By Michael Davis Staff Writer
Twenty-one business and government leaders from Southeast Tennessee have formed a political action committee to support candidates they say hold high ethical standards.
"We believe the Tennessee Waltz and some other ethical violations have sort of put a black eye on Hamilton County’s political system," said Albert Waterhouse, spokesman for the Southeast Tennessee Political Action Committee.
The FBI’s Operation Tennessee Waltz sting resulted in federal corruption charges against several former or current elected officials, including state Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga; former state Rep. Chris Newton, R-Cleveland; former Hamilton County Board of Education member Charles Love; and former Hamilton County Commissioner William Cotton.
Mr. Waterhouse, founder and president of Waterhouse Public Relations, described the nonpartisan political action committee as a moderate group of Democrats and Republicans that will give to candidates in both parties.
"We want to push candidates forward that represent honest government," he said.
The committee, know as SETPAC, includes state Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga; Hamilton County Assessor of Property Bill Bennett; and Fran Dzik, former Hamilton County election administrator and former Hamilton County Democratic Party chairwoman.
Other members are former Hamilton County real property manager Becky Browder and Gary Starnes, former Pachyderm Club president.
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Stuart James said he would like to see the committee be more politically diverse.
"(But) actions speak louder than words," he said. "If they end up giving to people in both parties and independents, that will give the group credibility."
The political action committee raised $4,750 during the first quarter of the year and only has spent $75, which was for dues and subscriptions to the state Registry of Election Finance, according to a report filed with the state.
Rep. McCormick was the biggest donor to the political action committee during the period, giving $700, according to the report.
Mr. Waterhouse said he hopes the committee will be able to contribute about $20,000 to local and state candidates this year. He said the committee will endorse candidates and host forums. In addition, he said, the committee is interested in co-sponsoring television debates and bringing in nationally known speakers.
The committee plans to have no more than 25 members, according to a news release.
Bobby Wood, chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said the group is not affiliated with the county GOP.
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