NASHVILLE - Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is criticizing GOP challenger Jim Tracy for saying in an email he was "proud" to get support from the head of the Tea Party Leadership Fund.
"I want to give you a heads up," the congressman said Tuesday in a letter to supporters. "It seems my opponent has gotten involved in a group whose business is defrauding members of the Tea Party."
DesJarlais said Tracy's letter "touts the fact that Todd Cefaratti, founder of the Tea Party Leadership Fund, believes that Tracy is 'exactly the type of person that the people of Tennessee's 4th District need to be their voice.'"
But DesJarlais said "a lot of folks in our community reached out to me to say they had a lot of concerns over this group. Well, they were right!"
Tracy reported receiving a $1,000 contribution from the group in his third quarter campaign disclosure.
In a statement, Tracy said, "With all the mistakes Congress is making, Congressman DesJarlais ought to spend more time worrying about running the country well than running me down."
DesJarlais cited concerns various other tea party groups have raised about how much money Cefaratti raises actually goes to candidates. He noted "CBS reported that Mr. Cefaratti owns a business that specializes in mining contact information and reselling the leads to clients in the reverse mortgage industry."
That apparently refers to a 2010 report by KPHO in Arizona, a CBS affiliate, that questioned another group tied to Cefaratti, JoinTheTeaParty.us. The report identified Cefaratti as its director and said the organization had spent $181,000 on website advertising.
The report said the director had "ties to companies that collect and sell people's personal information." But the article also quoted an attorney who replied to its inquiries saying the "website does not share the names or personal information of its donors with any other commercial interests."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.