published Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Tennessee American Water pumping money into Chattanooga races

by Cliff Hightower
The Tennessee American Water Company facility in Chattanooga is shown in this aerial file photograph.
The Tennessee American Water Company facility in Chattanooga is shown in this aerial file photograph.
Photo by John Rawlston.


Money given to Chattanooga mayor and council candidates this campaign season by Tennessee American Water's political action committee:

* Mayoral candidate Andy Berke: $1,800

* District 2 candidate Roger Tuder: $500

* District 3 Councilwoman Pam Ladd: $500

* District 6 Councilman Russell Gilbert: $500

* District 8 candidate Moses Freeman: $500

Source: Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance


Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

A 2-year-old political action committee formed by Tennessee American Water is putting money to Chattanooga's mayor and council races.

The Tennessee Valley Water Alliance has given almost $4,000 to mayoral candidate Andy Berke and four council candidates, state records show.

"As an investor-owned water utility provider, we want to support individuals who we believe support issues and ideals in the best interest of our customers, environment and local economy," Laura Vinson, spokeswoman for Tennessee American Water, said this week.

Vinson said Tennessee American has done business in Chattanooga for 126 years and has more than 78,000 Chattanooga customers. She said the company expects no favoritism because of the contributions.

But mayoral candidate Guy Satterfield sees meaning in the contributions. He pointed out that former Mayor Jon Kinsey tried to take over the water company in the 1990s and current Mayor Ron Littlefield has talked about the same thing over the past several years.

Littlefield recently set up the Moccasin Bend Clean Water Authority, made up of the city's sewer and water quality divisions. Littlefield has said expanding to include water utilities could occur in the future.

Berke said via email Wednesday that he had talked with Tennessee American as a state senator about a state bill to reduce Chattanooga utility bills. He said no pledges ever were made.

"At no time have they ever asked me for a specific position on the water authority," he said. "No contribution made to my campaign will ever affect my position on an issue."

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