Tag Archives: mark cate

Cate’s consulting (not lobbying) helps clients

The Tennessean has a Sunday story raising the question of whether Mark Cate has engaged in lobbying since he stepped down a year ago as Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief of staff. Cate says he has not, though clients of his consulting firm have done quite well in their dealings with state government.

The clients Cate represents have landed $3 million in state funding, successfully secured approval to open a new mental health facility in East Tennessee and navigated a thorny legislative session for the tourism industry in the last year. Cate also was hired for a $10,000 per month job by a private foundation to oversee the construction of the new state museum, a project he helped lead as one of Haslam’s top advisors.

Cate and his deputies did not register with the state to lobby for 2016. State law forbids high-ranking officials from lobbying for one year after they leave office. Cate, who left the governor’s office on July 31, 2015, said he played no role in landing the state funding for clients because he and his firm were only consultants.

…The Tennessean reviewed nearly two years of emails and text messages between Cate and top state officials from six departments. The hundreds of emails and texts, from late 2014 through early this year, paint a picture of Cate’s broad influence on state government during his time as chief of staff and his continued clout as the principal for his new company, Stones River Group.

Stones River Group works for the National Museum of African American Music, planned to open in Nashville; Strategic Behavioral Health, a mental health company in Memphis; the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.; and three nonprofit organizations created while Cate worked under Haslam to support policy initiatives favored by the Haslam administration. Cate says all of his contracts note that his company is not allowed to lobby. Continue reading

More on consulting firm formed by Haslam supporters

The managers of Gov. Bill Haslam’s two successful campaigns, who both also served in his gubernatorial administration, have teamed as partners in a consulting firm that has the Tennessee State Museum Foundation and two advocacy groups among its clients.

In a news release last week, Stones River Group announced Jeremy Harrell, who was Gov. Bill Haslam’s campaign manager in 2014, has joined Mark Cate, who was Haslam’s campaign manager in 2010 and later served as the governor’s chief of staff, as a partner.

Cate last week was in Kentucky, helping that state’s new Republican governor-elect, Mark Bevin, organize gubernatorial administration transition efforts. Cate says that was at the request of the Republican Governors Association, which Haslam currently chairs, and done on a volunteer basis.

A third Stones River partner, who joined Cate in the firm’s September launch, is Stephen Susano, who had been serving as executive director of the Tennessee Business Partnership, an advocacy group best known for providing about $1.2 million in funding to support voter approval last year of an amendment to the state constitution on judicial appointments.

The Tennessee Business Partnership has been criticized by amendment opponents for not disclosing its financial supporters, instead just collecting the money and sending it to the “Yes on 2” campaign committee that placed campaign advertising on behalf of the amendment’s passage. Haslam supported the amendment and was co-chair of the “Yes on 2” campaign for passage with former Gov. Phil Bredesen.

All three men thus have close ties in supporting the governor’s political endeavors and policy positions — a situation that Dick Williams, who heads the self-styled government watchdog group Common Cause in Tennessee and is prone to liberal positions on policy issues, says should “raise eyebrows” about insider relationships. Ben Cunningham, who heads the Nashville Tea Party and is prone to conservative policy positions, said the situation indicates state government has “become even more of a closed loop.”
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Haslam’s former campaign managers team in consulting firm

Jeremy Harrell, who was Gov. Bill Haslam’s campaign manager in 2014, has joined Mark Cate, who was Haslam’s campaign manager in 2010 and later served as the governor’s chief of staff, in a consulting firm. They’re partners in Stones River Group with Stephen Susano, who was executive director of Tennessee Business Partnership, the group that provided most of the funding in the 2014 efforts to pass a judicial selection constitutional amendment favored by the governor.

The first publicly-disclosed client of the firm was the Tennessee State Museum Foundation, which is paying Stones River Group $10,000 per month for coordinating efforts to build a new museum and raise money for it. (Previous post HERE.) (A spokeswoman declined to name any other clients in a quick phone call today.)

Here’s the news release:
NASHVILLE – Stones River Group Co-Founders Mark Cate and Stephen Susano today announced that the business is expanding to meet the needs of its growing client base. Jeremy Harrell will be joining the group as a principal, and Jennifer Triplett will serve as an associate.

“We have hit the ground running, and it is exciting that we’re able to strengthen our resources to better serve our clients,” Stones River Group President Mark Cate said. “Jeremy and Jennifer are great additions to our team, and I appreciate the work ethic, skills and experience they bring.”

A graduate of Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Harrell is the former executive director of Tennesseans for Student Success and campaign manager for Gov. Bill Haslam’s historic 2014 re-election.
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