Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann says he has avoided much of the social circuit in Washington but discovered a different way to bond in 2011, when he went out for the congressional Republican baseball team and found camaraderie, reports the Chattanooga TFP. On Thursday at Nationals Park, Fleischmann was the only Tennessean on either team in the annual Dems-versus-GOP showdown — a distinction he’s held for three consecutive years.
“I wanted to be a major league ballplayer growing up,” he said, “so it’s amazing to have fun with everybody — even those on the other side — and play at a big-league park.”
The congressman had some help representing Tennessee and its 3rd District. Before the game, Fleischmann’s eight-term predecessor, former Rep. Zach Wamp, was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame. Heralded for his .500 career batting average and slick shortstop skills, Wamp thanked the fans and threw out the first pitch.
Despite the Chattanooga connection, Wamp and Fleischmann aren’t tight. Wamp’s 26-year-old son Weston unsuccessfully challenged Fleischmann in last year’s Republican primary.
They differ on baseball, too. Wamp is a Braves fan while Fleischmann, a childhood New Yorker, loves the Mets. (Common ground exists, however: Both men said their Tennessee-bred sons cheer for the Braves.)
For the second time, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is asking a Nashville judge to seal court records that would reveal his campaign’s inner workings, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. The Ooltewah Republican’s goal is to prevent political opponents from seeing or distributing 1,800 pages of polling research, internal emails and strategy memos. Someone suing Fleischmann requested the documents as part of the civil discovery process.
In a filing, Fleischmann’s attorney said the congressman would supply the papers as long as they’re hidden from public view.
“The Court should order that any of these documents filed with the Court should be placed under seal, only to be opened in accordance with a subsequent court order,” the motion for a protective order states.
Fleischmann, an attorney, is joined in the motion by his co-defendant, Chip Saltsman, the congressman’s longtime political adviser and onetime Washington-based chief of staff.
Both men are fighting a defamation lawsuit stemming from claims in a three-year-old Fleischmann TV ad. Documents filed in Davidson County Circuit Court this week show the case is set for trial Feb. 24.
Political operative Mark Winslow filed the lawsuit. During the 2010 Republican primary, he worked for Fleischmann’s toughest opponent, former Tennessee GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith.
In an interview Friday, Winslow attorney Gary Blackburn said Fleischmann’s polling data motivated Saltsman to create “negative ads” that twisted the truth and ruined Winslow’s professional reputation.
“If a congressman’s tracking the success of lies,” Blackburn said, “shouldn’t the public be allowed to know that?”
Through a spokesman, Fleischmann declined to comment. He has described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and politically motivated. Saltsman, a well-known Republican strategist who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is getting a lot of opinions from a lot of people as he weighs the pros and cons of taxing items purchased over the Internet, according to Michael Collins. Gov. Bill Haslam wants states to have the power to collect the tax, arguing it is money that is already owed. Some small businesses in Duncan’s Knoxville-based congressional district take the same position and say it’s a matter of fairness: They already are required by law to collect the tax and send it to the state, but out-of-state online retailers are not.
Calls to Duncan’s congressional offices, on the other hand, are running roughly 12 to 1 against Internet tax legislation pending in Congress. Even his own staff is divided. A couple of his close advisers are encouraging him to support the bill. Another argues it amounts to a tax increase and that he should vote no.
“I’m feeling a lot of pressure from both sides of this bill,” the Knoxville Republican conceded this week.
So where does he stand? “I don’t know,” Duncan said. “I’m still thinking about it.”
He’s not alone. The three other East Tennesseans in the U.S. House — Reps. Phil Roe of Johnson City, Scott DesJarlais of Jasper and Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah — all said they are undecided about the bill known as the Marketplace Fairness Act. All three congressmen are Republicans.
“From a fairness standpoint, your small local retailers are at a disadvantage and, right now, frankly, you do owe that tax,” Roe said. “The flip side of that is, hey, this is a foul. Nobody wants to pay more taxes.”
Tennessee’s two U.S. senators — Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — both voted for the bill when it cleared the U.S. Senate earlier this month on a 69-27 vote.
Since July 2011, Chuck Fleischmann’s campaign has earmarked $51,523 in donor funds to pay Chip Saltsman’s legal fees in a lawsuit 600 miles away from Washington, D.C., according to Chris Carrolll. Campaign finance records show the latest payment, $15,000, came on Nov. 14. Fleischmann’s office announced Saltsman’s resignation as chief of staff a month later.
After spending $1.3 million on the 2012 election cycle, the Fleischmann campaign reported $50,990 on hand and $226,538 in debts, according to the latest filings.
Last week, Fleischmann and his Nashville-based attorney declined to respond to inquiries about whether the Republican congressman’s campaign will continue paying Saltsman’s bills this year. Saltsman and his attorney did not return a detailed phone message seeking comment Thursday.
The legal fees stem from a 2-year-old Davidson County Circuit Court lawsuit filed by a rival political operative. Former Robin Smith aide Mark Winslow is suing Fleischmann and Saltsman over advertising claims the duo made in the 2010 election. Winslow seeks $750,000 in damages.
Fleischmann edged Smith and became the Republican nominee after a bitter 3rd District primary season. The lawsuit alleges defamation, inducement to breach a contract and invasion of privacy.
After Fleischmann’s campaign consulted with the Federal Election Commission in 2011, the agency determined that using donations to defend Saltsman was allowable because the lawsuit involves “allegations directly relating to campaign activities engaged in by Mr. Saltsman.”
…Meanwhile, attorneys continue to litigate the lawsuit, which is entering its third year after being filed in January 2011. Gary Blackburn, Winslow’s attorney, filed a motion to add the Tennessee Republican Party as a defendant last week.
A trial could be months away, Blackburn said.
Chris Carroll rounds up comments from the state’s congressmen on Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision to let the federal government run a healthcare exchange in Tennessee. Guess what? Republicans think that’s just fine; Democrats don’t. On Monday, a (U.S. Rep. Scott) DesJarlais Twitter message thanked Haslam for rejecting a state-run exchange, implicitly applauding the decision to yield administrative power to a Washington-based federal agency with 64,000 employees.
DesJarlais’ office declined to comment, but in a Tennessean op-ed, he claimed a state-run exchange would be “a logistical nightmare.”
Feelings are similar in the Senate. A former governor and onetime education secretary for President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has pushed for states to set their own standards for schools, teachers and students.
In a 2011 New York Times piece critical of “the Washington-imposed” No Child Left Behind Act, Alexander wrote: “Washington can’t create good jobs, and Washington can’t create good schools.”
On Tuesday the Maryville Republican took another approach when asked about the Affordable Care Act.
“Given the number of unanswered questions about federal control of a state exchange and state tax dollars, it certainly is a reasonable decision,” Alexander said of Haslam’s choice to cede authority.
Similarly, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., often slams “Obamacare” as an overreach. At one debate, he said “the federal government took over one-sixth of our economy in a bill that was not even read.”
But Tuesday the congressman refused to apply that criticism to Haslam’s decision to let the federal government implement a statewide insurance market.
“Rep. Fleischmann makes no secret of his principled opposition to Obamacare,” spokesman Alek Vey said. “However, decisions about how to implement Obamacare in Tennessee are made at the state level by the governor and the Legislature.”
Democrats pounced on what they see as hypocrisy and sabotage against President Obama.
“It is obvious politics played a substantial part in the governor’s decision,” U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said in a statement. “Governor Haslam has surrendered the chance to establish an exchange program tailored to Tennessee’s specific needs.”
While other Middle Tennessee Republicans in Congress expressly oppose raising tax rates as part of any solution to the looming “fiscal cliff,” the state’s two GOP senators appear to be leaving negotiating room, reports The Tennessean When asked specifically this week if they would rule out increasing tax rates for those making $250,000 and above — rather than just modifying deductions and exemptions — Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker stopped short of such a declaration.
“I am still waiting for the president to do his job, which is to recommend a specific plan to restrain entitlement spending so that Congress can go to work on fixing the debt and getting the economy moving again,” Alexander said in a statement, offering no further comment.
Corker kept his statement even shorter. “Until the discussion moves to entitlement reform, especially Medicare, it’s not a serious conversation,” he said.
…Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, has repeatedly said she would oppose an increase in rates, and her spokesman Mike Reynard re-emphasized that point Wednesday, saying too many small businesses, who frequently pay taxes on their firms through their individual returns, would be affected.
…Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, added: “Raising tax rates will hurt the economy and destroy jobs. This is the same position that President Obama held two years ago when he extended the current tax rates for all Americans.”
With more than 23 million Americans looking for work, Black said, “we should not be raising taxes on anyone. Washington has a spending problem not a revenue problem. A tax hike will perpetuate more deficit spending and destroy jobs.”
And Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, said: “Simply raising taxes on small businesses and job creators won’t solve our debt crisis and is the last thing we need to do in a struggling economy. I want to see a bold plan that addresses unsustainable entitlement spending, reforms our outdated tax code and prioritizes government spending.”
…Among other Republicans in the state, a spokesman for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, said there should be no discussion of revenue increases, either through increasing rates or modifying tax deductions and loopholes.
“Rep. Fleischmann has consistently maintained that it is a spending problem and not a revenue problem that is the source of our $16 trillion debt. In keeping with this position, he believes we need serious long term spending cuts before revenue is even put on the table,” aide Alek Vey.
A multi-site national park that would tell the story of the top-secret, history-defining Manhattan Project would seem like an easy sell in Congress, says Michael Collins. But in Washington, nothing is ever easy.
Thus, the plans were knocked surprisingly off course in late September when a bill establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park failed on its first vote on the floor of the U.S. House.
Supporters insist the setback is temporary and that they intend to push for another vote before the end of the year.
“There is going to be a concerted effort to get this and other important pieces of legislation to the floor,” said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, a centerpiece of the Manhattan Project.
The Republican-controlled House took up the bill in one of its final votes before lawmakers began their six-week, pre-election break. House leaders brought up the legislation under what is known as a “suspension of the rules” — a parliamentary procedure often used to pass noncontroversial bills.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, however, considered the proposal quite controversial. The Manhattan Project developed the first atomic bomb, and the famously liberal lawmaker argued that the proposal amounted to “a celebration” of nuclear weaponry.
Former U.S. Rep. Rep. Zach Wamp tells the Chattanooga Times-Free Press that his successor’s second term success hinges on solving the district’s biggest infrastructure puzzle — the Chickamauga lock. In an interview, Wamp praised Fleischmann for making the 72-year-old lock “an important priority,” but said he hopes his successor “exerts more leadership” in maintaining the old lock and finishing a partially completed replacement.
“If you don’t,” Wamp said, “then the Congress is twiddling their thumbs while Rome burns.” Engineers, businessmen and politicians for years have considered the Chickamauga lock replacement the area’s most important federal project.
But Wamp — whose 25-year-old son unsuccessfully challenged Fleischmann in the GOP primary in August — sees conflicts between an ambitious plan to fix the lock advanced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and a political pledge Fleischmann and other congressional Republicans signed to keep taxes low.
Chattanooga area Democratic nominees slammed their Republican opponents for skipping a Tuesday night political event that focused on the redistribution of wealth, reports the Times Free-Press. In her opening statement at a forum sponsored by the Brainerd Unity Group, Dr. Mary Headrick, the Democratic nominee in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, said Republican policies are helping “disintegrate” the nation’s middle class. She said reducing military funding and demanding more revenue from “the 1 percent” would result in a fairer tax code for all Americans.
But ultimately, the Maynardville acute care physician drew attention to the absence of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the freshman Republican incumbent she’s trying to oust.
“As with the others, my opponent is not here to address you,” Headrick said. “Which I think is a disservice to the voters. I think you need to see us standing side by side and answering the same questions.”
Fleischmann will debate Headrick on Monday in Bradley County, but other Democratic challengers without a sparring partner Tuesday night are unlikely to get the same opportunity before Election Day on Nov. 6.
News release from Mary Headrick campaign:
Endorsing Dr. Mary Headrick, Marilyn Lloyd, Congresswoman for the Third District for 20 years (1975-1995), said “I wholeheartedly support Dr. Headrick’s positions to increase the minimum wage, combat job outsourcing, defend public education, protect social security and Medicare and to seek fair taxation.”
Representative Lloyd recalled with pride introducing the Obed River into the Wild and Scenic River program. She and Dr. Headrick share admiration for the beauty of Tennessee and applaud its tourism.
Dr. Mary Headrick is the Democratic candidate for the third Congressional District facing incumbent Representative Chuck Fleischmann.
Mary Headrick will meet voters at the Eastgate Center, 5PM Tuesday Oct 2, a meeting sponsored by the Unity Group. She will attend the forum of the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge High School 7PM,Thursday Oct 4.
Dr. Headrick and Representative Fleischmann will face one another at Cleveland Middle School, 3635 Georgetown Rd, Cleveland on Monday, Oct. 8, 6:30 PM for a 1 hour debate that is open to the public.
Mr. Fleischmann’s campaign office has refused or made no reply to other forum and debate invitations. Dr. Headrick said “The voters deserve to see the opponents appear together to answer their questions and summarize positions. It is a disservice to the voters when Mr. Fleischmann avoids debates or when Representative DesJarlais refuses to debate Eric Stewart.”