Campaign finance panel takes ‘no action’ on Harwell

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has voted to take “no action” on complaints alleging coordination between Republican gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell and her political action committee and questioning the veracity of a $3.1 million loan she made to her campaign.

The panel voted 3-0 to against proceeding with the complaints. Chairman Tom Lawless, who abstained on the vote, said he had a “beef” with Attorney General Herbert Slatery for refusing to provide a requested legal opinion on the matter and Gov. Bill Haslam for failing for make the appointments to two vacant positions on the six-member panel.

“This body requested an attorney general’s opinion to assist us on evaluating the complaints,” Lawless said. “The opinion was respectfully declined by the AG’s office because it appears the questions posed in the opinion could potentially involve litigation in which the attorney general’s office would be called upon to participate.

“Not really sure what a lawyer’s supposed to do, but at least in my 39 years of doing this, I’ve had plenty of clients disregard what I’ve told them to do and still represent them after they’ve screwed up or not screwed up.”

Lawless said the panel should get its own lawyer if the attorney general refuses, but was told by Slatery’s office that that would require authorization from the AG and the governor.

“We’re on the horns of a dilemma here,” Lawless said. “We have an attorney general who is refusing to assist us, or assist his client, which this body is…. And if we want to go get our own, we can’t do that because they’ve got to give us permission.”

Because the panel has only four of six members, it takes unanimous votes (a majority of the total positions) in favor of moving forward with complaints. Other motions like the one to take no action require only a majority of those present.

“This particular body is down two members because the office of the governor hasn’t filled them. So we have a one veto, one member control, which bothers me even more.”

“I think the governor needs to step up, do what he should have done and needs to do, and that is fill the rest of the commission so that we’re not hamstrung by any one member,” Lawless said.

“I guess it’s more important to fill the University of Tennessee board than it is the group that decides election finance for the next governor.”

Austin McMullen, the attorney for Harwell’s PAC, noted that the panel in its last meeting dismissed a complaint against gubernatorial rival Diane Black without having all six members on the panel.

“We’ve waited a couple months already as it was, and I don’t think it’s fair to Rep. Harwell to continue to wait while this matter is held over he head,” he said.

Former state Rep. Hank Fincher (D-Cookeville) said he didn’t see merit in the complaints.

“They’re griping because Speaker Harwell ran an ad talking about her service in the legislature,” he said. “Well, so what?”

3 Responses to Campaign finance panel takes ‘no action’ on Harwell

  • Avatar
    Tommy Ray McAnally says:

    What did Beth The Veterans Preference Passover Letter Queen Harwell PROMISE THOSE THREE?

  • Avatar
    Misty Pardner says:

    Harwell needs to get out of the race. When her house colleagues are jumping ship for another candidate that is not good for her.

  • Avatar
    Michael Lottman says:

    What a joke! What kind of procedure is this when even the chairman doesn’t know how it works? Not that it really mattered–we all know how it was going to come out.

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