Phoenix calling: Mystery vendor received more than $200K in 2020 (UPDATED)

Reps. Robin Smith (R-Hixson), left, and Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) are sworn into the 112th General Assembly on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A mystery campaign vendor believed to be at the center of an FBI investigation into three sitting House members and a former chief of staff was the beneficiary of more than $200,000 in Republican spending.

As of Monday evening, Phoenix Solutions was reported to have received $82,450 during the fourth quarter to bring its total haul for the year to $200,850. About $72,000 of that has come from Rep. Robin Smith, a Hixson Republican who was among the lawmakers who had their homes and offices searched, and her Leadership Pioneers PAC.

Smith and the PAC spent $14,500 on the company in the quarter, with the money going toward get-out-the-vote efforts, a digital fundraising campaign, and independent expenditures in support for Reps. Mark White of Memphis, John Gillespie of Germantown, and Mike Sparks of Smyrna.

Also reporting spending on Phoenix in the quarter were Republican Reps. Esther Helton of Signal Mountain ($10,700 for advertising), Charlie Baum of Murfreesboro ($7,300 for advertising) and Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain ($5,600 for consulting fees). The state Republican Party spent another $44,500 on Phoenix’s services, including on Gillespie and unsuccessful House candidates John Dawson of Clarksville and Patti Possell of Cordova.

The subjects of the FBI searches were Reps. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill) and Glen Casada (R-Franklin), along with Cade Cothren, who was Casada’s top aide when he was speaker.

“I am fully cooperating. I plan to be doing that,” Smith told reporters after the FBI raids. Her attorney said in a statement that Smith was not a “target” of the investigation.

Pressed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press’ Andy Sher about whether she had any connection to Phoenix, Smith replied: “All I will tell you is we’ve issued a statement. I’m fully cooperating. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize what’s going forward. And I look forward to being able to issue another statement in the future.”

Phoenix has become a new player since Smith’s election to the General Assembly, with several lawmakers saying she was a major advocate for using the New Mexico-based outfit.

Before Monday’s disclosures, Phoenix had received $118,400 in 2020, including $22,800 from Kent Calfee of Kingston, $21,900 from Paul Sherrell of Sparta, $6,200 from Dan Howell of Cleveland, $4,400 from Jason Zachary of Knoxville (who misspelled the name of the company as “Phenoix” in his disclosure), $1,900 from Baum, $1,700 from Hazlewood, and $1,700 from Mark Hall of Cleveland.

8 Responses to Phoenix calling: Mystery vendor received more than $200K in 2020 (UPDATED)

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    Stuart I. Anderson says:

    Absolutely riveting!

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    Misty Pardner says:

    Robin Smith is corrupt. Ask the people of Hamilton County that know her from years ago.

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    Jason Wallflower says:

    This is so corrupt. Reeks.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    The republican representatives can’t even spell correctly the name of the “associated mystery company” that they pay so well (& repeatedly) and which the FBI is currently investigating. A lot of money changing hands in the republican party to a “mystery vendor” all the way out in New Mexico. Ummm! I thought all the folks in Nashville were preaching the “Shop Local” mantra? They couldn’t find a legitimate and registered company in Tennessee to do the same work?

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      Phillip Lassiter says:

      These crooks like to use far away companies with mysterious persons using vague names to register them. They probably have three or four more companies laundering the money before they grab their net profit out of it from their trusting companions.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    More crooked republicans doing more crooked things. I wonder why Stuart has not commented yet with some of his smooth talk to brush this over?

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    Cannoneer2 says:

    Bill Lee needs to push a “Buy Tennessee” plan for state government. If a Tennessee company can do the job, hire them.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Psssst, Casada, is that you? Phoenix here! You guys need to send more money, let’s keep this party going.

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