As much as $67 million was spent on lobbying state lawmakers last year while taxpayers spent $38 million on the total operating budget of the Tennessee General Assembly, according to reports filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission.
The commission, which oversees enforcement of state lobbying laws, says in its 2012 report that 525 people registered as lobbyists for 1,639 clients. (Note: The report is HERE.)
Both the lobbyists and their clients are required to file two reports per year on compensation paid to lobbyists and lobbying-related expenditures such at TV ads or mailings that urge citizens to contact legislators in support or opposition to a pending bill. The reports do not give specific figures; instead they report a “range” — for example, between $10,000 and $25,000.
Separate reports must be filed for receptions, dinners and the like hosted by lobbyist employers for lawmakers.
For 2012, the reports filed show:
— Lobbyist compensation totaled a minimum of $22 million and as much as $48.5 million.
— Lobbying-related expenditures totaled at least $2.9 million and as much as $18.1 million.
— Lobbyist clients spent $565,318 on 73 events to which legislators were invited during 2012.
The combined totals for lobbying compensation, related expenditures and hosted events are at least $25.6 million and at most about $67.1 million.
Leveraging his aura as a technology seer and his political and climate work connections, Al Gore has remade himself into a wealthy businessman, amassing a fortune that may exceed $200 million, reports the Seattle Times.
That’s close to the $250 million net worth of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom President Obama and Democrats targeted in ads and speeches as being out of touch with most Americans.
…The former senator, who spent most of his working life in Congress, had a net worth of about $1.7 million (in 1999) and assets that included pasture rents from a family farm and royalties from a zinc mine, remnants of his rural roots in Carthage, Tennessee. .
…Fourteen years later, he made an estimated $100 million in a single month. In January, the Current TV network, which he helped to start in 2004, was sold to Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Satellite Network for about $500 million. After debt, he grossed an estimated $70 million for his 20 percent stake, according to people familiar with the transaction.
Two weeks later, Gore exercised options, at $7.48 a share, on 59,000 shares of Apple Inc. stock that he’d been granted for serving on the Cupertino, California-based company’s board since 2003. On paper, it was about a $30 million payday based on the company’s share price on the day he claimed the options.
That’s a pretty good January for a guy who couldn’t yet call himself a multimillionaire when he briefly slipped from public life after his bitterly contested presidential election loss to George W. Bush in late 2000, based on 1999 and 2000 disclosure forms.
Gore isn’t finished exercising his Apple stock grants. Those 59,000 are part of 101,358 Apple options and shares of restricted stock Gore has amassed, according to company filings, giving his total holdings a gross value of more than $45.6 million today.
News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s campaign:
Nashville, January 29–Senator Lamar Alexander’s re-election campaign today announced four Tennessee events that state finance chairman Steve Smith predicted will raise more than $3 million.
“As governor and as senator, Lamar Alexander has been standing up for Tennessee and we are ready to stand up for him,” Smith said. “The $3 million we expect to raise when added to our $1 million on hand will give the senator $4 million to start his campaign. We then will raise whatever we need to raise to make sure Lamar is able to communicate his message and continue to represent Tennesseans.”
This follows Alexander’s announcement on December 1 that Congressman Jimmy Duncan will be his campaign chairman and that his campaign co-chairmen will be Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Bob Corker, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell as well as Congressmen Blackburn, Roe, Black, Fincher and Fleischmann.
The first finance event will be in Chattanooga in April at the home of Senator Corker. Also that month, Alexander will hold an event in Nashville that will be a “A Salute to Ted Welch,” the former Republican National Finance Committee chairman who will serve as Alexander’s Honorary Finance Chairman. Other events will take place during May in Knoxville and Memphis.
In a recent letter to contributors, Alexander said that Smith and Knoxville businessman Jim Haslam have recruited ten Tennesseans to join “The Welch Team” and raise $100,000 each in support of the campaign. His letter said the campaign is recruiting 25 other Tennesseans who will each agree to raise $50,000.
In addition to Jim Haslam and Steve Smith, other co-chairs of Alexander’s statewide finance committee at this time include: Darrell Akins, Jeb Beasley, Randy Boyd, Lew Conner, Joe Davenport, James Gregory, John Gregory, Jimmy Haslam, Pitt Hyde, Orrin Ingram, Jerry Mansfield, Bill Rhodes, Susan Simons, Fred Smith, Steve West and Susan Williams.
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Southeastern dairy farmers from 14 states have reached a tentative settlement for nearly $159 million in their antitrust lawsuit against the Dairy Farmers of America over claims of dairy price controls.
The preliminary settlement heads off a civil trial that was to have begun Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.
The farmers claimed there was a conspiracy among major milk producers to drive down the prices they received for milk. The lawsuit was filed in July 2007 and the farmers have previously settled with Dean Foods and the Southern Marketing Agency.
An order issued Tuesday by Judge Ronnie Greer grants the dairies’ motion for preliminary approval of the settlement. Greer will conduct a hearing April 3 to consider final approval.
The lead attorney for the farmers, Robert Abrams of the law firm BakerHostetler, said in a news release that the southeast milk market has been reformed as a result of the settlement.
“The monetary recovery itself is very substantial and the resulting conduct changes will significantly and positively impact competition in the southeast dairy industry,” he said.
The law firm said in a statement that the last settlement brings the total amount for the farmers in the class action lawsuit to more than $300 million. The Dairy Farmers of America, a milk marketing cooperative, also agreed also to change some of its business practices in the southeast region to increase raw milk prices and boost transparency, the law firm said.
The settlement was first reported by The Greeneville Sun (http://bit.ly/Tg1KoO ).
TNReport’s Trent Siebert has done a piece on state spending to attract filmmakers to Tennessee. It starts like this: Did you enjoy ABC’s “Nashville” series? Good, because you’ll be paying for it to the tune of $8.5 million.
Millions of public dollars — in tax credits and, as of this year, via grants — have flowed into the state’s film incentive program to aid productions such as Larry the Cable Guy’s Christmas special, “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and promos for “Monday Night Football.”
In all, Tennessee is on track to fork over $22 million worth of handouts for Hollywood productions that are made in the state, a TNReport review of state records from 2008 to 2012 shows.
“This is one of the most insidious forms of corporate welfare out there,” Trey Moore, with the free-market think tank Beacon Center, said. “It’s hard to argue that this is a good deal for taxpayers.”
To put the amount in context: $22 million could pay for an additional 455 Nashville firefighters or five additional teachers in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties this year.
Republicans continue to build a huge money advantage statewide over Democrats as they push to gain a supermajority over the minority party in the Nov. 6 elections, according to new campaign finance disclosures filed this week.
Major Republican-operated political action committees that are involved in legislative races have significantly more than a $1 million lead over Democratic-operated PACs in cash on hand for the remainder of the campaign, the reports show.
Nine individual state Senate candidates, in turn, collectively have more than a $1 million lead in cash on hand over their Democratic opponents, according to a GOP tally.
While a compilation of House candidate totals was not available, a sampling of individual candidate reports indicates that Republican House candidates also likely enjoy a $1 million advantage, though Democrats actually have a money lead in a few races.
Republicans now hold a 64-34 majority in the state House, with one Independent, and a 20-13 majority in the Senate. With a gain of two seats in each chamber, the GOP will have a two-thirds majority in both. That means all Democrats could walk out and the House and Senate could continue to meet with a quorum and that Republicans, if united, can suspend normal rules to almost instantly approve legislation.
The new disclosures show that Republicans are financially positioned to meet or exceed their supermajority goals. Republicans credit the outpouring of money into their campaigns to Tennesseans’ collective satisfaction with the new political status quo in the state.
The Mitt Romney- Paul Ryan team wants to win a GOP victory “by acclamation” in the Nov. 6 election, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said today at a fundraiser at the Knoxville Marriott, reports the News Sentinel. Ryan told a crowd of 310 people that since President Obama can’t run on hope and change, he’s going to do it by dividing the nation and winning by default.
At the event, Gov. Bill Haslam announced that about $1 million was raised at the fundraiser. This included persons who donated at either the $1,000 or $10,000 level.
Those donating $10,000 were able to have their photographs with Ryan.
Ryan’s theme throughout the 15-minute speech was that voters have a choice between personal liberties and smaller government offered by the Romney-Ryan team — or bigger government and fewer liberties offered by the Democrats.
He said the Romney-Ryan ticket stresses the American system of freedom and free enterprise, while President Obama practices a different government and sees its role as establishing new government-defined rights.
Earlier today, with a wave to reporters and a nod toward a banner touting the University of Tennessee, Ryan had stepped off his campaign plane at McGhee Tyson Airport and headed for the fundraiser at the Marriott.
Lawmakers have a wish list up to $500 million in projects and programs long — a pipe dream they’ll have to whittle down to about $5 million, says Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, reports Andrea Zelinski. The governor included $5 million in legislative expenditures in his budget, and now lawmakers are clamoring for a piece of that available money. The proposals include projects specific to lawmakers’ districts and attempts to fund favored bills or existing state programs.
Norris said it’s too soon to say what lawmakers will decide to spend that available money on, but said they so far don’t see making many changes to the governor’s proposed budget and accompanied amendment.
“Given that we only have about 1 percent of what’s requested available, all of them will not make it,” said Norris, R-Collierville. “Though worthy, there’s not enough taxpayer money available to fund everything that people would like to see us fund.”
Senate lawmakers began combing through the requests this week in a budget subcommittee and expect to decide next week which of those proposals will actually be funded.
“People think there’s more money,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, who said his office has 350 funding requests, an increase from last year’s 150 requests.
Last week’s relocation announcement of a Sprint call center from Bristol, Va., to Bristol, Tenn., means potentially millions of dollars in state and local tax credits to the company, although it’s only moving a couple of miles down the road, according to the Bristol Herald-Courier.. Tennessee Economic and Community Development spokeswoman Laura Elkins declined to discuss any specific economic incentives packages offered to the company because nothing is official between the state and Sprint at this point.
“It doesn’t become public until a contract is signed,” she said, adding that the company and state discussed potential numbers but “it’s all speculation.”
To qualify for a state excise and franchise tax credit, Sprint must invest $500,000 in a new facility. The project is estimated at between $4 million and $6 million, Networks – Sullivan Partnership CEO Richard Venable said.
The company must also hire at least 25 people. In a statement from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s office, the facility, which should be completed in 2013, will employ around 600 people.
Normally, a company would qualify for a state tax credit of $2,000 per new employee. But because Sullivan County is economically depressed, the company qualifies for $4,500 in tax credits per employee, Elkins said. If Sprint hires 600 employees, it can potentially receive $2.7 million in excise and franchise tax credits.
The company was also offered a complete abatement of local property taxes, Venable said, but the length of the abatement would not be finalized until the project is finalized. The company qualifies for other potential benefits, including tax credits for software, hardware, other technological investments, tax credits for job training and local infrastructure grants.
Virginia offered the company a tract of land worth $255,000 and state incentives worth $1.4 million, Bristol, Va., City Manager Dewey Cashwell said earlier.
Comptroller Justin Wilson says interest rates on a record sale of state bonds ranged from as little as 0.25 percent to a high of 4.182 percent. He said so in an email response to a question on interest rates prompted by the the press release below. Here’s the email:
“The interest rates vary, depending on various factors, from a low of o.25% to a high of 4.182%. It gets a little complicated, but basically we had three series of bonds with each maturity in the series having a different rate. Our preliminary analysis shows that the average interest rate computed under what folks in the industry call “True Interest Cost” are 3.27% for the regular tax-exempt bonds, 2.28% for the refunding bonds and 3.51% for the taxable bonds. These are very good rates for the state and reflect the confidence the investing community has with Tennessee.” Here’s the press release:
The State of Tennessee entered the capital markets and sold $546,655,000 worth of bonds this week – the largest sale in the state’s history. Demand for the state’s bonds was high among investors, a reflection of the state’s strong credit ratings.
Earlier this month, Fitch and Moody’s Investor Services, two of the country’s major bond rating agencies, reaffirmed the state’s AAA credit rating, which is the highest available. Standard and Poor’s, the third major rating agency, reaffirmed the state’s AA+ rating, which is the second highest rating available. The state’s high ratings reflect its debt level, which is one of the lowest in the country.
Proceeds from the bond sale will be used to finance numerous projects throughout the state, including economic development grants for Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Wacker Chemie in Bradley County, Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville and Electrolux in Memphis. Those projects are expected to create 4,650 permanent jobs, plus thousands more in construction and related industries.
The bond proceeds will also pay for improvements to many state-owned buildings and properties, including a new driver license center in Memphis, renovations to the Supreme Court Building and other state office buildings in Nashville, a prison in Bledsoe County, a new library for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga campus and infrastructure improvements to a research building on the Cherokee campus of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
The state also sold bonds to refinance some of its existing debt – which will save taxpayers approximately $5,559,000 million in interest payments over time.
None of the bond proceeds will be used to cover the state’s operating expenses or balance the budget.
“Our bond sale went extraordinarily well,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Bonds were sold to a variety of investors including $35,000,000 to individual investors. For one category of bonds, we had nearly four times as many orders from investors as we were able to fill. This sale will help pay for four high profile economic development projects that will bring badly-needed jobs to our state, as well as other necessary improvements to our state’s infrastructure. Also, I believe taxpayers should be pleased that we were able to achieve a savings of about $5,559,000 million by refinancing part of our debt. We will continue to look for other opportunities to refinance more debt when market conditions are favorable for that.”