The head of a Knoxville political consulting firm has acknowledged to the TBI responsibility for an automated telephone survey asking voter opinions of state Sen. Stacey Campfield while declaring there was no intention of harassing those getting the calls or attacking Campfield, his attorney said Monday.
Ben Farmer, owner of Cyragon, LLC, spoke “in a very lengthy interview” to a TBI investigator last week and explained that the survey was a matter of “internal testing” of the firm’s surveying system that went awry through a “computer glitch” that caused many of the 2,000 targeted voters to receive multiple calls, said G. Turner Howard III, Farmer’s attorney.
The TBI has been investigating the “robo poll” at the request of District Attorney General Randy Nichols in response to an initial request to the TBI from Campfield. A TBI spokeswoman said Monday that the agency has not turned over its final report to Nichols and declined further comment because the matter is part of “an ongoing investigation.”
Campfield said Howard’s explanation for the calls was “ridiculous” and that Farmer’s acknowledgment indicated political motives. Farmer is a supporter of Richard Briggs, a Knox County commissioner and physician who has declared himself an opponent to Campfield in the 2014 Republican primary. Briggs’ first campaign financial disclosure shows $7,000 in payments to Cyragon.
Excerpts from The Tennessean’s setup story on the 7th Congressional District race:
Re-elect her, Rep. Marsha Blackburn says, and voters will get what she’s always given them — a lawmaker passionate about staying in touch with constituents, making government transparent and curing its overspending.
Re-elect her, her opponents say, and voters will get someone who has turned into a Washington insider after 10 years in office.
Such are the battle lines in the race for the 7th Congressional District, the U.S. House seat that has drawn the most candidates in Tennessee this year, with six.
Blackburn, 60, a Brentwood Republican, says anyone who thinks she has become comfortable in Washington and no longer cares about changing things just isn’t paying attention.
“Look at who has been (making) an issue of out-of-control federal spending since Day 1,” she said in an interview. “I have been a solid member of a whole change-agent team.”
…Several of Blackburn’s five opponents, however, portray her as captured by the congressional lifestyle and the campaign contributions that come with it. Blackburn has raised $1.45 million for her 2012 campaign, and her personal political action committee and has cash on hand of $1.26 million. Sixty percent of her money comes from special interest PACs, a larger percentage than for any other Middle Tennessee member of Congress.
“She votes to take care of the needs of the corporate empire,” said Green Party candidate Howard Switzer, 67, an architect in Linden. Switzer says America needs decentralization of its economy — highlighted by more local food production — and more “earth-friendly” policies in general. Switzer also believes these are “apocalyptic times.”
The Democrat in the race is Credo Amouzouvik, a 34-year-old disabled Army veteran in Clarksville. Amouzouvik said he was motivated to run because the low approval ratings of Congress indicate voters are not getting the leadership they deserve.
…Another Army veteran in the race is independent candidate Jack Arnold of Kingston Springs, 38, who just graduated from Vanderbilt Law School. Arnold said he would emphasize changing a campaign finance system that makes lawmakers worry more about fundraising than addressing issues.
…Arnold is the only one of Blackburn’s opponents to report any campaign money to the Federal Election Commission. He’s raised $13,353, a mix of his own funds and some individual contributions, but no PAC money.
Another independent candidate, Leonard Ladner, 58, of Hohenwald, operates his own trucking firm and drives an 18-wheeler. Ladner said Blackburn is “a slick talker” and “a Republican who has been there too long.”
…The other candidate in the race is Ryan Akin, 44, a customer service representative from Bon Aqua who contends “the American way of life is diminishing right and left.”
Akin said his drive to preserve American values would emphasize the primacy of the English language, among other aspects of U.S. culture.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Once upon a time in Congress, compromise between Republicans and Democrats was the norm. And a witty GOP senator named Bob Dole was one of the best practitioners of the art, preferably on a West-facing balcony of the Capitol where he could get sun on his face while lawmaking.
Nearly 16 years after Dole left the Senate to run for president, the balcony is named for him. And the former Kansas senator is half of a pair of leaders being feted in Washington for their century of combined service and for practicing this thing called bipartisanship that seems lost, for now.
“All I know is I don’t have to make a speech,” Dole, 88, said in a telephone interview before the festivities. He said he’s feeling a bit better lately but still suffers from chronic back pain.
Dole’s predecessor as Senate Republican leader, Howard Baker of Tennessee, also was being honored Wednesday night by the non-profit group they helped found, the Bipartisan Policy Center, dedicated to “great moments in compromise by encouraging civil, respectable political discourse between the political parties.”
That sounds quaint after more than a year of divided government mired in standoffs over the nation’s troubled economy and, lately, a selection of long-settled social issues like access to contraception and the Violence Against Women Act. So polarized is Congress in the 2012 election year that centrists like Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson are fleeing.
In fact, Dole and Baker, both former presidential candidates and veterans of World War II, were at the center of such historic moments of bipartisanship. They could each be conciliators and fierce partisans.
Baker, 86, served in the Senate from 1967 to 1985 and was the senior Republican on the congressional panel investigating Watergate. He is famous for asking the question of his fellow Republicans: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”
His calm demeanor was considered key to passage of the 1978 Panama Canal Treaty, which called for the gradual transfer of the canal to Panama. He served as Senate majority leader from 1981 to 1985.
The equally steady and acerbic Dole was his successor as leader of the Senate Republicans. He developed a reputation in the Senate of valuing thoughtful discussion over incivility in lawmaking, and, wounded in World War II, became a leading advocate for veterans and disabled Americans generally. He was a key to passing the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990.
“I think the Senate operated more effectively then than it does today,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., one of the hosts of the tribute. “But I don’t think it would make much to change it today. It would take a change of behavior rather than a change of rules.”