published Monday, December 5th, 2011

Like father, like son? Wamp donors ponder


by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    Zach Wamp is the former U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 3rd congressional district, serving from 1995 to 2011.
    Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Behind in the polls a day before he lost Tennessee’s Republican gubernatorial primary last year, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp skewered the eventual nominees — Bill Haslam and Mike McWherter.

“Both of them are really running on their daddies’ fumes,” Wamp told supporters near Nashville. “They wouldn’t even be in this game if it weren’t for their fathers.”

He might regret saying that.

Wamp’s 24-year-old son Weston recently mounted a primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the man who replaced the elder Wamp in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District. Records show 72 percent of Weston Wamp’s top donors to date gave money to his father’s gubernatorial campaign, congressional campaigns or both.

Glenn Morris Jr., president and CEO of M&M Industries, recently pledged $2,500 to Weston Wamp’s campaign.

“I have enormous respect for Zach Wamp, and that’s why I’m doing it,” said Morris. “If his son wants to run, I find that great out of loyalty for Zach. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”

Donors who have pledged $5,000 to Weston Wamp’s campaign gave $100,780 to his father’s final six congressional campaigns, according to the Federal Election Commission. The same group donated $97,425 to the elder Wamp’s unsuccessful run for governor, state documents show.

The help goes beyond an inherited Rolodex. Three Republican donors confirmed Zach Wamp has called or emailed them to discuss his son’s campaign.

“It wasn’t lobbying and it wasn’t a hard sell,” said Michael Lebovitz, a CBL & Associates Properties executive who declined to support Weston Wamp’s campaign despite years of four-figure political donations to his father.

“Weston’s a nice guy,” Lebovitz continued. “I don’t think running for Congress is a starter job. I encouraged him to pursue other political areas before becoming a member of Congress.”

Tom Decosimo, an accountant and longtime Wamp supporter, said the former congressman approached him in a restaurant.

“He said, ‘T.D., my son’s going to be running for Congress,’” Decosimo recalled. “And I said, ‘Gosh, that’s too bad.’”

Wamp later sent Decosimo an email asking him to “focus on Chuck” as the campaign progresses.

“He asked me to be extra careful not to denigrate his son for his age,” Decosimo said. “That was a reasonable request.”

Lebovitz and Decosimo said they would support Fleischmann in the primary.

“I respect my friendship with Zach, but he gave up the seat,” Decosimo said. “Chuck Fleischmann deserves to have a chance to show what he’s got. One year is simply not enough.”

Not everyone feels that way.

Including Morris, a dozen people who gave a combined $23,000 to re-elect Fleischmann have donated to Wamp since he entered the race.

Businessman Lewis Card Jr., who gave Fleischmann $2,000 in March, is one. He recently called Fleischmann to say he had given $5,000 to Weston Wamp.

“I think we’d have more horsepower with Weston than I do Chuck,” said Card, who has donated more than $20,000 to Zach Wamp campaigns since 1997. “Weston knows Washington a whole lot better. He’s been half-raised up there and has the contacts.”

Fleischmann declined comment through a spokesman.

As part of an effort to raise at least $250,000 by year’s end, Weston Wamp holds his first fundraiser tonight. Out of the fundraiser’s 75 host committee members who have pledged $5,000 or $2,500 to the son, 52 contributed money to the father at some point.

Sources close to Wamp’s campaign have acknowledged tonight’s fundraiser must be successful for the campaign to flourish. Not including an estimated $200,000 from a private fundraiser featuring House Speaker John Boehner, Fleischmann has $352,288 on hand for re-election.

Weston Wamp said it took him a long time to persuade some donors.

“I don’t expect them to support me simply because my dad is Zach Wamp, and my experience is that’s not good enough for them anyway,” Weston Wamp said Friday. “I am Zach Wamp’s son, and I’m proud to be the son of a man who served very well in Congress from our area. I’ve got a lot of him in me, but I’m my own man.”

Other supporters emphasized the fact that 23 host committee members for Weston Wamp’s fundraiser never gave money to Zach Wamp. A few have never contributed to any politician.

“This is not Zach’s campaign,” said John Healy, a partner at Elder Healy & Co. who has pledged $5,000 to Weston Wamp. “When people meet Weston and see him and feel and touch him — that’s where he’ll earn the respect that he can go and do this.”

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eeeeeek said...

You can't go right with a wamp

December 5, 2011 at 8:27 a.m.
chattcitizen said...

yes you can, you will go wrong with a weston.

December 5, 2011 at 8:36 a.m.
kdawg said...

Being hammered at Alleia on Saturday night is a great way to raise money and awareness for the job of a Congressman.

December 5, 2011 at 8:45 a.m.
lookinfour said...

I never liked the fact that when Wamp entered the political arena one of his big campaign promises was on having term limits. No career politicians he preached. Then when it was his time to go, he completely back tracked and said his work wasn't done and he needed to stay in congress. I lost respect for him then. Typical Washington politician to me. Onto his son. I agree with the Lebovitz comment in this article. Congress is not a starter job. How is this young guy going to campaign and talk about the experiences he's had in life that give him the knowledge he needs to lead us. He can't. He needs a real job first. Private sector, not government. Zach is doing disservice to his son by pushing him into the arena. Weston, come back in about ten or twelve years and I'll consider you.

December 5, 2011 at 8:55 a.m.
TN37408 said...

I voted for Wamp on a couple of occasions. I really don't feel like he made great strides during his 400 years in congress. If you ask many devoted republicans around town, they would agree. I believe Weston loves the spotlight and I think he was advised that the shelf life on his last name was only a few years. If he wanted to do anything with the Wamp name, it needed to be "now or never". I don't really think he's ready for this role just because he's been around Washington for a while. Honestly, I don’t think he’s needed in that role just yet.

December 5, 2011 at 9:01 a.m.
adolphochs said...

Is this the Weston Wamp that wanted to settle a dispute with one of Bill Haslam's staffers in the parking lot at a debate? Can we get a list of W2's accomplishments and life experiences that he's going to draw on to bring " bold fresh ideas to Washington"? He told me that "he was going to change the tone of the debate in Washington". To his credit, he has avoided many of the problems his father had as a young man but avoiding embarrassment is hardly criteria for an elected office.

December 5, 2011 at 9:16 a.m.
Marathon5454 said...

Nepotism is fine for private jobs when you own the company and want to promote "junior' over someone else---But nepotism is very unattractive in public sector jobs

December 5, 2011 at 10 a.m.
skyboxer said...

Please, God help us. Zach Wamp was one of the most transparent phonies to ever come out of Chattanooga politics. He was little more a handmaiden for the local big bucks, Christian right winger ad hoc corporatocracy. The rest of you who voted for him did so because he believes in "family values" (whatever that is and, oh yeah, JESUS!) His son running for office is nepotistic at best ... a great big "halogen wattage" smile with nothing behind it ... think Andrea McGary. Why don't you Republicans find a candidate to back that has some substance and depth.

December 5, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.

The current average age for the House of Representatives is 57 years old. How has that worked for us? Are things getting accomplished? Are we happy? The (national) answer is no. Our Government has lost focus on what and who America really is... It's bigger than these "blue-collared farmers" that every candidate talks about and who's mythical vote they are constantly seeking. Well, sorry for the bitter pill but it is not 1875 anymore. America is more than ever about youth, especially as we face problems and issues that the older generations simply do not understand, because they cannot relate.
Most of you probably still laugh about the incredible effects of social media (Egypt), the rapidly approaching future of robotics (Driver-less cars now legal in Nevada), the near-future ability to print organs (and gold, and oil). No, you all are probably right though, God forbid we elect one person into congress that doesn't have an MBA and ten years experience working at some miserable firm getting crushed by this abstract "real-world" experience that is spoken so highly of. No, it probably is safer to elect another 50 year old to weigh in on these monumental issues while at the same time struggling to figure out their new smartphone.
Be honest with yourselves for one minute. Do you really think you are a better person because you are Manager / Junior Partner somewhere? You probably wish you could forget most of the things you have learned/seen and remember what it was like to be that naive twenty-five year old that still wanted to make a difference. No, you all are probably right though, us twenty-somethings should probably spend the next decade being mentored by you all who were in turn mentored by the same people that have a 9% approval rating. We don't need change...
With all of that being said, values are obviously important and we need a proportionate "old guard" to instill respect and tradition in younger generations. Twenty somethings still have a lot to learn from their elders just like thirty and forty somethings still do. Life is a continual learning process that doesn't magically end once somebody reaches ten years experience which the public has apparently deemed the required minimum experience level. Our forefathers decided that a twenty-five year old has enough experience to serve in the House of Representatives, but you all are probably right, Weston needs more time to "learn" when he could be serving his constituents in literally what doctors would refer to as the prime of one's life. You want a personable, public-facing, approachable Congressmen who works eighty-hour weeks? Yea, Chuck is your better bet... Weston is probably reading Reader's Digest right now before a 4:30 dinner. If only he had more experience...

December 5, 2011 at 12:35 p.m.

The 112th Congress is among the oldest in history. There are a handful of thirty-somethings, several dozen forty-somethings. This does not sound like a healthy, proportionate balance. You want to talk about people being out of touch, show me a seventy-five year old Congressmen. There are more people in Congress over seventy then their are under forty. You all are probably right though, our current rationalizations seem to be correct and we should keep on keeping on. We aren't in that bad of shape yet are we? Stop "demonizing" youth as such a bad thing. Who starts innovative companies? Who thinks "outside the box"? Who is not afraid of change?

In summary, I continually find it ridiculous that time-and-again these elections are never about issues, ideas, and solutions. The primary is eight months away and it is already evident that this will turn ugly, quickly. Weston's "youth and inexperience" will serve as primary talking points again, and again, and again. We should be focusing on organizing moderated debates, public town-hall meetings, and challenging these candidates to provide feasible solutions to real problems. You all are probably right though, keep doing what your doing.
- a 25-year-old business owner, job creator, and status-quo hater

December 5, 2011 at 12:37 p.m.
garon7 said...

SKYBOXER & Everyone else,

Tres Wittum is the perfect young man for the Job! Please check out his info. Thanks for your time!

Wittum cares about Tennessee and seeing his generation rise to meet the challenges that have been passed down. Unlike others, he has built his own name and we admire his courage, integrity, and honor. Tres is championing the message that will return our nation to its status as a “shining city on a hill”: personal responsibility, individual freedom, and moral integrity.

link text

December 5, 2011 at 1:01 p.m.
EverydayDrake said...

First of all, after reading what could have been a very interesting article on issues - differences or similarities - readers should see this for bottom level reporting about nonsense, useless words about campaign donations and pseudo influencers. Typical irrelevant local reporting with no regard for actual campaign issues or stances from the candidates.

Is this what serves for political reporting today? Well, this guy has raised X money - I suppose its time to write a story about him. Rubbish.

The comments are less than fulfilling as well. Let's get into issues and what matters here - how our elected official plans to impact our community and what positions and points he or she stands behind. I really don't care who is writing the checks, I care what our elected representatives plan to do.

What’s most disgusting and disturbing is taking a tour of Fleischmann’s “campaign website” – if it can even be described as that. The people, especially my generation (late 20’s), demand a candidate who can take action and stand behind real beliefs. After searching for 5 minutes on Chuck’s site – you may be able to find his “Issues” section. Two tabs from the home page. It’s beyond disappointing and the people of District 3 need to realize it. Links to PR garbage releases that tip toe around actual issues and deliver meaningless marketing speak? Is that who we want representing us? God help us.

I don’t know enough about Weston yet, but at least from his site I can immediately find the issues tab, with content (albeit in third person) that pertains to the issues facing America today. Thankfully he addresses key problems. Is it too much to ask for a politician to say what he or she actually thinks, without worry that they will upset the other 50% or the “upset their base”? We should elect them because of their core principles and commitment to improving our Nation, end of story. The system is broken when our representatives can no longer say what they believe, for fear a shift in the polls next week will cause them to be quoted and drive away voters. We deserve better.

Instead of lukewarm articles about campaign fundraising, let’s focus on the issues ahead of us, and demand these politicians put marketing speak aside and debate the points. That is what our forefathers believed over 200 years ago and it is more relevant than ever today. These commentators and our community should demand more from each candidate and hopefully find the strength to vote for someone who truly believes in something. Not just another J.D. in his 40’s.

As “frontrowgentleman” states – we should be demanding debates, town hall meetings, and real stances on issues that these candidates stand behind. “I’m for the Second Amendment” doesn't cut it - I want to know how a candidate plans to drive economic development, improve education, and defend our Nation. We deserve better. Let’s demand it.

December 5, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.
dpall738 said...

Welcome to politics, EverydayDrake. I'm sure you're one of Weston's boys, so it makes sense that you only know what your daddy tells you too.

It is important to know who's writing the checks for one reason: The politician, if elected, typically throws back favors (tax breaks, infrastructure projects, etc) for the money that got him elected.

It's worth knowing if Zach's friends are giving to Weston. And (big shock) they are. You're wildly naive if you don't think that's important, but we've already established that.

Also, the TFP's done a story on "the issues ahead of us," as you put it in such a big-boy way: http://www.tfponline.com/news/2011/oct/16/fleischmann-wamp-sites-offer-similar-themes-gop-co/

Another big shock! Chuck and Weston agree on basically every conservative theme without offering anything of substance.

December 5, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
EverydayDrake said...

The TFP really gets into it with 3 sound bites from each candidate. Whew! Now that is campaign reporting. Enthralling stuff.

I agree with you, dpall738, that tracking the money is important - and yes, it matters big picture. But so much less than the issues. Every politician has probably sold their soul a few times at this point - which is why we need to hear the issues, and more importantly hear them directly from the candidates' mouths.

If a candidate's best defense mechanism per the TFP is "declining to comment" (through a spokesperson, no less), really what type of leader or official is that?

Maybe I am naive, to think that the American political system is better than this, when likely voters as yourself get fired up to defend candidates with little apparent backbone. Like I said, I haven't heard enough about either yet, which is why real debates and public discussions are necessary.

I suppose it is naive to think that a candidate should run on actual beliefs and not Press Releases and "middle of the road", non-inflammatory language. This isn't a PTA meeting, it's an election for our political representative in Washington, and I think we deserve better than someone who's top goal isn't to piss anyone off.

To quote a previous commenter, "I continually find it ridiculous that time-and-again these elections are never about issues, ideas, and solutions."

Good point.

December 5, 2011 at 3:32 p.m.
dpall738 said...

EverydayDrake: You might want to read everything a little more carefully. First off, I've never written a word about supporting Chuck. So let go of that assumption.

Secondly, in the article I linked to in my first post, Chuck declines comment and Weston says he'll be more "prescriptive" as the campaign progresses. Looks like that story came out six weeks ago. I don't think he's gotten any more prescriptive! Your guy is just as quiet as the incumbent.

Since nobody wants to talk about the issues - if everybody hides behind aides and/or empty filler on a website - I think it's especially important to know where the money's coming from. An hour ago you decided it was nonsense, but I'm glad you've come around.

December 5, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.
Gingerkid said...

I'll be 33 this week. It is astounding when I think about how much I've learned via life and business experience since I was 25. As I reflect about why I find WW's campaign offensive, I think it's a combination of fators. I do not necessarily object to him being a former Congressman's son. I do not object to young man being in Congress. However, a 25 year old who is the son of the former Congressman just doesn't pass the smell test for me. To say he lacks experience is a resounding understatement.

December 5, 2011 at 4:29 p.m.
Gingerkid said...

@frontrowgentleman- "Be honest with yourselves for one minute. Do you really think you are a better person because you are Manager/Junior Partner somewhere? You probably wish you could forget most of the things you have learned/seen.."

This statement alone shows exactly why you don't appreciate the value of years of experience in business and in life generally. You cannot appreciate something you do not have. It's okay. When I was 25, I thought I knew everything, too. At 33, I realize that I was woefully wrong. I'm sure at 43, I'll realize how much of an idiot I am right now.

So, that begs the question: What is an appropriate age to run for Congress? It's certainly different for each person, but I'll bet the farm that 25 is way too young. Further, I am very, very hesitant to vote anyone into Congress that (1) is not married and (2) has no children. Those two parts of life are so very important to personal development that they cannot be overstated.

December 5, 2011 at 4:42 p.m.

@Gingerkid - There is certainly a lot to be said regarding the value that is obtained through years of personal/professional life experiences. Just as I can look back at myself several years ago and see how "far" I have come, I am sure in ten years, let alone next year, I will be able to do the same. I have learned quickly, and often the hard way, how little it is that I actually know and have experienced.
I still see this in certain scenarios as being a good thing, for several reasons. As we all "grow up" we become accustomed to certain things: security, steady income, time off, family time. While there is nothing inherently negative about any of these, they do tend to make people more risk adverse.
I believe this is one of the underlying reasons why most companies are started by twenty-year-olds and why innovation is largely attributed to younger generations. We have less to lose and are willing to take greater risks. I am not married and do not have kids, so this of course is my personal opinion, but I feel like it would be much harder to accomplish certain things when your primary concern is the safety and well-being of your family. While the family man/woman has certainly experienced life-events that I cannot fathom at this point in my life, I am willing to bet that priorities drastically change and "fighting for the people" takes a backseat to "providing steady income/security for your family." It can obviously be done, people do both everyday, but I think we all could be surprised by the relative effectiveness that younger people could bring to all forms of government from the top down.
This is and will always be an eternal debate, the know-it-all twenty somethings against our parents/elders/bosses/etc. I do not think there is necessarily a "correct" side though and there needs to be a balance, youthful thinkers working with experienced mentors. Hopefully this is not too much to ask for regarding our government. If the "Super Committee" cannot get things done, maybe it's time to start mixing things up a little bit. My two cents...

December 5, 2011 at 5:21 p.m.
Marathon5454 said...

@frontrowgentleman Does Weston, by any chance, call you Uncle--Nepotism here is strong stuff

December 5, 2011 at 5:46 p.m.

@Marathon5454 - Haha no but when I meet him I might ask him to refer to me as that...after I grill him as to what he actually plans to do once elected.
Regarding nepotism, that is a tough issue and it seems that rarely can a candidate "benefiting" from nepotism make right in the public eye. For better or for worse, I am unburdened by a family business, whether it is brick-and-mortar or political. Just like how I cannot know what it is like to look at life through the lens of having a family, most of us cannot know what it is like to grow up with a relatively famous last name.
Regarding the specific case of Weston Wamp, if he truly feels called to serve and thinks that he can do a good job, why should he not leverage what resources his father can provide. Wouldn't we all do the same? Is his road a little easier than a "no-name" 25 year old who has the same aspirations? Sure, but it doesn't seem like he is coasting into office because of his last name, he will probably have to prove himself two-fold in order to get elected which in the end will probably be a good thing. I think if he was ten years older he might have this election "in the bag" but I would think even devout Zach Wamp supporters will not simply let a twenty-five-old through unquestioned. With age comes wisdom right?
Who knows though. We will all undoubtedly watch this play out over the coming months and hopefully we will be "lucky" enough to hear meaningful debates between the two candidates.

December 5, 2011 at 6:13 p.m.
skyboxer said...

Weston Wamp is a light weight competitor who has — not an unremarkable performance record — but no record at all (in ANY field of endeavor.) He is remarkably unqualified to serve the public interest in any capacity. Indeed, the fact that he is running is absurd, but even more absurd is that anyone is supporting him except, perhaps, the local Puppet Masters who see in him a naive, young and inexperienced individual who they can shape, mold and manipulate to serve their own private agendas. Once again, I challenge all Republicans out there ... is THIS the best you can do? Just pathetic...

December 5, 2011 at 7:05 p.m.
Facts said...

I feel so much better reading this, after being sucked into the "Christian" campaign of Fleischmann/Huckabee. At least I was lied to. Folks supporting Weston are completely willing to support an arrogant boy who just needs a job.

December 5, 2011 at 8:01 p.m.
bret said...

I am declining to comment through my spokesman.

December 6, 2011 at 4:21 p.m.
EastRidger said...

Mr. Lewis Card Jr. I am sure is a good businessman but he is so naive it makes me think Legacy Boy has a chance to win.

The Washington D.C. contacts that you say Weston have are the very ones that think he is joke and know he would be a diaster as a Congressman. The 3rd District would be considered a laughingstock with no political clout whatsoever at the Congressional level.

December 14, 2011 at 1:15 a.m.
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