U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said today voters "aren't concerned" about depositions that revealed he never approved some of his own 2010 campaign ads and that his staff failed to verify the validity of anonymously-sourced documents used in those ads.
"People aren't concerned about lawsuits and political lawsuits," Fleischmann said Saturday at a Chattanooga Tea Party debate at Woodland Park Baptist Church. "They're concerned about getting work and getting our fiscal house in order."
The Chattanooga Times Free Press published a story about the depositions Saturday morning. The debaters were allowed to ask a question of any other candidate, and Weston Wamp used his time to press Fleischmann on the congressman's sworn testimony.
In response, Fleischmann described the lawsuit as "frivolous" but stood by what he said.
"Frivolous lawsuits are very commonplace. We need to stop that," the attorney said. "The fact that this case is in litigation - I do not want to comment on the merits of it at this point in time.
"But I will say this: I've given sworn testimony under oath and I stand by that sworn testimony because I took an oath," he said.
Wamp was not given a chance to respond at the debate, but had plenty to say in interviews afterward.
Filed in Davidson County Circuit Court on Friday, the depositions are part of a lawsuit filed in January 2011 by Mark Winslow. He's the former Tennessee Republican Party chief of staff who later became a campaign aide to Robin Smith, Fleischmann's top 2010 Republican primary opponent.
Fleischmann and Saltsman are defendants in the lawsuit. Both testified they relied on Winslow's confidential party personnel files for an attack ad charging that Smith paid "lavish bonuses" to Winslow during a financially difficult time for the party.
But current Tennessee Republican Party Chris Devaney testified that he was the one who paid Winslow as part of a severance agreement. Fleischmann admitted in the deposition he had no literal basis to make the "lavish bonuses" charge.
Saltsman testified that he found personnel files on the steps of his garage. He later used the documents for campaign ads, but said he never checked them for authenticity.
Fleischmann, asked if he reviewed campaign ads before they aired, testified that "I can't say I saw all of them."
His ads included the phrase, "I'm Chuck Fleischmann and I approve this message."
For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.