NASHVILLE - An effort by House Republican leaders to put state lawmakers, candidates and party caucuses on the honor system for reporting direct corporate political contributions blew up today amid charges it would invite corruption.
Democrats like Rep. JoAnne Favors of Chattanooga questioned exempting corporations from having to directly disclose their contributions and relying solely on lawmakers to report the money on their own state disclosures.
The current system, which requires both to disclosure, is a vital accounting cross check, critics said.
"We don't want to go through a situation like we've been through in the past," Favors said. "We don't want to place ourselves in a position where we could be arrested or indicated or suspected of doing something illegal or unethical. We don't want the citizens of the state to think that our votes can be bought."
Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin defended what he was trying to do.
"We are not bribeable," Casada retorted. "Don't insinuate that someone's going to be bribed because you are taking a couple of extra thousand dollars more. If you are prone to be character flawed and taking a bribe, you're going to take it on $50 just like you will $50,000. This is a way to educate your voters about who you are and what you stand for. This is free speech."
But as debate dragged on and Republicans faced increasing defections from GOP members worried about what voters might think about the move.
The bill failed on a 48-41 vote.
Favors and every other Democrat voted against the bill. Also voting no were 12 Republicans, including Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, voted for the bill as did Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland. But Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville, abstained as did Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton.
Because the bill required 50 votes to pass, an abstention effectively served as a no vote.
Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.