Tag Archives: drew

Editorial: Haslam Should Disclose Personal Payments to Ingram

Excerpt from a News Sentinel editorial on Gov. Bill Haslam hiring Tom Ingram with personal funds to serve as a consultant:
Haslam has said he still consults Ingram on political matters but pays for that advice out of pocket. The campaign finance disclosure forms he has submitted since his election show no payments to Ingram.
But they should.
Drew Rawlins, who is the executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Election Finance, said in an interview that an officeholder’s out-of-pocket payments for a consultant are not necessarily required to be included on disclosures. If an officeholder seeks advice on governance, he or she might not have to report the payment. If the candidate receives campaign advice, Rawlins said, disclosure would be required.
The solution is simple. Haslam should file amended campaign finance disclosure forms that reflect Ingram’s pay for political advice. And he should transfer funds to his campaign account to cover the costs. Though not necessarily required by the letter of the law, disclosure would enhance the governor’s standing as a proponent of openness.
As governor, Haslam should be transparent about the money he spends on political matters. There is nothing wrong with paying Ingram — or anyone else, for that matter — for political insight. He just needs to divulge such transactions to the citizens of Tennessee so they know who is speaking into the governor’s ear.

Registry of Election Finance: Legislators Like It, Others Question Effectiveness

State legislators seem pleased on a bipartisan basis with the way Tennessee’s campaign finance watchdog agency performs, but one concerned citizen, Mike Hart, wonders if that’s not the equivalent of foxes being pleased with oversight of the hen house.
That agency, the Registry of Election Finance, on Wednesday will be dealing with a complaint from News Sentinel contributing columnist Pam Strickland over “irregularities” in financial disclosures of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
“They are accessible, responsive to questions and they seem to be well-organized,” says Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who serves as Senate speaker pro tempore and chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee. “They just run a good operation.”
“They’re not set up over there to do witch hunts,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville. “They try to accommodate candidates who, they understand, can make mistakes. They’re going to make sure you get it right, but they’re not going to persecute you.”

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Drew Johnson Named Chattanooga Free Press Editorial Editor

Conservative columnist Drew Johnson has been named as the opinion editor for the Free Press editorial page, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.
He succeeds Lee Anderson, who retired in April as the Free Press editorial page editor after 70 years with the newspaper.
Johnson helped found and direct the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a government watchdog group in Nashville (Note: Since re-named Beacon Center). For the past two and a half years, he has been a senior fellow for the Taxpayer Protection Alliance in Nashville and Washington D.C. and a weekly columnist for Newsmax.


UPDATE: The Times-Free Press reports that, shortly after his hiring was announced, Johnson was “the victim of a mean-spirited Internet prank.” Someone took over a Twitter account in his name and started tweeting obscene stuff.

Ethical Secrecy at the Ethics Commission?

The Tennessee Ethics Commission this week denied a public records request from TNReport seeking the number of complaints the body has received and investigated, reports Andrea Zelinski in an article on the sometimes secretive panel.
“We can’t verify a complaint has even been filed,” said Drew Rawlins, bureau executive director who also oversees the Registry of Election Finance. He said releasing the information would allow people to deduce when a new case has been filed and who it may be against.
His office pointed to Section 3-6-202(a)(1) of Tennessee state code, which says the commission members and staff “shall preserve the confidentiality of all commission proceedings, including records relating to a preliminary investigation.” The Office of Open Records Counsel, which falls under the state comptroller, agreed with the records denial.
All complaints filed with the commission that are immediately thrown out are closed to public inspection, Rebecca Bradley, an ethics specialist at the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said.
The records only become public if the alleged violator requests the documents be open or if the commission believes the allegation has probable cause, even if the commission ultimately scraps the investigation, the law says.

That has been interpreted to mean even the number of complaints, without any information on the substance, cannot be disclosed.
The commission has never found anyone guilty of an ethics violation. The panel has disclosed only that five cases have been thrown out during the five years that the commission has existed.