charges of U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s wrongdoing are “substantially true.”
So reports the Murfreesboro Post in an article that the Black campaign sharply criticizes (see end of post): David Black, husband of Diane Black (R-Gallatin), and his drug testing firm, Aegis Sciences Corporation, filed suit in the midst of a hotly contested U.S. House primary campaign against Lou Ann Zelenik in 2010 after her campaign began airing ads that accused Black of steering millions of dollars in no-bid state contracts to her husband’s firm through her position as a state senator, in violation of state law.
“The communication was true or at least substantially true,” reads the April ruling by Binkley, who sided with Zelenik and summarily dismissed Black’s lawsuit as frivolous.
Black’s firm appealed the ruling in late April, and the matter is ongoing in the midst of another primary battle with Zelenik for the Republican nomination in Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District.
Documents reveal accusations of Black and her husband profiting from her political power in the state senate were nothing new, having been copied nearly word-for-word from a Tennessee Democratic Party mailer during Black’s 2008 re-election campaign for state senate.
Additionally, Black’s actions were detailed in a December 2007 issue of The Gallatin Newspaper, and were the subject of a WSMV Channel 4 News investigation in January of the same year.
Neither Black nor her family business hauled anyone to court at that time, but, then again, she was cruising to re-election by a 2-1 margin and had poured more than $50,000 of her own money into the race, according to documents filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
Her 2010 contest with Zelenik became a much different race, not only because she was seeking higher office in U.S. Congress, but also because she had a formidable opponent. UPDATE: From Jennifer Baker of the Diane Black campaign via email after this was initially posted. “At the same time the Murfreesboro Post ran this misleading article they also ran on the cover of their publication a photo shopped photo of Lou Ann Zelenik with a gun pointed at Diane Black’s face. They are clearly engaged in a smear campaign against Diane and will go to any length to pursue their liberal agenda. Not only did they fail to contact our campaign for a response, they omitted key facts regarding Zelenik’s false and misleading ads. For example, the company that Lou Ann Zelenik paid to make the ads attacking Diane Black settled out of court and paid a financial settlement. In the settlement papers filed with the court the advertising firm states it has no knowledge of any unethical, illegal or improper behavior. “-Jennifer Baker, Black spokesman