Tom Ingram and another executive with his influential lobbying firm worked with Mayor Karl Dean’s office more than a month ago to put together an incentive package for the television show “Nashville” but didn’t register with the city as lobbyists at the time, according to The Tennessean.. On June 24, Dean announced $500,000 in incentives, pending Metro Council approval, to keep the ABC drama filming here.
Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said officials in the mayor’s office communicated with Ingram and fellow Ingram Group executive Sam Reed when negotiating the incentive deal. Ingram Group has long been the lobbyist for Gaylord Entertainment, now Ryman Hospitality Partners, which is one of the show’s executive producers.
The Metro code defines lobbying as communicating “directly or indirectly, with any official in the legislative branch or executive branch for pay or for any consideration, for the purpose of influencing any legislative action or administrative action.”
Last week, Reed and another Ingram Group lobbyist, Marcille Durham, registered with the city as representing Ryman. Ingram has not registered.
But government transparency expert Dick Williams, chairman of the nonprofit group Common Cause Tennessee, said Ingram and Reed should have registered with the city when it was negotiating, based on lobbying disclosure requirements
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of Dr. Carroll Van West as state historian.
West replaces the late Walter T. Durham, who served 11 years in the honorary position. (Note: Post on Durham’s death HERE.)
“Dr. West’s faithful service to his field for many years reflects a commitment to excellence that will serve the citizens of Tennessee very well,” Haslam said. “His incredible body of work speaks for itself, and we are fortunate and grateful to have him as our state historian.”
West has served as director at the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area since 2002.
He has taught as a professor in the MTSU history department since 1985. He currently serves as a co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and as a Tennessee representative on the National Board of Advisors of National Trust for Historic Preservation. West also sits on the Executive Board of Lewis and Clark Trust, Inc. and on the Advisory Board of Teaching with Primary Sources, Library of Congress.
Gov. Bill Haslam has insisted that Tom Ingram, a lobbyist who gives him private advice for an undisclosed fee, does not lobby him on behalf of other clients. But WTVF reports that Haslam administration emails show Ingram clients had “enormous access” to the governor’s top advisers.
The story’s prime example is Chris and Andrea Ball, who had been cited in 2012 for operating a staff leasing company without a license, the station says. They showed up at a bill-signing ceremony shortly afterwards and a Tennessean headline on a story reprting this asked, “Who Invited This Couple?” At the time, Haslam aides told reporters it was a mystery who invited the couple to attend the signing of a bill that regulated staff leasing companies.
But emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show Haslam’s administration was well aware of the couple. The Balls had hired Ingram.
His firm sent regular updates about the Balls to the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate.
…In March 2012, Marcille Durham of the Ingram Group sent an email to Cate, “Andrea Ball would very much like to visit with you, however briefly, regarding the Department of Insurance action that is driving her out of business.”
Cate responded that he talked with the Department of Insurance Commissioner and is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
In April 2012, Ingram emailed Mark Cate about the Ball’s company, “Is there anytime today or tomorrow I can talk again about HR Comp Employee Leasing LLC. This is a very troubling case.”
A month after that, the Balls appeared at the bill signing.
Then in July 2012, Durham complained to Cate about a specific “fraud investigator” with the state. She was concerned about the “level of surveillance” on the Balls company.
Cate asked to be “kept in the loop.”
The emails show a level of access likely to make other lobbyists envious.
Ingram and his firm communicated regularly with Cate, even when he was on vacation in the Bahamas and on holiday weekends.
Tom Ingram and two of his associates lobbied state lawmakers this year to eliminate Tennessee’s privilege tax on professional athletes, according to The Tennessean, but you wouldn’t know it from what they disclosed about their efforts publicly. The lobbyist registration forms that Tom Ingram and his colleagues at The Ingram Group filed with the state only mentioned another lobbying firm, giving the public no indication of the special interests they were really representing in an unsuccessful bid to kill the so-called “jock tax.”
The Ingram Group’s Marcille Durham and Sam Reed registered as lobbyists for McGuiness Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying shop, on Feb. 25, with Tom Ingram joining them on April 17, state records show. McGuiness Group’s website says its clients include the players associations for the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association.
Dick Williams, chairman of good-government group Common Cause Tennessee and a lobbyist himself, said Ingram, Durham and Reed appear to have complied with the law. But the law, which requires only that lobbyists list their employers and that employers say who’s lobbying for them, leaves something to be desired.
“Ideally, it would be nice to have a little more clarity for the public,” Williams said. “It does leave a little vagueness.”
…Durham said the Ingram Group lobbyists’ listing of McGuiness Group as their employer was not only legal but accurate. She said McGuiness Group, run by former U.S. Senate aide Kevin McGuiness, is the “professional manager” for the pro sports players associations.
“I wouldn’t call McGuiness just a lobbyist,” Durham said Friday. “McGuiness Group was our client. Our direction didn’t come from the players associations. It came from McGuiness Group.”
Durham said she, Reed and Ingram have updated their registrations to indicate that they’re about to start lobbying directly for the hockey and basketball players associations.
,,,The privilege tax, a common practice in states with professional sports franchises, applies to pro hockey and basketball players who play in the state of Tennessee as members of the Nashville Predators, Memphis Grizzlies or visiting NHL and NBA teams. The tax does not apply to the Tennessee Titans or their opponents.
Athletes are taxed $2,500 per game for up to three games per year. A recent article in the Marquette Sports Law Review, which argues that Tennessee’s tax is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, says some athletes wind up paying to play here when the privilege tax and other taxes exceed their per-game wages.
Walter Thomas Durham, Tennessee’s state historian for the past decade and author of 24 books on Tennessee history, died on Friday at the age of 88, reports The Tennessean. Mr. Durham, a longtime Gallatin businessman and a walking encyclopedia of Tennessee and Sumner County history, was appointed state historian in 2002 by then-Gov. Don Sundquist. He had already served as president of the Tennessee Historical Society, founding president of the Tennessee Heritage Alliance (renamed the Tennessee Preservation Trust) and chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission.
“An awful lot of history passed with him,” said Kenneth Thomson, president of the Sumner County Historical Society, who knew Mr. Durham his whole life and helped him with one of his final projects. “And it’s a good thing he recorded it.”
Mr. Durham never made much money off his books, often giving them away to organizations that would benefit from them.
His award-winning books spanned a wide range of subjects: the Union Army’s occupation of Nashville during the Civil War, Tennesseans’ roles during westward expansion to California in the 1840s and the period before its statehood when Tennessee was part of the vast Southwest Territory.
…Mr. Durham, born Oct. 7, 1924, is survived by his wife of 64 years, Anna Armstrong Coile Durham, as well as four children, four grandchildren, a sister and a niece.
He attended the University of Wisconsin and Vanderbilt University. After graduation, he served in Africa and Italy with the Air Force during World War II.
He was a partner of Durham Building Supply Co. in Gallatin from 1948 to 1973 and was a founding president of Gallatin Aluminum Products Co.
The Tennessee Ethics Commission voted Monday to hold a hearing on whether veteran political operative Tom Ingram violated state lobbying laws along with one of his associates at The Ingram Group and one of their clients.
Ingram, political consultant to Gov. Bill Haslam as well as U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and Marcille Durham, president of The Ingram Group, have acknowledged they failed to register as lobbyists for Hillsborough Resources Ltd., which wants to mine coal on Catoosa Wildlife Management Area near Crossville.
The Commission discussed Monday what action to take after receiving two letters and a check for $600 to cover two years of lobbyist registration fees for Ingram and Durham. The two also met with members of the agency staff last week.
“I think we – and the state of Tennessee – are due an explanation of what happened here,” said James S. Stranch III, chairman of the commission.
The commission voted 4-0 to hold a “show cause hearing,” which basically gives those suspected of violating the law an opportunity to explain why they should not be subject to a civil penalty. One member, John Gregory Hardeman, recused himself from the vote, saying he knew both Ingram and Durham.
Legislation that would exclude newer cars and trucks from annual emissions testing sounds good to vehicle owners and to state lawmakers, who whisked it through a Senate committee and House subcommittee last week, reports Andy Sher. But state regulators and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry are nearly choking over the potential impact on existing and future businesses in six affected counties including Hamilton County, home to Volkswagen’s assembly plant.
In addition to Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties, and Memphis, require vehicles to pass annual emissions tests to get tags.
The county and city governments adopted the tests and other measures to comply with 2009 federal ozone standards aimed at improving air quality and health.
Receiving a “non-attainment” designation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can impact existing businesses or scare off new companies that might have to install costly pollution control equipment.
“We are opposed to the bill,” Wayne Scharber, the Tennessee Chamber’s vice president for environment and taxation, said last week.
The bill to exempt vehicles in the three most recent model years raised a dust storm in the House Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Senate Transportation Committee last week.
“I understand that Volkswagen is under very stringent restrictions to stay within a certain [level] that EPA has put on them,” said Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer.
“If we stop doing this, is that going to put that particular facility in danger of being over the level that the EPA has given them … and consequently will that cause them large expenditures to get back underneath their limit there?”
Officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation outlined a chain of circumstances they said could affect Volkswagen and other companies in the six counties and Memphis.
Barry Stephens, director of the state’s Air Pollution Control Division, said the state runs a complex model on sources of ozone emissions. The EPA awards credits for certain actions to keep down the emissions.
“If you remove certain model years [of vehicles], then they reduce the amount of credits you get for the reduction,” Stephens said. “So if you remove three years, then we’ve got to find those tons [of emissions] somewhere else.”
That could come by requiring heavier vehicles now exempt from emissions testing, he said, or from requiring “stationary” source of emissions — power plants, heavy industry and petrochemical manufacturers — to cut back.
A small throng of protesters gathered at War Memorial Plaza on Sunday in a rally organized by conservative activists, including tea party members, to oppose extending TennCare to tens of thousands of Tennessee families, reports The Tennessean. They claimed that an expansion would undermine small government values and inflate the national debt. On a bright and breezy day, about 100 demonstrators carried handwritten signs suggesting that their anger stretched beyond the issue of TennCare expansion with messages like “entitlement programs create more dependency and harm.” Many of the speakers blasted President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul as an instance of the federal government overstepping its constitutional powers.
“There are always well-intended groups suggesting that we abandon our principles contrary to sound conservative judgment,” said Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who filed a measure in the House to bar the state from expanding TennCare. “That’s the exact mindset that got our country into the dire fiscal straits we face today.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais spoke in broad terms about how Obamacare represents “the socialization of our health care system.” Asked by reporters after he spoke about his position on TennCare expansion, he said he opposes it. “To look at history and say, ‘let’s double down on a failed policy’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
For more reporting on the rally, see Andy Sher, and WPLN.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman state Rep. Jeremy Durham has filed a House bill seeking to block Tennessee from expanding Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul.
Durham noted the experience of TennCare, the state’s expanded Medicaid program that was plagued by out-of-control costs until former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen made deep cuts to enrollment and benefits in 2005.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has not said whether he will pursue Medicaid expansion, which hospitals say would make up for heavy losses from changes in federal reimbursements.
The federal government would pick up the full costs of Medicaid expansion for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.
Durham said Thursday that his bill has 21 co-sponsors, including Republican House Caucus Chairman Glen Casada and House Finance Chairman Charles Sargent. All three are Franklin Republicans.
– Note: Durham promised to file the bill last October while campaigning (Previous post HERE). Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, had already filed the Senate companin bill – in fact, it was the first bill filed for the 108th General Assembly, SB1. So far, Kelsey has only one Senate co-sponsor — Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma.
Gov. Bill Haslam is undecided, at last report, about whether to take advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and block Medicaid expansion that was initially required under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Two Republican lawmakers say they’re moving ahead with plans to block the expansion, contrary to the position pushed by Tennessee hospitals. Here’s today’s news release from the Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), October 29, 2012 — State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) said today they will introduce legislation to prevent expansion of the Tennessee Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare.” Kelsey and Durham said they will file the bill the day after the 108th General Assembly is elected in November.
Senator Kelsey has two years remaining in his four year term, and Mr. Durham is unopposed for the District 65 seat in the State House of Representatives. The legislation states Tennessee “shall not establish, facilitate, implement or participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
“Unlike Washington, Tennessee balances its budget every year,” said Senator Kelsey. “Tennessee taxpayers cannot afford this expansion of spending. The federal government may be promising money today, but with sixteen trillion dollars of debt, those funds will not be there tomorrow.”