Tag Archives: political

TN rated 6th ‘least politically engaged’ state in study

From the Nashville Business Journal:
Tennessee is the sixth-least politically engaged state, according to a new report from personal finance site WalletHub.com.

WalletHub analyzed the 50 states and Washington, D.C., across six metrics to generate its rankings. Metrics ranged from the percentage of registered voters in the 2012 presidential election to the voter turnout in the 2010 midterm elections.

Tennessee ranked second to last in turnout for the 2010 midterm elections, behind only Texas in terms of the percent of citizens who voted. The Volunteer State ranked No. 46 in turnout in the 2012 presidential election. It also ranked in the bottom third of states for the percent of citizens who were registered to vote in the last presidential election.

Here’s how Tennessee measured in several key categories:
No. 38: Percent of registered voters in 2012 presidential election
No. 50: Percent of citizens who voted in the 2010 midterm elections
No. 46: Percent of citizens who voted in the 2012 presidential election
No. 38: Total political contributors per adult population

There’s one improving sign in Tennessee: The state ranked No. 11 nationwide in voter turnout increase from the 2008 to the 2012 elections.

Note: The WalletHub report is HERE. The listing as 50th in 2010 midterm voting turnout is interesting in that, going by early voting totals so far, it appears the 2014 midterm turnout in Tennessee will be somewhat lower than in 2010. Black Fontenay, press secretary at the Secretary of State’s office, sent the following in response to a request for comment on the report:

Without having examined the methodology for the report, it is difficult to comment on the results in the report.

However, we have implemented several initiatives in the Division of Elections that are designed to encourage people to vote. Specifically, we unveiled our voter app which can be used on both the iPhone and the Android smartphones, we actively promoted voter registration through our “I’m Registered” social media campaign, and we launched the Honor Vote Program to give registered voters of Tennessee the opportunity to dedicate their votes to active-duty military personnel and veterans.

The voter app allows voters to use their smartphone to access the following information:

· Early voting and Election Day polling locations and hours of operation
· Candidate lists for the upcoming election
· Sample ballots for upcoming election
· Directions to early voting and Election Day polling locations
· County election commission information
· Access online election results through the application

In 2013, Tennessee created the “I Am Registered to Vote. Are You?” campaign. That campaign has proven extremely successful and we have had tremendous participation from celebrities as well as people from ordinary walks of life.

During September, National Voter Registration Month, we had almost two dozen colleges across Tennessee who participated in the month-long voter registration drive. Due to these concerted efforts, more than 1,000 Tennesseans become registered to vote.

Finally, the Honor Vote Program is a simple gesture which pays tribute to our active-duty military personnel and veterans. As our Tennessee voters participate in elections, the Honor Vote Program provides one more opportunity for them to say “thank you” to our active-duty military personnel and veterans for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our country.

Corker hails ‘Kid President’ for ‘making the world a better place’

News release from Sen. Bob Corker’s office:
WASHINGTON – The office of U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today welcomed Tennessean and YouTube sensation Kid President – also known as Robby Novak, 10 – to Capitol Hill. Following a tour of the U.S. Capitol, Novak toured Corker’s office and spoke with the senator by phone.

“Our office was proud to welcome Robby, a fellow Tennessean, to Capitol Hill,” said Corker. “His focus on making the world a better place has inspired children and adults all across the country, and candidly, Washington could learn a thing or two from Robby about bringing people together. I thank him for the example he is setting and wish him all the best in the future.”

During his visit, Novak also received a handwritten letter from Senator Corker.

“We’ve got some more work to do. There’s still lots of problems to solve – and you’re the guy to do it. Let’s keep bringing people together,” wrote Corker in his letter to Kid President.

…To learn more about Kid President, click here.

Emails indicate Ingram doing some political work on Haslam payroll

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.

The Haslams are a giving family, politically speaking

A nationwide analysis of contributions to political causes indicates that the Haslams are the leading family of “elite donors” in Tennessee.
The Sunlight Foundation last week released a list of the “1 percent of 1 percent” — 31,385 people nationwide who represent just .01 percent of the nation’s population but who made 28 percent of all political contributions involving campaigns for president and congressional offices in 2012. (Link HERE)
In Tennessee, 430 individuals made the list, contributing almost $17.3 million as a group.
Eight of the “elite political donors” in Tennessee are members of the Haslam family, including patriarch James “Jim” Haslam II, who founded Pilot Corp. as a young man. He and his son James III, or “Jimmy,” made the top 10 for Tennessee.
Jimmy Haslam was No. 5 with $176,550, his father seventh with $159,450.

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Miscellaneous TN Political News and Opinion Notes

Legislature Inspires Prayer
Robert Houk recalls the Rev. Will Campbell, the civil rights activist and colorful Baptist preacher, who died June 3, delivering a prayer before a floor session of the Tennessee House of Representatives that included a line something like: “Oh Lord, please don’t let these legislators mess up Tennessee any more than it already is.” The same sentiment applies, he writes, in the current Medicaid expansion debate.
On Electing Scandal-Plagued County Officials
The opening line of Frank Cagle’s latest: I have always opposed taking away the people’s right to vote and have long advocated that Tennessee elect more people to office–a state attorney general and school superintendents, for example. I still think it is a good idea to elect the department heads down at the courthouse–the so-called fee offices like trustee, county clerk, register of deeds. But it’s getting harder and harder to defend.
On Electing Judges (or not)
From Frank Daniels III, writing on the Judicial Nominating Commission’s push to choose new appellate judges for vacancies that don’t exist yet:
The unseemly rush to selection by the panel is forced because next year Tennessee voters will get a chance to decide, after 40 years, whether they agree with the petite bargain forged in the 1970s that took away their right to choose who sits in judgment and replaced it with a wax-and-bailing-wire version of a judicial election process politely called the Tennessee Plan. Tennesseans had previously directly elected all their judges, but after the unthinkable happened in 1966, when Republican Howard Baker won a U.S. Senate seat, and in 1970, when Winfield Dunn, another GOP in the Democratic bastion of Tennessee, beat John Jay Hooker, the state’s political leaders feared what would happen if voters suddenly began electing all kinds of people who were not properly vetted in the backrooms and boardrooms.
John Jay Hooker ‘Right on Every Count’
Beginning of a Chattanooga Free Press editorial on the judge selection plans:
Tennessee officials are on the verge of violating the law, ignoring the state Constitution and disregarding logic, and no one seems to be putting up much of a fight. No one, that is, except for John Jay Hooker Jr., a Nashville lawyer and former Democratic candidate for governor. HERE.
Lawmaker Against Road Project Before He Was For It?
Hank Hayes chronicles the email exchanges between state Rep. Tony Shipley and Transportation Commissioners John Schroer, who had differing notions about a Kingsport area highway project. TDOT rejected Shipley’s advice and chose another option… though the lawmaker is now praising the project in speeches. HERE
Remenberiing Gay Bashing
Betty Bean recalls “what has come to be remembered as the ‘gay-bashing meeting'” of the Knox County Commission 20 years ago and how things have changed. HERE.
On UT Begging for Money, Giving Pay Raises
From Sam Venable on the University of Tennessee’s financial status: I find it astounding that UT’s brain trust can miraculously produce money to lavish on the execs, but then must go hat-in-hand to pay for routine operations.
Comptroller Can Control Cities
State Comptroller Justin Wilson tells Jackson Baker that, yes, he has authority under existing state law to take over Memphis’ budget – or that of any other city with bonded indebtedness – but he doesn’t want to do so.
“It’s pretty strong, and there’s absolutely no question that I’ve got to approve the budget. If the budget doesn’t balance, I can bring it into balance. There’s no question I can raise taxes. I want to be real clear about this. I hope we never get there. I do not anticipate that we get there. It’s the last thing in the world I want to do. This is not what I’m about. I don’t want to argue about my authority and all that kind of stuff. “

A Gubernatorial Task Force on Self-Censure?

Our governor has received the Snark Bites treatment again from Scott McNutt, who sees a trend toward self-censure developing among politicians inspired by the recent reprimand of Knox County Commissioner Brad Anders.
Hearing of Anders’ planned self-remonstrance, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he was forming a team to study the feasibility of a gubernatorial self-censure because his agenda to transform Tennessee into an autocracy suffered a series of humiliating setbacks recently.
Haslam’s latest gaffes that merit self-censure include:
– His administration was found to have violated the First Amendment rights of Occupy Nashville protesters in 2011, in a judge’s strongly worded ruling.
– His scheme to lay off more than 200 state workers was thwarted by a judge’s restraining order.
– His administration’s decision to award a $330 million contract to a company in which he once invested is raising red flags among legislators.
– His practice of paying a political consultant who also lobbies the administration has raised questions from Democrats on the arrangement’s propriety.
– He had to again admit that, “Yes, Jimmy is my brother,” candidly.
To address these embarrassments, the task force will make recommendations about the self-censure’s appropriateness as a way to distract from the governor’s increasingly ugly track record in conducting the people’s business.
“I will study the task force’s recommendations, and then ponder, ponder, ponder and ponder,” he said. “And then ponder some more, until maybe the public has forgotten whatever it was I was pondering for.”
Also, President Barack Obama is now said to be considering a self-censure for letting his administration’s controversies control its news narrative, rather than vice versa, while promising “never to let it happen again.”

Miscellaneous TN Government and Political Tidbits

TennCare Drawing Lampooned on Daily Show
Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart has lampooned Tennessee’s “health care lottery,” otherwise know as the TennCare “spend down” drawing wherein 2,500 people with huge medical bills get to apply for TennCare benefits via telephone call. Video HERE.
Paul Wants to Raise Kane
Former Congressman Ron Paul has been urging professional wrestler Glenn Jacobs, whose stage name is “Kane,” to run against Lamar Alexander in the 2014 U.S. Senate primary, according to Matt Collins, who was on Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign staff. So reports Reason.com.
Dawn in the Legislature
Freshman state Rep. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, tells the Daily News Journal in a Q-and-A story that she learned a valuable lesson during her first legislative session: How a bill begins is usually not how it finishes.
“I always tell people … that how the bill is written (will determine if) I will support it or not, because I learned that one amendment can change the entire face of the bill,” White said
Cooper’s PR Person Exits
Katie Hill, the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper for the past 18 months, is leaving the Nashville Democrat’s staff to take the same role with Gabby Giffords’ new political action committee. HERE.
Lazy Headline Writing Denounced
Frank Cagle’s weekly column begins with this line: It’s not an Internet tax, dammit, no matter how many times lazy headline writers call it that.
You Could Say Hill’s Bill Just Hit a Speed Bump
State Rep. Timothy Hill backed off on his bill to prohibit Bluff City from using traffic cameras to ticket speeding motorists during the past session, but says he’ll put the measure on notice for another try in 2014. HERE.
Quiz on a State Senator
Robert Houk poses the question: How much do you know about Rusty Crowe?
On the UT Fracking Front
The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees has not been involved in plans to drill for oil and gas on UT land in Morgan and Scott counties. The Southern Environmental Law Center thinks they should be. HERE.
Meanwhile,t UT is now taking bids from those interested in drilling on the 8,600 acres. HERE

Vanderbilt Poll: More Tennesseans Support Medicaid Expansion (but not ‘Obamacare’)

A growing majority of Tennesseans support expansion of Medicaid within the state though most at the same time have an unfavorable impression of the federal law that authorizes expansion, according to a Vanderbilt University poll released Tuesday.
About 63 percent of the state’s registered voters have a favorable opinion of Gov. Bill Haslam, who has tentatively rejected Medicaid expansion. That’s down five points from six months ago, though Vanderbilt pollsters said the decline is “statistically insignificant” given the poll’s four point margin of error.
The survey of 813 registered voters, taken May 6-13, found solid approval for the state’s two U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, while a more narrow 51 percent said they like the Tennessee General Assembly with its Republican “supermajority.”
Opinions were mixed on whether state sales tax collection for internet sales should be enforced. When asked if online sales taxes was bad idea, 55 percent agreed with 38 saying it was a good idea. But when the question was framed as to whether it’s fair for in-state retailers to collect the taxes while out-of-state retailers do not, the result was a 47-47 percent tie.

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Casada’s Campaign Finance Bill Flops in House

A bill repealing the need for corporations to disclose political contributions and more than doubling the amount of money partisan caucuses can put directly into legislative campaigns fell two votes short of passage Wednesday on the House floor.
The bill (HB643) by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada would also repeal a law prohibiting direct political contributions to legislators by insurance companies, which now must form political action committees to make donations.
The vote was 48-41 with 50 votes required for passage. Thirteen of Casada’s fellow Republicans voted no on his bill, two others abstained and eight simply refused to vote at all – including House Speaker Beth Harwell, who was presiding over the chamber. Democrats unanimously opposed it.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada sponsored the bill, calling for passage as a means of bringing more political contributions into the state political system.
“Limiting money is limiting free speech,” declared Casada.
But critics faulted the bill for putting more money into state politics with less transparency. Perhaps the most impassioned protest came from Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, who said the flow of new money under the bill could be “perceived as unethical.”
“If you have received thousands and thousands of dollars, you may feel like your vote has been purchased,” she said.
“We are not bribeable,” replied Casada.
Other criticism came from Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, the Legislature’s only independent, who said insurance companies would make political donations and pass the cost on to customers paying premiums, and several Democrats who objected to repealing the disclosure requirement for corporations.
Casada said the corporate reporting of donations is unnecessary because candidates receiving the money would still have to disclose receipt of the money.
Critics pointed out that the Registry of Election Finance now matches corporate and PAC contribution reports of donations made with candidate reports of donations received – occasionally finding cases where a candidate failed to report a donation. The bill would have removed the ability to make such a check with corporate money.