Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West on Saturday welcomed news that Congress may investigate the IRS after the agency admitted it targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, reports the Times-Free Press. West said the Chattanooga Tea Party is among the 75 groups the agency admitted last week were victims of deliberate bureaucratic foot-dragging.
“It’s a scandal. It is the heavy-handedness of a bureaucratic government agency that has gone awry,” West said by telephone.
He noted that House Republicans are talking of holding hearings and said people of all political persuasions should support them.
“If they can do it to grass-roots tea party groups one year, they can to it to left-wing Occupy Wall Street people the next year. Either way, it’s wrong,” West said.
“Unless there’s an investigation and heads roll, unless some people lose their jobs over this, then we know this is just political. They got caught; they were going to feign an apology and move on.”
He said the Chattanooga Tea Party filed its application for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status in 2009. He said the IRS “stonewalled and delayed” and asked “inappropriate” questions of the fledgling group. In mid-2011 or early 2012, with no ruling on the application, the agency wrote asking for additional information, West said.
Meanwhile, tea party and patriot groups around the state and nation had begun comparing notes and concluded the foot-dragging was deliberate.
In March 2012, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker were among those who signed a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman seeking assurance that patriot and tea party groups were being treated fairly. Note: Press releases from Corker and Alexander are below.
Any thought that Rep. Gloria Johnson might not be top target for the state Republican party next year — and that the Democratic party will defend her — is surely eliminated by the following two post-session press releases, First came this from the Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–As lawmakers return home following the conclusion of the legislative session, Tennesseans are reviewing the public record of their lawmakers and some of what they are finding is embarrassing.
Take, for instance, the record of Representative Gloria Johnson (D–Knoxville).
In a short four-month period as a legislator, Rep. Johnson:
•Spent the last four months harassing and opposing Governor Bill Haslam’s common sense reform agenda for education and spending.
•Voted against a bill that protects doctors who provide free medical care to low-income patients who need urgent attention.
•Filed a self-serving bill she would personally benefit from.
•Supported the implementation of ObamaCare in Tennessee.
•Voted to strip worker’s rights protections from Tennessee law.
•Stood against Knox County teachers having the ability to protect students.
•Chose to not record a vote on a ban of the state income tax that would protect Tennessee families from having more of their hard-earned money taken by government.
•Voted against a balanced state budget that meets the needs of our state and cuts taxes for all Tennesseans.
•Voted against cutting the sales tax on groceries for all Tennesseans.
•Voted against phasing out the death tax to save Tennessee families and farms from being double-taxed on their assets.
•Voted against an initiative to find and remove examples of government waste.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney made the following statement about Rep. Johnson’s legislative performance.
“Representative Johnson was sent to Nashville to represent her constituents and this dismal performance was anything but that. It is troubling to see that her priorities were not carrying and passing good legislation, but rather being focused on updating her social media accounts with personal attacks on our leaders. Tennesseans hold their elected officials to a higher standard and expect them to work tirelessly on their behalf. Instead, she put petty personal politics above what’s best for Tennessee.”
He concluded, “I look forward to talking about Gloria Johnson’s embarrassing track record with her constituents over the next year and a half.”
— Then, this from the Tennessee Democratic party:
The Tennessee Republican Party on Monday denied leaking in-house personnel files that benefited U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s first campaign, reports the Chattanooga TFP. State party attorney Bill Outhier couldn’t pinpoint the source beyond the denial.
“Your speculation is as good as mine,” he said Tuesday.
Originally stored at state GOP headquarters in Nashville, the documents inspired a 2010 Fleischmann campaign ad that attacked Republican rival Robin Smith. A TV voiceover charged that Smith paid “lavish bonuses” to staffers while she was state party chairwoman and financial times were tough.
Fleischmann campaign consultant Chip Saltsman produced the ad using former Smith aide Mark Winslow’s Tennessee Republican Party personnel file, which included salary information and a mutual confidentiality clause. Saltsman later said he obtained the file when an unknown source left it on his garage steps.
Winslow sued Fleischmann and Saltsman for defamation and the Tennessee Republican Party for breach of contract.
“The state party had the documents,” Winslow attorney Gary Blackburn said. “They escaped to Mr. Saltsman. We still don’t know how.”
The ad aired late in the 2010 3rd District Republican primary race. Fleischmann beat Smith by 1,415 votes and steamrolled the Democratic nominee. He won re-election in November.
An Ooltewah attorney, Fleischmann has called Winslow’s case “frivolous,” but he declined to comment Tuesday. The congressman was unable to corroborate the “lavish bonuses” claim in a deposition last year.
In a separate deposition, state party chairman Chris Devaney testified the personnel documents didn’t come from him or the party.
“You know, just like every document at the party — the place is under lock and key,” Devaney said. “And you know, I believe that the place is secure.”
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron called the current private school voucher proposal another battle in the “Republican War against public schools” today at a press conference in Nashville.
Herron derided the influence of big special interests, which accounts for about $2 million of known spending in the effort to allow public tax dollars to flow into private institutions.
At least four special interest groups are spending big money to push vouchers in Tennessee, including
•The Beacon Center of Tennessee, which has been funded by Washington, D.C.-based special interests, is currently airing deceptive television ads in Tennessee;
•Students First, which has spent at least $900,000 on lobbying and candidate contributions;
•The American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on advertising supporting private school vouchers; and
•the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conglomeration of big corporate backers that hosts conferences for state legislators annually, is a longtime supporter of privatization and school vouchers.
Herron’s prepared remarks can be read below:
Former state Sen. Roy Herron became the Tennessee Democratic Party’s new chairman Saturday, winning a solid majority of executive committee members’ votes despite criticism he is too conservative on some issues such as abortion.
From the Andy Sher report: The 59-year-old Dresden attorney outpolled Dave Garrison, a Nashville attorney, 39-27. Garrison was backed by the state’s two Democratic congressmen along with House and Senate Democratic Caucus leaders and the mayors of Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, as well as labor unions.
Herron will lead an embattled party that has seen Republicans seize the governor’s mansion and absolute control of the state Legislature.
Following his election, Herron charged that under Republican rule, “we’ve gone from common sense to nonsense.”
He accused the GOP of “trying to destroy the public schools” and said “those things that unite us as Democrats are far more important than those things that divide us.”
But his election left some Democrats uneasy.
At the end of the meeting, executive committee member Jerry Maynard, a Metro Nashville councilman, took the unusual step of asking Herron to declare his support of President Barack Obama.
Maynard said he had never heard Herron endorse Obama during the election campaign.
“I voted for the president, I announced I was for the president, I told anybody who asked me that I was for the president,” Herron replied. “I support the president, I support what he’s trying to do for the country, and I support the United States of America.”
…Herron succeeds Chip Forrester, who was elected four years ago despite opposition from top Democrats such as former Gov. Phil Bredesen and major party fundraisers. They punished Forrester by largely withholding support for the party.
Speaking before the vote, Forrester said he now was sorry he ran “without the support of the majority of the elected officials of this state.”
“Because of that I and my staff have faced an uphill battle for four years unifying this party.”
Jane Hampton Bowen has withdrawn as a candidate for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, the Chattanooga TFP reports, leaving the contest a two-man race that will be decided Jan. 26. “The race is now one between two strong Democrats,” Hampton Bowen, vice president and political liaison for the Chattanooga Area Labor Council, said in a statement. “My job now becomes one of support and input toward the reinvigoration of the Democratic Party in Tennessee.”
She said she’s looking forward to “continuing my quest for a more inclusive party, especially for working men and women, a party that stands for the rights and ideals of both urban and rural Tennesseans.”
Hampton Bowen did not endorse either of the two remaining candidates, Nashville lawyer Dave Garrison, currently party treasurer, and former state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.
Earlier this week Wade Munday, the party’s former communications chair, dropped out of the contest, announced he was running for treasurer and threw his support to Garrison. Ben Smith, a Nashville attorney, withdrew days earlier, throwing his support to Herron.
…Garrison has the backing of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, as well Democrats serving as mayors of Tennessee’s three biggest cities, A C Wharton, of Memphis; Madeline Rogero, of Knoxville; and Karl Dean, of Nashville.
— UPDATE: Steven Hale reports that Herron claims to have 42 of the Demoratic Executive Committee’s 72 members committed to him. He sent a list of the 42 — reproduced by Hale — in an email to members of the panel.
Note: Bowen’s statement on withdrawing is below.
The Democratic Party’s influence may be shrinking in Tennessee, but competition to rule over it has become something of a crowded field, observes Andrea Zelinski in a rundown on the race to succeed Chip Forrester as TNDP chairman. From all appearances, (former state Sen. Roy Herron’s) strongest rival for the job is Dave Garrison, who has worked closely with the party’s board for three years as treasurer. Following him are former party communications director Wade Munday and vice president and political liaison for the Chattanooga Area Labor Council Jane Hampton Bowen.
…Herron officially committed to joining the race during the holiday break, a decision he said he had put off after dealing with deaths and illnesses in his family. But the late start isn’t the only factor that sets him apart from his opponents.
Herron is a life member of the National Rifle Association with a legislative record that includes favorable votes for contentious bills the party fought strongly against, such as allowing guns in bars and parks. He has also positioned himself as anti-abortion, although like his Democratic counterparts he voted repeatedly against movements to insert anti-abortion language into the state Constitution.
…Herron’s fans say his experience on the campaign trail set him apart from the competition. And although Herron insists he’s not thinking about a bid for higher office, some think he could revisit his abandoned try for governor in the long term and that ultimately, it would be a win-win for the party.
“To even have a shot at statewide office, the party needs to be in better shape. So maybe that would be a good thing, because the party needs to be better off for him to swing that,” said Ben Smith, a former hopeful for the chairman’s seat who exited the race last week in favor of Herron.
A Nashville attorney, Garrison is in his first race with his own name on a ballot.
“I don’t take it as a criticism that I haven’t been running elections for 20 years,” said Garrison. “I think it’s an asset that I bring a fresh perspective, but the know-how and the ability to build coalitions and get things done at the party.”
“I don’t believe that the chair of the party necessarily needs to be a political candidate,” he added. “It needs to be somebody’s who’s raised money for others, and the party; it needs to be somebody that can build coalitions; it needs to be somebody that can run and manage an organization, and it needs to be somebody who can bring people that are not at the table back to the table or new people to the table of the Democratic Party,” he said.
The Tennessee Republican party has been added as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by a former state GOP chief of staff of the Tennessee Republican Party, reports Chas Sisk. The state GOP is accused of leaking confidential information about his pay in an attempt to undermine former chairwoman Robin Smith’s 2010 run for Congress. Attorneys for Mark Winslow are adding the state party to a lawsuit that alleges U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, and adviser Chip Saltsman defamed Winslow in a television ad that aired shortly before the 2010 Republican primary. The spot said that Smith had paid out “lavish bonuses” to staff, including Winslow, while head of the state party.
Fleischmann beat Smith by 1,415 votes to earn an upset win for the Republican nomination. He went on to win the general election that year, and he was elected to a second term in November.
Michael Sullivan, the Tennessee Republican Party’s deputy executive director, declined to comment on the suit.
The filing made Thursday updates a complaint that Winslow filed nearly two years ago against Saltsman, a message consultant to Fleischmann’s 2010 congressional campaign who went on to work for him in Washington as his chief of staff.
The suit describes two payments that the ad may have referred to as bonuses: Winslow’s portion of a $20,000 bonus that Smith shared with staffers as a reward for Republicans’ gains in the 2008 election and a $12,504 severance payment made to Winslow shortly after Smith stepped down in 2009 to run for Congress.
Winslow says he and Chris Devaney, the current chairman of the party, agreed to the severance payment and that it was supposed to be kept confidential. The complaint contends party officials should have kept the agreement locked up, but instead it made its way into the hands of Saltsman and several reporters.
LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) — The Wilson County Tea Party is disbanding.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/TRr5Sc) organizer Sherrie Orange told supporters in an email last Monday that after three-plus years of work, the group was calling it quits immediately.
She wrote, “Everyone in this core group is tired and, as a result, we have made the very difficult decision that we can no longer continue running the Wilson County Tea Party.”
Recently, the group fought the creation of a state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, Gov. Bill Haslam did not create a state-run exchange, leaving the task of operating the exchange to the federal government.
Almost two months after Hamilton County Democratic officials said they would stay out of the March Chattanooga mayor’s race, they changed their minds and endorsed Andy Berke, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The qualifying deadline for the Chattanooga City elections passed last week, as the newspaper also noted in a separate story.
Three people qualified for the mayoral race — former state Sen. Andy Berke, perennial candidate Chester Heathington Jr. and former city employee Guy Satterfield.
Former East Ridge Manager and Red Bank Public Works Commissioner Wayne Hamill expressed interest in running last week but did not qualify. Another potential mayoral candidate, businessman and former Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy, dropped out last week.