The case of Clarice Gunn, a 68-year-old Jefferson County woman charged with making an illegal campaign mailing is the subject of a Frank Cagle column.
I think she’s been libeled and there ought to be a grand jury investigation of public misconduct.
…Gunn is one of the property owners who helped derail the attempt to create an industrial megasite on Interstate 81 by using eminent domain to take farmland. When exposed, the county dropped it like a hot rock…The upshot of all this unrest has led to a lawsuit attempting to make the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and its industrial development board comply with the Public Records Act and open up the books on how county appropriations are being spent. The courthouse and chamber crowd suspects Gunn is financing the lawsuit.
Now to the crime. Before the last election the dissident property owners were trying to figure out what to do to elect commission candidates more sympathetic to property rights. They came up with a letter to the voters endorsing a slate of candidates. It was not an anonymous broadside; it contained the names of 45 prominent citizens. Most of their candidates won and the courthouse crowd’s boys lost.
Gunn had paid a mail house in Knoxville to mail copies to a voter list. State election law requires that the people paying for election mailers be identified. It’s usually some phony organization at the bottom like “Citizens for Good Government.” This letter had 45 citizens’ names on it; it was not an anonymous broadside.
…A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent prepared a summons based on an anonymous complaint. It charges Gunn with an election law violation for not putting on the letter that she paid the postage. (A TBI press release – previous post HERE – initially and mistakenly said Gunn was indicted.)
…Since when is a letter advocating candidates against the law? There is a real question here if an election law violation occurred, much less a crime.
Here’s a sample of some of the direct mail pieces sent to mail boxes in state House District 5, where Republican Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, is in a tight race with former Democratic Rep. Eddie Yokley:
Democratic party mailer on Hawk’s domestic violence charge, HERE.
Republican party mailer on ‘Illegal Immigrants Support Eddie Yokley,’ HERE.
Republican party mailer, Eddie Yokley voted to use taxpayer dollars for abortions, HERE.
Republican party mailer: Eddie Yokley has a record ‘Barack Obama would be proud of,’ HERE.
Republican party mailer comparing Yokley’s ‘Obama liberal values’ with Hawk’s ‘Tennessee conservative values,’ HERE.
David Hawk and Eddie Yokley both say they have striven for civility in their Greene County competition for the right to represent citizens of House District 5, but political party powers in Nashville are pushing the campaign in a mean-spirited direction.
As of Friday, the Tennessee Republican Party had sent seven direct mail pieces into the district that Yokley says range from “terrible distortions” to “outright lies,” accusing the Democratic candidate of everything from “Chicago cronyism” to support for illegal immigrants and taxpayer-funded abortions. Hawk disavows them all.
The Tennessee Democratic Party last week sent voters in the district a direct mail piece outlining domestic violence charges that Hawk faces, which are adamantly denied by the Republican lawmaker. Hawk says it is “unfortunate that the Democrats have resorted to personal attacks.”
Yokley disavows the mailer, saying he and his local supporters have strictly avoided mention of allegations that Hawk attacked his wife. The charges against Hawk have been bound over to the Greene County grand jury. (Note: This has been corrected from the original post, which mistakenly said Hawk has been indicted.)
Still, both men say their party’s mailers are better than the other party’s attacks.
Democrats are crying foul over Tennessee Republican Party mailers attacking two East Tennessee Democratic legislative candidates.
A direct mail piece targeting former state Rep. Eddie Yokley, who is opposing incumbent Republican Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville, charges that the Democrat “supported taxpayer funding of abortions” in a 2009 House floor vote.
“You thought you knew Eddie Yokley, but Eddie says one thing in Greene County and does something different in Nashville,” declares the mailer. It includes a black-and-white photo of Yokley with a grim expression on his face and a copy of the printed roll call vote on HB1756 with his name circled under the list of those voting no.
“This is shameless and too far,” said Brandon Puttbrese, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party. “Would these pathetic politicians rather see young women and children die from preventable diseases than see Eddie Yokley in the state House?”
The bill in question was aimed at Planned Parenthood from receiving funding for providing “women’s health services” in Shelby and Davidson counties. The services provided under those contracts included contraception along with disease treatment and prevention, but did not include abortions.
As Puttbrese noted, taxpayer funding of abortions is otherwise prohibited by Tennessee law and has been for years.
While four legislators have overspent their taxpayer-funded “constituent communications” accounts as their terms in the 107th General Assembly wind to a close, one lawmaker will be sitting on a $100,000 when the 108th General Assembly begins on election day, a review of records shows.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, ran up the biggest deficit with an account that was $6,023 in the red. The shortfall would have been larger had not state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, who is giving up his Senate seat to run for Congress, transferred $2,652 from his account to Kyle’s account.
Smaller amounts are owed to the state by Reps. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, ($47.34); Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, ($1,406), and Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough ($162.92).
The four lawmakers with deficits all faced stiff re-election challenges in primaries this year. Kyle won his race, defeating Sen. Beverley Marrero in the August Democratic primary in a contest set up by legislative redistricting. Because he has no general election opponent, his account will get a fresh infusion of state funds — $6,832, to be precise — when his new term officially begins the day after the Nov. 6 election.
Republicans are faulting Democratic state Sen. Tim Barnes for spending $15,517 from his taxpayer-funded “constituent communications” account on two mailers this year, one in June and one in September, reports the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. “It’s pretty clear that constituent communications need to be done when the legislature is in session,” said Jordan Young, Senate Republican Caucus executive director.
“Saving all that money and using it during the campaign when his services are completed is wrong,” Young said. “Wouldn’t you want to know about a particular issue before you vote on it?”
Legislators are given an allowance for mailers for communications with constituents, but those mailers are prohibited during the 30 days before a primary or a general election.
In this case, the June mailer went out about a week before the cutoff, which Young said indicates Barnes was “flirting with that rule.”
But, he said, “whether it follows the rule or not doesn’t make it right. Sen. Barnes is using taxpayer resources to build up his name” and that’s not fair, he said, when “our candidate has to pay for it himself.”
On Nov. 6, Barnes faces Republican Mark Green for the District 22 seat, which includes Montgomery, Stewart and Houston counties. Young characterized it as the only “highly contested” state Senate race where the incumbent is a Democrat.
…Barnes responded that there’s nothing unusual or unethical about the mailers.
“I’m sure they would call it that, but if you look into when legislators mail these out, they do it during the session and after the session,” Barnes said.
“It is not only perfectly ethical, it is common practice and a vital and needed way to communicate with constituents.”
“A lot of these are summarizing what we did in the legislative session to get feedback. It gives us the opportunity to plan for the next session.”
…Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis called the accusation “unfounded criticism.”
“All legislative mail – from the content to the timing – is approved by the speaker’s office, therefore if they have an argument, they have to take it up with Speaker (Ron) Ramsey, who the last time I looked was a Republican,” Kyle said.
“And I guarantee he reads every one of those word for word.”
— Note: For more on the ‘constituent communications’ accounts — which are exploited on a bipartisan basis — see this story written with the primary pending and mostly focused on how incumbents — Republicans included — transferred money from their accounts to help colleagues with the mailers under question.