Tag Archives: RAAMPAC

On Ron Ramsey, Red Tape & the Little Hatch Act

Mike Morrow delves into the matter of whether Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey violated the law — as alleged by Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester (prior post HERE) — in the financing and operation of his anti-red tape website. Excerpt from his TNReport report:
Ramsey produced a letter Thursday from Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, dated that day, saying Rawlins is not aware that any statute enforced by the Tennessee Ethics Commission was violated when Ramsey’s PAC created the site.
But the state Democratic Party says that’s not the problem.
“What Governor Ramsey asked is not the correct question,” said Brandon Puttbrese, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party. “He got the answer he was looking for. The serious question here is if using his official office to promote his PAC website is a violation of the Little Hatch Act.”
The Little Hatch Act refers to a law regarding the involvement of government employees for political purposes. The law prohibits public officers and employees from participating in any political activity while on duty (pdf). Tennessee’s Little Hatch Act mirrors the federal Hatch Act.
Rawlins, when contacted by TNReport Friday afternoon, said Ramsey’s question was not submitted in writing.
The ethics commission executive director said the question from Ramsey arose because the lieutenant governor apparently “wanted to make sure there was no ethics violation by RAAMPAC paying for the website.”
“I viewed the website and did not see any ethics violation, and that’s why I wrote the letter,” Rawlins said. “But there wasn’t any written request for a letter from me.”
Rawlins said his office does not handle alleged Little Hatch Act violations. Rawlins said he wasn’t sure who would look into Little Hatch Act allegations. He said he was not asked by Ramsey if it was appropriate or a potential violation of law to have his publicly funded staff doing work on the website.
“That was not a question I was asked, and I would not have answered that one because we do not have authority over that,” Rawlins said.

Ramsey Violating Law With PAC-Funded Website?

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester says Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is violating state ethics laws by using his office to promote a website funded by PAC contributions, reports WJHL-TV.
From the TV transcript:
In March, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey launched a new website. TNRedTape.com tries to solve problems created by state government.
RAMSEY: “Silly rules and redundant regulations stifle innovative entrepreneurs from starting new businesses.”
The site lets “red tape whistle blowers” contact Ramsey for help, and a blog touts “red tape success stories.” It also openly criticizes some departments of state government.
RAMSEY: “Now that we’ve got a new governor in that I can work very, very well with in Bill Haslam, I thinks it syncs up that we want to identify and solve these problems.”
The site is funded by Ramsey’s political action committee RAAMPAC. That troubles Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.
FORRESTER: “To use the official office to promote a PAC-paid website is clearly against the law in Tennessee. And furthermore, we’re very curious as to whether Lt. Gov. Ramsey is collecting his per diem as he travels the state.”
Ramsey says he’s not collecting per diem for the Red Tape Road Trips and calls Forrester’s legal claim “100-percent wrong.”
RAMSEY: “Chip Forrester is not a Ron Ramsey fan. The reason that PACs exist is to promote issues, to promote ideas, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this. I did not want to use taxpayer money to do this.”
GEORGE JACKSON, reporter:
Political action committees like RAAMPAC register with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. Executive Director Drew Rawlins told me there’s nothing in state statutes that limits a PAC to campaign contributions. I asked him about Forrester’s claim — that Ramsey is using his office to promote a PAC-paid website, thereby breaking the law. Rawlins told me, “I have to look into it.”