Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2014 reelection campaign netted only about a $120,000 gain in the first six months of the year because of expenditures that included payments to three campaign workers who were also on the state’s payroll.
The campaign reported $347,913 in contributions from Jan. 15 until July 1 of this year, along with $226,968 in spending. Thanks to earlier fundraising and an $8,320 carryover from the 2010 campaign, the governor’s re-election fund still had a balance of more than $2 million cash on hand.
The disclosure also shows Haslam is continuing to list $3.5 million that he personally put into the 2010 campaign as a loan to the 2014 campaign, meaning he can use surplus funds from the 2014 effort to repay himself with campaign money if he chooses.
So far, Haslam has no announced opponent to his reelection.
Top donors on the contributor list include Tom Beasley, a founder of Corrections Corporation of America, and his wife, Wendy, and Joseph Gregory of Piney Flats, part of a family that became wealthy through King Pharmaceuticals, and his wife, Lucinda. Each donated $7,600, the maximum permitted by state law for an individual.
WTVF-TV continues a review of Haslam administration emails with a report on indications that Tom Ingram was consulting on political campaign matters while paid personally by the governor. If so, that could mean disclosure of the payments is required under state law as the equivalent of campaign self-financing… but the governor has refused to disclose the amount of his personal payments to Ingram.
From Ben Hall’s report: State e-mails, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, raise new questions about whether Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam broke campaign finance laws by paying lobbyist Tom Ingram out of his own pocket.
The emails reveal Ingram participated in campaign-related planning events while he was on the governor’s private payroll.
…The governor insisted that there’s nothing wrong with having lobbyist and consultant Tom Ingram on his private payroll. He said he hired Ingram to help with statewide “organizational” issues.
“It’s not fair to have the state pay Tom — and he wasn’t doing political work where it should be campaign,” Haslam said last month.
But the new emails reveal Ingram continued to do campaign work, planning for the governor’s next election, while he was on the governor’s private payroll.
In October of 2012, the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate, e-mailed Ingram about a “2014 planning retreat.” Cate asked Ingram, as well as Haslam’s campaign finance director and key office staff, to set aside eight hours over two days for the retreat.
Later, Ingram suggested having the retreat at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel because he preferred “to get away from government space.”
Haslam’s office confirmed the retreat was campaign related about his reelection…. But even though Ingram was receiving regular monthly retainer payments, the governor’s office now says Ingram was not paid for the time he attended the campaign retreat.
Haslam’s office did not provide details of the campaign retreat, but said it only lasted a couple of hours.
…Other emails reveal that in a September 2012 discussion with the subject line “planning session,” Ingram told Mark Cate we “also needs [sic] to discuss super PAC.” Haslam’s office said Cate did not know what the “Super PAC” reference meant. (Note: Haslam has given money to Karl Rove’s ‘Super PAC,’ HERE)
…A spokesman for the governor said that Haslam started paying Ingram out of his campaign account on July 1. He said that was the plan all along as Haslam’s reelection grew closer and it had nothing to do with outside pressure.
However, the governor has no plans to amend past disclosures to reveal what he has paid Ingram.
Most members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation wanted nothing to do with the tax-cut extension Congress passed Friday, arguing it adds too much to the national debt, reports the Tennessean. But two Tennessee Republicans — Reps. Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump and Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah — voted for the bill, which extends the 2-percentage-point payroll tax cut through the end of the year. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, also voted yes.
“To be clear, this is no time to raise taxes,” Fincher said after the vote. “I voted to extend the payroll tax cut and stop a 2 percent tax increase on Americans.”
The tax cut will save around $80 a month for people earning $50,000 a year and will save high-income workers a maximum $2,200 for the year
. It also extends benefits for the long-term unemployed and prevents a large cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. It pays for that so-called “doc fix” in part by cutting $5 billion from a fund created by the 2010 health-care reform law that aims to prevent certain diseases.
Fincher and Fleischmann said they liked that the bill cuts funding for a provision of the health-care reform law.
…”Congress should be shrinking the deficit, not increasing it,” Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville said in explaining his vote against the bill.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker said cutting payroll taxes “will do little to help the economy and make it harder to get spending under control,” and Republican Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin said the bill is an example of “the worst kind of Washington game.”
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood said she supports the spirit of tax relief but added that the bill should have been publicly available 72 hours before Friday’s vote — a rule Republicans set last year in an effort to increase transparency.
“The American people are tired of broken promises,” Blackburn said
News releases from some of our state’s representatives in Washington: From U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais
WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Scott DesJarlais (TN-04) issued the following statement upon the announcement that the House and Senate have reached a deal to extend the payroll tax break for two months:
“The House passed a responsible, bipartisan bill that provided a year-long payroll tax reduction; extended and reformed unemployment insurance; preserved senior’s access to healthcare by preventing a 27% cut to doctors treating Medicare patients; and advanced measures that will boost private-sector job creation.
“Rather than use this bill as a template to work from, the Senate simply refused to take part in the normal legislative process. It is disappointing that since the Senate failed to do their job, we will now have to have this debate again in two months. I will continue to fight for long-term solutions that will provide economic certainty for both American workers and American businesses.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting Republican U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher with robo-calls criticizing him for a vote against the Senate-passed bill extending a payroll tax reduction.
Here’s text of the call, as reported by Elizabeth Bewley: “Something remarkable happened this weekend – Democrats and Republicans in the Senate worked together to stop a $1,000 payroll tax hike on 160 million middle-class families.
“Sounds too good to be true? It is, if Representative Steve Fincher doesn’t do the right thing and support it.
“Thirty-nine Republicans in the Senate voted for a middle-class tax-cut compromise, but Representative Fincher is ready to scrap it and sock the middle class with a tax hike on Jan. 1. That will cost Americans money when they can least afford it.
“The tea party is mugging the middle class with a tax increase because they don’t think millionaires and corporations should pay their fair share. Call (731) 423-4848 and tell Representative Fincher to stand with us, not the Tea Party, and support the $1,000 payroll tax-cut compromise before it’s too late.”
By Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Republican sponsor of a bill targeting the influence of the state’s largest teachers’ union says he is willing to revisit an element of the measure that prevents payroll deductions to be used to fund lobbying efforts at the Tennessee Capitol.
Under the bill signed into law this month by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, teachers’ professional organizations will no longer be allowed to use the payroll deductions for political purposes ranging from political contributions to lobbying and polling.
The provision is part of a measure replacing teachers’ collective bargaining rights with a concept called “collaborative conferencing.”
The Tennessee Education Association represents 52,000 educators and has long been a heavy contributor to Democratic candidates.
The measure also affects the smaller rival Professional Educators of Tennessee, which has been more supportive of other parts of the Republican bill. PET executive director J.C. Bowman said he agrees with the law’s ban on political contributions but not on the lobbying prohibition.