independent expenditures

Big outside money flows into Senate, 1st District races

While Bill Hagerty’s and Manny Sethi’s campaigns slog it out against each other, a series of outside committees are also spending heavily in hopes of influencing the outcome of the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

The biggest player among them has been the Protect Freedom PAC, a group linked to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has endorsed Sethi. The PAC has spent $1.47 million on ads backing the Sethi. Another group called Conservative Outsiders’ PAC has spent $1 million attacking Hagerty.

Meanwhile, a super PAC called Standing with Conservatives has poured $1.3 million into the race, nearly all of it to oppose Sethi. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s America One PAC has spent another $375,000 to oppose Sethi. The Arkansas Republican is backing Hagerty.

The primary to decide the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) is also experiencing heavy independent expenditures. The Club for Growth, which has endorsed state Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), has spent $945,000 so far. About $425,000 has gone toward ads supporting Hill, while the rest has gone toward attacking GOP rivals Diana Harshbarger ($366,000), Rusty Crowe ($132,000), and Josh Gapp ($22,164).

The House Freedom Fund has kicked in $16,000 to support Hill and the delightfully named Bless Your Heart Coalition has spent $15,000 to oppose Harshbarger.

Hagerty-supporting PAC pushes back against Sethi’s effort to block ad

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi speaks at a campaign event in Clarksville on Feb. 4, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

An outside PAC supporting Bill Hagerty’s bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination is pushing back against rival Manny Sethi’s efforts to get TV stations to drop its ad.

Sethis’s lawyers this week called the ad by the Standing with Conservatives PAC “knowingly dishonest” for suggesting a $50 donation to Democratic congressional candidate in 2008 was linked to  online contribution processor ActBlue’s later support for Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

“The ability to criticize a public figure’s actions, and to discuss matters of public importance, lies at the heart of the First Amendment, as courts have repeatedly recognized,” Karen Blackistonea lawyer for Standing with Conservatives, wrote to station managers.

“The Candidate denies supporting ActBlue and asserts that ActBlue does not conduct any advocacy. Per ActBlue’s website, ActBlue is more than just a credit card processor. It is dedicated to empowering democratic and progressive liberal campaigns build their movements,” Blackistone wrote “ActBlue exclusively permits certain groups to use its services that shares similar liberal, progressive values.”

The ads were still on the air of as late this week.

The full letter from Standing with Conservatives follows.

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Group spends $3.5M to promote black turnout

Tennessee is one of the Black Progressive Action Coalition’s top investments this election season as it has worked to get African-American voters to the polls in the state’s four largest cities, the Associated Press’ Jonathan Mattise reports.

The related Black Progressive Action Coalition and BlackPAC have spent more than $3.5 million on direct mail, radio ads, door knocking, and phone calls targeting Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

One of the radio spots tells voters that its within their power to keep “Trump’s biased and extreme agenda in check.”

See a full-page flyer after the jump.

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