A deep dive into the Rocky Top corruption scandal

The Rocky Top investigation of the 1980s revealed bingo parlor operators had taken over state charters of legitimate Tennessee charities to run illegal gambling operations. Several state officials were indicted in the probe and two committed suicide. Randy McNally, then a backbencher in the state Senate, played a key role in the investigation by wearing a wire for FBI. Today, he’s the speaker of the Senate.

The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert has taken a deep dive into the scandal — and its lessons for the current political climate — for the paper’s its Grand Divisions podcast and in a print story with lots of great archival images.

It’s a great read (or listen) for a rainy fall day in Tennessee. Check it out here.

 

 

Lee endorses fellow ‘outsider’ Bevin in Kentucky governor’s race

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has endorsed incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin in the Kentucky governor’s race.

Lee appeared at a Bevin campaign stop at the Casey Jones Distillery in western Kentucky on Friday. The first year Tennessee governor said Bevin had encouraged him to run last year, and that he was inspired by Bevin’s “outsider” status.

“He, too, came from the business world and he understands that the status quo and establishment is not the way to move the Commonwealth of Kentucky forward,” the Hoptown Chronicle quoted Lee as saying. “The way to move forward is to break and challenge the status quo.”

Lee said despite the two states being economic competitors, it matters to Tennessee what happens in Kentucky. Following Lee’s endorsement, Bevin took the stage to address the more than 100 people who attended the campaign stop.

 

Bevin faces Democrat state Attorney General Andy Beshear in the governor’s race. The election in on Nov. 5.

Green looks to raise money off ‘storming’ impeachment hearings he had access to

As a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) has access to closed-door hearings in the congressional impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. That didn’t stop him from joining 40 Republican colleagues in barging into a secure hearing room where the hearings were taking place on Wednesday.

According to the Washington Post, 13 of those joining the protest were GOP members who, like Green, serve on committees giving them access to the hearings.

But in a fundraising appeal sent out Thursday, Green says “my colleagues and I have been barred from accessing certain testimonies.”

“That’s why yesterday, my colleagues and I stormed the committee rooms where they are conducting the depositions in secret,” he said. “And, unsurprisingly, Shifty Adam Schiff wouldn’t let us in.”

It’s unclear why Green would have been blocked from a hearing he has authorization to attend.

“I need you to join me in standing with President Trump,” Green writes. “Will you chip in $25 today to help me continue to fight for the truth?”

Sethi opposes background checks, red flag laws

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi says he opposes universal background checks for gun purchases. He’s also against so-called red flag laws, which allow judges to issue orders allowing law enforcement to confiscate guns from people found to be a danger to themselves or others.

Here’s Sethi’s tweet about guns:

Sethi is running against former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander.

 

UAW workers at GM plant in Spring Hill narrowly reject deal

United Auto Workers union members at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill have narrowly rejected a tentative national agreement for a new contract. Workers have been on strike for more than a month.

The vote was 1,673 against the deal and 1,666 in favor. The ratification of the deal will be determined by the total UAW membership around the country. Voting is expected to be completed by Friday.

GM plants in Spring Hill and Lansing, Mich., would be in line to make a next generation midsize SUV under the deal. Making the new vehicle is projected to cost $1 billion and create 5,000 jobs.

UAW-covered workers would receive a $11,000 signing bonus upon ratification of the contract, while temporary workers would get $4,500.

Workers would receive 4% lump sum payments in the first and third years of the contract, and 3% wage hikes in the second and fourth years. The agreement also envisions an accelerated path for temporary workers to become employees.

Sethi touts immigration program in Senate race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi is outlining a three-point immigration program.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” Sethi said in a release. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers.”

Here’s the release from the Sethi campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Republican Senate candidate and conservative outsider Dr. Manny Sethi’s campaign is releasing a 3-point Immigration Policy plan entitled “Protect the American Dream Plan” hot off the heels of his new TV Ad.

The ad, titled “Invasion,” aired nationally and statewide on October 15.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” said Dr. Manny. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers, no matter what the left says.”

“Dr. Manny is the only candidate in this race who is proposing real solutions to our nation’s most pressing issue, not merely repeating talking points,” said Chris Devaney, Campaign Chairman. “He’s not afraid to tackle the illegal immigration issue head on, and this is the type of leadership we need to see more of in Washington.”

Below is Dr. Manny Sethi’s “Protect the American Dream” plan:.

1. Support President Trump and build the border wall.

  • In the month of May there were over 144,000 arrests of people crossing the border illegally. There would have been nearly a million crossings had it not been for President Trump getting a deal with Mexico to stop the caravans. In the past 12 months there have been more than a million arrests made at the border.
  • Our Border Patrol agents are essentially working in a war zone. Our ICE agents are overwhelmed with not only doing their job, but defending themselves from the liberal media who have made them a political target. We must fully support both and empathize with their great work to keep this country safe and uphold its laws.
  • Heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are flowing across our borders. Violence comes along with it, and a border wall will keep both out.

2. End chain migration and return to a merit-based system.

  • We have a broken system today that favors chain migration. This leads to people coming here illegally, becoming welfare recipients, and then importing their family members who will also go on welfare. American citizens will pay the price for that.
  • We need to switch to a merit-based system that prioritizes highly-skilled immigrants, whose children will grow up understanding the American Dream, and whose presence will make America stronger.
  • Favoring higher skilled workers who will boost our economy is a win-win for our country. Allowing a family to make it in America and live the American Dream while also contributing positively to our economy is a great thing for our country. We must encourage this type of LEGAL immigration.

3. Put an end to birthright citizenship for illegal aliens.

  • We must put a stop to illegal aliens coming into our country, having kids who automatically become citizens, and are able to gain access to government programs. We must protect the rule of law, and end incentives for criminal behavior.
  • Our welfare system must put our veterans and low-income citizens ahead of illegal immigrants. We have to prioritize our own citizens.

 

 

Another Dem joins the U.S. Senate race

A third Democrat has joined the U.S. Senate race. The Nashville Post’s Stephen Elliott reports Diana Onyejiaka, a Nashville consultant and professor, has filed federal paperwork to join the race to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville).

Nashville attorney James Mackler, who stepped aside from the open 2018 race to make way for former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, joined the 2020 race in January. He’s raised close to $900,000 and spent $611,000 on that effort so far. Memphis environmentalist Marquita Bradshaw announced she was joining the race last month.

Elliott reports Onyejiaka’s firm, DC Consult, helped organize this year’s U.S.-Africa Business Opportunities and Exchange Conference at Tennessee State University this year. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants has taught law and government courses as an adjunct professor at TSU and Middle Tennessee State University.

“I felt like there was a need to have somebody like myself representing the state of Tennessee,” she told the Post. 

“A Democrat can win this race by speaking to the issues and not getting political,” Onyejiaka said. “I’m running as a public servant.”

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate has died

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) has died, state Rep. Antonio Parkinson announced on Twitter on Monday.

Tate, 65, was defeated in last year’s Democratic primary by Katrina Robinson, a business owner and nurse. A hot mic incident in which Tate vented to a Republican colleague about his frustration with Democrats questioning his party loyalty was a major flashpoint of the campaign.

“I don’t like the lies. But I won’t take time out to respond to it. But I will tell you guys, there is not one time I sold anyone else out,” Tate told his supporters during the race. “I work for $20,000 a year. It won’t pay my car note. I can’t take nothing under the table or on top of the table. I’m too tall to hide.”

Tate said he’d worked both sides of the aisle to get results for his home district. He represented the district for 12 years.

Former lawmaker, lobbyist Rufus Jones dies at 79

Rufus Jones, a former chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, has died. He was 79.

Jones, a Memphis Democrat, was elected to the state House in 1981 and served in the chamber until 1996. He then embarked on a lobbying career until beginning treatment for lymphoma in 2006.

Jones’ lobbying clients included Tennessee Bankers Association, Memphis Light, Gas & Water, and Memphis Basketball Partners, a group pushing for funding for a new arena when the Vancouver Grizzlies were first mulling their move to Tennessee.

Jones challenged Riley Darnell for the secretary of state position in 2004, but lost a House Democratic Caucus nomination vote to the incumbent. Democrats at the time held a narrow 69-63 advantage over Republicans in the joint convention to elect constitutional officers and Darnell went on to win his fourth and final term.

Jones was succeeded in the House by Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis).

“Rep. Jones was a tireless public servant who always gave back and worked hard to open doors for the people of South Memphis,” she said in a statement. “He was a kind, easy-going person who loved his constituents and his community.”

Pilot whitewash? No mention of fraud scandal in WSJ’s Jimmy Haslam feature

Wall Street Journal feature on Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam is titled “How America’s Largest Truck Stop Owner Stays on the Right Path.” If you assumed the article would mention how Pilot recently fell off that path in a big way, you’d be mistaken.

Federal agents raided Pilot’s Knoxville headquarters in 2013 in an investigation into diesel rebate fraud. Secretly recorded conversations revealed members of the sales team deriding trucking company clients as unsophisticated and lazy. The company’s former president and more than a dozen members of the sales team were convicted of federal charges and Pilot paid $85 million to settle with most of the defrauded customers along with a  a $92 million penalty to the government.

Jimmy Haslam, who owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, wasn’t charged in the case and claimed he didn’t know about the wrongdoing. In the aftermath of the fraud scandal, the Haslam family sold a major share in the privately held company to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (which will grow to an 80% stake in 2023).

In the Wall Street Journal “Personal Board of Directors” feature about executives’ closest advisers, Haslam lists:

— Former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga) a former college fraternity brother.

— Former Saks Inc. CEO R. Brad Martin, a member of the Pilot board since 1988.

— Former Walmart CEO Lee Scott, a Pilot board member since 2010.

— Steve Diggs, president and CEO of the Emerald Youth Foundation, a Christian nonprofit in Knoxville.