NASHVILLE — While Gov. Bill Haslam may not make an endorsement in Tennessee's Republican U.S. Senate primary between U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, the governor's father, Pilot Flying J founder James Haslam II, is openly placing his bet on the West Tennessee farmer.
Fincher's fourth quarter financial disclosure shows that Jim Haslam and his wife, Natalie, each gave $2,700 to the West Tennessee farmer's GOP primary effort as well as a like amount to his general election account for a total of $10,800.
Individuals can give only $2,700 directly per election, or a total of $5,400.
The Haslam contributions are among $1.45 million in contributions that Fincher will be reporting to the Federal Election Commission, an amount the campaign revealed in an early-January news release, but which didn't include details on donors and expenditures.
Blackburn issued her own release at the time, saying she raised $2 million.
Fincher's campaign provided the disclosure at the Times Free Press' request, as did Democrat Phil Bredesen, the former Tennessee governor who is running unopposed in the Democrat primary.
Blackburn's campaign simply re-emailed a reporter the campaign's Jan. 4 news release.
All the disclosures will eventually be filed with the Federal Election Commission. But because the U.S. Senate for decades has steadfastly refused to put themselves under the same electronic reporting requirements that candidates for both U.S. House and president are under, posting to the FEC site can often take a while and candidates can "snail-mail" them or have them hand-delivered.
Fincher's disclosure shows he spent just $90,883 in the fourth quarter, leaving $3.7 million in cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
The former congressman's fundraising is headed by Kim Kaegi, who has worked for Haslam, as well as Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, whose announced departure last fall opened the way for others to run. Kaegi has also done work for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., among others.
A review shows the vast amount of financial support came from individual donors, mostly Tennesseans. Individual donors accounted for $1.35 million of the total amount raised by Fincher.
Meanwhile, Political Action Committees, many of them representing farm or agribusinesses, accounted for $94,000 of contributions to Fincher, a former member of the House Agriculture Committee.
The report also reveals a number of well-known Republican current or former top business leaders — who over the years have supported Haslam, Corker and Alexander — opened up their checkbooks for Fincher.
That includes AutoZone founder J.R. "Pitt" Hyde of Memphis, who gave $5,400 as did Stephen Smith, a one-time finance chairman to two Alexander Senate campaigns and chairman of Nashville-area builder Haury & Smith Contractors, and Raja Jubran, CEO of Denark Construction in Knoxville, and a close ally of Haslam.
Former AT&T Tennessee President Marty Dickens also gave $5,400 while First Horizon National Corp. President Bryan Jordan of Memphis did as well. And so did Sharon Pryse, founder of Knoxville-based The Trust Company and Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton of Knoxville.
Chattanooga-area donors included Emerson Russell of Emerson Properties, who gave $1,000 and attorneys Kurt Faires and Michael St. Charles of Chambliss Law who respectively gave $1,000 and $1,500.
Part of Fincher's rural Tennessee base, fellow farmers, collectively kicked in more than $50,000.
Asked last week whether the governor was endorsing anyone in the Senate primary, Haslam press secretary Jennifer Donnals said "no, he has not." After a reporter pointed out his father's contribution and sought to know whether the governor might, Donnals said, "I don't believe he intends to endorse anyone."
Bredesen, meanwhile, jump-started his race in early December with the help of many of his former staffers from his two terms as governor from 2003 to 2011 and some going back to his time as Nashville mayor. Bredesen also raised large amounts from Nashville's business community and local attorneys.
Contributors included former state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, who gave $2,700, and state Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr, who maxed out at $5,400. Both are top executives at Silicon Ranch, a solar-power venture Bredesen invested in.
Former state Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz gave $5,400. Nashville businessman Bill Freeman, who once feuded publicly with Bredesen when he was governor but later made up and urged him to run for Senate, gave $2,700. Former Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, then-Gov. Bredesen's legal counsel, maxed out at $5,400.
Chattanooga-area donors included Roberts Mills with Pantheon Financial Management ($1,000), W.A. Bryan Patten, founder of financial advising firm Patten and Patten Inc. ($2,500), and attorney Jim Logan of Cleveland ($2,700).
Common Ground PAC, whose honorary chairman if U.S. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a former Virginia governor, gave $5,000.