Gov. Haslam's war chest well-padded

Gov. Haslam's war chest well-padded

February 1st, 2014 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Bill Haslam

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - With his only potential opponents for now an outraged raccoon-loving Republican and a 1960s-era Democratic warhorse, Gov. Bill Haslam's campaign on Friday reported raising more than $5.2 million for his re-election effort.

Some $2.93 million of the total was raised between July 1 and Jan. 15, according to his filing with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. Haslam, who is seeking a second term, has more than $4.5 million still in the bank and is in a fine position to rake in more.

"Crissy and I are humbled by the support and encouragement we've received from so many Tennesseans, and honored by the trust the people of Tennessee have placed in us to continue doing that work," Haslam said in a campaign news release.

He pledged to "continue to do my absolute best to address Tennessee's challenges, and make our state the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs."

To date, the multimillionaire businessman and establishment Republican has no tea party opposition in the August GOP primary election.

But the governor does face a GOP challenger. Mark "Coonrippy" Brown, of Gallatin, is irate over the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's seizure of his pet raccoon, Rebekah.

The challenge appears to rest on Brown's charges that Haslam "ignored the cries from the entire United States," as evidenced by a petition, that the TWRA return his beloved pet, which was featured in Internet videos happily sharing showers with him.

The Democrat weighing a race is John Jay Hooker, a liberal who has failed in two previous tries for the office.

In recent years the silver-tongued Hooker, who has made and lost millions of dollars in business, has inspired a generation of Republican tea partiers in the state Legislature. The draw? His attacks on Tennessee's selection of appellate judges, which he says is unconstitutional because judges are named and then run on yes/no retention ballots instead of standard elections with an opponent.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Hooker is weighing a challenge to Haslam based on the judicial issue.

Haslam's financial disclosure shows a money-raising spree in the last half of 2013.

Special-interest political action committees, lobby firms and similar groups showered Haslam with contributions. For example, the law and lobby firm Adams and Reece gave the governor $22,000, with half designated for the primary election and half for the general.

Advance PAC, which is funded entirely by executives with payday lender Harpeth Financial Services, gave $22,400 as well.

The Tennessee Valley Water Alliance, which is funded by executives with Chattanooga water supplier Tennessee-American Water Co. and other subsidiaries owned by American Water, gave the governor $2,500, records show.

A bipartisan army of lobbyists raised money with a pre-legislative session breakfast fundraiser listing a "chairman's circle" of five who agreed to raise $100,000 or more for Haslam.

Another eight were on a "board" of lobbyists, lobby firms and law firms who committed to raising $50,000 for the event, according to the invitation.

A similar list was for "the council," which also included companies with extensive lobbying operations. Members pledged to raise $25,000 or more each. The list included Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which records show contributed $9,000 through its PAC.

The governor's campaign expenditures included $30,000 to The Ingram Group, a Nashville-based public affairs and lobbying firm headed by Tom Ingram, Haslam's 2010 principal campaign adviser.

Last year, the governor and Ingram came under fire after it was revealed the governor was personally paying Ingram for advice but not reporting it on his campaign disclosures. Haslam and the governor maintained the advice was for noncampaign-matters related to state government.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.