Complaint filed with FEC contends campaign finance law violated by Kelsey congressional campaign

News release from Campaign Legal Center

WASHINGTON –  Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Democracy 21 (D21) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and will file with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against former Congressional candidate Brian Kelsey and others, including the American Conservative Union (ACU), for their part in a scheme to circumvent contribution limits and disclosure laws by illegally funneling funds from Kelsey’s state account through intermediaries to secretly support Kelsey’s run for U.S. Congress in 2016.

“In order to disguise the illegal transfer of prohibited state money into his federal race, it appears that Kelsey concocted a scheme to pass the money through a dark money daisy chain and straw donor reimbursement plot,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal and FEC reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “Kelsey appears to have stacked legal violation on top of legal violation, and we anticipate that the FEC and DOJ will take this very seriously.”

Continue reading

Cohen, Cooper sign onto lawsuit attacking Trump’s foreign business dealings

Tennessee’s two Democratic congressmen, Reps. Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville, are among about 200 members of Congress signing on as plaintiffs in a federal court lawsuit that contends President Donald Trump’s foreign business dealings may violate a provision of the Constitution.

Quote from a Cooper press release:

“The Constitution says our president should be free from all foreign influence,” Rep. Cooper said. “Since President Trump shows no sign of changing, Congress must ask the courts to enforce the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.”

Quote from a Cohen press release:

“The Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause is a vital protection against foreign governments’ corrupting influence.” said Congressman Cohen. “The American people should have total confidence that the President is serving their interest, not his own financial enrichment.  President Trump’s refusal to disclose information to Congress or seek Congress’s authorization for accepting profits from foreign governments stemming from his sprawling foreign financial interests is a brazen violation of the Constitution and a danger to our democracy.”

The full Cohen press release is HERE; the full Cooper press release HERE.

McNally named to Republican Lieutenant Governors Association board

News release from Republican Lieutenant Governors Association

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 21, 2017) – The Republican Lieutenant Governors Association (RLGA), part of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), today announced the full 2017 Executive Committee. The committee is made up of lieutenant governors from across the U.S. and they will work closely with the previously announced RLGA leadership team of Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Chairman; North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Vice-Chairman; Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Co-Chair for Policy; and Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Co-Chair for Finance.

The 2017 Executive Committee is made up of Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

Continue reading

Legislative study committee to take a look back at TN lynchings

Tennessee is taking a tentative step toward acknowledging its legacy of lynching and other civil rights crimes, reports WPLN, citing a bill approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

In all, 238 Tennesseans are documented to have been lynched. The crimes include hangings, beatings and drownings.

State Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, pushed a bill through the legislature this year that creates a study committee of three state representatives and three senators. (Note: It’s HB1306, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris). The group will hash out details — or even if the commission is something Tennessee desires.

Turner has no doubts.

“There are a lot of cases out there — unsolved, civil rights murders,” she says. “It is extremely urgent that we do something now before it becomes too late.”

Continue reading

Study criticizes TN law on school district secession, cites Shelby, Hamilton County examples

A new study on school district secession around the nation says Tennessee law makes it easier than most any other state for wealthy, predominantly-white small cities to set up separate school systems from predominantly-black poor areas.

It cites the formation of six new school systems in Shelby County under a 2011 law as a leading example and also uses as an example plans in the works for Signal Mountain to set up a school system separate from Hamilton County.

Continue reading

TN civil rights intimidation law challenged in gorilla mask protest at ETSU

The validity of Tennessee’s law prohibiting civil rights intimidation will be challenged by the attorney for a former East Tennessee State University student charged under the statute after appearing at a Black Lives Matter protest wearing a gorilla mask and carrying a string of bananas, reports the Johnson City Press.

Patrick Denton is representing Tristan Rettke, 19, who was also indicted on charges of disorderly conduct. A preliminary hearing on the charges was held Tuesday.

“This was a counter protest in a free-speech zone on campus,” Denton said after the hearing. “There’s no way that his free speech should have been criminalized. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to taint the jury pool.”

Rettke’s charges stem from a Sept. 28, 2016, incident when he showed up at a Black Lives Matter demonstration dressed in overalls and a gorilla mask while carrying bananas with string tied around them in a burlap bag with the Confederate flag on it.

The demonstration was held at Borchuck Plaza, outside Sherrod Library on the Johnson City campus, previously designated a free-speech zone. It’s supposed to be a location where students can freely express themselves without being harassed or intimidated. But several students participating in the demonstration said that’s exactly how they felt when the gorilla mask-clad man showed up — harassed and intimidated.

Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice told prosecutors they should give notice to the state attorney general’s office about Denton’s promised motion. Because the motion will challenge the constitutionality of state law, the attorney general’s office will handle it on behalf of the legislature.

Jim Fyke, former state conservation commissioner and Nashville parks director, dies aged 78

James H. “Jim” Fyke, who served as Nashville’s city parks director for 25 years and as commissioner of the state Department of Environment and Conservation under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, has died at age 78 following a long battle with cancer, reports The Tennessean.

Continue reading

Haslam appoints Knoxville lawyer to TN Claims Commission

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has named William A. Young of Knoxville to the Tennessee Claims Commission, replacing William O. Shults of Newport whose terms expires June 30.

The appointment is for the Eastern Division and is subject to confirmation by resolution of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.  The three commissioners hold eight-year terms.

(Note: Shults was the last appointee of former Gov. Phil Bredesen on the commission and had served since 2006, first filling a vacancy and then to a full term in 2009. The salary is about $160,000 annually.)

Continue reading

May state revenue $53M above exepections

News release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in May. Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall May revenues were $1.1 billion, which is $53.1 million more than the state budgeted.

“Total reported revenues in May reflect significant improvement compared to this time last year and were driven primarily by sales tax receipts,” Martin said. “Franchise and Excise taxes fell short of last year’s revenues and were below the monthly budgeted estimate.  All other tax revenues, taken as a group, were more than the May estimates.

Continue reading

Memphis picked for program providing more federal aid in fighting crime

Memphis is one of 12 cities picked for a new anti-crime program being launched by the U.S. Department of Justice, reports Politico.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the coordinated help Tuesday from various branches of the Justice Department, including federal prosecutors in U.S. Attorneys offices, agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, and officials who oversee law-enforcement-focused grants.

“Turning back the recent troubling increase of violent crime in our country is a top priority of the Department of Justice and the Trump Administration, as we work to fulfill the President’s promise to make America safe again,” Sessions said as the Justice Department kicked off a two-day summit in Bethesda, Maryland, spotlighting strategies for cracking down on violent crime . “The Department of Justice will work with American cities suffering from serious violent crime problems.”

The initial round of cities selected for the newly-created Public Safety Partnership are Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; Toledo, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Buffalo, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Jackson, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Lansing, Michigan, and Springfield, Illinois.

The new program will include “diagnostic teams” aimed at identifying crime-fighting strategies for cities experiencing serious violent crime issues and “operations teams” that will embark on a three-year effort involving training, coaching, and increased collaboration between prosecutors, law enforcement and probation agencies.

Note: The announcement comes a week after Trump announced he has chosen Michael Dunavant, now a district attorney general in West Tennessee, to become the new U.S. attorney for the region. Previous post HERE.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Email *