Sex Week UT will go on, reports the News Sentinel, thanks to its organizers’ securing roughly $7,000 more in funds in a single day. After the University of Tennessee announced Wednesday evening that it was taking back $11,145 — two-thirds of the weeklong event’s budget — students and other supporters rallied, pushing donations through a PayPal account on the Sex Week UT Web page and a fundraising challenge on the independent site Indiegogo.
“I knew we would get the money back, but in one day!” said Brianna Rader, co-founder of Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, Sex Week’s sponsoring student organization. “I’m still shocked and disappointed that (funding was withdrawn), but I’m so pleased that we were given the opportunity to show how important this is to the students.”
…Sex Week’s cost was $18,195, including money for national speakers, T-shirts, posters and licensing to show two films (“Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Hysteria”), said Rader, who said the schedule had been set since January. That included $6,700 in student activity fees allocated by UT’s student-run Central Program Council, and $11,145 from various academic departments and programs that co-sponsored events.
On Wednesday, UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek decreed student programming dollars could be used, but the $11,145 — drawn from funds that included tuition payments and state allocations — could not.
The Tennessean has a list, compiled from Center for Responsive Politics information, ranking Tennessee members of Congress in their dependence on PACs for contributions in the 2012 election cycle. Here it is:
• Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville: $471,649 or 73 percent, 19th highest (of U.S. House members).
• Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood: $1.11 million or 63.4 percent, 63rd highest.
• Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis: $482,822 or 58.1 percent, 95th highest.
• Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin: $1.17 million or 48.3 percent, 187 highest.
• Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah: $554,955 or 39.5 percent, 278th highest.
• Rep. Steve Fincher, R-Frog Jump: $881,086 or 39.2 percent, 281st highest.
• Rep. Scott DesJarlais: $471,178 or 37.5 percent, 295th highest.
• Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville: $358,654 or 29.7 percent, 348th highest.
• Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City: $0, 433rd highest.
The accompanying story is focused mostly on U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. It’s HERE.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Contributions totaling more than $364,000 have poured into lawmakers’ campaign accounts over the past two years from liquor wholesalers, package stores and the beer industry — three groups that have traditionally opposed changing state law to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets.
An Associated Press analysis of campaign finance data shows that six of the 11 members of the Senate Finance Committee, which is scheduled to take up a bill Tuesday to hold local referendums on whether to expand wine sales, received a combined $38,000 from the three political action committees. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville alone received $13,000. (Note: The vote was postponed until next week.)
The remaining five members of the Senate panel received no contributions from the three groups.
Norris, who voted against the measure when it eked out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee by a one-vote margin last week, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Donations to the University of Tennessee athletic department, and the number of people who gifted that money, fell by more than 25 percent in 2012, reports the News Sentinel. The $10 million drop followed coaching shake-ups and a poor performance on the football field — but it also came after years of record giving to the department.
For the last decade, new capital gifts have fueled new building projects. Those building projects brought new luxury stadium seating. Those seats delivered even more donations at higher-dollar amounts required from ticket holders who wanted to watch games from a premium perch.
It’s a strategy that grew the overall donations — for the tickets fund and capital projects combined — from $13.6 million in 1998 to a high water mark of $46.9 million in 2008. Last year UT brought in $35.1 million.
“When I started in the fall of ’97, there were four people in the office total and now the office may have 15 or 16 people,” said Bill Myers, the chief financial officer for the athletics department who began his time at UT in the development office.
“Over that time it grew because when you have 10,000 to 12,000 contributors, with four people you just can’t have personal relationships with that number,” he said. “So as you add staff and are able to steward those donors, and have personal interactions with more of them, they’re more likely to contribute.”
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.
Parties in a lawsuit challenging how high-ranking Tennessee judges are selected are presently more wrapped up in who will rule on the case than the merits of the case itself, observes Andrea Zelinski. Gov. Bill Haslam last week appointed three new members to a Special Supreme Court to hear a lawsuit against him challenging the constitutionality of how the state has picked judges over the past four decades. Haslam’s earlier appointees stepped down after John Hay Hooker, a longtime political gadfly behind the lawsuit, pressured them to recuse themselves for having ties to an organization that lobbies against popularly electing judges.
Now, another special justice, W. Morris Kizer, has revealed that he donated to Haslam’s campaigns for Knoxville mayor in 2003 and governor in 2010. Kizer’s household gave $3,000 to Haslam’s gubernatorial campaign, according to campaign records.
Kizer insists his political donations don’t “constitute a basis for disqualification,” but Hooker contends every link is suspect.
“It’s like a football game between the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt,” said Hooker, an 82-year-old former Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate who today is asking the Special Supreme Court to take up his case. “Do you want the referee to be a graduate from the University of Tennessee or Vanderbilt? That’s a no-no.”
…”If you ask anybody if they’re alive and human, they have an opinion about things,” Haslam said last week before naming the three new members to the panel. “That’s different than having a conflict. I think anybody that we will appoint will understand that difference and will make sure there’s no conflicts.”
Appeals judge Alan Glenn, chairman of the Judicial Ethics Committee, said the governor’s interpretation is correct. The tricky part, he said, is defining what conflicts can “reasonably” be questioned.
“Like defining what’s fairness and what’s beauty, everyone has their own ideas,” he said. “What is reasonably questioned impartiality? Everyone has their own views on it.”
With more than two months to go before election day, Tennesseans are position to break records for the amount donated to the presidential campaign and congressional campaigns, reports The Tennessean. Already, $29.15 million has flowed from individuals in Tennessee to 2012 presidential and congressional campaigns nationwide, as well as to political parties, political action committees and outside groups such as “Super PACs,” according to the center’s breakdown of Federal Election Commission records.
If the state’s politically active continue to open their checkbooks over the stretch run, they could top the $36.78 million in individual contributions Tennessee pumped into the federal-level campaigns of 2008, the most for the state this century.
The Center for Responsive Politics recently estimated that 2012 congressional and presidential races will cost at least $5.8 billion, setting another new record.
…Nashville continues to dominate political giving in the state, with individuals there giving $11.97 million. The Chattanooga area is a distant second at $3.9 million.
The most generous ZIP codes have been 37205 ($2.48 million) and 37215 ($2.12 million), both in Nashville, followed by 37027 ($1.47 million) in Brentwood.
Unified Shelby County School board member Kenneth Whalum is questioning the connection between school board candidates endorsed by a public education advocacy group and the candidates’ allegiance to the Transition Planning Commission’s plan for merging the school districts. “If our children are for sale, I need to know exactly how many votes they are worth,” he said in a press conference Monday outside the former election commission offices Downtown.
Whalum lost his bid for re-election by 88 votes to opponent Kevin Woods, endorsed by Stand for Children. If he must prove fraud to get a recount, Whalum said his lawsuit against the Shelby County Election Commission will include subpoenas for correspondence between the advocacy group Stand, the unified school board and the TPC.
“Oooh, I look forward to this,” he said.
Kenya Bradshaw, executive director the Tennessee chapter of Stand, is a member of the TPC.
Last week, Stand announced it spent $153,000 on seven local school board races, including Woods’ race against Whalum. Most of the money spent on the campaign, Bradshaw said, came from an out-of-town donor, whom Stand said gave $200,000.
Bradshaw would not identify the donor.
Whalum wants to know what influence that person may have had on the TPC or the school board. “If there is a connection between a sitting member of the TPC, sitting members of the school board and the single-source $200,000 contribution, we’ll find out.”
Last week, Whalum said he would not seek a recount. He said the onus was on him to win by an indisputable measure.
He changed his mind Sunday, at his wife’s urging, saying voting errors in the election itself, redistricting that moved him from his Orange Mound base and evidence that Stand had heavily invested in his opponent created a “perfect storm of coincidences” he could no longer overlook.
Lakeland city officials sent a letter recently to residents seeking donations for “a campaign to raise additional revenues without having to implement a City tax,” reports the Commercial Appeal. But Mayor Scott Carmichael said he disagreed with the letter’s wording regarding a possible property taxes, and emphasized there is no plan to assess one.
Other Lakeland elected officials agreed.
“We do everything in our power not to implement a property tax,” Commissioner Cecil Tompkins, also the city’s vice mayor, said. “… It is part of our appeal. It’s been that way for 33 years.”
Lakeland is the only government in Shelby County that does not have a property tax. The city depends on the county for emergency services, such as fire, police and ambulances.
Carmichael said one reason for seeking contributions was to offset revenue lost when Kroger — the biggest sales-tax contributor to Lakeland – moved (from inside Lakeland’s city limits into the city of Memphis). …Carmichael said Friday officials believe the unplanned loss in revenues is about $380,000 to $390,000 — or 8 to 10 percent of the city’s $4.2 million in projected revenues for fiscal 2012, according to budget figures.
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press begins a story on donations to Weston Wamp’s congressional campaign by recycling a comment from the candidate’s father, Zach Wamp, during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Behind in the polls a day before he lost Tennessee’s Republican gubernatorial primary last year, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp skewered the eventual nominees — Bill Haslam and Mike McWherter. “Both of them are really running on their daddies’ fumes,” Wamp told supporters near Nashville. “They wouldn’t even be in this game if it weren’t for their fathers.”
He might regret saying that. Wamp’s 24-year-old son Weston recently mounted a primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the man who replaced the elder Wamp in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District.
Records show 72 percent of Weston Wamp’s top donors to date gave money to his father’s gubernatorial campaign, congressional campaigns or both.
Glenn Morris Jr., president and CEO of M&M Industries, recently pledged $2,500 to Weston Wamp’s campaign.
“I have enormous respect for Zach Wamp, and that’s why I’m doing it,” said Morris. “If his son wants to run, I find that great out of loyalty for Zach. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”