Monthly Archives: March 2022

Whoever signed this Phoenix Solutions document has some explaining to do

Phoenix Solutions W-9 form filed with the Tennessee General Assembly.

According to federal prosecutors, Matthew Phoenix, the purported proprietor of political vendor Phoenix Solutions, was not a real person. They say it was actually Cade Cothren, a onetime chief of staff to then-House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). Cothren allegedly posed as Matthew Phoenix because he knew the company wouldn’t otherwise get approval to do work on taxpayer-funded constituent mailers from the General Assembly.

Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) is scheduled to strike a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in federal court on Tuesday afternoon. Smith, who resigned from the House on Monday, was aware of Cothren was posing as Phoenix, according to the charging document.

An IRS W-9 form submitted to the General Assembly in January 2020 carries the signature of Matthew Phoenix, right under a section outlining the certification is made “under penalties of perjury” that the person singning the document is a “U.S. person.”

Harwell names campaign team for 5th District bid

Former Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) confers with then-House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) March 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell has announced Bob Brown, a former chair of the Williamson County Election Commission, will manage her campaign for the Republican nomination in the new-look 5th Congressional District. Chasen Bullock and Alex Meyer of Washington-area consulting firm TLC Political will serve as general consultants. Investment banker Denny Bottorff will serve as Harwell’s campaign treasurer.

Read about staffing updates on other campaigns here.

Here is the release from the Harwell camp:

NASHVILLE, TN – Beth Harwell announced the team behind her campaign for the U.S. House on Thursday. Harwell is running for Tennessee’s new 5th Congressional District which encompasses Nashville.

“I am proud to have such a strong team working with me on this race to help me bring Tennessee common sense to Washington and fix America so that we can get our economy back on track, balance our budget, and secure our borders,” said Beth Harwell.

Bob Brown will be the Campaign Manager. He served as the Chairman of the Williamson County Election Commission from 2011 – 2022 as well as on the Davidson County Election Commission from 1989-1994. Bob is also a healthcare executive in Nashville.

TLC Political’s Chasen Bullock and Alex Meyer will be the general consultants. TLC Political is a Virginia based, full-service agency for Republican candidates, committees, and causes. Chasen Bullock, a Senior Political Strategist, served as the National Political Director at former Speaker Paul Ryan’s SuperPAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, and has managed Dr. Rand Paul’s re-election campaign in Kentucky following the 2016 Presidential election. Alex Meyer, a Senior Political Strategist, was the Campaign Manager for Congressional and U.S. Senate races across the country. He also served as Political Data Analyst, Political-Data Liaison, Director of Sisters Committee Support, and Missouri State Director for the Republican National Committee (RNC). For more on TLC Political go to TLCPolitical.com.

Rachel Barrett and Company’s Rachel Barrett and Reid Witcher will serve as the in-state fundraisers. Rachel has been involved with fundraising, political consulting and communications in Tennessee, Washington, D.C., and the Southeast for over 20 years. She has previously served as the
Southeast Finance Director for Mitt Romney, as well as a consultant for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). For more on Rachel & Reid go to RachelBarrettandCompany.com.

FP1’s Chris LaCivita and Annie Kelly Kuhle will be providing advertising services. FP1 is a full-service campaign consulting and advertising firm that has won 87 Pollies and 50 Reed Awards since its inception. Chris LaCivita is a partner at FP1, a former combat Marine veteran and seasoned political operative. He has served as Political Director for the NRSC, Senior Advisor for the RNC in 2016, and Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia. Annie Kelly Kuhle is a partner at FP1 Strategies, veteran campaign manager and strategist. She has served as a Regional Political Director for both the NRSC and NRCC. For more on FP1 go to fp1.com.

1892 LLC is a national polling firm that has conducted research for presidential, gubernatorial, senate, and congressional candidates around the country. For more on 1892, visit 1892llc.com.

TAG Strategies will be serving as the digital fundraising team. TAG is a full-service marketing, consulting and creative agency focused on building cutting-edge digital and fundraising solutions for candidates. TAG has raised over $3 billion for their candidates since their founding. For more on TAG Strategies go to TAGStrategies.co.

Denny Bottorff will serve as the campaign’s Treasurer. Denny is an American businessman, banker and philanthropist. He was chairman and chief executive officer of the First American Corporation and he served as the chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority from 2010 to 2012. He is the co-founder and general partner of Council Capital, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the co-founder and the former chairman of CapStar Bank.

To learn more about Beth visit BethHarwell.com.

About Beth As a life-long Republican, Beth played a key role in expanding the party in Tennessee. As Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, she directed the strategy that saw Republicans capture a majority in the State Senate for the first time in nearly 150 years. In her time as the House Republican Caucus Whip and Campaign Committee Chair, House Republicans captured the four seats necessary to take the majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives. In 2011, Beth became the first female Speaker of the House in the Southeast, a position she held for eight years before being appointed to the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors by President Donald Trump in 2019, a position she still holds. She also currently serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Beth and her husband Sam live in Nashville where they raised their three children. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University.

UPDATE: Smith strikes plea agreement with feds

Freshman Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) attends a House floor session in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) has struck a plea agreement with federal prosecutors over a kickback scheme related to a political vendor called Phoenix Solutions, according to court records.

“Ms. Smith submits that the parties have reached a plea agreement to resolve the pending charges in this case and that she is ready to change her plea in this matter,” according to a filing on Smith’s behalf on Monday afternoon.

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Central in Nashville.

Earlier Monday, federal prosecutors made charges agaisnt Smith public alleging she was was joined by two unnamed individuals who are nonetheless easily identified as former House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) and his onetime chief of staff Cade Cothren.

Smith, a former state Republican Party chair, resigned from the House after being charged.

“I want you to know that serving the great people of this district, and indeed, all of Tennessee, has truly been an honor,” Smith wrote in her letter to House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) “I have resigned with the deepest of humility and out of respect for the role of public service.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to an indictment. The charging document was filed as an information.

Read the full charges here:

THE UNITED STATES CHARGES:

BACKGROUND ALLEGATIONS

At all times material to this Information unless otherwise indicated:

1. Defendant ROBIN SMITH was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives (“Tennessee House”), representing District 26, which included part of Hamilton County, Tennessee. SMITH was first elected to the Tennessee House in or around November 2018. SMITH also owned and operated a political consulting company called Company I. Company 1 provided political consulting, mail, and project management services.

2. Individual 1 was a member of the Tennessee House, first elected in 2003. Individual I served as Speaker of the Tennessee House from in or around January 2019 until in or around August 2019. In or around August 2019, Individual 1 resigned as Speaker after a scandal became public. Individual 1 also owned and operated a political consulting company called Company 2. Individual 1 started Company 2 in or around October 2019 to provide fundraising services to Political Party 1 lawmakers.

3. Individual 2 was a businessman and former Chief of Staff to Individual 1 when Individual 1 was Tennessee House Speaker. In 2019, multiple news forums published allegations that Individual 2 had committed inappropriate and illegal conduct. Based on public reporting, Individual 2 admitted certain allegations, and, on or about May 3, 2019, Individual 2 resigned his position as Chief of Staff.

4. The State of Tennessee (“the State”) allocated Tennessee Representatives $3,000 annually to fund postage and printing of items to be sent to the legislators’ constituents (“the Mailer Program”). According to Tennessee House guidelines, Representatives were permitted to use Mailer Program funds to design and mail “legislative update mailers” and legislative surveys to their constituents. Representatives were permitted to use campaign funds to offset additional expenses beyond the $3,000 allocated under the Mailer Program.

5. The Tennessee House Speaker’s Office had the authority to approve or deny a vendor to provide services or any mailing funded by the Mailer Program.

6. In or around November 2019, Individual 2 established Phoenix Solutions, LLC. Phoenix Solutions was established, with SMITH and Individual l’s knowledge and support, for the purpose of offering mail and consulting services for legislative members facing primary challengers, and was later expanded to offer constituent mail services to members of the Tennessee General Assembly. SMITH, Individual 1, and Individual 2 told others, including members of the Tennessee General Assembly and the House Speaker’s Office, that Phoenix Solutions was run by an individual named “Matthew Phoenix.” SMITH, Individual 1, and Individual 2 claimed that Matthew Phoenix was an experienced political consultant who had worked for Consulting Firm 1, a real company based in Washington, D.C. In truth and in fact, Individual 2 ran Phoenix Solutions and SMITH, Individual 1, and Individual 2 profited from it.

7. SMITH, Individual 1, and Individual 2 knew that Matthew Phoenix was a fictitious person and was, in truth and in fact, Individual 2.

8.SMITH, Individual I, and Individual 2 concealed Individual 2’s involvement in Phoenix Solutions from the State and members of the Tennessee General Assembly due to the expectation that Phoenix Solutions would not be approved by the Tennessee House Speaker’s Office, acting on behalf of the State, or hired as a vendor by individual members if Individual 2′ s involvement was disclosed. SMITH, Individual 1, and Individual 2 also concealed the fact that Individual 2 kicked back a portion of the profits from the State and members of the Tennessee General Assembly to SMITH and Individual 1 due to the expectation that Phoenix Solutions would not be approved by the Tennessee House Speaker’s Office, acting on behalf of the State, or hired as a vendor by individual members Individual 2’s operational involvement and financial interests in the business and the kickbacks to SMITH and Individual 1 were disclosed.

9. SMITH and Individual 1 received kickbacks from Individual 2 in exchange for using their positions as members of the Tennessee House of Representatives to perform official acts, including pressuring the Tennessee House Speaker’s Office to approve Phoenix Solutions as a Mailer Program vendor and disburse State funds to Phoenix Solutions.

10. Individual 2, with SMITH and Individual’s knowledge and support, set up an email account for Matthew Phoenix, matthew@powerofphoenix.com, which Individual 2 used to conduct business on behalf of Phoenix Solutions.

11. Individual 2 incorporated Phoenix Solutions as a limited liability company (LLC) in New Mexico. Individual 2 set up a United States Postal Service post office box for Phoenix Solutions there and forwarded the mail received by that post office box to his home address in Nashville. Individual 2 later explained to SMITH that he established the post office box in New Mexico because that state allows the anonymous registration of LLCs.

12. In or around January 2020, SMITH was informed by an employee of the Tennessee House Speaker’s Office that the Speaker’s Office needed to work directly with the third-party vendor, which was a change in the existing guidelines employed by legislative members for constituent mail. SMITH informed Individual 2 of this fact. Individual 2 was notified that the State could not pay Phoenix Solutions without an Internal Revenue Service Form W-9 on file. In response, Individual 2, assuming the identity of Matthew Phoenix to disguise his true identity, sent a W-9 signed by “Matthew Phoenix” from the matthew@powerofphoenix.com email address to the Tennessee House Majority Caucus Advisor for the purpose of filing it with the State.

13. On or about December 18, 2019, SMITH emailed Individual 2. Referencing a potential future conversation related to Phoenix Solutions with a Political Patty 1 employee regarding a campaign mailing list that each incumbent legislative member was to receive, SMITH told Individual 2 that he “may have to assume the role of Matthew again.” Individual 2 replied to SMITH, “Matthew, reporting for duty!” and included a graphic interchange format (“.gif”) picture of a salute from Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo in the movie Star Wars.

14. On or about January 24, 2020, SMITH emailed Individual 2, writing, “We’ll start with this…Matthew…you might expect some type of call, email.” Below, SMITH copied an email chain between SMITH, the Acting Chief of Staff to the House Speaker, and the General Assembly’s Director of Legislation. In the email chain, SMITH asked the officials about the status of Mailer Program payments to Phoenix Solutions and why there was an issue with processing them. The Acting Chief of Staff wrote SMITH, “I’m on it.” SMITH replied, “Don’t crush her, but [the Director of Legislation has] been telling this vendor that the check’s on the way for about two weeks.” SMITH falsely added, “It’s guys from [Consulting Firm 1] who did mail two years ago that left and started their own gig…tired of doing the DC/Trump stuff. Thanks.” SMITH then forwarded the email chain to Individual 2, adding the message, “Shhhhhhhhhh.”

15. Individual 3 was Individual 2’s girlfriend. At times, Individual 3 assumed the fictitious role of “Candice,” another alleged employee of Phoenix Solutions.

16. On or about June 16, 2020, Individual 3 and Individual 2 emailed each other as “Candice” and “Matthew.” The purpose of the email exchange was to falsely make it appear as if two employees of Phoenix Solutions were having an exchange about the need to secure payment on outstanding Mailer Program invoices that the State had not yet paid. Individual 2, using the matthew@powerofphoenix.com email account, then forwarded the exchange to SMITH.

17. On or about June 22, 2020, SMITH emailed the General Assembly’s Director of Legislation, copying the Acting Chief of Staff to the House Speaker, to complain about delays in Mailer Program payments from the State to Phoenix Solutions. SMITH forwarded them the June 16, 2020, email exchange between “Candice” and “Matthew” complaining about the delayed payments. Above that email chain, SMITH wrote, “[Director of Legislation], I was cc’d on this last week. … It would be either illegal or unethical to move to print without knowing payment was coming, so the bulk permit number is provided on the invoice. Simpler, asking a firm to be liable for the cost with the printing completed before knowing payment may or may not be approved is suspect. Is there something going on?” Enclosed within SMITH’s email were invoices from Phoenix Solutions for legislative mailers on behalf of two Representatives, for $4,547.50 and $5,537.

18. On or about May 20, 2020, SMITH discussed Phoenix Solutions with a member of the Tennessee House Political Party 1 caucus. SMITH described Phoenix Solutions as her preferred survey mailer company. SMITH falsely said that Phoenix Solutions was owned and operated by Matthew Phoenix, an experienced political consultant with whom SMITH did business when SMITH used Washington, D.C.-based Consulting Firm I for political work. SMITH falsely said that Matthew Phoenix and his associate, Candice, got tired of living in the Washington, D.C. area and decided to move back home to New Mexico, where Phoenix started Phoenix Solutions. SMITH falsely said that she used Phoenix Solutions because of the quality of its work.

19. On or about August 10, 2020, SMITH attended a meeting of the Political Party 1 House campaign committee. Present at the meeting were several Tennessee Representatives, officials from the Speaker’s Office, and a committee consultant. SMITH repeated the same false statements regarding Phoenix Solutions that she had made to the caucus member on or about May 20, 2020. She also falsely told the committee members that she did not make any money from Phoenix Solutions.

20. On or about April 2, 2020, Individual 2 sent an email to SMITH and Individual 1. The email stated, “Friends, Here’s our up-to-date printing spreadsheet. All of these checks have been collected and deposited. All bills related to these print jobs have also been paid. So, let me know what address is best for you and I will cut checks for each of you?” Individual 2 provided a breakdown of total profit earned from each client. SMITH, Individual 1, and Individual 2 shared the profits, with Individual 2 earning 30%. Individual 1 and SMITH each earned $4,143.64, which was 25% of the business, each. Individual 2 wrote that the remaining 20% of the profit was “left in business.” Individual 2 also discussed ways to cut Phoenix Solutions’ future costs.

21. From on or about June I, 2020, through on or about December 1, 2020, Phoenix Solutions took on more varied projects, but continued to receive payments from the State-funded Mailer Program and campaign accounts of members of the General Assembly. During that timeframe, a Phoenix Solutions bank account ending in x3886 received revenue of approximately $158,165, excluding payments from campaign accounts associated with SMITH and Individual 2. From on or about January 1, 2020, through on or about December 31, 2020, Phoenix Solutions, Company 1, and Company 2 received approximately $51,947 from the State in payments associated with the Mailer Program.

22. On or about September 10, 2020, SMITH endorsed and deposited check number 152, dated September I, 2020, in the amount of $12,003.16, from Phoenix Solutions’ account number x3886 into a bank account associated with her consulting firm, Company 1. Individual 2 signed the check in his given name and wrote “Consulting” on the memo line.

23. On or about December 17, 2020, SMITH endorsed and deposited check number 170, dated December 16, 2020, in the amount of $12,116.96, from Phoenix Solutions’ account number x3886 into a bank account associated with Company 1. Individual 2 signed the check in his given name and wrote “Consulting” on the memo line.

COUNT ONE
18 u.s.c. §§ 1343, 1346
(Honest Services Wire Fraud)

24. Paragraphs 1 through 23 are incorporated and realleged as if fully set forth herein.

25. Beginning in or around November 2019 and continuing until in or around January 2021, in the Middle District of Tennessee and elsewhere, the Defendant, ROBIN SMITH, aided and abetted by others, including Individual 1 and Individual 2, devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive the citizens of the Middle District of Tennessee and the government of Tennessee of their right to the honest services of a public official, namely the honest services of SMITH and Individual 1, members of the Tennessee House of Representatives, through kickbacks.

26. In the Middle District of Tennessee and elsewhere, SMITH, aided and abetted by others, including Individual 1 and Individual 2, having devised and intended to devise the above­ described scheme, and for the purpose of executing the scheme, transmitted and caused to be transmitted by means of wire communication in interstate commerce, writings, signs, signals, pictures, and sounds.

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343, 1346, and 2.

FORFEITURE ALLEGATION

1. The allegations contained in this Information are re-alleged and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth in support of this forfeiture.

2. Upon conviction of Count One of this Information, the defendant, ROBIN SMITH, shall forfeit to the United States, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 981(a)(l)(C), by Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461, any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense, including but not limited to a money judgment in an amount to be determined representing the value of the proceeds of the offense.

3. If any of the property described above, as a result of any act or omission of SMITH:

a. cannot be located upon the exercise of due diligence;

b. has been transferred or sold to, or deposited with, a third party;

c. has been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the Court;

d. has been substantially diminished in value; or

e. has been commingled with other property that cannot be divided without difficulty, the United States shall be entitled to forfeiture of substitute property, and it is the intent of the United States, pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853(p), as incorporated by reference in Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461(c), to seek forfeiture of any other prope1iy of SMITH up to the value of the property listed above as being subject to forfeiture.

Mark H. Wildasin

United States Attorney

Middle District of Tennessee

Winstead names Devaney, Kaegi to campaign team

Kurt Winstead

Retired Tennessee National Guard general Kurt Winstead has named former state Repubican Party chair Chris Devaney as the senior adviser to his campaign for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District. Kim Kaegi will serve as his fundraising consultant. Both previously worked on Republican Bill Lee’s successful gubernatorial campaign in 2018.

Several candidates are running for the open seat that was redrawn to make it heavily Republican leaning his fall. Fromer U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus has Ward Baker advising her bid, while Chip Saltsman is consulting for Williamson County businessman Baxter Lee. Former House Speaker Beth Harwell’s campaign announcement was issued by the Lukens Co., a Washington-area firm that has done direct mail work for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Here’s the full release from the Winstead camp:

Nashville, Tenn — General Kurt Winstead (ret.) announced today his senior campaign team to win the race for the new 5th Congressional District. The team includes:

— Jimmy Granbery, Chairman of the H.G. Hill Company and CEO of H.G. Hill Realty Co., will serve as finance chairman.

— Chris Devaney, former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman, who will serve as senior advisor to the campaign.

— Kim Kaegi, a veteran of numerous successful campaigns across Tennessee, will serve as finance consultant to the campaign.

“Our campaign is building momentum across the District every day. I’m so grateful for the team we are putting together to achieve victory on Election Day,” said General Winstead.

Chris Devaney is a former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman who served in senior roles on multiple winning campaigns in the Volunteer State, including managing Governor Bill Lee’s successful campaign in 2018.

Kim Kaegi has over thirty years of statewide fundraising experience across Tennessee. Kaegi has worked for dozens of campaigns including Governor Bill Lee, Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Bill Hagerty, and Congressional campaigns of Diane Black, Tim Burchett, Stephen Fincher, David Kustoff, and Phil Roe.

Successful Nashville businessman Jimmy Granbery will serve as finance chairman for the Winstead Campaign.

“Now more than ever, we need leaders with real world experience. General Winstead has the kind of background and conservative Tennessee values we need in Congress,” said Granbery. “As a lifelong Tennessean, I want our next Congressman to truly represent Middle Tennessee. community, state, and nation. I’m proud to support a conservative leader like Kurt Winstead.”

Granbery is Chairman of the H.G. Hill Company and a fourth generation family member of the 127 year old Middle Tennessee business. He also serves as Chair and CEO of H.G. Hill Realty Company, which has an extensive real estate portfolio. Besides his business experience, Granbery also has an extensive civic background having served on numerous boards in the state.

Kurt Winstead is an eighth generation Tennessean and was raised in a home of educators and farmers. He served for more than thirty years in the Tennessee Army National Guard, including Director of the Joint Staff, Tennessee’s Staff Judge Advocate, and Brigade Command Judge Advocate during Operation Iraqi Freedom III.

Winstead is a graduate of Centre College and received a law degree from the University of Richmond School of Law. He also holds a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. Kurt and his wife Beth attend St. Matthew Church in Franklin. They are the proud parents of two adult daughters raised and educated in Williamson County.

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Paid for by Kurt Winstead for Congress

Indicted senator cites ‘exciting change’ in personal life in deciding agaisnt re-election bid

State Sen. Brian Kelsey denies wrongdoing in a video conference call following his indictment on Oct. 25, 2021. (Image: screengrab from call)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican awaiting a federal criminal trial related to campaign fundraising during a 2016 congressional bid, announced he won’t seek re-election to the General Assembly this year.

“I will not be running for reelection due to a recent, exciting change in my personal life,” Kelsey wrote on Twitter. “And I look forward to spending more time with my family.”

Kelsey initially vowed to seek a rapid trial in hopes of clearing his name, but was later granted a yearlong delay.

After arguing in favor of the state’s school voucher law in a Supreme Court challenge last year, Kelsey was notably not among the speakers when the case was reheard before the state’s highest court last month.

New TNJ edition alert: The dead bill file, Lamar gets Senate nod, likely candidate for Kelsey seat

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

This week’s Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

— Short-term rentals, food trucks, cockfighting, and landfills: Lawmakers start to clear decks as session’s final stretch looms.

— Political roundup: Lamar gets nod for vacant Senate seat, Kelsey seat gets new challenger, Warner faces primary showdown from new Williamson County side of district.

— Going Canadian: Politically connected bank gobbled up for $13.4B.

Also: Cothren seeks to plead the Fifth in campaign finance probe, Casada chides Registry over ‘bias,’ Tennessee liquor stores pledge to remove Russian booze from shelves, and Gardenire calls for a “kilt-raising party.”

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Lee budget assigns 20 more troopers to Shelby County

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee says his budget proposal would assign 20 more Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers to Shelby County to help stem crime rates.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced his proposed budget will fund 20 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers for Shelby County as the administration focuses on proven crime prevention methods and addressing law enforcement staff shortages.

Gov. Lee will be in Memphis on Thursday, March 3, to do a ride-along with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Memphis Police Department with a brief media avail to follow.

“Violent crime has no place in Tennessee, period. To immediately strengthen public safety, we have to invest in evidence-based crime prevention methods and continue efforts to recruit and retain qualified law enforcement officers,” said Gov. Lee. “I commend the Memphis Police Department for their work to protect neighborhoods across the city and look forward to our continued partnership.”

Gov. Lee’s Fiscal Year 22-33 budget proposes key public safety investments, including proven crime prevention methods to directly support Memphis and Shelby County:

— 20 additional Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers for Shelby County funded 100% by the state.

— Creation of a $150 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in evidence-based programming and resources.

— $30 million to support relocation bonuses for out-of-state police officers seeking to move to Tennessee.

— Expansion of state funding for law enforcement basic training and increasing the frequency of training for new recruits.

— Access to a statewide hiring portal that includes qualified law enforcement recruits from outside of Tennessee who are looking to relocate.

Read more about Gov. Lee’s statewide public safety agenda here.

Cothren to take the Fifth in Registry probe

Cade Cothren, speaking on phone, attends a meeting with lawmakers and fellow staffers on the balcony ouside the House chamber on April 29, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tenenssee Journal)

Cade Cothren, the onetime chief of staff to former House Speaker Glen Casada, intends to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination at a Registry of Election Finance hearing on Wednesday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

“Cade Cothren objects to and will not respond to your subpoena,” his attorney, Cynthia A. Sherwood, wrote to the Registry last month. “This objection is based on the grounds that these subpoenas were made in bad faith and are an abuse of process.

“Furthermore,” she added, “Mr. Cothren invokes his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.”

The probe involves the role of the Faith Family Freedom Fund in attacking then-Rep. Rick Tillis of Lewisburg during his Republican primary in 2020. The PAC’s treasurer testified to the Registry by telephone in January that she had registered the group on behalf of Cothren, whom she had been dating at the time. Friedopfer said she had been “young and dumb” and didn’t know she would be liable for the PAC’s activities. Cothren advised her not to respond to a Registry audit of the PAC, she said.

The Registry responded by issuing subpoenas of Cothren, Casada, and the winning candidate in the 2020 race, Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill).

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