NASHVILLE - Abortion rights supporters contributed big sums last quarter to a campaign to defeat Amendment 1, which would give lawmakers more power to regulate abortions in Tennessee.
Vote NO on One Tennessee Inc. raised more than $1.5 million between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to reports filed with the state Registry of Election Finance. Two other groups opposed to the constitutional amendment raised just over $16,000 in the same period.
The registry's Executive Director, Drew Rawlins, said Monday the state had not yet received financial reports for the four groups registered in support of Amendment 1.
Joseph Albin is treasurer for the main group, Yes on 1 Ballot Committee. He said their financial disclosure was sent by the Friday deadline. A copy of the disclosure on the campaign's website says the group raised more than $631,000 last quarter.
The single largest donation was for $50,025 from James Gregory, chief legal officer for Gregory Pharmaceutical Holdings Inc., in Bristol. Karen Brukardt, a community volunteer in Nashville, made the next biggest contribution, $25,500. While churches and businesses contributed to the campaign, the vast majority of contributions were from individuals around the state.
Yes on 1 spent about $302,000 last quarter. The largest expenditure was $121,300 for printing, which included leaflets and yard signs, Albin said. The campaign had $511,000 on hand at the end of the quarter.
Although most itemized contributions to the No on One campaign were also from individuals around the state, the largest contributions came from organizations. They include $817,140 from Planned Parenthood Advocates Mid-South, in Memphis, and $500,000 from Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, based in Nashville. Planned Parenthood of Illinois, based in Chicago, contributed another $45,000.
The campaign spent about $336,000 last quarter, more than a third of it on a television commercial featuring a female doctor telling the story of a pregnant cancer patient.
The campaign ended the quarter with about $1.6 million on hand.
There are no limits on the amount an individual or group can donate to a single-measure committee in Tennessee, Rawlins said.
Meanwhile, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment on how Tennessee elects Supreme Court justices and appeals judges reported raising nearly $370,000 and ending the quarter with $558,000.
The largest contribution was $250,000 from a group called the Tennessee Business Partnership, a Nashville nonprofit focusing on education and judicial matters.
Television ads supporting the amendment and featuring Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen began airing after the end of the last reporting period.
Opponents of the amendment reported raising $2,250 in the quarter and spending $29.25.
Under the current system, the governor makes appointments to fill vacancies on the state's top courts. Voters then decide whether to keep or replace them in uncontested retention elections. A proposed constitutional amendment would add a provision to give the Legislature the power to reject the governor's nominees.
Opponents of the current system argue the retention elections violate a provision in the Tennessee Constitution that says the Supreme Court justices "shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state." They dismiss various legal rulings supporting the current system as tainted because they were made by jurists who have a stake in the current system.
State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said Monday he is already examining options for how to proceed with popular elections in the event the constitutional amendment fails.
"If voters disagree with the proposed amendment, changes must be made," he said.
Bell said he is considering creating judicial election districts instead of having all 29 appeals judges run in statewide races, and he is also considering whether they would run in nonpartisan elections rather than through the state party primary system.