Harwell appoints PAC treasurer to TN State Museum governing board

House Speaker Beth Harwell has reappointed Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel to the governing board of the Tennessee State Museum, but is giving her own seat on the panel to Tina Hodges, CEO of Nashville-based Advance Financial.

Harwell had previously appointed herself to a four-year term on the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission that officially expired June 30, but she continued to serve through the panel’s July 3 meeting, as allowed under relevant rules allowing an appointee to stay aboard until a successor is appointed, said Kara Owen, spokeswoman to the speaker in response to email inquiries.

Subsequently, Owen said, Harwell appointed Hodges, who already serves – by appointment of Gov. Bill Haslam – on the board of directors for Volunteer Tennessee, a group that has the declared mission of promoting “volunteerism and community service” by Tennesseans. She is currently listed as vice chairman.

Hodges also serves as treasurer of Advance PAC, a political action committee operated by Advance Financial. A check of the Registry of Election Finance website for 2015 and 2016 shows Advance PAC giving Harwell’s reelection campaign for her state House seat $10,000 and it also donated $8,000 to the leadership PAC operated by Harwell.

Advance PAC, created in 2011, also gave to several other legislators and/or their leadership PACs in the last election cycle – perhaps notably including $16,000 during the two-year period to the PAC established by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally.

As individuals, the Registry website shows Tina Hodges and her husband, Mike, also donated $7,000 each to state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville. Nothing appears in the way of donations to other legislators, individually, in the past two years.

Mike Hodges also was the biggest donor to Leading the Way PAC — $28,000 – when it launched last year with the stated goal of helping Green in his since-abandoned campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. (Previous post HERE.)

And here are the first two paragraphs of a Nashville Business Journal article posted earlier this year:

Advance Financial CEO Tina Hodges is already making 2017 one of her company’s most ambitious years yet, and she credits the recent growth to the nation’s new president.

In 2017, Advance Financial is slated to open 25 new stores throughout the state, including an expansion west of the Tennessee River, which is so far uncharted territory for the fast-growing Nashville company. (According to Nashville Business Journal research, Advance Financial grew its revenue more than 187 percent from 2012 to 2015 and generated more than $101 million in revenue in 2015, landing them in the No. 3 spot on our Fast 50 List in 2016.)

“We’ve always wanted to expand across Tennessee, but from the past presidential administration, there were a lot of regulations and pending regulations that would have impacted our ability to grow, so we were growing more slowly than we would have if we were more confident,” Hodges said… “With the new administration, we feel like President Trump has said his goal is to reduce regulations so small businesses can grow. We’re taking him at his word, and we’re planning to expand.”

At the July 3 DHSMC meeting, Harwell voted in favor of a new “code of conduct” that has caused some controversy – including criticism from former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, widely perceived as the target of a provision in the new code that puts restrictions on public comments about museum matters by DHSMC commissioners. (Previous post HERE.) Ashe, who in the past has been harshly critical of some museum policies and procedures, was reappointed, effective July 1, to a new four-year term on the panel by McNally.

Also, the House speaker got some attention in an interrelated flap over members of the museum staff attempting to keep a reporter from seeing a copy of the agenda packet at the July 3 meeting – first snatching a copy from the reporter’s hands, then trying to take away a copy given to her by Harwell. (Previous post HERE – updated since the original version to include the museum director basically saying it won’t happen again – and with some follow-up in a roundup of TN political commentary HERE.)

Note: Harwell also waited until after July 1 to set up her campaign for governor, which means she does not have to disclose any fundraising or spending for the gubernatorial campaign until January. Money in her 2016 legislative reelection account can be directly transferred to the gubernatorial campaign; except for the max PAC donation of $11,800 per election, the funds in Harwell PAC cannot — though, without going into the complexities, it can be spent on things that could indirectly benefit a gubernatorial campaign.

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