The Ned McWherter Center for Rural Development has been led by former state Sen. Roy Herron, now a candidate for chairman of the state Democratic Party, since 2008 without accomplishing much, according to Steven Hale.
The center, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships to Tennessee students, was created with a $900,000 state grant in 2008. The grant was part of that year’s state budget during Herron’s term as senator and while he was the president of the organization.
But since that time, the center’s output has been minimal, according to tax records examined by The City Paper. Between 2008 and 2010, the center awarded no scholarships. The nonprofit began 2011 with $1,045,052 in assets but awarded only $35,750 in scholarships to students that year, the most recent available for public examination.
Herron announced in 2012 that he would not seek re-election, noting that he would devote his efforts to the McWherter center.
The center still bears the name of the late former governor, who died in April 2011, despite a nearly year-old request from the McWherter family that his name be removed from the organization.
Along with Herron, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and former Democratic Rep. Mark Maddox are listed as officers for the organization. Michael McWherter, son of the former governor, made the request in a letter to all three dated Feb. 20, 2012.
The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nomination of four people to the TVA Board of Directors,according to TVA.
They are V. Lynn Evans, a Memphis accountant; Peter Mahurin, chairman of a financial services firm in Bowling Green, Ky.; Mike McWherter of Dresden, a beer distributor and the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor; and Joe H. Ritch, a Huntsville, Ala., attorney.
Mahurin had been nominated by Obama in February, the other three in September.
Without the confirmations, the TVA board would have begun the year without a quorum for normal conduct of business, With that in mind, the board voted to delegate some authority to the agency’s new CEO, Bill Johnson, whose term officially began with the new year.
— UPDATE from Michael Collins: Senators did not act on the nomination of Marilyn Brown, an energy policy professor at Georgia Tech, who currently serves on the board and whom Obama nominated for a second term. Brown’s nomination will expire when the new Congress assumes office today, and Obama will have to either renominate her or choose someone else for the position.
Regardless, the confirmation of four new members means the board will almost certainly have a quorum at its next meeting Feb. 14 in Chattanooga. Here’s a news release issued jointly by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker:
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., made the following statements regarding Senate confirmation of Joe H. Ritch, of Alabama; Michael McWherter, of Tennessee; Vera Lynn Evans, of Tennessee; and C. Peter Mahurin, of Kentucky, to be members of the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors. The nominees passed the Senate by unanimous consent Tuesday evening. “Good leadership at TVA is a priority for all Tennesseans, who count on having access to cheap, clean, reliable electricity–and I believe, after meeting these individuals and studying their backgrounds and qualifications, that they will provide strong board leadership,” said Alexander.
“I was encouraged by the backgrounds of these nominees and am pleased they were confirmed by the Senate. TVA’s ability to provide low-cost, reliable power is critical to the economic health of our state and region, so I appreciate the willingness of experienced individuals to serve TVA as it goes through an important leadership transition over the next few months,” said Corker.
President Obama has nominated Mike McWherter, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Tennessee governor, to fill one of five current vacancies on the TVA Board of Directors.
Obama also nominated V. Lynn Evans, a Memphis accountant, and Joe H. Ritch, a Huntsville, Ala., attorney, as new members of the board while proposing to give Marilyn A. Brown, a current board member whose term has expired, a new term on the nine-member panel.
The president in February had nominated Peter Mahurin of Bowling Green, Ky., to a TVA board seat, but Mahurin’s nomination has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The four nominations announced Friday in a White House news release are also subject to Senate confirmation.
The nominations come with the Senate planning to recess until after the November election and with Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Bob Corker declaring the “entire TVA governance structure” should be re-examined with an eye toward reform.
They also come with the TVA board facing the task of selecting a new CEO to replace Tom Kilgore, whose announced retirement takes effect at the end of the year..
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE – For 38 years, Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh has served the 81st House District with honor and distinction, 18 of those years were as one of the most effective and revered Speakers in Tennessee history. Last week after a lifetime of serving the district and state, Speaker Naifeh announced he would be stepping aside to make way for the next generation of leaders who will seek to follow in his footsteps.
On March 31st the Tennessee Democratic Party will honor Speaker Naifeh’s service with the Governor Ned Ray McWherter TNDP Legacy Award at our annual Jackson Day Dinner. In 2011 we were proud to honor Speaker Pro-Tem Emeritus Lois DeBerry with this award, and now we are proud to honor the man she calls her mentor and close friend.
“Throughout his many years of service, Speaker Naifeh has worked hard to mentor a generation of lawmakers in the art of representing their districts and the people of Tennessee,” said Chairman Chip Forrester. “While they may not have known it at the time, all Tennesseans have benefitted from his exceptional leadership in state government during his time as Speaker and as a Representative of the 81st House District.”
The McWherter Legacy Award will carry a special meaning for Speaker Naifeh. In his farewell address on the floor last week, Speaker Naifeh remembered Gov. McWherter fondly as his mentor in both life and politics. Speaker Naifeh inherited the gavel he held for 18 years at the start of Gov. McWherter’s second term, he then worked to implement the policies of the McWherter administration that improved our education, roads, and health care system in this state for a generation.
In an op-ed piece appearing in some newspapes, former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike McWherter is urging a special legislative session on job creation. While Congress trudges through the quagmire of partisan rancor, elected officials in Tennessee should seize the opportunity to do what’s best for our state and pass a bi-partisan jobs plan. Gov. Bill Haslam has the constitutional authority to call a special session of the General Assembly, a step taken by many of his predecessors — Democrats and Republicans alike.
Full article HERE.
The tendency of Tennesseans to elect kinfolk of politicians previously elected is reviewed in an Action Andy Sunday story with Weston Wamp (son of Zach) in mind, The youthful son of a well-known Tennessee politician declares for public office and runs headlong into criticism about his inexperience and effort to ride the coattails of his famous father.
You may be thinking of Chattanooga Republican Weston Wamp. The 24-year-old son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., recently announced he will try to take the 3rd Congressional District seat his father held for 16 years from incumbent Republican Chuck Fleischmann, 50.
But then again, you could just as easily be talking about Harold Ford Jr.
The Memphis Democrat faced similar questions in 1996 when he announced, at age 26, that he was running to succeed his father, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr., D-Tenn., in the 9th District. Ford won.
Or try Al Gore Jr., the son of former U.S. Sen. Al Gore Sr., D-Tenn. At age 30, a journalist with no political experience other than what he learned from his father, the younger Gore squeaked through a hotly contested 4th Congressional District Democratic primary in 1978 with just 32 percent of the vote.
He easily won the general election, went on to serve in the U.S. Senate and then was vice president of the United States for two terms before losing the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000.
There’s a good reason why any number of successful Tennessee politicians got their start, at least in part, by being the scions of veteran officeholders.
“No. 1, first and foremost, it gives you name recognition, and name recognition is expensive to buy. So it gives you a leg up,” said Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer.
And people who supported the parent may get behind the next generation.
Gov. Bill Haslam, who drew sharp criticism from his gubernatorial campaign opponents by releasing only limited information on the amount of his personal income, has decided to release no information whatsoever now that he is in office.
Those who criticized him on the campaign trail, however, were either subdued or expressed a change of heart when asked for comment on his more stalwart silence now.
In response to a 2009 request for copies of his federal income tax returns, Haslam responded with a six-year summary showing that he and his wife, Crissy, averaged about $4.75 million in annual income over the period, ending with tax year 2008.
The summary excluded income from Pilot Corp., now Pilot Flying J, with Haslam saying such a disclosure could inappropriately reveal income of family members and potentially impact the business. But the summary did show not only annual non-Pilot income, but also that the Haslams paid an average of just over $622,000 in federal taxes annually, about $100,000 annually in state taxes, and that they gave about $689,000 per year to charity.
In response to a recent request for similar information on his 2009 and 2010 income, the governor replied with a firm no, relayed by Alexia Poe, his communications director.
“We just don’t see the public good in ongoing stories about his income,” Poe said. “The sources of his income are known. He has complied with the law.
“What impact does the amount of his income have on his being governor?” she said.
Haslam declined to be interviewed on the subject, but sent the following comment via email:
“This is a topic that has been well reported and discussed over the past several years. As governor, I’ve done what I said I would do in the campaign. My holdings are in a blind trust — excluding Pilot stock, which everyone knows I own — and all required financial information will continue to be available to the public in annual disclosures.”
Former Gov. Ned McWherter’s place in Tennessee history was the focus of the 2011 Jackson Day fundraiser for the state Democratic party, as Chas Sisk reported. Gathering on a cool October evening under a massive tent on Bicentennial Capitol Mall, about 700 Democratic party supporters turned out to pay tribute to McWherter, a West Tennessee farm boy who helped lead a generation of centrist Southern Democrats that also included President Bill Clinton and Texas Gov. Ann Richards. McWherter died April 4.
“He saw out beyond where he was to where he was going,” said Chip Forrester, the Tennessee Democratic Party chairman. “This is really why we are here tonight, to honor a man who really created the most loving and powerful Democratic family this state has ever seen.”
Tickets for the event were $75 for individuals, while group rates varied. Brandon Puttbrese, a party spokesman, could not say Saturday how much the event would raise for the party.
Speakers included Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and former Tennessean editor and publisher John Seigenthaler.
“Now more than ever, those of us that are elected officials need to focus on the importance of community,” Dean said. “That was certainly the motivation behind everything Gov. McWherter did.”
For more details, see Mike Morrow’s full TNReport, which includes videos of several speakers.
Hank Hayes provides a report on a Democratic rally in Northeast Tennessee, featuring an array of speakers — including Sen. Andy Berke, Chip Forrester, Mike McWherter and TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters.:
ROCKY MOUNT — Speakers at the “Muster on the Mount” rally for Northeast Tennessee Democrats honored teachers and skewered Republicans on a number of political fronts Saturday night.
The biggest thing state Republican lawmakers were taken to task for was taking away teachers’ collective bargaining rights enacted in the 1970s.
“Teachers have been basically attacked by this legislature,” said Jerry Winters, government relations manager with the Tennessee Education Association (TEA). “Unreasonable demands have been put upon education. Legislators are always saying that teachers should be held accountable. The legislators themselves ought to be accountable, too. They did things in a mean spirited way. They took rights away from teachers that they had for 30 to 40 years or more. … It’s time to get the message out that teachers are upset, that we might need some changes in the Tennessee General Assembly.”
By Megan Boehnke of the News Sentinel:
Along the banks of the Pigeon River in Newport, Mike McWherter on Saturday presented the final charitable payment from his late father’s campaign fund — a $2,500 check to help in the effort to clean up the waterway.
Former Gov. Ned McWherter, who died of cancer in April at age 80, took an interest in the Pigeon in the late 1980s after learning of high pollution levels caused by industrial waste coming from a paper mill upstream in North Carolina.
After floating the river himself in a canoe and nearly getting arrested by a local sheriff for trespassing on the property of the paper mill, McWherter denied the renewal of a water quality variance needed by the paper mill to continue operating on Christmas Eve 1988.
While the river is cleaner than it was in the 1980s, North Carolina and Tennessee have been wrangling over the plant’s pollution for decades and the two sides came to an agreement in 1998 that required the plant to clean up its wastewater. Still, despite involvement from both states and the Environmental Protection Agency, local officials and activists insist the water still isn’t as clean as it should be, affecting the quality of life of residents and the viability of tourism and rafting in the area.
When the former governor, in office from 1987-1995, returned to the river in one of his final public appearances, the younger McWherter said his father was appalled at the river’s condition.
“He specifically told me he wanted to make sure a nice donation went to the efforts to clean up the river,” the younger McWherter said.
The contribution from McWherter’s estate will go to a legal fund for a potential lawsuit against the mill, said local businessman and longtime activist Gay Webb, who is involved with the Cocke County Waterways Advisory Council.
“We’re going to hire one of the biggest, best law firms we can find because financial support seems to be here now,” Webb said Saturday.
Gordon Ball, a Knoxville lawyer who represented Pigeon River area residents in a lawsuit, said Ned McWherter was actually a “late convert” to supporting cleanup. Ball said that McWherter in 1988 as governor took steps that he saw as undermining efforts to eliminate pollution from the Champion paper mill.
The younger McWherter acknowledged that Ball was an early supporter of the cleanup efforts and that he was not always on the best terms with his father, but said the former governor was a strong supporter of cleaning up the river after witnessing the damage himself.
The contribution came from the former governor’s old campaign account, which he kept open after leaving office to create a scholarship fund and to donate to other campaigns. At the time of his death, about $43,000 remained.