The Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council will focus on voting records, and not on political labels, as it evaluates candidates in coming state races, reports The Tennessean, quoting President Gary Moore. “We’re going to look at and endorse candidates who support labor regardless of party affiliation,” he said. That’s a shift for the council, which represents about 300 unions and affiliates with 60,000-plus members in Tennessee and has a history of heavily favoring Democrats.
In the 2012 state legislative campaign, it endorsed 53 Democrats, one independent and one Republican. The council previously based its political endorsements largely on the candidates’ party affiliations and pledges to support workers but never really followed up to verify whether their votes matched their words, Moore said.
When the council did so for the 2013 legislative session, there were some surprising results.
“We found out that not all Democrats are friends with working people,” Moore said, singling out Rep. Charles Curtiss of Sparta as an example.
Curtiss voted against the council’s position on six key bills, including Gov. Bill Haslam’s workers compensation reform measure. Moore said that could cost Curtiss the council’s endorsement in the 2014 campaign.
Humane Tennessee PAC has issued a “scorecard” for state legislators based on their “support and promotion of animal welfare legislation.”
The ratings are based on votes involving six bills — three the PAC supported and three it opposed — with extra points added or subtracted for other activities.
Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, for example, got extra points for holding a news conference to denounce the so-called “ag gag” bill that the group opposed.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the lowest rated legislators were the sponsors of that bill, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville. The measure, which required anyone making pictures or video of livestock abuse to turn it over to law enforcement authorities promptly, passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Joining them on the “paws down” list were Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport and Sens. Mike Bell, R-Riceville; Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey; Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga; Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
Ranking high on the list were Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, sponsors of a bill increasing the penalty for cockfighting. The Humane PAC supported the bill, which was killed in a Senate floor vote with Niceley leading the verbal opposition.
Besides them and Johnson, others given high ratings were Reps. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet; Mike Stewart, D-Nashville; and Curry Todd, R-Collierville, along with Sens. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson; Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; and Mark Norris, R-Collierville.
The PAC was established in late 2010 and, insofar as donating to campaigns goes, has not been very active. It has given just $3,500 to candidates since being created — including $1,000 to Ketron and $500 to Lundberg — and had a balance of $1,214 in its last report, according to the Registry of Election Finance.
Statement from Dick Williams, Common Cause of Tennessee:
House Bill 643 by Casada / SB 787 by Watson & Ramsey contain several revisions to the current campaign finance laws in Tennessee.
This bill has received little discussion in the public and in committee, but is scheduled for floor votes in this, presumably, last week of the session. Many of the provisions, when explained in the context of current state & federal campaign law are relatively non controversial.
The exception, so far, is the increase in the limits on contributions from PACs controlled by political parties or caucuses. While Common Cause/TN has some concern about the amounts of the proposed increases in those limits, we are more concerned about the effect of a provision that has received little attention to date. Section 5 of the bill would delete the word “corporation” from the definition of a PAC.
While section 3 of the bill clarifies that corporate or insurance company contributions are held to the same limits as are PACs, the deletion from the definition of a PAC means that corporations, like individuals, would not have to report their contributions to the Registry of Election Finance.
PACs, unlike individuals, are required to report their political contributions to the Registry of Election Finance. Since the definition of a PAC includes a committee, club, association or other group of persons who receive or make political contributions, the effect of Section 5 of this bill would mean that a small group or club that made contributions would continue to report to the Registry, but corporations would not. Certainly, the public would see this as unfair and inappropriate.
One of the important tools for the Registry to assure the accuracy of the campaign disclosure information is the cross-checking of PAC reports with those of candidates. Frequently, discrepancies are found and corrected. In most cases, the figures are reconciled as a bookkeeping error on the part of either the PAC or the candidate or both.
Although we are concerned about possible amendments to this broad captioned bill contrary to the public interest, we believe that Section 5 should be deleted, if the bill is adopted.
Monty Lankford, a Franklin businesman who says he has been considering a run against
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Republican primary, sent an email to supporters today saying he won’t enter the race.
Lankford, who chairs political action committees called Leaders of Tennessee and Defenders of Freedom, says in the email that, after meeting with Alexander and others, he will instead be helping Alexander’s re-election effort.
Here’s the email:
Over the past several months I have followed a deliberative process in Washington, D.C. and Tennessee as I considered running against Lamar Alexander for the U.S. Senate. After much prayer I have decided not to run and I have pledged my full support to Lamar. In the past few weeks Lamar has been to my home, he’s met with me and my family, and I have shared with Lamar my commitment to help him win his re-election to the U S Senate.
The Tennessean has a list, compiled from Center for Responsive Politics information, ranking Tennessee members of Congress in their dependence on PACs for contributions in the 2012 election cycle. Here it is:
• Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville: $471,649 or 73 percent, 19th highest (of U.S. House members).
• Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood: $1.11 million or 63.4 percent, 63rd highest.
• Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis: $482,822 or 58.1 percent, 95th highest.
• Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin: $1.17 million or 48.3 percent, 187 highest.
• Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah: $554,955 or 39.5 percent, 278th highest.
• Rep. Steve Fincher, R-Frog Jump: $881,086 or 39.2 percent, 281st highest.
• Rep. Scott DesJarlais: $471,178 or 37.5 percent, 295th highest.
• Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville: $358,654 or 29.7 percent, 348th highest.
• Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City: $0, 433rd highest.
The accompanying story is focused mostly on U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. It’s HERE.
Reports on Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ sexual relationship with a second patient he met as a physician have brought a new round of criticism from supporters of Eric Stewart, the Democratic nominee in the 4th Congressional District.
House Majority PAC, a group with ties to Democratic congressional leaders, announced it had purchased another $180,000 worth of television time for a new commercial criticizing the embattled congressman. That makes a total of about $280,000 spent by the group.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester, meanwhile, called a news conference to declare that DesJarlais “ran his medical practice like a Craigslist cathouse” and berate the state’s Republican leaders “standing in support of Scott DesJarlais and his unethical behavior” though a “conspiracy of silence” on the controversy.
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press on Sunday quoted a woman, who was granted anonymity, as saying she had the Marion County physician had a sexual relationship 12 years ago while his divorce was pending, that they shared marijuana and that he wrote prescriptions for drugs to her at her home. An earlier report quoted a transcript of DesJarlais urging another woman, also met as a patient, to get an abortion.
DesJarlais has said that, in the first case, he believed the woman was not really pregnant and used “strong language” with the aim of having her admit it. She turned out not to be pregnant, the doctor-congressman said.
DesJarlais had no direct comment on the second report. His campaign manager sent media this email:
“The woman mentioned in this article has reached out to both the congressman’s wife and the paper to express concerns about her statements being taken out of context and factual inaccuracies contained in this article. … Rather than focusing solely on a 14-year-old divorce, why don’t they talk to the congressman’s wife, Amy, who he has been married to for more than 10 years?
“It speaks volumes that even Lincoln Davis recently said that he regretted his actions and that these types of personal smear campaigns that hurt families have no place in politics.”
Davis, the Democratic congressman DesJarlais defeated in 2010, ran ads pointing to other allegations in DesJarlais’ divorce, including his ex-wife’s claim that he threatened her and once put a pistol in his mouth. Davis, who is backing Stewart this year, has said he regrets the ads.
Meanwhile, Forrester has called on the Republican Party and elected officials to seek DesJarlais’ resignation and to condemn his actions.
“Their approval and support of DesJarlais’ unethical behavior and hypocrisy makes it painfully clear that the Tennessee Republican Party is only concerned with one thing — holding on to power,” said Forrester.
Asked for comment on the Democrat’s call, state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney sent this via email:
“We’re not going to comment further on hearsay, anonymous charges that are being leveled by a desperate candidate. Folks in the 4th District are focused on jobs and the economy, and not on stories being ginned up for political purposes by a desperate Democrat Party.”
(Note: This updates and replaces previous post.)
WASHINGTON (AP) — A shadowy Tennessee company donated more than $5 million to a prominent conservative super political action committee days after establishing itself.
So who’s behind one of the largest batches of election contributions this year? There’s a questionable trail.
Campaign finance reports filed late Thursday show that the political committee, FreedomWorks for America, received seven donations totaling $5.28 million from Knoxville-based Specialty Group Inc. The money, which accounted for about 90 percent of FreedomWorks for America’s donations during the first 15 days of October, is helping pay for TV ads supporting conservative candidates for federal office.
An Associated Press review of Tennessee business records showed that Specialty Group filed its incorporation papers on Sept. 26, less than a week before it gave several contributions to FreedomWorks worth between $125,000 and $1.5 million apiece. The Specialty Group appears to have no website detailing its products or services. It is registered to a suburban Knoxville home.
Specialty Group’s opaque contributions provide another example of the marked changes to the campaign finance system, in which corporations and individuals can spend unlimited sums of money to support candidate. Major donors, including those to a super PAC benefiting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have been caught routing significant donations through corporate entities, effectively cloaking their identities.
The board that enforces Tennessee’s campaign finance law voted Tuesday against imposing any penalties in two cases where political action committees were accused of illegally sidestepping limits on how much money can be given to candidates for the state Legislature.
In one case, Andrew Miller Jr., a Nashville businessman, set up Truth Matters PAC in July and gave it $71,000. The PAC then contributed to 10 legislative campaigns, including eight that had already received the maximum allowable donation from Miller as an individual.
Registry of Election Finance staff had raised the possibility that the PAC had been used as an illegal “conduit,” allowing Miller to bypass the limits on campaign contributions he could give the candidates as an individual.
Miller, attorney James Weaver and Tracy Miller, Andrew’s brother and treasurer of the PAC, told the Registry board they could understand the suspicion. But they said that, looking outside the “snapshot” period of the covered by the Truth Matters’ first report, the PACs activities showed Miller had obtained pledges of contributions from others before the filing and they did, in fact, contribute to the PAC after the filing.
“If I’m guilty of anything, it’s getting in a rush,” said Miller, referring to his failure to wait until others contributed to the PAC before sending PAC donations to candidates he supported.
Registry board member Lee Anne Murray said she understood that an intent to bypass campaign limits was necessary to impose a penalty and the statements by Miller and a man who intended to contribute earlier showed their was no intent to act as a conduit. Member Henry Fincher disagreed, saying the PAC had actually acted as a conduit bypassing campaign donation limits though Miller appeared “a nice guy” who was not trying to act illegally.
Fincher said that :when the next guy, who is not so nice,” does the same thing, he will be able to argue as a precedent, “Well, Andy Miller did it. Why not I?”
The board voted 4-2 against imposing any penalties. The board’s newest member, Norma Lester of Memphis, joined Fincher in voting no on the motion to dismiss.
In the other case, Green PAC was set up by Mark Green, a candidate for state Senate from Clarksville. The PAC had three donors – Green making a $250 contribution and two other men making a total of $8,000 in donations. The PAC then donated $8,000 to Green, the only candidate to get a contribution during the PAC’s first reporting period.
Rachel Barrett, treasurer of the PAC, told the Registry that Green PAC received contributions from other people after the reporting period and also gave money to multiple candidates later. Only Fincher voted no on the motion to dismiss a complaint that had been filed by Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action.
A Democratic super PAC has jumped into the Tennessee 4th Congressional District race with an ad slamming Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais over revelations that he once had sex with a patient and encouraged her to seek an abortion, reports Andy Sher.
The House Majority PAC is spending”more than” $100,000 in the campaign and it is the first evidence that Democrats see Jasper’s DesJarlais, who has campaigned as being anti-abortion, as being vulnerable in his contest with Democrat Eric Stewart.
The group’s ad, “Trust,” begins airing this evening. “Trust and faith,” it says. “As a doctor, Scott DesJarlais earned his patients’ trust.” The ad then cuts to extensive news coverage of the abortion controversy.
View the House Majority ad HERE. “Scott DesJarlais’ incredible hypocrisy is just staggering,” said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC, which is linked to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement. “Tennesseans deserve better than Scott DesJarlais, for whom touting the values of trust and faith was nothing more than lip service.”
DesJarlais’ campaign issued a statement charging Stewart “has tried to run from his strong backing of Barack Obama and Obamacare throughout this campaign by pushing out recycled, 12-year-old garbage to keep from talking about his support of liberal policies that are killing jobs in Tennessee.”
“His out-of-state, liberal attack team that works hand in hand with Obama is now trying to hijack this race from Tennesseans — but they are too smart to fall for that.”
— Note: The Tennessee Democratic Party, meanwhile, has a web video that is being passed around on the Internet, also bashing DesJarlais. It is HERE.
— Note2: DesJarlais is currently up with an ad attacking Stewart for thinking that Obamacare” is “great,” Prior post HERE. The Tennessee Journal says the current DesJarlais ad buy is for $250,000.