NASHVILLE - Former Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester announced today he is filing complaints against Republican Gov. Bill Haslam over "secret" personal payments the governor made to political consultant Tom Ingram, a registered lobbyist Forrester said is also working on Haslam's political campaign.
Haslam should have reported the payments but didn't and thus broke state law, Forrester said during a news conference this afternoon. He said he plans to file formal complaints with both the state Ethics Commission and the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, asking them to investigate and take action.
"Tennesseans deserve honest leaders who say what they mean, especially when they're claiming to be on our side. Gov. Bill Haslam is hiding ... the truth from Tennesseans, just as he's hiding his tax returns," the former chairman said.
Forrester charged Haslam's failure to publicly disclose the payments and the amount are "one more stitch in what has been a disturbing pattern of secrecy" involving Haslam.
Ingram is one of the state's top GOP political consultants and lobbyists. He or others in his public affairs firm, The Ingram Group, have lobbied the administration on behalf of a number of clients.
Haslam told reporters in June that after using Ingram to advise him during his gubernatorial transition in late 2010 and early 2011, he decided he still wanted advice from Ingram, a one-time gubernatorial chief of staff and chief deputy for Gov. Lamar Alexander during the 1970s and 1980s.
"I saw how helpful Tom was in thinking through and setting up state government," Haslam said at the time."
He defended not disclosing the sums, saying it came out of his own pocket.
"It wasn't fair for the state to pay Tom. And he wasn't doing political work to where it should be campaign. He was literally helping me as I thought through organizational issues inside state government."
But asked during the same interview by reporters whether Ingram was providing him any political advice, the governor said, "Ultimately, I mean, it's hard. How do you dissect everything and say? But Tom's primary [mission], like I said, that came out of the transition when he was helping on organizational issues. Again, it didn't feel fair to have the campaign pay that."
Read more in Friday's Chattanooga Times Free Press.