Brian Kelsey

Legislators seek law change over recruiting flap at University of Memphis

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Rep. Antoni Parkinson (D-Memphis) want to change state law to address a college basketball recruiting crisis brewing at the University of Memphis.

Here’s the full release:

Nashville, Tenn. – Senator Brian Kelsey’s (R-Germantown) bipartisan bill to allow college athletes to profit from their likeness will also prohibit public universities from discriminating against players based on coach donations to universities.

“We want to encourage our former players to donate to our public universities to help keep college tuition affordable,” Sen. Kelsey said. “Discouraging these donations is not worth appeasing an organization that does nothing but take down banners from our rafters. The NCAA is an archaic organization whose time has come and gone. It is up to the athletic conferences to create a new paradigm, as they did with the college football championship.”

In May, the Senate unanimously approved Sen. Kelsey’s resolution calling for the state’s public universities to oppose the NCAA prohibition on compensation for college athletes and instructing Tennessee’s nine public universities to work with their respective athletic conferences in opposition to the rules and to implement a system which is fair to college athletes. 

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Former Senate speaker among those interviewed by feds in Brian Kelsey probe

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, attends a Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville on April 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is among officials interviews by federal officials investigating fundraising related to state Sen. Brian Kelsey’s failed 2016 congressional bid, The Tennessean reports.

That Kelsey’s campaign money matters are under the federal microscope has been known since this spring. But the newspapers Joel Ebert is first to reveal some of the name of who agents have contacted in the matter.

Ramsey told the paper he was interviewed by an FBI agent in May or June.

“They wanted to subpoena me to appear before a grand jury,” Ramsey said.

Also interviewed was Nashville Councilman Steve Glover, who gave money to Kelsey’s federal PAC during a 2016 after receiving money from the senator’s federal PAC.

“They just had several questions about several things,” Glover said in a phone interview. “I just didn’t have much to share.”

Agents also flew in from Washington in August or September to interview a current lawmaker, whom the paper did not identify in its report.

Candidates are prohibited from using money raised for state races in federal campaigns. As The Tennessean reported in 2017 (and
later augmented by a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission), Kelsey’s state committee, Red State PAC, gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fellow state lawmakers, who then turned around and gave donations to his congressional account.

The former state Senate Judiciary chairman also had more than $100,000 from his state account transferred to the Standard Club PAC, which then gave money to the American Conservative Union — both directly and through another committee run by conservative businessman Andy Miller Jr. The national group then made independent expenditures on Kelsey’s behalf.

The American Conservative Union’s director of government affairs at the time was the former Amanda Bunning. She and Kelsey married in January 2018.

Kelsey has denied any wrongdoing.

Kelsey denies wrongdoing in straw donor investigation

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, attends a Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville on April 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) is denying any wrongdoing related to questions raised about fundraising practices surrounding his failed 2016 bid for Congress.

The Tennessee Journal reported last week that the Department of Justice has been speaking to state lawmakers about donations made to Kelsey’s federal campaign after receiving contributions from his state account.

As first reported in 2017 by The Tennessean (and later augmented by a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission), Kelsey’s state committee, Red State PAC, gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fellow state lawmakers, who then turned around and gave donations to his congressional account. The former state Senate Judiciary chairman also had more than $100,000 from his state account transferred to the Standard Club PAC, which then gave money to the American Conservative Union — both directly and through another committee run by conservative businessman Andy Miller Jr. The national group then made independent expenditures on Kelsey’s behalf.

“I am humbled that my congressional campaign received donations from roughly sixty of my colleagues, the overwhelming majority of whom never received a dime from Red State PAC or my re-election committee,” Kelsey said in a statement issued to the Daily Memphian.

“Both before and after those contributions were made, Red State PAC and my re-election committee donated to conservative candidates based on independent criteria including whether the candidate had a competitive race or had demonstrated political courage and leadership. I welcome any investigation because all donations were made in compliance with the law and on the advice of counsel,” he said.

Cancer survivor running as Democrat against Kelsey in Senate District 31

Gabriela Salinas, a native of Bolivia who gained media attention as a childhood cancer survivor treated at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, is seeking the Democratic nomination to the state Senate seat now held by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown. WMC-TV says her life story “has plot twists worthy of a Steven Spielberg film.”

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School voucher bill DOA for 2018 legislative session?

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a leading crusader for school voucher legislation that has failed in past years, says he won’t push the issue in the 2018 session, reports Clakbeat Tennessee.

“I listen to my community. Right now, there’s not enough parental support,” the Germantown Republican lawmaker told Chalkbeat after sharing the news with Shelby County’s legislative delegation.

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Democrat criticizes closed-door meeting of voucher advocates Kelsey ad DeVos

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a leading advocate in so-unsuccessful efforts to establish a school voucher system in Tennessee, met behind closed doors Monday with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, reports The Tennessean. Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini denounced the meeting and the participants.

The meeting was disclosed on the U.S. secretary of education’s website containing DeVos’ weekly schedule.

DeVos, a supporter of charter schools and using public funds to send children to private school, known as vouchers, is a frequent target for Democrats. Noting Kelsey has repeatedly introduced legislation to allow school vouchers, Mancini said, “Public schools in every ZIP code need to be fully funded, and privatization would stretch funding even thinner than it currently is, hurting schools in every part of the state.”

… In addition to Kelsey’s work on vouchers, Mancini also criticized his support for DeVos. In February, Kelsey stumped for DeVos while she was undergoing a tense confirmation process.

… “It seems clear that Senator Kelsey is pushing programs devised by the special interests funding his campaigns and supported by extremists like Secretary DeVos,” Mancini said. “Tennesseans deserve to know what this meeting was about and why Senator Kelsey continues to file legislation that would devastate our public schools.”

Kelsey and his legislative assistant did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the meeting with DeVos.

Complaint filed with FEC contends campaign finance law violated by Kelsey congressional campaign

News release from Campaign Legal Center

WASHINGTON –  Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Democracy 21 (D21) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and will file with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against former Congressional candidate Brian Kelsey and others, including the American Conservative Union (ACU), for their part in a scheme to circumvent contribution limits and disclosure laws by illegally funneling funds from Kelsey’s state account through intermediaries to secretly support Kelsey’s run for U.S. Congress in 2016.

“In order to disguise the illegal transfer of prohibited state money into his federal race, it appears that Kelsey concocted a scheme to pass the money through a dark money daisy chain and straw donor reimbursement plot,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal and FEC reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “Kelsey appears to have stacked legal violation on top of legal violation, and we anticipate that the FEC and DOJ will take this very seriously.”

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