A Democratic call for a wide-ranging investigation of the expenditures and personnel hiring of the Tennessee legislature seems oddly timed, coming as it does less than a month before Republican Speaker of the House Glen Casada is expected to step down from his position after a no-confidence vote from his fellow party members.
To be sure, if the legislature has broken laws, covered up nefarious taxpayer spending and Casada has misused funds in any way, the public should know and a probe ought to ensue.
But if this is simply Democrats attempting to tar Republicans with accusations against the speaker, that's a different story.
Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart said Nashville news reports claimed House spending increased by $3 million under Casada as compared to under former Speaker Beth Harwell.
Stewart also made a public records request for Casada's spending after he became speaker on Jan. 8. He said the speaker used taxpayer funds to "lead a lifestyle of the rich and famous."
Without the records, the Democrat's accusation is only a partisan political charge.
Casada has acknowledged he increased the size of the speaker's staff, and it is possible he chose to use funds for the office in a different, though perfectly legal, way than did Harwell. But, given his dissembling about sexually explicit and racially charged text messages exchanged with a former staff member, it is possible he didn't. But calls for investigations shouldn't be made in a vacuum.
Stewart, of course, would like nothing more than for voters to believe all Republicans are like Casada, whose political action committee used dirty tricks before he became speaker and who was then shamed with the revealed text messages. But all Republicans are not like that, and we believe most voters understand that.
Nevertheless, if taxpayer money was used improperly either by the legislature or by Casada, the public should know. But no investigation should ensue based on vague accusations, or worse, based on politics. Making such charges, in that case, points up Democrats to be no better than the speaker with whose deeds they wish to paint all Republicans.