Tag Archives: Tre Hargett

State fines charitable organization $45K for making false claims

News release from Tennessee Secretary of State’s office:
A civil penalty of $45,000 has been imposed against NSPIRE Outreach, a Georgia-based organization also known as Hope House or Hope for Domestic Violence, for soliciting contributions using false or misleading practices.

Specifically, the group has falsely represented that it works with other organizations with which it has no affiliation. Additionally, numerous individuals have filed complaints with the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming because they continued to receive calls requesting donations even after requesting to be removed from the group’s call list.

“It’s very important for charitable organizations not to misrepresent themselves when dealing with potential donors,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “They should be who they say they are and deliver the services they promise to deliver. Also, if people request that they not receive further solicitations, those requests should be honored.”

Brent Culberson, director of the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming in the Secretary of State’s office, informed Gregg Kennard, executive director of NSPIRE, of the penalty via a letter.

The Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming oversees enforcement of the Tennessee Charitable Solicitations Act. If you learn about solicitations that seem false or misleading or have concerns about the solicitation practices of a nonprofit, contact the office at (615) 741-2555 or 1-800-861-7393.

Report lists Tre Hargett promotion efforts at taxpayer expenses

Phil Williams reviews several taxpayer-funded efforts that could be seen as political promotions for Secretary of State Tre Hargett in a report on WTVF-TV.

Seems Hargett issued his recent statement declaring that he’s not running for governor (previous post HERE) two days after Williams interviewed him for the report, televised Tuesday.

Williams reports the cost to taxpayers of printing new ‘I voted’ stickers with Hargett’s name prominently displayed as $6,885. (Previous post HERE.) Hargett now says that was a mistake.

The veteran politician claimed that it never occurred to him that the Tre Hargett stickers would look political.

“I think where I missed the mark, frankly, Phil, I wasn’t looking through a political lens,” Hargett said.

We asked, “So you’re saying this was a mistake?”

“I’m saying we missed the mark,” he responded, later adding: “I should not have put my name on it.”

Other Hargett moves that could be seen as enhancing his name recognition for a future political endeavor include his picture on the state’s voter registration website and election night tweets from his office on state political race results from “via @SecTreHargett” — which links back to Tre Hargett’s personal Twitter account.

That account, Hargett acknowledged, is maintained with the help of a state employee again at taxpayer expense. That employee’s salary: $33,000 a year.

…Inside Department of State’s offices, you’ll also find Tre Hargett’s face in framed photos and Tre Hargett’s name printed on the walls. There are also Tre Hargett pamphlets and Tre Hargett pencils.

And every single employee’s business card has to be printed with, you guessed it, Tre Hargett’s name on top.

…There are also Tre Hargett lapel pins — thousands of them — also produced at taxpayer expense. Total cost: $6,647.

…(The Secretary of State’s) also publishes the Tennessee Blue Book, but Tre Hargett’s name on the cover wasn’t enough. So Tre Hargett had Tre Hargett bookmarks printed. In fact, we counted Tre Hargett’s name five times!

“So why should your name be on there five times?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

“That does seem like a lot,” he acknowledged. “That’s another thing that we need to look at through the political lens and try and figure out could we do better.”

Then, there are the big lottery-style checks that Hargett delivers to libraries around the state. Even though an independent board decides who gets the grants, the fake checks are signed “Tre Hargett” — also at taxpayer expense.

Total cost for those big checks this year alone: $1,215.

…”It’s really about shining the light on the great work that those libraries and archives are doing. I certainly am not trying to claim credit.”

Just like some Tre Hargett portfolio and Tre Hargett cups that he bought with old campaign funds, critics question if all this Tre Hargett stuff might be the beginning of another Tre Hargett campaign.

In fact, our investigation discovered that, on and off, between the fall of 2012 and the early part of this year, Hargett put a friend on the state’s payroll as his director of policy. Dennis Berwyn is a political consultant from North Carolina.

“He was not a political hire. In his job description nor his title did he do political work,” the secretary of state said.

Berwyn would fly in on Mondays, leave on Thursdays, getting paid as much as $6,000 a month without benefits. Among his projects: a Tre Hargett newsletter and a PR campaign called Tennessee Business Spotlight — also sponsored by Tre Hargett.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, “Where does it say that the secretary of state needs to do a Tennessee Business Spotlight?”… (Hargett) said that it was just an effort to shine the spotlight on some good Tennessee businesses.

As for the man behind the campaign, it turns out he’s also the registered owner of the Internet domain HargettForGovernor.com.

Tre Hargett says he’s focused on ‘what’s now, rather than what’s next’

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who has been included in speculation about 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidates, says he’s not running. At least not now.

From the Commercial Appeal:

Hargett was among several Republicans included in early speculation after the Nov. 4 election about potential candidates to succeed Gov. Bill Haslam, since Haslam can’t run for a third consecutive term.

But Hargett, who is in the middle of a four-year term, found such speculation uncomfortable and issued a statement Friday saying, “I am not running for governor in 2018. While I am honored to be mentioned and thought of in this regard, I am focused on being the best secretary of state I can be and the best one our state has ever had. The people of Tennessee deserve nothing less. I would rather focus on what’s now, rather than what’s next.”

“I am deeply appreciative of the trust placed in me by the General Assembly and I still have much I hope to accomplish as Tennessee’s Secretary of State.”

Hargett was a state representative from the Bartlett area from 1996 to 2006 and was Republican leader in the House during part of that tenure. He was appointed a director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority in 2008 and was there until the state legislature appointed him secretary of state in January 2009. He was appointed to a second four-year term in January 2013.

State election officials deem Amendment 1 lawsuit ‘absurd’

State election officials are calling a lawsuit claiming votes were incorrectly tabulated on abortion measure Amendment 1 “absurd,” reports The Tennessean.

The first hearing in the case is set for U.S. District Court in Nashville on Jan. 12.

For an amendment to pass, according to the state constitution, voters must “approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of all the citizens of the state voting for governor, voting in their favor.”

Attorneys who filed the suit say this means the state must count only the votes of those who cast ballots in both the governor’s race as well as on Amendment 1. They noted that there was a concerted effort to ask voters to vote only in the amendment race to make its passage more likely.

Instead, state election officials, as they have in every referendum measure since 1950, count a majority of the votes cast in the governor’s race as creating a threshold number for a referendum to pass.

“I’m not sure why they filed this in federal court,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “People have the right to vote or not vote in the governor’s race. It does not make sense any other way.”

But attorney Bill Harbison, who filed the suit on behalf of eight voters who voted “no” on Amendment 1 and voted in the governor’s race, said there was a clear effort on the part of the “Yes” campaign to urge “intentionally abstaining from the governor’s race in an effort to manipulate the numbers in order to pass an amendment.”

The language in the Tennessee Constitution is “not ambiguous,” he said. Asked whether challenging decades of counting methodology could challenge numerous referendums that have passed in the past — including the creation of the state lottery — Harbison said the lawsuit was focused narrowly on the outcome of Amendment 1.

“Our view is it doesn’t matter how it has been counted in the past,” Harbison said. “The election commission needs to follow” the constitutional language, he said.

And, from Post Politics:
State elections officials say they do not know how people who voted on the governor’s race voted on Amendment 1 in light of a lawsuit arguing that the constitution requires a vote on both to change Tennessee’s guiding document.

Elections Coordinator Mark Goins said compiling those numbers would require a “very tedious” manual recount, but said his office is researching what would be needed should the courts demand it of the state.

“I don’t think we ever get to that point,” said Goins, who said the state has interpreted the constitution the same way since it was rewritten in 1953. “The only difference here is you’ve got someone who’s trying to get a federal judge to come in and overthrow what the people really want.”

Hargett says his name is on ‘I voted’ stickers for ‘accountability’

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said Tuesday that “I Voted” stickers featuring his name is a matter of accountability and not intended to be political.

Hargett spoke to reporters following a demonstration of a free smartphone app designed to give voters easier access to information on Election Day.

A reporter asked Hargett about the new stickers — red and shaped like Tennessee — that prominently display the words “Secretary of State Tre Hargett.”

The stickers match the colors of the Tennessee flag — including a blue spot with three white stars — but they also resemble popular campaign bumper stickers from fellow Republicans such as Gov. Bill Haslam, who is up for re-election in November.

Hargett is a former state House Republican leader and is widely considered to be preparing a bid for higher elected office, though he has downplayed his political aspirations. He said Tuesday that he never intended for the stickers to be view as political, as some argue.

“I’ve been a pretty good person about seeing all the angles about something,” Hargett said. “I have to admit, I never thought that somebody would … see it as political.”

Hargett said having his name on the stickers will let voters know whom to call if they have election concerns.

“It’s about accountability,” he said. “We want people to know that we are the people you can call when something happens. Whenever something bad happens in elections we get the phone calls.”
Voting Stickers

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Hargett disputes GAO study reporting lower voter turnout because of TN photo ID law

Secretary of State Tre Hargett charged Tuesday that a General Accountability Office report indicating that photo ID laws lowered voter turnout in Tennessee and Kansas was “fundamentally flawed” and that “the whole thing feels sloppy.”

Further from the Chattanooga TFP:

The Republican’s comments came at a news conference in which he unveiled a new smartphone app aimed at helping voters easily find polling places and other information. Early voting starts today in the Nov. 4 election.

The GAO last week released the study. It looked at Tennessee and Kansas election turnout in 2008 and 2012, where Republican legislatures in-between the elections enacted tough new photo-identification requirements. Then they compared that with Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware and Maine, which did not. (Note: Previous post HERE.)

For Tennessee, the study found found reductions of 2 to 3 percent more than four other states examined. It was about about 2 percent greater in Kansas.

…Hargett said the four other states all had “hot button” issues or races in 2012 that attracted voters while Tennessee did not.

That included constitutional amendments in Alabama that eliminated segregation and poll tax provisions declared unconstitutional decades before, Hargett said. He noted Democrats disavowed their 2012 U.S. Senate nominee, anti-gay rights activist Mark Clayton, after he unexpectedly won the primary spending virtually nothing.

He also questioned the validity of the 2012 voter history and registration data from the firm Catalist, which he notes works on behalf of “progressive” organizations.

In its seven-page letter to the GAO, contained in the agency’s report after officials shared preliminary findings with the state, Hargett’s office charged Catalist is “biased against the photo-ID law.”

…The GAO says in the report that it checked out Catalist, including reviewing “independent, third-party research, published in two peer-reviewed journals of academic research that focus on methods of political analysis.”

They found “found no evidence of systematic bias in the data Catalist provides,” the GAO said.

Moreover, the GAO says it “independently assessed reliability of data and took measures to ensure the use of data from this particular source would not bias our results.”
…Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron said the GAO is considered the “gold standard, the most highly respected government watchdog in the country, bipartisan and beyond approach.”

“They confirm what any close observer knows,” Herron said. “The tea party/Republican Party attempts to disenfranchise young people, African-American people and working people from voting.”

You can now get a Smartphone App on where to vote and a list of candidates

News release from Secretary of State’s office:
The office of Tennessee Secretary of State is proud to announce the launch of GoVoteTN. The new Tennessee Voter Smartphone App is now available in the Apple Store and in Google Play.

“This is another Tennessee voter resource that answers common questions about voting from one’s phone,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said, “This resource will give voters more information about the who, what, when, and where of elections. The free app allows you to view voter-specific information when searching by name or address.”

Highlights of the app include:•Early voting and Election Day polling locations and hours of operation

•Candidate list for upcoming election

•Ability to mark sample ballots for upcoming election

•Navigation to early voting and Election Day polling locations

•County election commission information

•Access online election results through the application

The free app allows Tennessee residents the opportunity to be more informed about elections and who their elected officials are. “I am pleased we are able to offer the smartphone application to voters who continue to utilize technology more every day. I expect voters will find the app easy to use and a great source of information,” Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins said.

“Tennesseans make an effort every election season to go vote, we are trying to match that effort and give them easier access to information like polling location maps and hours, election commission contact information, and sample ballots in order to assist Tennessee voters,” said Hargett.

Information in the application is provided by Tennessee county election commissions. To learn more about the GoVoteTN app or elections visit the state’s election website at www.GoVoteTN.com. If you need more specifics about elections or early voting you can look up contact information for county election commissions, visit http://tnsos.org/elections/election_commissions.php

ConOs now have three PR people instead of one

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer are abandoning an effort to use one communications officer to speak on all three constitutional officers’ behalf.

Treasurer David Lillard announced Friday he has hired Shelli King, a former marketing consultant at WTVF-TV in Nashville, to be his chief spokeswoman. Comptroller Justin Wilson previously hired former WZTV-TV reporter John Dunn to be his spokesman.

They assume their duties from Blake Fontenay, a former reporter for The Commercial Appeal newspaper of Memphis, who will continue to be a spokesman for Secretary of State Tre Hargett through the end of the year.

The three Republican constitutional officers were first named to their positions by a joint convention of the state Legislature in 2009.

State-distributed ‘I voted’ stickers promoting Tre Hargett?

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — No matter how Tennessee voters cast their ballots, they’ll be offered “I Voted” stickers featuring the name of a key Republican who’s not running for office — yet.

The stickers — red and shaped like Tennessee — prominently display the words “Secretary of State Tre Hargett.” They’ll be handed out beginning with the start of early voting next week for the Nov. 4 election.

Hargett is a former state House Republican leader and is widely considered to be preparing a bid for higher elected office, though he has downplayed his political aspirations.

“Putting Secretary Hargett’s name and the #GoVoteTN hashtag on the stickers provides accountability,” State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said in an email Friday. “If people have questions or comments about how an election was conducted, they know who to contact.”

The secretary of state is appointed to a four-year term by a joint convention of the state House and Senate. Hargett has held that position since 2009 after serving as chairman of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and spending 10 years in the state House.

The new “I Voted” stickers match the colors of the Tennessee — including a blue spot with three white stars — but they also resemble popular campaign bumper stickers from fellow Republicans such as Gov. Bill Haslam, who is up for re-election in November.
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Early voting going strong (for an Aug. election); Long ballot an incentive

Anticipating long lines on Aug. 7 because of the lengthy ballot, state officials are urging Tennesseans to take advantage of early voting prior to election day —and many already have.

Through Wednesday, the fifth day of early voting, a total of 189,804 Tennesseans had gone to the polls and cast their ballots, according to the state Division of Elections website. That is about 14.5 percent more than in 2010, the year that Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state Election Coordinator Mark Goins say is the most comparable year to 2014 in projecting voter turnout.

Of the votes cast already, 125,978 voted in Republican primaries; 53,935 in Democratic primaries. The total votes cast includes the relatively few voters who did not vote in either primary but did vote in county general elections or in the retention election for appeals court judges.

(Note: A list, updated daily, of early votes cast, by county, with Democratic and Republican votes broken down, is HERE. A list of total votes cast by county, with a comparison to 2010 voting, is HERE.)
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