NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik in a lawsuit that accused her of defamation for a campaign advertisement targeting rival Diane Black.
The suit was filed by Aegis Sciences Corp., a drug-testing company owned by David Black. He is the husband of Diane Black, who won the election for the 6th District seat.
The 2010 advertisement showed Diane Black, who was then a state senator, handing a $1 million check from “Tennessee Taxpayers” to her husband.
In an opinion filed this week, a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court ruled 2-1 for Zelenik. The court found that the advertisement portrayed Diane Black as a big spender but did not imply that Aegis received graft.
A spokeswoman for Aegis declined to comment.
Speculation is already afoot about potential challengers to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in 2014, though all are saying, more or less, that it’s too early to talk about it.
The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal has quotes from state Sen. Jim Tracy, Lou Ann Zelenik and state Rep. Joe Carr about the possibility of entering the Republican primary… and speculation about another Democratic run at the seat. “We are less than 18 months away from primary season, so it will be here before you know it,” said Gabriel Fancher, chairman of the Rutherford County Young Republicans and an executive committee member of the county’s GOP. “The thing about DesJarlais is you can’t knock him on his voting record, but he does have that past that haunts him. People hold their representative to a hire standard. As long as they do, his past will continue to haunt him.”
The Tennessean adds the name of Forrest Shoaf, a lawyer and retired business executive who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination to the 7th Congressional District seat back in 2002 (losing to Marsha Blackburn). “We’ve worked a long time to win this (4th Congressional District) seat and I don’t want to lose it,” said retired Cracker Barrel executive Forrest Shoaf of Lebanon.
“I’m giving strong thought to running in the (2014) primary.”
If not Shoaf, it will be someone, several Washington political observers said. And none saw the Jasper Republican, just re-elected to a second term, making it to a third.
“It’s a fairly safe prediction that the congressman’s tenure will end in the GOP primary in 2014. His affairs could fill a whole season of a soap opera, and that’s not acceptable for the ‘family values’ party in the Bible Belt,” said University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Freshman U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Chuck Fleischmann both boast of strong conservative records in Congress. That hasn’t stopped either from facing bruising primary challenges to their bids to return to Congress next year.
Voters go to the polls Thursday to decide whether to stick with the GOP incumbents in those races, or make a fresh start with their rivals.
Fleischmann’s challengers in the 3rd District include Scottie Mayfield, an executive with the dairy company that bears his family name, and Weston Wamp, the son of a former congressman.
In the 6th District, Black faces a rematch against Lou Ann Zelenik, whom she narrowly defeated for the nomination to the open House seat in 2010. Zelenik moved from Rutherford County to Wilson County make another run after the district’s boundaries were redrawn earlier this year.
Zelenik Ad Gets a Politifact ‘False‘
“Diane Black voted to fund Obamacare, then she voted to repeal it. I guess she was for it before she was against it,” says Lou Ann Zelenik in a radio ad for her 6th Congressional District campaign.
Politifact Tennessee has rated the claim on Black’s vote to fund Obamacare as false. HERE. Third District Review
Chris Carroll, who has followed the 3rd Congressional District campaign more closely than any reporter in the state, sizes up the campaign situation in the final days, HERE.
A sample: But the tone changed when the foursome realized they differed little on issues — they’re all interested in cutting spending, aiding industry and promoting social conservatism. As they sought to differentiate themselves, negative attacks began hitting 3rd District mailboxes, televisions and computer screens. Gardenhire Equals Vital in Spending
Fueled by $57,000 in personal loans to his campaign, Todd Gardenhire matched rival Greg Vital dollar for dollar in spending on the Republican Senate District 10 primary from July 1-26, state records show. HERE Black Remembers TennCare
U.S. Rep. Diane Black recalls her days in the Tennessee state legislature and the woes of TennCare in an interview with The Hill. HERE. Hill ‘100 Percent’ Claim Questioned
The Tomahawk of Mountain City says there’s been confusion over Timothy Hill claiming a “100 percent rating” from Tennessee Right to Life in his House District 3 campaign. Right to Life has actually endorsed one of his opponents, Kevin Parsons. HERE. Rogers, Maggart & the Phone Factor
Post Politics has a news release from Courtney Rogers in House District 45, wherein she says Debra Maggart has emailed supporters Rogers’ unlisted home phone number in an unwarranted harassment effort. HERE.
Elam Chiles Lynn on Residence
Rep. Linda Elam issues a “blue card” challenge to her Republican primary opponent, former state Rep. Susan Lynn, in House District 57. HERE.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Filled with big money punches and verbal attacks, the primary for the 6th District congressional seat is looking more like a female boxing match: Black vs. Zelenik, the rematch.
Two years ago former state Sen. Diane Black defeated Lou Ann Zelenik by fewer than 400 votes in a GOP primary that pitted Black’s mainstream Republican credentials against Zelenik’s tea party fervor. Black went on to win the seat east of Nashville, helping tip the Tennessee congressional delegation to 7-2 in favor of the GOP.
Now the two Republicans face off again Thursday in a contentious race that’s heated up within the last month.
The latest Federal Election Commission records show Black raised about $1.6 million and has roughly $360,000 on hand, where Zelenik has raised about $320,000, with close to $120,000 in ready to spend cash.
But at least two political action committees have surfaced recently and are generating thousands of dollars to take out negative ads against Black. Last week, Zelenik received endorsements from three state Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny.
USA Today has taken note of the Super PAC spending in Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District Republican primary as an example of the influence such groups can have. Two outside political action committees that have unleashed TV, radio and billboard advertising attacking Tennessee Rep. Diane Black’s congressional record are funded entirely by a businessman with close ties to her rival in next week’s Republican primary.
Andrew Miller, a Nashville health care investor, told USA TODAY he has pumped more than $260,000 into the two super PACs — Citizens 4 Ethics in Government and the Congressional Elections PAC — running anti-Black ads.
Miller previously served as finance chairman for the campaign of Black’s challenger, Lou Ann Zelenik. Miller also is on the board of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, whose top issues include opposing the spread of Islamic Sharia law. Zelenik is the group’s former executive director.
Miller said his spending helps an underfunded challenger compete against an incumbent.
“We’ve got to hold these elected officials accountable, and one of the most interesting ways has been the advent of super PACs,” he said. “The playing field can be leveled in ways it wasn’t before.”
The last-minute spending blitz by Miller in this little-noticed Tennessee House race underscores the potential of a handful of wealthy donors to shape November’s congressional and White House battles. Super PACs are a relatively new weapon in politics, unleashed by a pair of 2010 federal court rulings that allow unions, corporations and wealthy individuals to band together to raise and spend unlimited amounts in federal races.
Nearly three dozen super PACs that have raised at least $100,000 in the 2012 election have five or fewer donors, a USA TODAY analysis shows. Nearly a third of all contributions to the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future — the super PAC that has raised the most money — have come in chunks of least $1 million each.
Campaign-finance experts say super PACs’ greatest influence may be felt in House contests. In 2010, the average winner of a House race spent $1.4 million — a tiny fraction of the $730 million President Obama spent to win the White House two years earlier, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The nasty primary between U.S. Rep. Diane Black and tea party activist Lou Ann Zelenik two years ago is being repeated this summer, and Chas Sisk says signs are gathering that the race once again will feature the religiously charged and personal attacks that left the two camps bitter and bruised. With the dust from 2010 barely settled, Black and Zelenik once again will face off in August for the Republican nomination to represent Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District.
With no Democrat on the ballot, the primary will settle who represents Nashville’s northern and eastern suburbs in Congress next year. The battle also could help shape the character of the Tennessee Republican Party for years to come — offering voters a straight-up choice between a firebrand activist and a veteran Republican lawmaker who differ in style more than they differ on policy.
…Both candidates are wealthy, with ample resources to wage political warfare. Black put more than $1 million of her own money into the 2010 campaign, and she finished the first quarter of 2012 with more than $700,000 in the bank.
Zelenik has not yet released fundraising totals, but she wrapped up the previous campaign with nearly $200,000 left over. She used that sum to repay a personal loan she had made to her campaign, meaning she could put that money back in if necessary.
The outcome of the race will send a signal to Republicans throughout the state.
A win by Zelenik would suggest Tennessee Republicans want their party to move still further to the right, even if it means antagonizing religious minorities and the party’s moderate wing. A victory by Black would indicate Republican voters have reached their limit, even in one of the state’s most staunchly conservative districts.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A super political action committee is working against U.S. Rep. Diane Black in the Aug. 2 primary and its sole contributor was formerly the chief fundraiser for Black’s opponent, Lou Ann Zelenik.
Black’s campaign charges that this violates federal rules that require PACs to operate independently from campaigns. Zelenik’s campaign vigorously denies any coordination with Citizens 4 Ethics in government.
The political blog Open Secrets reported this week that thousands of dollars raised by Citizens 4 Ethics has come from Andrew Miller of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition.
The group has spent more than $30,000 on the 6th District primary, according to the Federal Election Commission. Miller told The Associated Press that he contributed the more than $180,000 raised by the PAC and that the money spent so far is to target Black, who edged Zelenik in the 2010 primary and went on to win the seat.
News release from Lou Ann Zelenik
MT JULIET, TN – The Diane Black Campaign becomes more desperate after reports of falling poll numbers and lack of any grassroots support. Their candidate has become increasingly shrill in campaign appearances. It seems Diane Black’s campaign has come unhinged. The latest stop in Diane Black’s journey into the political gutter comes in the form of a slew of false and misleading attack ads smearing Sixth District Congressional Candidate Lou Ann Zelenik.
Zelenik Campaign Manager Jay Heine noted today “that Diane Black’s campaign is routinely wrong, dishonest or both about Lou Ann, her positions and her campaign. We are confident the voters of Tennessee will understand a desperate politician will say or do anything to hold on to power. If Diane Black can’t be honest about these basic facts, how can we trust any claim she makes?”
“Congresswoman Black has been misleading Republicans in agitated comments at campaign events about her record of voting to increasing the debt (S.365), funding Obamacare (HR 1, HJ Res. 48, HR 1473, S.365, HR 2608, HR 2055), slashing defense spending (S.365), increasing taxes on our mortgages (HR 3630 Dec 20th 2011) and funding Planned Parenthood (HR 1, S.365) – all votes on the record and all votes Diane Black is ashamed to own up to. Now, her campaign is spreading misinformation about Lou Ann Zelenik’s record and background.” Heine concludes “we’ve seen this before and it is wearing thin on voters.”
Lou Ann Zelenik’s campaign will not jump into Diane Black’s mud puddle. Lou Ann will continue to offer the voters a positive alternative based on the issues and her conservative principles. We will conduct our campaign in a manner that honors the people Lou Ann wishes to serve
News release from Diane Black campaign:
GALLATIN, TN — The Diane Black for Congress Campaign today called on Lou Ann Zelenik to disavow the false negative attacks being run by shadowy groups coordinating with her campaign and run an honest and ethical campaign. The group Citizens 4 Ethics in Government that is spending over $100,000 on false ads attacking Black was formed and is solely financed by Andy Miller, Zelenik’s Campaign Finance Chairman, and is in violation of at least one federal campaign finance law.
“Lou Ann Zelenik needs to cease and desist with the false and illegal campaign activities. We are calling on Lou Ann Zelenik to disavow the lies being spewed by a shadowy group her campaign is coordinating with and demand the ads be taken down. Not only is this behavior dishonest, it is illegal,” said Black spokesman Jennifer Baker. “The shadowy group attacking Diane Black with a barrage of false claims on TV is being financed and run by Lou Ann Zelenik’s campaign finance chairman and is in violation of the law. One would hope that if Lou Ann Zelenik is running to make federal laws in Congress she would follow federal laws in her campaign.”
The shadowy independent group called Citizens 4 Ethics in Government is running over a hundred thousands of dollars in false ads against Diane Black and is violating at least one federal law by failing to disclose its campaigns expenditures as required by the Federal Election Commission. (Specific FEC law cited below). The group also appears to be in violation of the coordination laws surrounding these secret groups. Andy Miller, Zelenik’s Campaign Finance Chairman, is the only donor to Citizens 4 Ethics in Government and filings show that he has given over $100,000 to the group. The group was formed recently to influence this race specifically. In addition to the group being formed, financed and run by Miller, the Zelenik campaign is telling supporters they are coordinating to “take out” Diane Black and keep Lou Ann’s hands clean.
“Lou Ann Zelenik will stop at nothing in her crazy vendetta against Diane Black and that includes telling vicious lies in coordination with a shadow group that is violating federal election law,” said Baker. “Our Country is in peril. We have a national debt that exceeds $16 trillion dollars and the citizens of the 6th Congressional District need an honest Congressman representing them who won’t put her own personal vendetta above the law or fixing our Country’s serious problems.”
Zelenik who resides in the 4th Congressional District, has rented an apartment in the 6th District for the purpose of running against Diane Black to satisfy her own personal vendetta. In her last losing campaign against Black, Zelenik ran one of the dirtiest campaigns in Tennessee history. The attacks Zelenik launched on Black were so false that Zelenik’s advertising team settled out of court; paying a monetary settlement and admitting that the negative attack ads they produced for Lou Ann Zelenick had no factual basis and they had no knowledge of any unethical behavior. (Settlement document attached to email) Now she is at it again, coordinating with shadowy groups that are violating the law and running hundreds of thousands of dollars in false attacks on Diane Black.
— UPDATE: This statement from the Lou Ann Zelenik Campaign Manager Jay Heine: “Andy Miller resigned from Lou Ann’s Campaign abruptly in May of this year, Tom Arnold assumed the Position of Finance Chair on June 1st of 2012. We have had no involvement in the Ethics for Government organization. Diane Black can’t even tell the truth about her own votes let alone tell anything factual in a press release attacking Lou Ann. We call on Diane Black to end her negative campaign ads and talk about the issues and explain why she voted to fund Obamacare, Increase the Debt Ceiling, and tax every new mortgage and re-finance in the US for the next 10 years. Diane Black should apologize to the people of Tennessee and make amends for her dishonest and disgraceful negative campaign tactics. Clearly the Diane Black campaign has gone crazy.”