published Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Buying politicians full-time

Tennessee's Republican-dominated Legislature should be deeply embarrassed and ashamed by its unbridled rush to soak up PAC and corporate cash -- money that typically comes laden with the obligation of awarding legislative favors and bills designed by and for special interest lobbies.

It has just gotten a C-minus in lobbying disclosure, a C-minus in political financing and a D-minus in ethics enforcement in a comprehensive new report issued by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, which grades the performance of state governments. (It also got an F for its excessively partisan decennial redistricting, which flagrantly pitted so many incumbent Democratic lawmakers against each other in pending fall elections.)

All that's bad enough. It tells you that our overly partisan lawmakers are being bought and led by lobbyists, smothering opposing voices, and muffling any possible flack from its hamstrung ethics committee, which has not publicly released any complaints it might have received since its establishment in 2006 in the wake of the Tennessee Waltz scandal.

No embarrassment

Yet Republican state lawmakers seem immune to embarrassment. They are now reinforcing their abysmal scores in the first three categories cited above by fast-tracking a bill that would further swamp the Legislature with corporate and PAC political cash.

This comes on top of the Republican-controlled Legislature's overwhelming approval last spring of a bill that lifted the ban on direct political contributions by corporations to lawmakers and candidates, making Tennessee one of the few states that allows such donations. Under that bill, corporations -- and their potentially anonymous leaders -- are allowed to donate $10,700 per election (primaries, regular elections and run-offs are all separate elections) to candidates for statewide office and the state senate, and $7,100 per election for local offices and the state House. These and other limits on donations, to be sure, are now in line under collateral legislation to be regularly adjusted for inflation.

Removes limits

The latest bill (HB 3281/SB 3645), co-sponsored by Hamilton County's State Sen. Bo Watson and GOP Rep. Deborah Maggart, would further broaden special interest campaign donations by removing the aggregate limits on PAC contributions to state and local political candidates.

Those limits now restrict a candidate's receipt of special interest PAC donations to 50 percent of the total donations received by candidates in multi-candidate races. With the ban lifted, candidates could receive fully 100 percent of their campaign funding from special interest PACs.

Relying on PACs

A limit of 50 percent is bad enough. But if the current Watson bill passes both chambers -- it has already zipped through the Senate on a party-line vote, and its before House committees now -- state and local candidates, especially incumbents, could simply rely on lobbyists and special interest PACs for their campaign financing.

Lobbyists' PAC cash already constitutes the bulk of the easy money that flows to easily bought legislators. Allowing special interest PACs to virtually own a candidate or incumbent, at both the state and local levels, by virtue of full funding for their campaigns would make it even easier for special interest groups to elect a politician who would -- nod, wink -- vote for their interests full-time.

Talk about bought-and-paid-for -- this is the financial pinnacle of potentially corrupt ownership of the Legislature, and probably a raft of local politicians as well. Who would need small donations from small donors, or care about protecting broader public interests?

Disastrous for public

This is inimical, indeed disastrous, to the public interest. It also speaks volumes about Sen. Watson that he is sponsoring such outrageous legislation. He should stop this cash-laden freight train now. His Nashville office number is 615.741.3227. His email is sen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.gov.

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timbo said...

Harry, and Jimmy Neifah was better? Give me a break. His grade would be an F.

As usual it just sounds like sour grapes because the republicans cleaned the democrats clock in the last few elections. Get over it. The Tennessee public finally got smart.

March 28, 2012 at 10:52 a.m.
chet123 said...

THE HATER FINANCED BY THE RICH AND GREEDY....SO BRAG ON TIMBO....YOU'RE NOT A REAL MAN IF YOU HAVE TO KISS THE BUTT OF RICH AND GREEDY....NO VICTORY IS WORTH THAT.....

SO CLEANING CLOCK IS NOT THE ONLY THING YOU BUTT KISSER OF THE RICH AND GREEDY DID....YOU CLEAN THE CRAP OFF THE RICH AND GREEDY BY KISSING THEIR BUTTS

HOPE THAT MAKE YOU FEEL WHOLE HA HA HA HA HA

March 28, 2012 at 11:16 a.m.
chet123 said...

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE...600,000 MEN DIED IN A CIVIL WAR BECAUSE OF BUTT KISSERS LIKE TIMBO WHO HAD NOTHING TO BENEFITS FROM......BUT A POOR DIRT FARMER WHO KISSED UP TO RICH PLANTATION OWNERS.....AND SAID..LOOK WHAT I DID BOSSCHUCK,CHUCH,CHUCK,CHUCK!...IT'S IN THE BLOOD LINE HA HA HA

March 28, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.
timbo said...

chet123....The ravings of a lunatic.

March 28, 2012 at 12:28 p.m.
acerigger said...

A couple weeks ago Rep. Curry Todd helped kill the Tennessee Democrats’ “Influence Disclosure Act,” which would have required revealing the private interests behind the model legislation and boilerplate bills which are the source of so much state policy these days. “This is a bad bill … horrible bill, really,” Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, said during the House State and Local Government Subcommittee meeting. “I know what it’s getting back at. It’s getting back at ALEC.” He is , however, the Tennessee state chair of ALEC as well as an ALEC board member. How nice that he was in a position to quash the Influence Disclosure Act. Conflict of interest, much? Isn’t a bedrock conservative principle that government is awful and the free market just grand? If private enterprise does everything so much shinier, sparklier, cheaper, and better than government ever could, shouldn’t Republicans be all in favor of shouting its successes from the rooftops? Look how wonderful CCA and its privatized prisons are! Thank goodness that, through their involvement in ALEC, they wrote the “show your papers” immigration law, allowing law enforcement to round up all the brown people into CCA-operated, taxpayer-funded detention centers! I mean, it’s not like Republicans weren’t vigorously defending these laws anyway, right? They love capitalism and hate government, so why the secrecy?http://southernbeale.wordpress.com./

March 28, 2012 at 2:07 p.m.

Yeah and the self righteous democrats have never been bought or paid for by unions huh. That is why Osama Obama said only union contractor could bid on government contracts. Because the unions were some of his biggest campaign contributors. So it works both ways, only difference is some "FOOLS" wont ever admit that.

March 28, 2012 at 2:58 p.m.
joneses said...

I remember when Tennessee was totally controlled by the dummycrats we were ranked the most corrupt state in the country thanks to the Fords of Memphis, Crutchfield, who was arrested for corruption, Ray, Pardon for Pay" Blanton and other notable corrupt dummycrats.

March 29, 2012 at 6:40 a.m.
conservative said...

There is no Demoncrat party without special interest. It could not exist without special interest.

The AARP, the various unions: CWA, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, UAW International, United Farm Workers, NEA, to name some, sexual pervert organizations, humanists and atheists organizations, the ACLU, Abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood ( obvious oxymoron ), NARAL, People for the American Way ( what a lie! ), the NOW Cows ( quite obvious ), Media Matters, The Daily Kos- the list is long.

Now, why do you think this Lieberal, Socialist, and Demoncrat party member failed to mention these?

March 29, 2012 at 9:06 a.m.
riverman said...

Lets see, the Tennessee Waltz, the corrupt Ford welfare district in Memphis, Ray Blanton. Funny the bedwetters on the left side of the Editorial page all of a sudden are worried about contributions and Gerrymandering. Cry me a river Democrats.

March 29, 2012 at 6:12 p.m.
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