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Fleischmann Tries to Block Public Release of Campaign Strategy Materials

For the second time, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is asking a Nashville judge to seal court records that would reveal his campaign’s inner workings, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.
The Ooltewah Republican’s goal is to prevent political opponents from seeing or distributing 1,800 pages of polling research, internal emails and strategy memos. Someone suing Fleischmann requested the documents as part of the civil discovery process.
In a filing, Fleischmann’s attorney said the congressman would supply the papers as long as they’re hidden from public view.
“The Court should order that any of these documents filed with the Court should be placed under seal, only to be opened in accordance with a subsequent court order,” the motion for a protective order states.
Fleischmann, an attorney, is joined in the motion by his co-defendant, Chip Saltsman, the congressman’s longtime political adviser and onetime Washington-based chief of staff.
Both men are fighting a defamation lawsuit stemming from claims in a three-year-old Fleischmann TV ad. Documents filed in Davidson County Circuit Court this week show the case is set for trial Feb. 24.
Political operative Mark Winslow filed the lawsuit. During the 2010 Republican primary, he worked for Fleischmann’s toughest opponent, former Tennessee GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith.
In an interview Friday, Winslow attorney Gary Blackburn said Fleischmann’s polling data motivated Saltsman to create “negative ads” that twisted the truth and ruined Winslow’s professional reputation.
“If a congressman’s tracking the success of lies,” Blackburn said, “shouldn’t the public be allowed to know that?”
Through a spokesman, Fleischmann declined to comment. He has described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and politically motivated. Saltsman, a well-known Republican strategist who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, did not respond to a request for comment
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Chip Saltsman Joins Joe Carr Congresssional Campaign

News release from Joe Carr campaign:
Lascassas, TN- Rep. Joe Carr announced today that veteran GOP strategist Chip Saltsman has joined his team in his bid to win the GOP primary in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district. The announcement follows Carr’s recent entrance into the race earlier this month and a highly successful fundraising period.
In just 6 weeks, Carr’s exploratory committee raised over $205,000 (nearly double the amount raised by incumbent Rep. Scott Desjarlais during the most recent filing period).
“We are excited that Chip will lead our team,” Carr stated. “Chip brings significant firepower and experience to our campaign. His excellent track record of managing both statewide and national campaigns is invaluable. Chip is a leader and proven winner in the conservative movement. I’m thankful for his friendship and for the opportunity to serve with him to advance the conservative principles of individual liberty, personal responsibility and state sovereignty that are among the pillars of American exceptionalism.”

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State GOP Denies Leaking File Used in Fleischmann Attack Ad

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.”

Fleischmann Spends $50K in Campaign Funds on Saltsman Legal Bills

Since July 2011, Chuck Fleischmann’s campaign has earmarked $51,523 in donor funds to pay Chip Saltsman’s legal fees in a lawsuit 600 miles away from Washington, D.C., according to Chris Carrolll.
Campaign finance records show the latest payment, $15,000, came on Nov. 14. Fleischmann’s office announced Saltsman’s resignation as chief of staff a month later.
After spending $1.3 million on the 2012 election cycle, the Fleischmann campaign reported $50,990 on hand and $226,538 in debts, according to the latest filings.
Last week, Fleischmann and his Nashville-based attorney declined to respond to inquiries about whether the Republican congressman’s campaign will continue paying Saltsman’s bills this year. Saltsman and his attorney did not return a detailed phone message seeking comment Thursday.
The legal fees stem from a 2-year-old Davidson County Circuit Court lawsuit filed by a rival political operative. Former Robin Smith aide Mark Winslow is suing Fleischmann and Saltsman over advertising claims the duo made in the 2010 election. Winslow seeks $750,000 in damages.
Fleischmann edged Smith and became the Republican nominee after a bitter 3rd District primary season. The lawsuit alleges defamation, inducement to breach a contract and invasion of privacy.
After Fleischmann’s campaign consulted with the Federal Election Commission in 2011, the agency determined that using donations to defend Saltsman was allowable because the lawsuit involves “allegations directly relating to campaign activities engaged in by Mr. Saltsman.”
…Meanwhile, attorneys continue to litigate the lawsuit, which is entering its third year after being filed in January 2011. Gary Blackburn, Winslow’s attorney, filed a motion to add the Tennessee Republican Party as a defendant last week.
A trial could be months away, Blackburn said.

State GOP Added as Defendant in Lawsuit Against Fleischmann

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.

Chip Leaving as Chuck’s Chief

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann’s office announced Friday that Chip Saltsman will step down as Fleischmann’s chief of staff effective Jan. 1 after what the Chattanooga Times-Free Press characterizes as “a successful, high-profile and sometimes controversial three years as a confidant, campaign consultant and office supervisor.”
“Chip has been an incredible asset for the last two years,” Fleischmann said in a news release. “His knowledge of politics and public policy is second to none. I thank him for his tireless service and look forward to his advice and counsel in the future.”
Fleischmann legislative director Jim Hippe, a former Bill Frist staffer, will replace Saltsman. The news release gave no reason for the change but said it was part of a long-term plan.
The 2008 presidential campaign manager for FOX News host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Saltsman was considered by those close to Fleischmann to favor politics over government. As a campaign consultant, he brass-knuckled health care consultant Robin Smith in 2010 and retired dairy executive Scottie Mayfield this year. Both were considered Fleischmann’s top rivals in consecutive Republican primaries.
“Without question Chip takes a no-holds-barred approach to winning,” Smith said.
Saltsman did not return a call seeking comment Friday. A former Smith aide is suing Fleischmann and Saltsman over advertising and maneuvering in the 2010 election. The case remains in litigation, and campaign funds have been used to pay Saltsman’s legal fees. Fleischmann has called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
A longtime political operative and former Tennessee Republican Party chairman, Saltsman is perhaps best known nationally for his abbreviated campaign for chairman of the Republican National Committee. The bid fizzled in December 2008 when Saltsman distributed a song to supporters called “Barack the Magic Negro,” a parody sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon” that mocked President Obama. Less than a year later, he went to work for Fleischmann
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How Fleischmann Came From 50 Points Behind to Win

Chris Carroll has an insightful look back at how incumbent Chuck Fleischmann, starting from way behind in the polls, pulled out a victory over Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp in the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary – even though his opponents collectively had 61 percent of the vote.
Interviews and a Chattanooga Times Free Press review of the vote count reveal that Wamp may have dumped too many resources into Hamilton County and Mayfield too few. Partly because of that, Fleischmann avoided a dubious distinction that seemed realistic a few months ago — becoming only the third Tennessee congressman since 1966 to lose a contested primary.
…Fleischmann didn’t carry a majority in a single county — Anderson County’s 49 percent was the highest he got anywhere — but Mayfield captured at least 50 percent of votes in McMinn, Monroe and Scott counties, and he easily won two more in Campbell and Polk.
Still, Hamilton County accounted for nearly half the district’s 76,000 ballots, and Mayfield came in last. He lost Hamilton County by 6,769 votes and the district by 6,172.
A week after his third-place showing where it mattered most, Mayfield was second-guessing his Chattanooga-area efforts.
“I’m going to say I probably spent time equally everywhere,” he said. “It’s just that half the voters are in Hamilton County, and so I should have spent half my time there instead of one-tenth of my time.”
…n an interview Friday, the younger Wamp cited more media outlets, more debates and more voters in explaining why he poured most of his time and money into Chattanooga with ads, appearances and interviews.
“The race was taking place in Hamilton County — that’s where people seemed to care; that’s where the media cared,” Wamp said.
But the results indicate he didn’t do enough anywhere else, specifically the seven counties in the Knoxville media market. Excluding Hamilton County, where he beat Fleischmann by 101 votes, Wamp finished third in every county and garnered 19 percent districtwide. Records show he lost Monroe and Scott counties by 5-to-1 margins and six other counties by at least 20 percentage points.
Wamp’s built-in name recognition didn’t translate in places his father never served.
…As Mayfield decided how he would spend $802,000 in campaign contributions and Wamp mulled over options for his $626,000, Fleischmann sat on $1.1 million. The difference? More than $435,000 of the congressman’s largesse came from incumbent-friendly political action committees — resources his challengers could not depend on.
…According to Fleisch-mann chief of staff Chip Saltsman, internal polling taken in early April showed Mayfield “literally up 50 points” in several counties.
“Mayfield was crushing us. Destroying us,” he said. “Basically he was the incumbent.”

Anti-Mayfield Ice Cream Ad, Financed by Outside PAC, Stirs Flap

A new independent expenditure ad in the 3rd Congressional District race says Scottie Mayfield is “good at ice cream, not so good on the issues.”
Mayfield campaign consultant Tommy Hopper, a former state Republican chairman, tells Chris Carroll that he thinks the ad sponsors got that line from Chip Saltsman, another former state GOP chief who is running the Chuck Fleischman campaign.
Coordination between the PAC running the ad and the Fleischmann campaign, of course, would violate federal campaign laws. Hopper suspects that’s what happened. Saltsman says not so.
“We simply do not believe that an out-of-state PAC with no known ties to Tennessee has any interest in our primary unless led here by one of our opponents,” Hopper said.
…Bankrolled by the Beaufort, S.C.-based Citizens for a Working America, the $165,000 ad campaign is the second time an independent, out-of-state political committee has spent money on the 3rd District primary.
Airing in Chattanooga and Knoxville broadcast markets, the anti-Mayfield ad includes an instrumental version of “Pop Goes the Weasel” and melting vanilla ice cream — direct hits on the dairy executive’s intelligence and political savvy.
“Scottie Mayfield: Good at ice cream, not so good on the issues,” the ad’s narrator concludes.
Mayfield’s advisers said recent remarks offered by Fleischmann chief of staff Chip Saltsman shed doubt on the campaign’s denials.
According to audio obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Saltsman, speaking for Fleischmann at a rally last week in Campbell County, said, “good ice cream, bad politics” in a rhetorical swipe against Mayfield.
“Chip’s comments are oddly similar to the overall theme of the ad,” Hopper said in an email, “and it’s a fact that the Fleischmann campaign plays fast and loose with the law and the facts.”
Saltsman laughed when greeted with Hopper’s allegation, adding that he has no ties to Citizens for a Working America.
“Don’t know them. But I’ve heard that comment about Mayfield having good milk or ice cream and bad politics or issues 100 times,” he said. “It’s something a lot of people say. A lot of people talk about it.”
The other independent expenditure came from the American Conservative Union, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that spent at least $30,000 on a July radio buy in support of Fleischmann.
Records show OnMessage Inc., an ad agency in Virginia, produced both ads.
Saltsman and OnMessage Inc. co-founder Brad Todd are Facebook friends, but the connections go beyond that. Saltsman was elected Tennessee Republican Party chairman in 1998, and Todd was the state party’s executive director in 1997-98, according to his LinkedIn page.
Todd did not return phone calls, but Saltsman said the two briefly worked together.
“He was at the party when I was elected, but I replaced him,” Saltsman said. Saltsman denied coordination and said he hasn’t spoken with Todd “since last winter.”
Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said it’s difficult to prove “coordination” even though the Federal Election Commission has subpoena power over such matters.
…A $475,000 ad buy for Mitt Romney in December 2011 is the only other expenditure Citizens for a Working America has ever made, records show. As of Thursday, the organization was listed as based in Dayton, Ohio, but on Friday that was changed to Beaufort, S.C.
Despite requests from the Federal Election Commission to do so, Citizens for a Working America has not disclosed its donors. Norm Cummings, a Virginia-based Republican political consultant whose name is on the organization’s filings, could not be reached for comment.

Saltsman Running Fleischmann Campaign on Volunteer Basis

Despite recent setbacks regarding litigation and his own critical remarks about his job, Chip Saltsman, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s chief of staff, said Tuesday that his indefinite, unpaid leave of absence is “all part of the plan.”
More from Chris Carroll:
Saltsman has been on leave since June 8, but Fleischmann’s office never publicly announced the news.
Interviewed Tuesday, Saltsman, who earned more than $156,000 last year as Fleischmann’s top aide, said he left the government payroll to supervise “all aspects of Chuck’s campaign” on a volunteer basis until at least Aug. 2, when Fleischmann faces three challengers in a hotly contested 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.
Saltsman described the “long-planned leave of absence” as “a pretty common thing for chiefs of staff to do,” but his remarks to a national media outlet two days before he left were anything but ordinary.
On June 6, the website Politico published a story quoting Saltsman as saying, “I didn’t want to take the job as [Fleischmann’s] chief of staff. I said ‘No’ the first three times he asked me.”
Saltsman acknowledged the comments Tuesday.
“I’ve loved working for Chuck, but you know, that was not my first choice,” Saltsman said. “That’s not what I was going to do the first time around.”
Fleischmann’s office did not make the first-term congressman available for an interview Tuesday, but in the June 6 article, Politico quoted him describing Saltsman as “an outstanding individual.”
Not long before Saltsman’s leave of absence became public, the Chattanooga Times Free Press published excerpts of a deposition Saltsman gave in a lawsuit brought against him and Fleischmann by Mark Winslow, a former aide to Fleischmann’s top 2010 opponent, Hamilton County’s Robin Smith.
A 2010 attack ad mentioned in the lawsuit alleged that Smith, a former state GOP chairwoman, paid “lavish bonuses” to a top aide at a time the party was in debt. That claim appeared to be debunked when Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said he was the one who paid Winslow as part of a severance agreement.
In his own deposition, Fleischmann testified he had no literal grounds to make the “lavish bonuses” charge against Smith.

Fleischmann, Saltsman Testify on 2010 Campaign Activities

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann testified in a deposition that he never saw some of his own campaign ads before they hit the airwaves, reports Chris Carroll. That despite a federally mandated voiceover joined with each ad: “I’m Chuck Fleischmann, and I approve this message.”
In a separate deposition, Chip Saltsman, the freshman congressman’s former campaign consultant and current chief of staff, testified that he approved a Fleischmann ad that included a “created” computer image featuring Tennessee’s state seal superimposed over a nongovernment document.
The national campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, Saltsman also said he never confirmed the validity of confidential documents used in a powerful attack ad against Fleischmann’s chief opponent in 2010’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary.
The pair gave depositions in a lawsuit filed in January 2011 by Mark Winslow, the former chief of staff for the Tennessee Republican Party. He sued Fleischmann and Saltsman for defamation, inducement to breach a contract and invasion of privacy and is seeking $750,000 in damages.
Internal Fleischmann campaign details were obtained from depositions the congressman tried to keep secret. In a protective order filed March 29 on behalf of Fleischmann, attorney Brent S. Usery indicated that “2012 is an election year,” adding that the congressman’s testimony would include confidential “campaign strategy, oppositional research and campaign spending decisions.”
A judge denied Fleischmann’s request in May, three months before the congressman’s Aug. 2 Republican primary election against three challengers, including Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp.
Fleischmann campaign spokesman Jordan Powell issued a written statement late Friday.
“This confirms what we’ve said from the beginning — it’s a politically motivated lawsuit designed to attack Congressman Fleischmann at a politically expedient time,” the statement said. “And with it being three weeks before early voting, this proves our point.”
The Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained written transcripts of depositions for Fleischmann and Saltsman, both of which were filed Friday afternoon in Davidson County Circuit Court in Nashville.
While Fleischmann said “I don’t know,” “I wouldn’t know” and “I don’t recall” a few dozen times over the course of a four-hour deposition, the sworn testimony offers a rare glimpse inside his campaign playbook.