ALEC’s Money Laundering Machine Hits Tennessee
‘Governor’s Daily News Summary’ scrapped
Still, longtime Republican campaign adviser Tom Ingram said the GOP’s takeover after decades in the political wilderness shows that no party can claim a permanent hold on power.
“When political parties get too successful they usually get arrogant and make mistakes and set up the return of the other party,” he said. “It will turn again. I don’t know when, but it will.”
Democrats hoping to revive their party’s fortunes recognize that there are few quick fixes.
“Sometimes you wake up and the currents have shifted and nobody had even noticed,” said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat who previously served in the state Senate. “It kind of happened that way for Democrats.”
Democrats are looking to several areas to build out their diminished ranks. They include:
Hitting Republicans on Insure Tennessee
House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh says the double defeat of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans shows that GOP lawmakers have strayed from public opinion.
“It’s got to have repercussions,” Fitzhugh said. “We frankly turned down billions of dollars. It makes no sense.”
But whether Democrats gain a boost in campaign contributions from health care and business groups that supported the governor’s Insure Tennessee proposal won’t be known until next year’s campaign season.
Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association, acknowledged that Insure Tennessee was a major priority, but he added that he doesn’t expect “retribution” when it comes to campaign contributions.
“We stick with our friends,” he said. “And if they couldn’t vote with us on Insure Tennessee, that’s OK. They supported us on other issues, so we’re OK with that.”
Exploiting GOP infighting
With so few Democrats in the Legislature, attention has turned toward Republican primaries, where moderates duke it out with Tea Party-styled candidates.
Some GOP lawmakers including Rep. Rick Womick of Murfreesboro have denounced Haslam as “a traitor to the party” over isolated efforts to defeat critics in primaries. For now, Womick and his allies make up the fringe of the Republican membership in the General Assembly. But that could change. LINK
ALEC’s Money Laundering Machine Hits Tennessee
A recent news report out of Georgia turned up some disturbing happenings at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Spring Task Force Meeting in Savannah.
Lobbyists paying for “scholarships” to cover legislator expenses. Secret policymaking meetings where the press was banned. A so-called “non-profit” that works as a money laundering machine for its corporate donors.
It’s against the law for a Tennessee lawmaker to accept a gift or travel from a corporation. But, when those donors make gifts to ALEC, ALEC turns around and offers “scholarships” to lawmakers.
The news report even gets a great rundown of how it all works.
The Tennessee connection? State Senator Brian Kelsey chairs ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force and is listed as a meeting leader for the Spring meeting that was the subject of this report. Kelsey also chairs the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee.
Kelsey hasn’t said whether or not he received a scholarship from ALEC or other financial support to attend the spring meeting.
But, as Tennessee comes up on the 10th Anniversary of Tennessee Waltz — where 6 state lawmakers were arrested for taking bribes from lobbyists, it’s important to ask: Are Tennessee lawmakers taking laundered bribes from ALEC? Are they participating in secret meetings and making public policy behind closed doors? Why won’t they let the people see what’s going on in those meetings with corporate donors? LINK
Buyouts being offered to more than 2,000 state employeesRepublican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is offering more than 2,000 state workers to apply for buyouts.
Letters detailing the offers were sent out last week, but weren’t expected to reach the affected workers until Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday.
A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Human Resources said details about the packages and a breakdown of how many buyouts are being sought by the state agency wouldn’t be available until sometime Tuesday. LINK
‘Governor’s Daily News Summary’ scrappedIn a “modernization” move, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has abruptly ended an emailed “governor’s daily news summary” – first launched in a hard-copy version decades ago — and abolished the job of the staffer who compiled and distributed it.
“We are modernizing the way we keep the governor up to date on current news,” said Alexia Poe, Haslam’s communications director in an email response to an inquiry on the move.
The last summary was sent on Friday morning. Those receiving it – state legislators, administration officials and news media — were advised via email that the service was being terminated on Friday afternoon.
“In the year 2015, with a 24-hour news cycle, paywall variations and limitations and various free news gathering services, the daily news summary has outlived its usefulness for its purpose – to inform the governor. In this day and age we can and should be doing this more efficiently,” Poe wrote.
The summary was a short description of state government and political news reported in newspapers, television stations and radio stations around the state, coupled with a link to the full story in each case – emailed seven days a week, excluding holidays, usually by 6 a.m. Eastern time. LINK
Ten years after Waltz arrests, TN ethics efforts have fadedIn the typical fray of the legislative session, few paid close attention to a seemingly innocuous bill about recycling computer equipment. That was until federal agents started arresting lawmakers.
Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the arrest of five former lawmakers in the FBI’s bribery sting operation codenamed Tennessee Waltz. The case involved a scheme by lawmakers to collect money in exchange for shepherding through bills on behalf of the company called E-Cycle Management.
E-Cycle was 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.
Following the corruption sting, lawmakers were spurred into trying to improve transparency and ethics in the Statehouse. A decade later, most of those efforts have faded. LINK
Firm behind new state logo stands by design
A new logo for state government continues to be the talk of Tennessee.
The logo even has its own parody Twitter account, with its creator writing, "Retweet if your initials in a red box are worth $46,000."
There's also bipartisan criticism of the logo that will replace several logos for state agencies, including those with the famous Tennessee stars.
"People are sensitive about government waste," said Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis.
Harris said the new logo and its $46,000 price tag simply weren't needed.
"It's not so much about whether or not you redesign a logo, because there's always going to be mixed opinions about what's a successful logo and what's not," he said. "It is the spending on something that is a low-priority project and government waste, which really drives people batty."
The marketing and design agency that created the logo, GS&F, responded to the criticism on its Facebook page:
"We explored hundreds of directions and ultimately created a strong and simplified brand identity system for the state government of Tennessee. We stand by our work." LINK
90 Years Ago, Scopes (and Evolution) Indicted in TennesseeJohn T. Scopes was a 24-year-old physics, chemistry and math teacher at the public high school in Dayton, Tennessee, when local community leaders persuaded him to answer the ACLU’s call for a defendant in a test case challenging the Butler Act. That law, passed in March 1925, made it illegal to teach any theory contradicting the Biblical version of creation, as presented in the Book of Genesis. While filling in as a substitute teacher in a biology class, Scopes used a textbook that promoted the theory of human evolution introduced by the English naturalist Charles Darwin in his 1871 book “The Descent of Man.”
Arrested on May 9, 1925, Scopes asked some of his students to testify against him in front of a grand jury in Nashville (about 150 miles northwest of Dayton) to ensure that his case would go to trial. On May 25, the grand jury indicted Scopes on the charge that he “did unlawfully and willfully teach…certain theory and theories that deny the story of Divine creation of man as taught in the Bible and did teach thereof that man descended from a lower order of animals.”
Scopes’ indictment opened the way for what would become known as the “trial of the century,” or the “Scopes Monkey Trial.” Heading up the prosecution team was William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate and a devout Christian who often spoke passionately and publicly about the Bible’s teachings. Scopes’ defense was led by the renowned Chicago attorney Clarence Darrow, a member of the ACLU known for his defense of labor unions and opposition to the death penalty. LINK
Crockett Policy Institute