PACs

Pence PAC donates to six TN U.S. Reps — including Black, Blackburn and Duncan

Politico has a list of Vice President Mike Pence’s “first round of political contributions” through a political action committee he has established —  including donations of $5,400 each to six Tennessee members of the U.S. House – Reps. Marsha Blackburn, Diane Black, John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr., Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann and Phil Roe.

Blackburn is running for the Senate instead of reelection to the House, but money donated to her House campaign can be switched into the Senate race. Black is running for governor and, under applicable rules, she cannot shift money from her congressional campaign account into her run for a state office.

Duncan, of course, is retiring and not running for reelection in the 2nd Congressional District.

The only Tennessee Republican congressman not on the list is freshman Rep. David Kustoff of the 8th Congressional District.

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Pro-Trump super PAC and Club for Growth backing Blackburn

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of has been endorsed by two more big conservative political organizations in her run for the U.S. Senate, reports the Nashville Post.

The pro-Trump super PAC Great America Alliance endorsed Blackburn, saying, “The best way to advance the ‘America First’ movement is to hold elected leaders accountable — get on board and get the job done or be replaced by someone who will.”

And the anti-tax, free market 501(c)(4) Club for Growth has also endorsed Blackburn, along with state Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City), who officially filed with the FEC on Friday to raise money for a run for Blackburn’s current 7th District Congressional seat.

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Super PAC goal: $4M to help Ogles Senate campaign

News release from Andy Ogles campaign

FRANKLIN, TENN. (Sept. 19, 2017) — Conservative Republican businessman and fundraiser Lee Beaman announced today that he is in the process of forming a federal SuperPAC that will focus on electing Andy Ogles to the U.S. Senate.

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Joe Carr launches federal PAC

Former state Rep. Joe Carr, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2014 and against U.S. Rep. Diane Black in 2016, has launched a political action committee for 2018, reports Nashville Post Politics.

Carr is the designated agent of Stand Firm America, the paperwork for which was filed with the Federal Election Commission late Thursday. Carr’s daughter, Maddie, is the PAC’s treasurer. The PAC’s website was registered Thursday through a proxy.

“We’re in the formative stages of this whole thing. We’re putting this together, and once everything is put together — what we’re trying to do, what the mission statement is, what the purpose is and what it’s directly going to address — we’ll have a press release on that,” Joe Carr said Friday. “We’re not ready to make any announcements on the purposes of the PAC just yet.”

…The former state representative’s annual conservative gathering and fundraiser, T-Bones and Politics, will be held Sept. 14 in Lascassas, featuring Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. Carr said he won’t announce his own plans for a possible 2018 campaign until after the event.

New Rural TN PAC holds first event, gives Beavers an edge over Lee in gubernatorial straw poll

State Sen. Mae Beavers edged Williamson County businessman Bill Lee in a Republican gubernatorial election straw poll held Saturday night by Rural Tennessee Speaks, a group recently established with state Rep. Jay Reedy, R-Erin, as president.

Beavers and Lee were the only two candidates to address the gathering in Dover, attended by about 200 people, according to media reports. Reedy tells Tennessee Star the straw poll results were 66 for Beavers, 62 for Lee, 10 for U.S. Rep. Diane Black (who hasn’t announced as a candidate), seven for House Speaker Beth Harwell and two for Randy Boyd.

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Harwell appoints PAC treasurer to TN State Museum governing board

House Speaker Beth Harwell has reappointed Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel to the governing board of the Tennessee State Museum, but is giving her own seat on the panel to Tina Hodges, CEO of Nashville-based Advance Financial.

Harwell had previously appointed herself to a four-year term on the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission that officially expired June 30, but she continued to serve through the panel’s July 3 meeting, as allowed under relevant rules allowing an appointee to stay aboard until a successor is appointed, said Kara Owen, spokeswoman to the speaker in response to email inquiries.

Subsequently, Owen said, Harwell appointed Hodges, who already serves – by appointment of Gov. Bill Haslam – on the board of directors for Volunteer Tennessee, a group that has the declared mission of promoting “volunteerism and community service” by Tennesseans. She is currently listed as vice chairman.

Hodges also serves as treasurer of Advance PAC, a political action committee operated by Advance Financial. A check of the Registry of Campaign Finance website for 2015 and 2016 shows Advance PAC giving Harwell’s reelection campaign for her state House seat $10,000 and it also donated $8,000 to the leadership PAC operated by Harwell.

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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.”

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Addiction medication company reported pushing product through legislation, donating to TN legislators

Alkermes, a company that makes an addiction treatment medication called Vivitrol, has been pushing legislation at the state level that would give its product a preference over others, according to a National Public Radio report. At the same time, affliliate WPLN reports that the Alkermes donated more than $20,000 to Tennessee legislators last year.

State records show Alkermes registered four lobbyists for this year’s Tennessee legislative session. The company’s PAC registered to make state-level donations late in 2015, beginning actual donations in January of 2016.

There were several bills filed this year dealing with addiction treatment – including some that appear to be placeholder “caption bills” designed to be amended later. But a quick skim of legislative records indicates none advanced out of committee.

The NPR report – bearing the headline “A Drugmaker Tries To Cash In On The Opioid Epidemic, One State Law At A Time” — focuses on Indiana, where a registered Alkermes lobbyist, who also heads a mental health advocacy group, drafted a bill that was approved after what some thought was a misleading promotional effort. Excerpt:

He said the legislation would move the state “toward evidence-based treatment.”

But the bill wouldn’t do that. Instead, it would cement rules making it harder to access certain addiction medications — medications that many patients rely on. The goal was to steer doctors toward a specific brand-name drug: Vivitrol.

… His efforts have helped turn Indiana into what Alkermes describes in investor documents as an “up-and-coming” state, where the drug’s sales are poised to jump dramatically.

McCaffrey’s work promoting Vivitrol via legislation in Indiana is part of a larger pattern. An investigation by NPR and Side Effects Public Media has found that in statehouses across the country, and in Congress, Alkermes is pushing Vivitrol while contributing to misconceptions and stigma about other medications used to treat opioid addiction.

From WPLN:

In Tennessee, Alkermes has made 30 contributions to Democratic and Republican lawmakers and to political action committees. All of those were between January of last year and the November election. The company has also hired lobbyists.

It’s not clear, though, this early-stage political push has been persuasive. Marie Williams, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, says Vivitrol can be an effective treatment for some opioid abusers, but Tennessee doesn’t prefer it to other therapies.

“What we want is for people to get avenues of treatment, and we are for any avenue that will help you get into recovery and stay in recovery,” she says.

But, state officials add, drug courts are using Vivitrol more often. And that’s where many decisions about treatment are made.

Note: House Speaker Beth Harwell, who recently urged Attorney General Herbert Slatery to file a lawsuit against manufacturers of opioid drugs, was one of the bigger beneficiaries of Alkermes donations — $1,000 to her reelection campaign and $500 to her leadership PAC.

The Alkermes PAC on June 6 filed an amended version of its 4th quarter 2016 disclosure with the Registry of Election Finance that appears to duplicate most of the donations listed in a previous disclosure. (The duplication’s are not included in reaching the count of more than $20,000 to 30 legislators and PACs.)  Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance,  says via email that the Registry has sent a letter asking for clarification of the filing.

Possible ‘straw donor scheme’ seen in Kelsey campaign money transactions with other legislators

When state Sen. Brian Kelsey ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, he was giving political money to state legislators who also gave money to him, reports The Tennessean, and a Washington attorney who specializes in campaign finance law says the transactions could be a “straw donor scheme” that warrants a federal investigation.

The story – declared part of “an ongoing USA Today Network-Tennessee investigation” – lists seven Republican state legislators and one unsuccessful GOP candidate for a state House seat who gave to Kelsey and received funds from his state Senate campaign account or a PAC he operates. It also says Kelsey also donated from his Senate account to eight legislators who did not give to his congressional campaign and sent money through his Red State PAC to 10 legislators who did not donate to his campaign.

The legislators with back-and-forth donations: Sens. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Steve Dickerson of Nashville, Delores Gresham of Somerville and Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro; Reps. Glen Casada of Franklin, Ron Gant of Rossville and Martin Daniel of Knoxville. Steve Glover, who lost a race against Democratic Rep. Darren Jernigan of Nashville, is also listed. An excerpt:

A political consultant with knowledge of the Tennessee lawmaker’s transactions said Kelsey asked multiple state legislators to make a federal contribution in exchange for a donation to their own state campaigns.

While Kelsey and his donors denied coordination, the dates and amounts of the transactions and previous evidence involving campaign contributions are enough to warrant a Federal Election Commission investigation, (Brendan) Fischer said.

“It’s even further evidence that there was some sleazy business happening in Tennessee with these transfers of funds,” Fischer said.

Fischer is “an attorney and Federal Election Commission reform program director with Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center.”

Note: The newspaper had a report last week questioning the legality of money shifting between Kelsey’s campaign, two PACS and a major GOP donor. There’s a post on that article HERE.

Legality of Kelsey-PAC campaign money shifting questioned

There’s a money trail leading from the state campaign coffers of Sen. Brian Kelsey to radio advertisements used by an outside group to buoy his unsuccessful 2016 congressional bid, reports The Tennessean.

Kelsey’s trail involves the use of political action committees controlled by a private Nashville club (The Standard Club), a prominent but controversial GOP donor (Andrew Miller) and a well-known conservative advocacy organization (the American Conservative Union). It also may indicate illegal conduct by Kelsey and others, an expert said.

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