By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A national group advocating for a large-scale school voucher program in Tennessee is launching a massive media campaign to persuade lawmakers to expand the program proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
An official familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on Friday that the state chapter of the American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on broadcast television, cable and radio advertising — a vast amount for political advertising or issue advocacy in the state.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the group has not made the amount public.
Haslam told reporters this week that he plans to stick with the narrower plan he proposed in his State of the State address, which he predicted would be “hotly debated” anyway.
Haslam’s proposal would limit the program to 5,000 students in failing schools in the academic year that begins in August, and grow to 20,000 by 2016.
With education issues high on the agenda for the upcoming legislative session, the Tennessean observes that two new groups that favor charter schools and vouchers have spent lavishly on Tennessee House and Senate races. The Tennessee PAC affiliated with StudentsFirst, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization led by former Washington, D.C., Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee, has pumped $376,266 into Tennessee this year. That sum includes contributions to a handful of local school board contenders in Nashville and Memphis but far more to candidates seeking state legislative seats.
Most of the recipients are Republicans. StudentsFirst’s Tennessee PAC, formed last year, spent $66,150 in the Volunteer State over the past month alone, according to financial disclosures submitted last week.
During the same four-week time frame, a PAC called Tennessee Federation for Children, a branch of a Washington organization that expanded to Tennessee this spring, accounted for $145,302 in contributions and other expenditures.
The group spent $248,539 in Tennessee altogether this year, with money going to direct mail efforts and to pro-voucher candidates.
“The hope is that we can get them elected and that we’ll form a very strong and committed educational ‘choice’ majority in the legislature,” said Malcom Glenn, communications director for the American Federation for Children. Its Tennessee PAC contributed $10,000 to the PAC of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, $7,200 to the PAC of House Speaker Beth Harwell and $2,500 to District 20 Senate candidate Steve Dickerson of Nashville, among a long list of others.
“We support all school options, including vouchers,” Glenn said.
The National Federation of Independent Business has released its list of endorsed candidates in races for state legislative seats — all Republicans with three exceptions.
The exceptions: House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh in House District 82, Rep. Charles Curtiss of Sparta in House District 43; Rep. Joe Pitts of Clarksville in House District 53 and Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis in House District 90. DeBerry and Pitts have no Republican opponents. Curtiss and Fitzhugh do.
Many of the Republicans endorsed also have no opponent in the general election.
The news release follows, with the candidate list below that under ‘continue reading.’ News release from National Federation of Independent Business:
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 10, 2012 – The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee’s leading small business association, released a list of endorsed candidates, including 29 NFIB members.
The endorsements were made by NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members. The general election will be held Nov. 6.
“NFIB supports candidates who understand how important it is to reduce burdens on small business,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee. “These candidates have consistently supported or pledged to support a lower tax environment and to improve our unemployment and workers’ comp systems.”
Endorsements by Senate and House Districts (NFIB members noted with an asterisk):
Andy Sher has tallied up $367,000 worth of late campaign spending by PACs in Tennessee legislative campaigns that were reported in filings for the period July 1-26.
More than $250,000 came from two PACs supporting school voucher legislation that got much of their money from outside the state. Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, and Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, were the biggest beneficiaries. In Memphis’ House District 90, Students First and the Tennessee Federation for Children have joined hands in a state House primary on behalf of a Democrat who backs education vouchers.
Tennessee Student First’s PAC put up $104,018 to fund neighborhood canvassers and direct mail to help Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis. DeBerry, a black social conservative, faces Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, a white liberal, records show.
The Tennessee Federation for Children spent nearly $36,000 on direct mail and advertising to help DeBerry. It also put $100,489 into contributions and independent expenditures for various Republican candidates.
DeBerry backs vouchers while Richardson does not.
…The Tennessee (Students First) group received all its funding from the national organization. It spent $150,182 to help House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, who faces Republican Dale Carr. That included an independent expenditure of $46,164 for advertising.
The Tennessee Federation for Children’s in-state backers include Nashville auto dealer Lee Beaman and Dorothy Scarlett, wife of retired Tractor Supply Co. Chairman Joe Scarlett. They respectively gave $10,000 and $15,000 in the second quarter.
But the group in July received a flood of new contributions, including $65,000 from the American Federation of Children, a Washington, D.C., group that also backs vouchers, according to Registry filings.
The National Federation of Independent Business made endorsements in 25 legislative races last week with 22 going to incumbent Republicans, one to an incumbent Democrat and two to Republicans running in open Senate seats.
The sole Democrat winning an endorsement was Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis.
The two open seat endorsements were in Senate District 18 and Senate District 22, both created without an incumbent by redistricting earlier this year. Both endorsements went to Republicans with a history of being legislators – former Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin in District 18 and state Rep. Joey Hensley oh Hohenwald, who is giving up his House seat to run in Senate District 22.
Incumbent Republicans in East Tennessee receiving NFIB’s blessing include Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville in the Senate and Reps. Tony Shipley of Kingsport, David Hawk of Greeneville, Dale Ford of Jonesborough, Art Swann of Maryville, Don Miller of Morristown, Jefemy Faison of Cosby, Richard Montgomery of Sevierville and Bob Ramsey of Maryville.
News release and full list HERE
News release from House Republican CaucusL:
(November 9, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Several members of the Tennessee House of Representatives have partnered with the Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TWF) to promote their Hunters for the Hungry program by establishing the Hunters for the Hungry Legislative Challenge.
In this statewide contest, Members of the General Assembly will compete amongst themselves to ascertain which lawmaker can convince the most sportsmen in their district to contribute a Whitetail Deer to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program. The challenge will commence on November 19, 2011 – opening day of the deer season in Tennessee.