published Friday, July 9th, 2010

Union donation stirs campaign curiosity


by Chris Carroll

The leading fundraiser in the Hamilton County Commission races has a discrepancy in his campaign finance records, and his opponent wants to know what’s behind the white-out.

Democrat Kenny Smith, District 8 County Commission candidate and Hamilton County School Board chairman, received $10,000 in two equal installments from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a labor union that represents workers in the public utilities industry, according to campaign finance documents.

  • photo
    School Board Chairman Kenny Smith Announces Run For District 8 County Commission Seat

The first $5,000 contribution raises questions.

Records dated Jan. 15 show the money came from the union’s national office in Washington, D.C., but on April 24, 10 days before Mr. Smith collected 382 votes to win an unopposed primary race, he filed a revised campaign financial document identifying the union’s Chattanooga headquarters as the check’s source.

A close look at the April 24 document shows evidence of white-out on the address form.

Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Audit Director Jay Moeck provided state records showing IBEW’s Washington, D.C., office contributing the check to Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith said he filed a third report Thursday and changed the address back to the Washington, D.C., bureau. Those forms were not publicly available Thursday.

“I’ve never tried to hide a contribution,” he said. “It was an oversight on the address. I’ve never tried to hide anything.”

Officials from the local IBEW say all contributions to Mr. Smith’s campaign came from Chattanooga.

“Our local contributions are sent to our international office in Washington,” said Dwight Wilhoit, president of IBEW Chattanooga Local 175. “There’s nobody in Washington that knows Kenny. (The money) came from Chattanooga ... you get back to the chicken or the egg.”

Opponent speaks up

But the two changes have Mr. Smith’s opponent wondering if the school board chairman is attempting to conceal national connections.

“If you can’t be honest with constituents before you’re elected, how can they trust you after?” asked Tim Boyd, Mr. Smith’s Republican opponent in District 8. “He’s playing around with state forms. It’s not like he’s a rookie in this.”

Mr. Moeck said candidates caught with incorrect campaign finance forms can face civil penalties.

A second $5,000 IBEW check addressed to Mr. Smith was sent by the union on Feb. 23.

Mr. Smith wrote in his updated report that the check came from the union’s Chattanooga offices on Volunteer Drive.

IBEW has not yet reported the second check to state election officials.

Its deadline to report the check is Monday.

Mr. Smith has received about 48 percent of his $56,723.59 in county race contributions from different trade unions spread across the country, according to his latest campaign finance disclosure.

Staff writer Dan Whisenhunt contributed to this story.

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notgriscom said...

Glad you followed Roy Exum's column on Chattanoogan.com to get this story.

July 9, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.

"I’ve never tried to hide a contribution, he said. It was an oversight on the address. I’ve never tried to hide anything".

Even an entry level File Clerk knows what White Out is and why it's used.

Another devious Progressive getting his goodies from the Big Union thugs and calling it just "an oversight".

Nice to see some News outlets in the US besides the conservative press are finally reporting on these guys, instead of always accusing the Repubs of being the "evil party of No". And the President of the local chapter 175 is still lying after the trio were all caught with their hands in the pot. Big surprise.

July 9, 2010 at 8:36 p.m.
HiDef said...

"Even an entry level File Clerk knows what White Out is and why it's used."

Yes, it is used when you make a mistake...

Anyway, the guy won an election in a race where he was unopposed and we're worried about whether the check came from the national office or the local office??? Where the does the national office get their money from? Uh, the locals. Ah, but we're worried that this guy might have ties to Washington because (cue the threatening music) he won a primary against himself. Yes, fishy business indeed...

July 9, 2010 at 9 p.m.
altavista said...

Reporters should be doing things like this. Sounds like HiDef would rather see political documents go unchecked...

July 9, 2010 at 9:27 p.m.
HiDef said...

Well, you would be incorrect altavista. I don't have all of the facts so for now I will give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Not to mention I've filled out many forms for the government and I know how confusing and specific they can be. Take the SF-86 form for example. Basically it's a 13 or so page security questionnaire about your life, required for jobs pertaining to national security. So far, in the last ten years I've filled one out on three separate occasions. Every time I worry that I've missed something that I've stated on a previous one or added something I unintentionally left off a previous one. I have never had anything to hide but I may have forgotten something or mistakenly put one thing in the place of another.

In the case above, I think if he was really trying to conceal something he would have gone to better lengths than just white out. In the end the money comes from the same people anyway, the union members, whether the check was sent from the IBEW headquarters in Washington or the locals in Chattanooga. Mountain out of a mole hill IMO.

July 9, 2010 at 10:42 p.m.
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