published Thursday, July 16th, 2009

McWherter leads Dems in gubernatorial fundraising

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NASHVILLE — Jackson, Tenn., businessman Mike McWherter led in fundraising among the four major Democratic gubernatorial candidates required to file disclosures, records for the first six months of 2009 show.

But the nearly $1.6 million raised by all four candidates falls far short of the $6.5 million raised by the four major GOP candidates. Republicans previously had announced their totals, but their actual disclosures revealed new details.

Disclosures for the period, which extended from January 1 or 15, depending when a candidate entered the contest, to June 30, were due to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance by midnight Wednesday.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney attributed the GOP’s fundraising dominance to Tennesseans’ being “excited about our gubernatorial candidates” and the party’s “standing on principle.”

But Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester, said “our candidates have been in this money hunt much less time than Republicans.” Moreover, he said, state GOP candidates traditionally have outraised Democrats, whom he charged “go after big oil, big corporations, big banks.”

Mr. McWherter, son of former Democratic Gov. Ned McWherter, reported contributions of $650,305, expenditures of $30,903.13 and cash on hand of $619,483.47 as of June 30.

Mr. McWherter, a Jackson, Tenn., beer distributor and bank board chairman, said in a statement that “folks everywhere are stepping up to help out our campaign.”

Disclosures show he received at least $20,000 in contributions from fellow beer distributors in Tennessee and elsewhere. And top officials from his father’s 1987-1995 gubernatorial administration, including former state planning director Jim Hall of Signal Mountain, gave a total of at least $17,500. Mr. Hall gave $1,000, records show.

Two top officials in Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration — Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz and Human Services Commissioner Gina Lodge — gave $1,000 and $5,000, respectively.

On the Republican side, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam’s fundraising, as previously announced, towered over that of GOP rivals such as U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.

Mr. Haslam reported raising $3,588,698 from Jan. 15 through June 30 from an army of traditional GOP donors and businessman. The Haslam campaign publicly released a figure of $3.8 million recently, but that appears to have included fundraising from the end of 2008.

He reported spending $413,073 including paying $20,000 in consulting fees to Tom Ingram, the former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who says he is neutral in the contest. Mr. Haslam reported cash on hand of $3,474,468.

Disclosures, meanwhile, show Sen. Alexander’s two sons, attorney Will Alexander and Drew Alexander, gave $1,000 each to the Haslam effort. Attorney Lee Barfield II of Nashville, the brother-in-law of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who almost ran, gave $2,500.

U.S. Rep. Wamp reported contributions of $1,253,190.36 and expenditures of $199,046.23. His cash balance on June 30 was $1,054,195.70.

His major donors included former Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman Bill Baxter of Knoxville, who gave $2,500 to the Wamp primary effort and another $2,500 to the general election campaign. Mr. Baxter’s wife and four children reported giving $5,000 each, as well, for a total of $30,000 from the Baxter family.

Closer to home, Lookout Mountain Republicans Pat Brock, Paul Brock Jr. and Charlie Brock gave $2,500 each to the Chattanooga congressman. Pat Brock is the brother of former U.S. Sen. Bill Brock, R-Tenn., a Wamp supporter.

With regard to the Democratic money race, state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, came in second, reporting total contributions of $607,941.15. But $251,049.15 of that came from a money transfer from Mr. Herron’s Senate campaign account, putting the total he raised from others for his gubernatorial bid at $356,000.

Sen. Herron was hampered from raising funds during the legislative session until June 1 by an in-session fundraising ban. He reported spending just $3,935.19 and had a cash balance of $604,005.96. Major Herron donors included attorney Charles Bone of Nashville, who gave $5,000. Chattanooga attorney Charles Gearheiser contributed $250.

Former state House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, D-Clarksville, who started her campaign last year and began the reporting period with about $60,000 on hand, reported raising $179,661.42 for the period. Records show $28,862.63, came from her old House account. She reported total expenditures of $95,345.61 and a cash balance of $144,617.77.

Her contributors included Cleveland attorney Jim Logan, who gave $250.

Records show Nashville businessman Ward Cammack quickly burning through money he has given or loaned his campaign. He gave his campaign $25,000 in the last reporting period and began the quarter with $33,400. He reported contributions from Jan. 15 to June 30 of $156,067 — $71,921.91 of which he put in himself. In addition, he made two $20,000 loans to his campaign, bringing his total receipts to $196,067.

That brings the total to about $136,000 that he has put into the campaign. But he reported expenditures of $215,074.47. Expenditures included $29,661 to Blue State Digital for his Web site, the disclosure shows. As of June 30, he had just $14,392.53 on hand. Democratic strategist Mark Brown left the campaign last month.

Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons reported raising $416,765.41 and spending $115,550.92. That left him with $301,214.49 on hand as of June 30.

Lt. Gov. Ramsey also was affected by the fundraising ban, and he began raising money on June 1. He said two weeks ago he had raised $1.3 million during the period. He had not filed his disclosure early Wednesday night. He had until midnight to file it electronically.

Excluded from filing was state Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, who entered the race in July.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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