tennessean

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.

 

 

Pre-meetings flourish in Tennessee House

The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert seeks good answers to the question of why lawmakers see the need to hold pre-meetings before their regularly scheduled (and live-streamed) meetings. Spoiler alert: There are none.

The pre-meetings are held in hard-to-find — and often changing — locations, with schedules buried in obscure sections of the legislative website. Conference rooms are packed with lawmakers and lobbyists and usually include few members of the public.

From Ebert’s fine report:

Technically, no votes are taken in pre-meetings — that’s what the committee meetings are for. But as some bills are considered in committees, it is clear lawmakers have a sense of the measure’s fate even before a vote.

This year, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee found several instances of lawmakers counting or influencing members’ votes on legislation.

When Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, presented a bill on March 5, he was told a poll of members would be conducted before the legislation would go before the House State Committee.

“Out of respect for you, of course, I’m going to take time between now and over the next 90 minutes here to try to get a poll here,” (Chairman Kelly) Keisling said.