published Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

For some, politics a family matter

by Dan Whisenhunt

PDF: Greg Beck - Hamilton County Commission District 5

PDF: Bill Hullander - Hamilton County Commission County Trustee

PDF: Richard Casavant - Hamilton County Commission District 2

PDF: Paula T Thompson - Hamilton County Circuit Court Clerk

PDF: Pam Hurst - Hamilton County Register of Deeds

PDF: Jeff Brown - Hamilton County Register of Deeds

PDF: Gary Behler - Hamilton County Juvenile Court Clerk

PDF: Jim Hammond - Hamilton County Sheriff

PDF: Ronald Swafford - Hamilton County Juvenile Court Clerk.pdf

PDF: Bill Knowles - Hamilton County Clerk.pdf

PDF: Carl E Levi - Hamilton County Trustee

PDF: Claude Ramsey - Hamilton County Mayor

PDF: Richard Rankin - Hamilton County Mayor

PDF: Richard D Floyd - Hamilton County Mayor

PDF: Gary W Neil - Hamilton County Commission District 9

PDF: John C Turner - Hamilton County Commission District 9

PDF: Chester H Bankston - Hamilton County Commission District 9

PDF: Kenny Smith - Hamilton County Commission District 8

PDF: Jack M Martin - Hamilton County Commission District 8

PDF: Tim Boyd - Hamilton County Commission District 8

PDF: William T Turner - Hamilton County Commission District 8

PDF: John Allen Brooks - Hamilton County Commission District 6

PDF: Joe Graham - Hamilton County Commission District 6

PDF: Larry L Henry - Hamilton County Commission District 7

PDF: Gordon Anderson - Hamilton County Commission District 7.pdf

PDF: James A Fields - Hamilton County Commission District 2

PDF: Bernie Miller - Hamilton County Commission District 5.pdf

PDF: David Cantrell - Hamilton County Commission District 2

PDF: Fred Rees Skillern - Hamilton County Commission District 1

PDF: Laura Oakley - Hamilton County Commission Dist 1

PDF: Jim Coppinger - Hamilton County Commission District 3

PDF: Warren Mackey - Hamilton County Commission District 4

Behind the scenery of a candidate posing with their spouse and kids in a glossy ad there’s a real world where families campaign together.

In some cases, these family members become part of the campaign staff.

Zach Wamp, the GOP 3rd District congressman who’s running for governor, provides an example of this practice. Wamp’s sister, Allison Brewster, handles the campaign’s financial management and Wamp’s son, Weston, handles “e-communications” for the campaign, according to spokesman Sam Edelen.

“Both are paid for their work on the campaign, and Zach believes it is perfectly appropriate as long as real work and real responsibilities are being fulfilled,” Edelen said via e-mail. “All other Wamp family members are part-time volunteers working with thousands of other Zach Wamp volunteers to help elect him governor.”

In the past, Wamp’s wife, Kim, has worked for her husband’s congressional campaigns, making a base salary of $2,000 a month. This year, Wamp’s campaign paid her $438, which Edelen said was a reimbursement for food and supplies.

Brewster has been on the campaigns payroll since 2009 and, in 2010, Wamp’s campaign paid her $7,071, records show. Wamp has hired Weston’s employer, AkinsCrisp Public Strategies, for the campaign and this year has paid the company $53,735.

David Smith, a spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam, said Haslam’s campaign does not employ family members.

Rachel Taylor, a spokeswoman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey also said the campaign does not employ Ramsey’s family members.

Shelby White, a communications director for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter, said the campaign employs no family members.

Bruce Oppenheimer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, said candidates who pay members of their families may raise questions and ethical concerns.

“Is that person being paid a fair amount? Are they qualified to do the job or is this just a way of siphoning off campaign funds to a relative?” Oppenheimer asked. “It’s the same thing when campaigns rent space or buy things. Do they buy them for friends and relatives?”

He said it is “fairly common” for family members to volunteer for candidates, and several local candidates report that their families are actively seeking votes with them.

GOP 3rd Congressional District candidate Robin Smith, former chairwoman of the state GOP, said she would not “feel comfortable” paying a family member. But her son and daughter are in one of her TV campaign ads, saying she “did a great job running the Tennessee Republican Party.”

Tyler Howell, the stepson of GOP 3rd Congressional District candidate Tommy Crangle, said he holds the title of campaign coordinator, but said he is not paid by the campaign.

Brent Staton, a Democrat running for the 3rd District nomination, said his wife, son and daughter-in-law campaign with him. He said the ethics of putting family members on the campaign’s pay roll would be “questionable.”

Brenda Freeman Short, another Democratic 3rd Congressional District candidate, said her sister serves as her treasurer, but she is unpaid.

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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