Ron Ramsey

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.

She’s back! Kurita selected as interim state senator

Former Sen. Rosalind Kurita, whom Democrats stripped of their party’s nomination after she broke ranks to vote for Republican Ron Ramsey to become Senate speaker in 2007, has been appointed as an interim replacement for Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) after his election to Congress.

The Leaf Chronicle of Clarksville reports Kurita emerged the winner Monday after 13 rounds of voting by the Montgomery County Commission.

“It feels wonderful to be selected by the County Commission, and I appreciate the support I have received here this evening,” Kurita told the paper.

Kurita is expected to caucus with the Republican supermajority. She said she won’t be a candidate in the special election to fill the remainder of Green’s term (the primary is March 7 and the general election is on April 23).

The year after voting for Ramsey (the chamber was tied 16-16 with one independent at the time, making hers a crucial vote), Kurita survived a primary challenge from fellow Clarksville Democrat Tim Barnes by all of 19 votes. Barnes filed a challenge with the Democratic Executive Committee, with his attorneys contending that “Republicans crossed over en masse.”

Kurita’s lawyers argued the crossover wasn’t out of the ordinary. But after a day-long hearing that also included allegations that Barnes voters were directed to vote in the Republican primary and that Kurita had violated the 100-foot barrier in polling place (to go to the restroom, her attorneys said, deriding the allegation as “potty gate”), the Democratic panel voted 33-11 to strip Kurita of the nomination on the basis of the outcome of the primary having become “incurably uncertain.” She mounted a write-in
campaign, but lost to Barnes, 62% to 39%.

Kurita was a candidate for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2006, but bowed out before the primary.

Ramsey appears pleased with Kurita’s appointment:

 

Ramsey backs Blackburn in U.S. Senate campaign

Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who has been actively backing Diane Black in the Tennessee gubernatorial campaign, has now endorsed Marsha Blackburn in the U.S. Senate campaign.

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Ron Ramsey, Stephen Fincher join Diane Black’s campaign for governor

Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher have been named co-chairs of Diane Black’s campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

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Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey becoming a lobbyist

Former Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has announced he will become a lobbyist in the 2018 legislative session, reports the Kingsport Times News.

The retired lawmaker told a Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors (NETAR) legislative luncheon on Thursday that he’ll be lobbying for Realtors and others. Ramsey, a Blountville Republican who served as lieutenant governor and speaker of the Tennessee Senate for 10 years, noted a ban on him lobbying state lawmakers expires in November.

…Ramsey, a Realtor and auctioneer, said he’s been hired as a member of the Nashville-based Farrar and Bates law firm headed up by his old friend, Tennessee Association of Realtors lobbyist Russ Farrar.

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Ramsey gives $50K in campaign funds to Ron Ramsey Agricultural Center

Excerpt from a Kingsport Times-News report

BLOUNTVILLE — Former Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey grew up working on a Sullivan County farm, and in a way he closed the book on his 24-year political career Saturday in the name of Sullivan County farmers.

During a dedication ceremony, Ramsey contributed the final $50,000 left in his campaign fund to pay for the completion of the large commercial kitchen at the newly christened Ron Ramsey Agriculture Center located at 140 Spurgeon Lane near Tri-Cities Airport.

Before a crowd of county and state dignitaries, as wells as family and friends, Ramsey dedicated the contribution to wife Sindy, whom he described as his best friend and the “wind beneath my wings.”

… Ramsey was quick to point out that neither his $50,000 contribution nor the $3.5 million already invested by the state will be enough to complete the facility or sustain it in the future and make it economically viable.

Although the facility’s primary use will be providing space for local agricultural programs, it will also be marketed as a convention center and event venue available to the public.

Note: Ramsey had $202,088 left in his candidate campaign account at last report (in January) and $283,849 in RAAMPAC, his political action committee. Updated disclosures are not due until July.

Ron Ramsey: House members were punished for opposing gas tax hike

Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says there was “some punishment” levied against state House members who opposed Gov. Bill Haslam’s fuel tax increases, reports the Johnson City Press. He spoke at a Transportation Coalition of Tennessee press conference, one of several being held around the state by the group that promoted the fuel tax and hired Ramsey as a consultant.

“I think there is some in the House who would not vote for any kind of, what they perceived as, a tax increase. And that’s just wrong because the overall bill cut taxes,” Ramsey… said. “There was no doubt, in the end, that there was some punishment levied against some House members on funding. Not against the Senate members, but against the House members.”

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Ramsey signs up to advise coalition pushing gas tax hike

Recently retired Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is joining the newly created Advisory Council of the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, reports the Nashville Post — presumably to help the promotion of Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, which includes a gas tax hike.

Rumors have been swirling that Ramsey would be working as a “consultant” on occasion during session, possibly in advance of setting up shop as a registered lobbyist next year, after the one-year cooling off period has ended. And now he’s advising a group pushing for an increase in the state’s transportation funding — some with very vested interests in seeing more new roads built.

The Transportation Coalition press release is below.

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Roundup of some recent TN political reporting and opinions, 12/18/2016

Corker for governor?

In a talk with the Jackson Sun, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker reviewed dealings with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, the possibility of Russian involvement with the presidential elections and other topics of national interest reported elsewhere, HERE. He was also asked if he might run for governor at some point and “did not explicitly say yes or no,” but acknowledged “the fulfillment” he felt while serving in an executive capacity as mayor of Chattanooga.

“On the other hand I’m in a place right now where I’m affecting things not only in our state but also our country and the world,” Corker said. “So again we’ll look at that over the next several months and try to make what I believe to be the best decision as it relates to offering public service.”

Faison’s folly?

That part of the headline on a review of state Rep. Jeremy Faison’s crusade – despite the misgivings of some fellow Republican conservatives — to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes by Sam Stockard. Sample quote:

“The deeper you get into understanding the goodness of that plant the more you question why in the world we ever demonized it in the first place.”

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Outside counsel takes on TN refugee lawsuit

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has signed off on the selection of the Thomas More Law Center to represent Tennessee in a lawsuit that will challenge the federal government refugee resettlement actions, reports The Tennessean. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery had declined to file the lawsuit, despite a legislative resolution calling on him to do so.

The Michigan-based legal group, which will represent the state for free, has taken on a host of conservative legal causes in recent years. Those challenges are on topics including Common Core education standards, hate crimes legislation, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and abortion. On its website, the group also takes a strong stance on Islam, saying “Radical Muslims and Islamic organizations” are trying to wage a “stealth jihad” to take over the nation.

…Calling the law center “an excellent firm” with a strong track record, Ramsey said in a statement that he was confident the organization would represent the state well.

“Our nation is a welcoming nation and our state is a welcoming state. But now more than ever, we must make sure that any refugees placed in Tennessee are fully vetted and any resettlement program is in the best interest of Tennessee citizens,” Ramsey said. “I remain unconvinced that the federal government and their appointed agents have either the willingness or the ability to vet refugees properly or thoroughly. A nation without properly policed borders is not a nation at all. The General Assembly is doing what is necessary to protect the people we serve.”