Veteran lobbyist and political consultant Tom Ingram is being paid $5,000 per month by Gov. Bill Haslam’s re-election campaign, a spokesman for the governor said Tuesday.
David Smith said the monthly payments began on July 1. Before that, Haslam had been paying Ingram with personal funds and had refused to disclose the amount of his personal payments.
Asked if the $5,000 monthly campaign payments are the same as the undisclosed personal payments that proceeded, Smith declined to comment.
The campaign payments would eventually have become public, but disclosure would not be required until Jan. 31, 2014, the next date for filing a campaign disclosure in a non-election year.
The $5,000 payments will be at a considerably lower level than payments to Ingram and the Ingram Group, a consulting and lobbying firm he founded, during the intense 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Total payments to Ingram and the Ingram Group by the 2010 Haslam campaign totaled more than $600,000, according to a review of Registry of Election Finance records, starting with a $20,000 payment to Ingram on June 2, 2009, and ending with a payment of $20,834 to the Ingram Group on Jan. 27, 2011.
Smith said the payments by the 2014 campaign will be made to the Ingram Group.
On a sorta related note, see Gail Kerr’s column, which heaps praise upon Ingram while giving him a bit of a lecture, too, for failure to register as a lobbyist. An excerpt: Ingram’s a pro. These are dumb, little mistakes he shouldn’t have made. Whether he’s playing small ball with the council or long ball with the big boys, he needs to play by the rules.
Tom Ingram knows better
Tom Ingram and another executive with his influential lobbying firm worked with Mayor Karl Dean’s office more than a month ago to put together an incentive package for the television show “Nashville” but didn’t register with the city as lobbyists at the time, according to The Tennessean.. On June 24, Dean announced $500,000 in incentives, pending Metro Council approval, to keep the ABC drama filming here.
Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson said officials in the mayor’s office communicated with Ingram and fellow Ingram Group executive Sam Reed when negotiating the incentive deal. Ingram Group has long been the lobbyist for Gaylord Entertainment, now Ryman Hospitality Partners, which is one of the show’s executive producers.
The Metro code defines lobbying as communicating “directly or indirectly, with any official in the legislative branch or executive branch for pay or for any consideration, for the purpose of influencing any legislative action or administrative action.”
Last week, Reed and another Ingram Group lobbyist, Marcille Durham, registered with the city as representing Ryman. Ingram has not registered.
But government transparency expert Dick Williams, chairman of the nonprofit group Common Cause Tennessee, said Ingram and Reed should have registered with the city when it was negotiating, based on lobbying disclosure requirements
Louie Lobbyist came by the cubicle the other day and, after making a couple of insulting remarks about the clutter, asked if we could speak privately for a moment. Sure, I said, and we walked across the hall to an empty legislative committee room.
“What’s the governor paying Tom Ingram?” he asked as we settled into the staff seats in the center of the room.
An undisclosed sum, I replied. How should I know? Tom was paid out of the governor’s own pocket until July 1, when he went on campaign payroll. That will be reported next Jan. 31 or so. But the governor tells us media types none-ya (none of your business) when his own money is involved.
“Yeah,” Louie said, “but you looked at those campaign reports back in 2010. So what was he paid then? I figure Haslam would pay about the same thing now as he did then.”
Well, not necessarily. The governor has explained that he speaks with Tom about governmental matters mostly — “organizational” was one of his words — and political stuff comes up only on the periphery, and so it would be very difficult for him to parse that out and report it as a political expenditure.
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.
Gov. Bill Haslam and his chief of staff, Mark Cate, said Tuesday they show no favoritism toward Tom Ingram’s lobbying clients, though Cate’s emails indicate considerable friendly contact with Ingram and an associate.
Several of the emails obtained by WTVF-TV involved HR Comp Employee Leasing, a Knox County firm that had problems with the state Department of Insurance and retained The Ingram Group’s lobbying and consultant services. The firm, owned and operated by Andrea Ball of Powell, at one point was found to be operating without a state license and agreed to pay $10,000 in a consent order.
In one email, Ingram describes the company’s situation as “a very troubling case.” In another, Marcille Durham, president of the Ingram Group, says Andrea Ball would like to meet with him about departmental action “driving her out of business” and Cate replies that he is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
Both Cate and Ball said in interviews Tuesday that they had never met.
Cate said “I don’t really see any point” in the TV report on his email since he was merely doing his job of dealing with people who have issues with one part of state government or another.
Gov. Bill Haslam has insisted that Tom Ingram, a lobbyist who gives him private advice for an undisclosed fee, does not lobby him on behalf of other clients. But WTVF reports that Haslam administration emails show Ingram clients had “enormous access” to the governor’s top advisers.
The story’s prime example is Chris and Andrea Ball, who had been cited in 2012 for operating a staff leasing company without a license, the station says. They showed up at a bill-signing ceremony shortly afterwards and a Tennessean headline on a story reprting this asked, “Who Invited This Couple?” At the time, Haslam aides told reporters it was a mystery who invited the couple to attend the signing of a bill that regulated staff leasing companies.
But emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show Haslam’s administration was well aware of the couple. The Balls had hired Ingram.
His firm sent regular updates about the Balls to the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate.
…In March 2012, Marcille Durham of the Ingram Group sent an email to Cate, “Andrea Ball would very much like to visit with you, however briefly, regarding the Department of Insurance action that is driving her out of business.”
Cate responded that he talked with the Department of Insurance Commissioner and is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
In April 2012, Ingram emailed Mark Cate about the Ball’s company, “Is there anytime today or tomorrow I can talk again about HR Comp Employee Leasing LLC. This is a very troubling case.”
A month after that, the Balls appeared at the bill signing.
Then in July 2012, Durham complained to Cate about a specific “fraud investigator” with the state. She was concerned about the “level of surveillance” on the Balls company.
Cate asked to be “kept in the loop.”
The emails show a level of access likely to make other lobbyists envious.
Ingram and his firm communicated regularly with Cate, even when he was on vacation in the Bahamas and on holiday weekends.
A company that is negotiating with the state to mine for coal under public land has more than one link to the company largely owned by Gov. Bill Haslam and members of his family, reports Josh Flory. Hillsborough Resources Limited is negotiating with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to do mining work under Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, the 82,000-acre game-management area on the Cumberland Plateau.
The company drew scrutiny last month when it was disclosed that Tom Ingram, a consultant to Haslam, had failed to register as a lobbyist for the company. Ingram has said the failure to register was an inadvertent oversight on the part of Marcelle Durham, president of The Ingram Group.
Ingram also does consulting work for Pilot Flying J, the Knoxville-based truck stop chain that is run by the governor’s family. (And for the governor personally.)
Hillsborough also has another tie to Pilot.
Hillsborough is a subsidiary of Houston-based Vitol Inc., according to Vitol spokesman Don Goldberg. Vitol’s president is Miguel Loya, a Houston businessman
…It’s not clear if Loya still has an ownership stake in Pilot — the company has refused to fully identify its current owners — but Ingram confirmed that Loya serves on the board of Pilot.
Goldberg, the spokesman for Vitol, said there is “zero relationship” between that role and anything related to the Hillsborough proposal.
Excerpt from a News Sentinel editorial on Gov. Bill Haslam hiring Tom Ingram with personal funds to serve as a consultant: Haslam has said he still consults Ingram on political matters but pays for that advice out of pocket. The campaign finance disclosure forms he has submitted since his election show no payments to Ingram.
But they should.
Drew Rawlins, who is the executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Election Finance, said in an interview that an officeholder’s out-of-pocket payments for a consultant are not necessarily required to be included on disclosures. If an officeholder seeks advice on governance, he or she might not have to report the payment. If the candidate receives campaign advice, Rawlins said, disclosure would be required.
The solution is simple. Haslam should file amended campaign finance disclosure forms that reflect Ingram’s pay for political advice. And he should transfer funds to his campaign account to cover the costs. Though not necessarily required by the letter of the law, disclosure would enhance the governor’s standing as a proponent of openness.
As governor, Haslam should be transparent about the money he spends on political matters. There is nothing wrong with paying Ingram — or anyone else, for that matter — for political insight. He just needs to divulge such transactions to the citizens of Tennessee so they know who is speaking into the governor’s ear.
NASHVILLE – John Jay Hooker has filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the appointment of successors to three appeals court judges who plan to retire Aug. 31, 2014, contending move will wrongfully deny voters the right to make choices in the Aug. 7, 2014, election.
“They have created a situation so there will be no election for their seats,” said Hooker, 82, a lawyer and past candidate for multiple political offices who has waged a series of legal battles against the state’s judicial selection system. “The state Constitution requires that there be an election… They are unconstitutionally calling off an election.”
The state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which will cease to exist at the end of this month, has announced plans to select nominees to fill the three appeal court seats before then and send them to Gov. Bill Haslam.
Those announcing plans to retire effective Aug. 31, 2014, are Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Cottrell of Nashville, Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joseph Tipton of Knoxville and Court of Appeals Judge Alan Highers of Memphis. The commission plans hearings June 27, 28 and 29 to select nominees.
Haslam intends to accept the nominations and make the appointments after “an appropriate amount of time” to review the nominees and make a decision, according to a gubernatorial spokesman.
Hooker’s lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, names Haslam, Tom Lawless, chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission, and state Attorney General Bob Cooper as defendants. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the commission submitting nominees and the governor acting on them.
Hooker said proceedings in the case will be before Circuit Court Judge Hamilton Gayden, who also presided over a separate recent Hooker lawsuit – one of several filed over the years – that challenged to system for selecting judges of the state Supreme Court and appeals courts.
Gayden ruled against Hooker on most points in that lawsuit, but found he was correct in one assertion – that the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals judges should be assigned districts for election rather than be elected in a statewide vote.
A specially appointed state Supreme Court will hear arguments July 19 on that case. The state’s sitting Supreme Court justices all recused themselves from hearing the case.
No hearing has been scheduled yet in the new Hooker lawsuit. A spokeswoman for Cooper said the attorney general’s office had not served with a copy of the lawsuit Wednesday and would have no comment.
– Note: Hooker filed a copy of this story, which appeared earlier in the News Sentinel and this blog, as an exhibit in his new lawsuit.