published Friday, July 17th, 2009

Ramsey raises more than $1 million

Ramsey diclosure

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's major PAC contributors include:

* Pfizer PAC -- $15,000 (evenly split between primary and general)

* Tennessee Realtors PAC -- $15,000 (evenly split between primary and general)

* Tennessee Group Practitioners Coalition PAC -- $10,000 ($7,500 primary; $2,500 general)

* Independent Medicine (physicians) -- $7,500

NASHVILLE -- Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's gubernatorial fundraising got a big lift from trade groups and businesses that often have issues come before the General Assembly or do business with the state, midyear campaign disclosure shows.

Filings show political action committees alone coughed up an estimated $140,000 to the campaign of Lt. Gov. Ramsey, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press analysis of his campaign-finance report filed late Wednesday night with the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

Other readily identifiable interests, such as company owners or executives, gave at least $30,000, bringing the total linked to special interests contributing to the lieutenant governor to about $170,000, according to the report, which covered Jan. 15 through June 30.

That comes to 12.7 percent of the $1.3 million that Lt. Gov. Ramsey reported in his disclosure. The lieutenant governor, who is the Senate's speaker, disclosed expenditures of $70,308.24, leaving him with $1.26 million on hand. He also had $41,944 in unpaid obligations for other expenditures such as $11,268 in postage for mailings.

The lieutenant governor, who as a legislator was barred by a legal ban on in-session fundraising until June 1, recently announced he raised an "eye-popping" $1.3 million in 30 days from June 1 through June 30.

Mr. Todd said contributions from interests before the legislature do not sway Sen. Ramsey. As speaker, Sen. Ramsey appoints committees and controls the flow of legislation.

"Lt. Gov. Ramsey has been the most important and effective advocate for business and industry and commerce in our state, which is what we need," Mr. Todd said, calling it "no surprise that people who advocate pro-growth policies would support him."

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Among donors was the National Healthcare Corp. PAC, a nursing home chain, which in the last legislative session battled unsuccessfully to cap damage awards filed by patients or their families against nursing homes. The company's PAC gave $7,500, according to his disclosure. The Tennessee Health Care Association, which represents the nursing home industry, contributed another $3,500.

"Ron Ramsey's position on issues like lawsuit reform ... are pretty long-standing and predate any discussion of limiting lawsuit abuse," Mr. Todd said.

Top executives with Corrections Corporation of America, which operates one state prison and twice sought to privatize the entire state prison system, gave $9,500 to Lt. Gov. Ramsey, the disclosure shows. The company made no PAC contributions.

The money CCA executives gave to Lt. Gov. Ramsey far exceeded the $5,000 they gave to Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, a Republican running for governor, as well as U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. ($3,500), and Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons ($1,500), another Republican. State Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, received $500 from CCA President John Ferguson, according to his disclosure.

Neither Lt. Gov. Ramsey nor Sen. Herron, who also filed Wednesday night, were able to raise funds during most of the legislative session due to a state law that bans fundraising before the session ends or June 1, whichever comes first. The legislature went on until June 18, but records appear to indicate that neither Lt. Gov. Ramsey nor Sen. Herron accepted any PAC money until after the session.

Sen. Herron's disclosure shows he received $13,000 in money from PACs, or 2.1 percent, including $2,500 from the physicians' PAC, the Tennessee Independent Medicine's PAC. Lt. Gov. Ramsey received $7,500 from the group.

Sen. Herron said he made an effort to avoid seeking money from PACs until the session was over although he could have hit them up for contributions as of June 1.

"I am more comfortable asking for support out of session than during the session," Sen. Herron said.

On Tuesday, a Herron news release said his gubernatorial campaign "will report more (sic) $650,000, including raising more than $100,000 online." But the actual report, filed Wednesday night, shows he raised $607,941.

Moreover, that total included $251,049 Mr. Herron shifted over from his Senate campaign account. He actually raised $356,942 from donors. He came under fire Wednesday and Thursday from bloggers for also including about $40,000 in expenditures from his Senate account in the press release citing the $650,000 figure.

There was no effort to mislead, Sen. Herron said.

Lt. Gov. Ramsey's fundraising totals included a $120,000 transfer on April 7 from his Senate campaign account. The transfer allowed the lieutenant governor to boast he had surpassed U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., in fundraising.

Subtract the $120,000 and the Chattanooga congressman's $1.25 million actually edged out Lt. Gov. Ramsey for the No. 2 fundraising spot among GOP gubernatorial candidates.

Mr. Todd said any suggestion the campaign was trying to pump up his fundraising strength is "not true. Everything in our account is an allowable contribution under Tennessee law, and that $1.3 million is an accurate number."

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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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Enforcer said...

So why would CCA, which is entirely dependent for its revenues on taxpayer money, give $16,000 to Republicans and only $500 to Democrats?

They were "spreading their bets," of course, but only in the direction that could do them the most good.

Not that we're talking a lot of money here. For Republican candidate contributions, that's almost one CCA Tennessee guard's annual wages. It's also about one-third of a day's salary and stock awards for Board Chair and CEO John Ferguson.

For Democrats, Senator Herron as the only sitting officeholder received about 30 minutes worth of Ferguson's daily compensation.

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July 17, 2009 at 9:15 a.m.
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