McNally a ‘champion of ethics and transparency’

Sen. Randy McNally, expected to be chosen by fellow Republican senators as lieutenant governor and Senate speaker, is depicted as “a longtime champion of ethics and transparency” in an AP profile story.

An excerpt:

McNally played a key undercover role in the FBI’s Rocky Top bingo investigation in the 1980s, and later in the response to the agency’s 2005 Tennessee Waltz bribery sting operation that sent five former lawmakers to prison.

As a member of the state House in 1980, McNally was among lawmakers voting to oust then-Rep. Robert Fisher, an Elizabethton Republican had been convicted of bribery for asking for a bribe to kill a bill.

Fisher was the last sitting member expelled from either chamber of the General Assembly until the House ousted Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, over sexual harassment allegations in September.

McNally had been elected to the state Senate by the time the FBI launched its investigation into fishy bingo operations in Tennessee. Frustrated by state regulators ignoring his concerns, McNally called the FBI to complain and ultimately agreed to wear a wire during his interactions in the legislative office complex.

…“At first, it was rather stressful,” McNally recalled a decade later. “You don’t get used to walking around with a recorder on your back.”

…The 2005 Tennessee Waltz operation involved an FBI front company that secretly recorded 2,000 hours of video and audio of lawmakers being wined and dined — and paid off in cash by undercover agents.

After the lawmakers’ arrests, McNally was among the first lawmakers to write then-Gov. Phil Bredesen calling for stronger ethics, campaign finance and transparency rules in Tennessee…  The resulting compromise was a watered-down ethics bill and an agreement to delay some of the bigger issues until later years.

McNally in 2006 expressed disappointment in the decision to punt.

“I feel a little bit negligent saying, ‘We give up; we can’t accomplish this,‘” he said at the time. “We should at least try.”

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