Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has become the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has added staffers to help him with committee work who have ties to former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson and Bill Frist of Tennessee.
More from Georgianna Vines: David Cleary, his legislative director, also will be the Republican staff director. Cleary’s background includes serving on the staff of the U.S. House’s Committee on Education and the Workforce under then-Chairman John Boehner, now House speaker.
Mary Sumpter Lapinski, Alexander’s health policy adviser, will serve as health policy director for Republicans on HELP. She was health legislative assistant to Frist from 1999-2001 and a legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., when he represented the 4th Congressional District.
Peter Oppenheim will serve as education policy director and committee counsel. He has been Alexander’s legislative counsel and is a former research assistant to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
Lindsey Ward Seidman will serve as senior policy adviser. Seidman has worked for Alexander since his first Senate campaign in 2002 and was policy director in his 2008 Senate campaign.
Michael Merrell will serve as chief counsel. He previously was on the Senate Rules Committee, where he advised Republicans on Senate rules and procedure, election administration and campaign finance. He previously worked for former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.
Jim Jeffries will continue to serve as communications director, overseeing press in Alexander’s Senate office and at the HELP committee. Liz Wolgemuth will move from the Senate office to serve as Republican press secretary for the HELP committee. Brian Reisinger, new to the office, will serve as press secretary in Alexander’s office.
In Alexander’s Senate office, Allison Martin will serve as deputy legislative director after serving as projects manager and legislative counsel for nearly two years. She previously worked for Thompson and Frist.
Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist and his ex-wife Karyn finalized their divorce last week, reports The City Paper, which also reviews court documents laying out the marital dissolution agreement. Karyn filed for the divorce due to “irreconcilable differences” in November. Documents filed in Davidson County Circuit Court reveal that she will receive a $2.1 million lump sum of cash, along with a split of other assets.
The ex-senator will retain the couples’ vacation homes in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Nantucket, Mass., while Karyn has the option of occupying the “marital residence” on Bowling Avenue for the next five years. Bill, however, must allow his ex-wife access to the Nantucket home for a quarter of the time over the summer months during the next five years. If he gets remarried, he’ll have to provide her comparable alternative housing at the beach.
The former couple will also split assets from the homes, with Bill gets the mounted buffalo head from the Nashville home, among other personal items from his time in the U.S. Senate. Karyn will receive art and furnishings from the homes — and even the bathroom door from the Nantucket home.
They will also divide up various stocks and investments, but financial details were not disclosed in the filing.
See also the Washington Post, which has a number of details. For example, the house is valued at $8 million but legally owned by three trusts set up to benefit the couple’s sons. And there are actually six country club memberships involved in the settlement.
The News Sentinel and the Commercial Appeal, in a joint review of “Greenbelt Law” records, report some of the state’s wealthiest individuals are getting big tax breaks under a program designed to help farmers preserve their land for agriculture. The 1976 Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act, or “Greenbelt Law,” is subsidizing estates and hobby farms of business icons such as AutoZone founder J.R. “Pitt” Hyde, a Memphis multimillionaire, and some of the biggest names in country music, Wynonna Judd among them. Former University of Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer qualifies by baling hay on his $2.8 million, 47-acre Maryville estate.
Generous farm and forest tax breaks are in force for estate after estate along Nashville’s tony Chickering Road, though official paperwork at the Davidson County Assessor’s Office at times provides little evidence of how the properties qualify. Among the recipients: former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a wealthy health care entrepreneur; and billionaire Thomas Frist Jr., co-founder of Hospital Corp. of America.
Even Knoxville’s private Cherokee and Holston Hills country clubs have been sheltered under the “open space” provision of the law.
In some instances, the law is actually subsidizing the land speculation it was created to combat.
In 2009, for example, Shelby County’s Johnson cut 97 percent from the value of an East Memphis field for sale for commercial development and surrounded by a 127-room Hyatt Place Hotel, ServiceMaster offices and a strip shopping center. Annual taxes on the $2.99 million, 65-acre site owned by Forest Hill Associates loomed at more than $48,000 if taxed at fair market value, yet fell to less than $1,000. Now, an apartment complex is under construction there.
“We’ve done what’s right within the law,” said co-owner Charles Wurtzburger.
Maybe so, with many saving big on this huge break many others are carrying the tax load.
Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist is described at the outset of a Politico story today as “a renegade, ‘Obamacare’-loving Republican who is in the mood for some real bipartisanship. Yes, the same Bill Frist who as Senate majority leader led an army into the culture wars over Terri Schiavo and whose efforts in 2004 to uneast his then-rival, Minority Leader Tom Daschale, led to a nasty – and personal – Washington battle royal.
Now, Frist is pushing for a national conversation on end-of-life care and dismissing “caricatured” talk of death panels. He’s committing Republican heresy in endorsing elements of the loathed Affordable Health Care Act. He standing shoulder to shoulder with Daschale in search of a bipartisan way to tackle one of the thorniest around: how to get control of health care costs before they sink the economy.
The Frist-Daschale reconciliation, in particular, is a source of amazement to some longtime Washington observers.
…Daschale told POLITICO, “He’s been a very important partner and I would say has become a friend in spite of the fact that we’ve had a difficult history.”
…Frist, a heart and lung transplant surgeon who is now focused on research and policy, is working on a sweeping list of bipartisan health issues. A conservative who left Congress in 2007, before the tea party arrived, he is flexing his independence as a private citizen.
“I am supportive of exchanges and ‘Obamacare’ generally,” Frist told POLITICO. He noted the the plan’s core ideas of an individual mandate and state-based insurance exchanges have conservative roots.
And he isn’t particularly shy about it either, to the irritation of erstwhile colleagues and conservative activists who had been battling to repeal ‘Obamacare’ since it became law.
…And this month, after news broke that he and his wife of 31 years are divorcing, the man who crusaded for Schiavo’s life penned another of his semi-regular columns in The Week, this time calling for a national conversation on what we spend on end of life care and why. He also endorsed an expansion of palliative and hospice care.
Thirty percent of Medicare costs are spent on the last months of life, he wrote – more than $150 billion annually. And the system is chock full of incentives to use expensive technology on terminally ill patients who actually my prefer to die at home, not in ICU.
…With Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans trash-talking the health care law at every turn of the campaign trail, Frist is off message, to say the least.
“Because it’s inconsistent with with the current campaign environment, it is probably frowned upon,” Frist said. “Do they call me and tell me? No. Because they’ve come to expect it.”
An alleged bid-rigging conspiracy among Bain Capital and other private equity firms to divvy up targeted companies — including Nashville-based HCA — may have taken as much as $1.6 billion out of HCA shareholders’ pockets by blocking rival bidders and keeping a lid on the final price when the hospital chain was sold in 2006.
So reports The Tennessean, further observing: The legal case resonates in Nashville and across the country in part because of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s former role as the founder of Bain Capital and because of the prominence of Tommy Frist Jr. and other members of the Frist family in Middle Tennessee’s business community.
…The notion that big private equity firms such as Bain, Goldman Sachs and the Blackstone Group engaged in a conspiracy to lower sales prices in leveraged buyouts from 2003 to 2007 remains a key claim in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought against those firms by former HCA shareholders, and by stockholders of other acquired companies — such as Neiman Marcus and Toys “R” Us — snapped up in Wall Street mega-deals before the recession.
HCA — then a public company — went private in 2006 in a $32.1 billion sale to private equity funds Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), Bain Capital and Merrill Lynch, as well as to family members of HCA’s co-founder Dr. Tommy Frist Jr. and other executives on HCA’s management team.
The size of the deal was a U.S. record at the time, but the federal lawsuit in Boston lays out the legal argument that the price tag was kept artificially low. Attorneys for the private equity firms being sued insist they did nothing wrong.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and his wife of 31 years, Karyn, are splitting up.
Court records show Karyn Frist filed for divorce on Friday, while an answer filed on behalf of Bill Frist states that he “admits, with sadness, that irreconcilable differences have arisen between the parties that will prevent them from living together as Husband and Wife.”
Family spokeswoman Beth Seigenthaler Courtney declined to elaborate on the reasons for the split.
“Dr. and Mrs. Bill Frist have decided to end their marriage,” she said in a statement. “They ask for prayers, understanding and privacy at this time.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist are headlining at separate fundraising events this month for Chuck Fleischmann, making the congressman the definite 3rd Congressional District leader in high-profile endorsements thus far, reports Chris Carroll. But Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker remain publicly ambivalent to Fleischmann’s re-election despite the first-term congressman’s struggle to emerge as the obvious front-runner in a contested Republican primary.
Fleischmann’s biggest GOP threats, Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp, have ties to Corker and Haslam, and neither the governor nor Tennessee’s junior senator seems willing to rock the boat.
..”I’m basically not involved in the 3rd District race right now and haven’t been,” (Corker) said.
In a written statement Tuesday, Todd Womack, the senator’s chief of staff, declined to answer whether Corker would formally endorse Fleischmann, instead saying Corker “has shown support for Congressman Fleischmann by hosting events for him.”
During a Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board meeting on Monday, Haslam said he has worked with Fleischmann on “several things” since both men took office, but said “probably not” when asked if he would endorse the congressman or anyone else in the race.
State Republican fundraiser B.C. “Scooter” Clippard appears set to run in a GOP state Senate primary, but Andy Sher reports that an email he recently sent is raising a few eyebrows with his mention of state Republican bigwigs supporting his bid. “Fred Thompson — Bill Frist — Lamar — Corker — Beth and Ron all plan on doing events for me,” Clippard enthuses in the email, which saw wide distribution.
Clippard served as national fundraising chairman in former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s unsuccessful 2008 GOP presidential bid and in 2010 and also was state Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s unsuccessful GOP primary bid for governor.
But two of the politicians cited say they’re steering clear of the GOP primary in which Steve Dickerson and Charles Williamson have already announced.
“It has been our custom not to be involved in open state legislative primaries, and we have no plans to change that practice,” said Todd Womack, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in an email.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was quoted in the Nashville Post saying, “Scooter Clippard has been a good friend for a long time. He called to tell me he planned to run and I told him I would be happy to do an event for him after the primary.”
Unless Tennesseans make an effort to improve personal health, they could see more budget cuts in their children’s education as health-care costs continue to drain the state budget, Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday.
A quote from the Tennessean story on the governor setting up a task force to study health care with Dr. Bill Frist, former U.S. Senate majority leader, and others: “If you look at the portion that the state paid of the total cost for a student 40 years ago compared to now, our share is just about a half of what it used to be,” Haslam said. “And you say, ‘That is the state not doing its job — why not?’ Well, real simple. We are spending that much more in health care.”
(The task force goal is) to improve Tennesseans’ health specifically to save money on health care — funds that could then be funneled into education and other areas affected by budget cuts.
Haslam said almost one-third of the state’s budget is dedicated to health care. He gathered with leaders, including Dr. John Lacey III, chief medical officer and senior vice president of the University of Tennessee Medical Center who chairs the task force, and former Sen. Bill Frist, who will act as an adviser to the task force, at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel.
Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson announced today that she will resign her state Senate seat to become president and CEO of an education reform organization founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Republican Woodson, who has served 12 years as a legislator from Knoxville, said her resignation as a senator will be effective on July 1 or at the adjournment of the current legislative session, whichever comes first. Legislative leaders have a goal of adjourning by May 25.
Under state law, the Knox County Commission will chose an temporary successor in the Senate District 7 seat, who will serve until a special election is scheduled by the governor. That could be timed to coincide with Knoxville city elections on Sept. 27.
Woodson said she would not support anyone to succeed her, “either publicly or privately.”
Frist said Woodson was chosen to lead the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) after a nationwide search for the most qualified person.