campaign finance

4 former lawmakers among 6 finalists to lead ethics and campaign finance panel

The Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance has whittled down the applications to succeed retiring Executive Director Drew Rawlins from 43 to six. The finalists include four former lawmakers, a former judge, and a current staffer.

The finalists are scheduled to be interviewed over the course of three weeks starting on July 8. Here’s who made the cut:

  • Former Rep. Jerome Cochran, a Republican who lost to former House Speaker Kent Williams (I-Elizabethton) three times in as as many election cycles. Cochran is now an administrative law judge.
  • Former Rep. Mark Goins, a Republican who ran twice for the Senate — losing to former Democratic Sen. Tommy Kilby (D-Wartburg) — after being drawn out of his House seat in redistricting. Goins is the state election coordinator under Secretary of State Tre Hargett.
  • Former Rep. Judd Matheny, who came in third in a bid for the Republican nomination in his bid for 6th Congressional District seat last year.
  • Former Rep. Kim McMillan, the former House Democratic leader who lost her re-election bid as Clarksville mayor to former Rep. Joe Pitts.
  • Jay Moeck, the current audit director of the bureau.
  • Former Nashville Chancellor Bill Young, a onetime counsel for Blue Cross General Counsel and twice a top attorney for the state Attorney General’s Office.

The selection will be made by the members of the Ethics Commission and the Registry of Election Finance. Both panels are evenly divided along party lines. As the only Democratic finalist, McMillan appears to have an advantage if the Republicans split the vote. Of course, Republicans could coalesce behind a single finalist, at which point there could be an impasse.

Lawmakers spend campaign funds on travel, cigar bars

State lawmakers spent campaign cash on items ranging from cigar bars to hotels in France, according to an analysis by The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert.

Ebert reports Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) spent more than $1,000 to stay at hotels in Paris and Verdun during a a visit to France for the 100th anniversary of Sgt. Alvin York’s heroic deeds during World War I. Campaign funds also paid for Bailey’s $900 flight.

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) used campaign funds to cover expenses at cigar bars. A Hill spokesman said the $110 he expensed at a cigar lounge in Johnson City was a “reporting error,” and that he planned to reimburse his account. A Staples spokesman said the lawmaker spent the money during “constituent appreciation” events at the cigar bar in Nashville.

Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) dropped about $28,300 to buy a car from Lee Beaman’s dealership. He also used campaign finds to cover the cost of car washes and license plate fees.

“He utilizes the automobile to travel to the Capitol on official state business, which is allowable under state law,” a spokeswoman for Southerland told The Tennessean.

Read more of Ebert’s reports about lawmaker spending habits and problems with disclosures.

 

Campaign finance registry dismisses complaints against Harwell, Lee

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Associated Press)

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has dismissed complaints filed against House Speaker Beth Harwell’s gubernatorial bid. The complaints alleged illegal coordination between Harwell and her political action committee, and questioned whether she actually had the $3.1 million she reported loaning her campaign earlier this year.

UPDATE: The Registry also dismissed coordination complaints against Bill Lee, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.

Hank Fincher, a Democratic appointee to the panel, called the complaints against Harwell “garbage” and made the motion to dismiss them. The motion received a 4-0 vote.

Harwell came in fourth in the Republican gubernatorial primary this month.

FEC dismisses complaints against Burchett and Matlock in 2nd Congressional District campaign

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed complaints filed against Tim Burchett and Jimmy Matlock, competiting candidates in the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary, reports the News Sentinel.

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Campaign finance complaint against Mae Beavers dismissed

The Registry of Election Finance board has unanimously voted to dismiss a complaint that accused former state Sen. Mae Beavers of violating campaign finance laws in the handling of leftover money from her abandoned gubernatorial campaign, reports Tennessee Star. Beavers said the complaint was “politically motivated.”

She had used $122,123 from her gubernatorial campaign to launch a new political action committee, which then donated $7,800 to current campaign for Wilson County mayor – a donation she subsequently refunded after it was initially disclosed.

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Lee accused of campaign finance violations; spokesman calls complaint ‘nonsense’

Williamson County businessman Bill Lee is accused in a recently-filed complaint of violating various laws in the financing of his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, reports The Tennessean. A spokesman for the candidate calls the complaint “nonsense” and the newspaper notes there are a couple of apparent factual errors that might prompt the Registry of Election Finance to dismiss it.

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Briley raises more money in Nashville mayor’s race than all other candidates combined

Nashville Mayor David Briley, who holds the position on an interim basis, has raised more money than all other candidates in Thursday’s mayor election combined, reports The Tennessean.

His total: $720,200, including $317,315 raised over the past six weeks. No. 2 in fundraising was Carol Swain, a former Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain and a conservative commentator, at $115,560.

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Black takes campaign trip on jet linked to company she helped in Congress and that helped her in fundraising

On a day of campaigning for governor last month, U.S. Rep. Diane Black flew from Chattanooga to Paris, Tenn., and back on a plane linked to Fitzgerald Glider Kits, reports The Tennessean. That’s the Crossville  company that received some media attention in February after getting an exemption with Black’s help from federal vehicle emission standards for the truck engines it makes —  and which has bundled $225,000 in donations to her gubernatorial campaign.

A Black spokesman says there’s nothing improper there; that she paid for the flight and it will be duly reported on her next campaign financial disclosure. The story says Black flew on the 2017 Embraer Phenom 300 twin-jet airplane from Chattanooga to West Tennessee on the morning of April 27 to attend the Paris Fish Fry, then used it to fly back to Chattanooga that evening to attend the Hamilton County Lincoln Day Dinner where she met with, among others, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

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Blackburn: ‘Absolutely absurd’ to suggest she was influenced by opioid-related contributions

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn gets a mention in a Washington Post report on political consequences facing members of Congress who supported 2016 legislation “that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s enforcement efforts against the opioid industry.”

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Cost of a private table at Trump’s May 29 Nashville fundraiser for Blackburn: $44,300

Following up a promise made last month, President Donald Trump has scheduled an appearance at a Nashville fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn in late May.

From an AP brief: A Blackburn Victory Fund invitation says Trump will be in Nashville for the May 29 event. Admission options include a private round-table with Trump for $44,300 a couple; a private photo reception with Trump for $10,800 per couple; or just the general reception, at $2,700 per couple.

Trump tweeted a promise to campaign for Blackburn – “a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her” – three weeks ago.

Blackburn Victory Fund is a joint fundraising committee put together by the National Republican Senate Committee, the Blackburn Senate campaign and Blackburn’s political action committee, Marsha PAC.