lobbying

Complaint alleges Humble failed to register as lobbyist

Complaints filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance and the state Ethics Commission allege conservative activist and state Senate candidate Gary Humble failed to file as a lobbyist and sent out a mailer without a disclaimer. Humble is challenging Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson of Franklin in the Republican primary.

The ethics complaint was field by Brentwood resident Tom Freeman. It says Humble as the head of the group Tennessee Stands often spoke about lobbying state lawmakers, but never filed official paperwork to do so. The Registry complaint says campaign literature didn’t include information about source.

Here’s is the sworn statement of facts from the ethics complainant:

According to the Tennessee Lookout’s story “New conservative group Tennessee Stands takes on government mandates” (published on 1/21/21) Tennessee Stands and its founder, Gary Humble, have filed lawsuits against Gov. Bill Lee and county officials…. and lobbied for law changes, although there is no record Humble or others associated with the organization have formally registered as lobbyists.

In an April 2021 interview with the Tennessee Star (available on their website at “Tennessee Stands Gary Humble Describes His Visits to the Tennessee Capitol Hill as a Grassroots Activist”), Humble stated the chooses “not to participate” regarding the ethics commission rules. Of note, in this interview, Humble also admits that he could register as a lobbyist.

Tennessee Stands, the organization founded by Humble, has previously listed “Lobbying” as one of their functions, but this has since been removed. Despite admittance of carrying out lobbying activities, Gary Humble has never been a registered lobbyist. Tennessee Stands has never had a lobbyist registered under their name, according to the Tennessee Ethics Commission.

In an April 2, 2021 video entitled “How Tennessee’s Vaccine Medical Exemption Bill Was Amended To Only Apply To COVID-19” on The Tennessee Conservative’s YouTube, Humble said, “… I had no idea that was going to happen, I have been lobbying this bill…”

In a video posted to the Tennessee Stands YouTube account on November 13 2020 entitled “So much going on…here’s an update from Gary,” Humble solicits donations to help sustain “lobbying” activities carried out by Tennessee Stands, saying: …”There is a donate button, we need help, we’re continuing to build a legal fund, we need help with lobbying activities…”

Neither the Registry nor the Ethics Commission meet before the Aug. 4 primary. Members of the Registry have taken issue recently with complaints they see as having been “weaponized” for political purposes.

Humble responded with the following comments to the Tennessee Star:

I have not registered as a lobbyist because I am not a paid lobbyist. I am not paid to lobby for any special interests. Tennessee Stands is an advocacy group that engages citizens all across the state of Tennessee in grassroots lobbying efforts. I have travelled across the state engaging citizens to work with their legislators, email, and call to support conservative legislation. And yes, as a citizen of the state of Tennessee, I myself have asked our legislators to support conservative legislation. Those are not efforts that require a permission slip from the government to engage in and are constitutionally protected for any citizen.

We did send out a mailer where the “paid for” disclaimer was unintentionally missed in the design. The mailer came directly from my campaign. The mailer contained my branding, my image, and a personal message from me as the candidate and was clearly sent from my campaign. The mailer was invoiced to my campaign and paid for in full by my campaign. Further, that invoice has already been provided to the DA’s office satisfactory to the complaint that was filed. This was a clerical error, nothing more.

Ramsey Farrar lobbying firm adds new principals

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The lobbying firm headed by former state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and Russell Farrar has promoted Addison Russell, Matt Russell, and Ross Smith to principals. The outfit will now be rebranded as Ramsey, Farrar, Russell & Smith LLC.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE — Nashville, Tennessee-based Ramsey, Farrar & Bates, LLC, announces that the firm is rebranding as Ramsey, Farrar, Russell & Smith. The group is also promoting Addison Russell, Matt Russell and Ross Smith to principals, joining founders Ron Ramsey and J. Russell Farrar.

Addison Russell joined the firm in 2016 after serving as research analyst for the Tennessee Senate’s State and Local Government Committee under Chairman Ken Yager, and as legislative director for the Department of Commerce and Insurance.

Prior to joining the firm in 2018, Matt Russell ran several campaigns across the state. He also served in multiple roles with the Tennessee Senate, including research analyst to the Transportation and Safety Committee under Chairman Jim Tracy.

Ross Smith, a skilled attorney and lobbyist, joined the firm in 2016 and has significant experience representing local governments and agencies.

“I am proud to introduce Addison, Matt and Ross as named principals,” says Farrar. “Each member of our governmental relations team brings valuable legislative experience, knowledge and capability to the work we do on behalf of our clients, and they have played an integral part in our success.”

Ramsey, Farrar, Russell & Smith represents clients in governmental relations, business development, crisis management, lobbying, public policy and regulatory solutions. The firm represents a multitude of clients covering issues such as health care, local government, nonprofits, education, business, procurement, retail, public safety and more.

“This transition is a better reflection of the breadth and depth of our group,” Ramsey says. “I have enjoyed working with Addison, Matt and Ross, and look forward to their future with the firm.”

Van Hilleary deregisters as lobbyist to take on Rose chief of staff role

Former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary (R-Spring City), left, was named chief of staff for Rep.-elect John Rose (R-Cookeville), right. (Image credit: Rose’s office)

Former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, a former gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate in Tennessee, formally deregistered as a Washington lobbyist last week, Politico reported. Hilleary is now the chief of staff to newly elected Rep. John Rose (R-Cookeville).

Hilleary, formerly of Spring City, lobbied for six clients as a subcontractor to the Williams & Jensen firm. He terminated his registrations on Wednesday, Politico reported.

As The Tennessee Journal reported last month, Hilleary’s lobbying clients over the the past two years included the U.S.-Guatemala Business Council, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, News Media Alliance, Tennessee Valley Floating Homes Alliance, and Exxon Mobil Corp. More prickly, politically speaking, is Hilleary’s recent work on behalf of New American Economy, a group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to advocate for immigration reform.

Hilleary was registered to lobby on two Republican immigration bills that ultimately failed in the House in June. His client decried those measures (one of which was supported by President Donald Trump) as leaving “too many Dreamers in legal limbo” and threatening the economy by seeking drastic cuts in legal immigration.

Rose’s primary campaign against former Murfreesboro Judge Bob Corlew featured the Republican candidates trying to outdo each other on who could be the bigger supporter of Trump’s border wall and immigration rhetoric. “Stop the invasion,” demanded one of Rose’s online ads featuring images of menacing-looking gang members and a map suggesting the 6th District was about to be overrun.

Rose was sworn into office last week.