published Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Fleischmann chief of staff Chip Saltsman takes unpaid leave of absence

by Chris Carroll

Chip Saltsman, former campaign consultant and current chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, has been on an unpaid leave of absence since June 8.

Saltsman and Fleischmann campaign finance chairman Tom Decosimo confirmed the leave this morning.

Saltsman, who earned $156,000 last year as Fleischmann’s top aide, said he’s working on the congressman’s re-election campaign “on a volunteer basis.” He said he would remain on leave until the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary election on Aug. 2.

"We'll make a decision then," Saltsman said.

Fleischmann was not immediately available for an interview.

Both Saltsman and Decosimo said the leave had nothing to do with a June 6 Politico article published two days before Saltsman went on leave.

A longtime political operative and national campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential run, Saltsman was quoted by Politico as saying, “I didn’t want to take the job as [Fleischmann’s] chief of staff.”

“I said, ‘No’ the first three times he asked me,” Saltsman told Politico. “He said, ‘Do it for two years, help me do the first election and you can go.’”

In an interview this morning, Saltsman said the leave also does not involve a recent lawsuit in which Saltsman was deposed, revealing that he approved superimposing the state seal of Tennessee on a visual representation of a nongovernment document in a 2010 Fleischmann campaign ad.

Saltsman’s testimony also showed that he never authenticated documents anonymously left in his garage that he later used for campaign ads against Fleischmann’s opponent.

Saltsman testified that he — not Fleischmann — ultimately approved campaign ads that included the disclaimer: “I’m Chuck Fleischmann, and I approve this message.”

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Times Free Press.

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