We are making great progress in our survey to tell which Republican leaders were supporting Trump and which ones were turning tail and trying to back out of their sworn commitment and responsibility to publicly support the party’s nominee. With two weeks to go, over half of the legislature and just under half of the state executive committee have responded to Rocky Top (RTPtipline@gmail.com) with firm, public commitments to support (or not) the nominee. So far only one major GOP elected official has come out against Trump: Gov. Bill “Weasel” Haslam.
More often than you would think, that seething nest of vipers we see every time we open our Tip Line is filled with people who we have called out for their hypocrisy or misdeeds who just want to vent their spleen at RTP. But every now and then we receive a heartwarming message from one of our avid readers that surprises even us. Just today we got the following message from GOP state exec. committee member Ken Gross. Although we still do not plan to release a full list of those supporting Trump as well as those to cowardly to admit their true intention, we felt compelled to share Ken’s message with you:
RTP:Not that it matters, I know you will trash me anyways ! Since the primary, I have strongly supported our 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump !! My family and I am looking forward to casting our VOTES for Mr. Trump !!
*** RTP Special Report ***
The Corruption of Bob Corker?
For some time now, Rocky Top Politics has been dropping hints that Sen. Bob Corker may be up to his keister in ethics complaints, financial misdeeds and such. Well no more hints. Over the next few weeks RTP is going to lay out a trail of what appears to be serious, widespread corruption of multiple elected officials, staff, bankers and businessmen – all tied to Bob Corker.
Why pick on ol’ Bob, you might ask? Well, if Corker wasn’t such an egotistical ass, we might let it slide — but he is, so we won’t. All kidding aside, what Corker appears to be engaged in is so serious that it could affect his future viability to run for re-election, governor or dogcatcher. And that affects scores of people across the Volunteer state.
To cover our rear ends, we will make sure to put “qualifiers” in front of our statements to let you know what is fact, what is suspected and what is rumored. What we will reveal over the next few weeks will be shocking for most and disheartening for some. Bob Corker has created a political image more carefully tailored than a Saville Row suit that is starting to come unraveled and the potential domino effect of Corker’s troubles on the Tennessee body politic could be profound. It is a complicated tale steeped in the world of high-risk development projects, accusations of insider trading, highly leveraged personal “fortunes,” mega-banking, the collapse of the housing market and the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and more.
But not to worry. We will try to dumb it down to a level where even folks in Sneedville can grasp the subject matter. And as serious as the subject matter may be, Rocky Top will deliver it with the same snarky, juvenile and irresponsible manner our loyal readers (both of ‘em) have come to expect. Expect a lot of needless and puerile jokes about the vertically-challenged junior senator from Tennessee. It’s how we roll…
Today, in the first installment of a series of reports based on RTP’s incessant digging, our disturbingly large number of insider sources and our vast institutional experience, we will begin at the beginning: The Campaign of 2006.
Campaign 2006 – Creating and Protecting the Myth of “Millionaire Bob.”
When Bob Corker first ran for Senate in 2006, one of the central themes of his campaign was that he was “a self-made millionaire,” worth huge sums of money. His ads bragged about his wealth and his disclosures at the time seemed to confirm it.
Turns out Corker’s wealth was a greatly exaggerated deception. Corker did have several million dollars (much of which he put into his Senate campaign) that he received from the sale of most of his real estate holdings to controversial businessman Henry Luken. But Bob just kinda sorta left out the part that his assets were more than offset by a honker of a debt. You see, Bob was apparently still on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in debt from his recently-sold businesses that made him contingently liable — meaning if Luken ever defaulted, the creditors would come looking for Corker to demand he make good on the debt. So Corker eked his way into the Senate with a contingent debt hanging over him that could have left him flat busted. As we shall see in Part Two, that potentially apocalyptic financial event came damn close to happening in 2009, just two years into Corker’s budding Senate career. How Luken and Corker avoided it should make any ambitious U.S. Attorney salivate.
So instead of being the wildly successful entrepreneur depicted in his campaign’s TV ads, the reports indicate he had very little cash on hand to maintain his lavish lifestyle. In fact, a careful look at the public financial disclosure records from 2005 and beyond – and the frequently amended official disclosures he has been forced to correct over a dozen times since then — reveal Corker was in severe financial distress at the time he was kicking off his campaign. In reality, “millionaire Bob” was actually leveraged out the ying-yang to the tune of up to $124 million and was making ends meet by living off a 2005 cash advance worth as much as $500,000 from – you guessed it – Henry Luken.
While financial disclosure rules do not require Corker to reveal his contingent debt publicly, standard business practice implies that he remained liable if his buddy Henry couldn’t make his monthlies. What is clear from the report is that Corker had precious little cash, and that Luken (and likely Corker) was toast until a “White Knight” with a multi-billion dollar interest in Corker’s legislative activity “spontaneously” arrived on the scene and decided to open up its checkbook. Keep in mind that at this time he also had interest, maintenance and tax obligations on up to $124 million in commercial loans in a rapidly deteriorating commercial real estate market.
So as he prepared to run for the Senate, Corker’s credit was apparently “tapped out” and the wolves were circling.
All of this more significant than whether Bob & Lizzy needed help to pay the light bill for their 13,000 sq. ft. mansion. Corker used his alleged wealth to scare off more serious primary opponents in 2006 (such as Zach Wamp) and convince major GOP contributors and supporters that his nomination and election were inevitable. The “Look at me — I’m a successful businessman having to take a pay cut to serve the people in Congress” is a popular theme. But in many cases, like with Corker, it’s just not true.
More disturbing is how Corker was able to miraculously avoid some of his contingent debt-chickens from coming home to roost and how the problem just “disappeared” in 2009, thanks to some incredibly coincidental help from some powerful people who had a strong (and possibly illegal) incentive to help Corker and Luken out of their bind (which we will also discuss in detail in Part Two).
Corker’s subsequent rebound to amass a second fortune (Parts 3, 4 and 5) while serving full-time as a U.S. Senator also raises disturbing questions that threaten to shake the carefully-crafted narrative that is Bob Corker. Continuing to loom over his head are a spate of federal investigations, multiple ethics complaints and questionable business deals personally involving Corker and some of his closest advisors and associates.
If any of this comes as news to Republicans anywhere between Memphis and Mountain City, maybe it’s because the state news media has not only largely ignored this story, but has instead been hacking up “puff pieces” on Corker to the exclusion of serious political analysis. More on this later.
But given the evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that to get elected to the U.S. Senate Bob Corker constructed an image of a wildly successful businessman that was little more than a Potemkin Village — predicated on a political lie and some major financial help from some very questionable people.
Coming Up Next:
“The Amazing, Magical, Disappearing $28.1 Million Re-finance and Wells Fargo’s Well-timed Prestidigitation.”
We can think of about #38 reasons this letter is a bad idea.
So we open the old RTP mailbox last week and this is what we find:
Welcome back, Gregory, from wherever you were. It’s good — actually incredible — to see you are still in business.
All you Republican candidates out there who might actually be thinking about hiring Gregory to do your direct mail, you need to stop and ask yourself: “Am I freakin’ nuts?” RTP would think that would be a pretty good self-diagnosis, one where you should immediately seek professional help before committing your hard-earned campaign dollars to someone like Gleaves.
But let’s say despite your better judgment, you do take a meeting with Gleaves. Here are some questions you may first want to have answered. We are not saying that Gleaves is guilty of anything in particular (RTP has some very good lawyers and they told us to be sure and say that) and Gleaves may have perfectly reasonable and innocent responses to each of these questions.
Yeah, and monkeys could fly out our butts.
So here are our suggested questions for Gregory Gleaves. We can’t wait to see the answers.
- Did Glen Casada remove you from the preferred vendors list after you got caught working against incumbent GOP legislators?
- Would you share with prospective clients the exact circumstances surrounding your rather rapid departure from your job as the chief-of-staff for Speaker Harwell? Did the words “inappropriate behavior” ever come up in connection to your departure?
- Did you ever do an interview with a reporter(s) where you allegedly were going to “roll over” on Harwell regarding a situation involving Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, among others? And if in fact you did such an interview, what the hell ever happened to that story?
- How do you feel about teaming up with a West Virginia direct mail operative, Greg Capelli, who was allegedly accused of abusing his now ex-wife? Did you think routing money through his firm would hide your complicity in working against GOP office holders?
- Why, after being caught red handed working against incumbent GOP lawmakers, do you think any Republican would give you the time of day, much less ever hire you?
- And on what planet did you think sending a letter like this was a good idea?
Now our loyal Rocky Top readers (both of em’) are probably asking why we are being so hard on Old Greg. It’s just that we feel it is way past time to cut through the crap that permeates the Harwell regime and start asking some questions that others won’t.
We’ll have similar questions for Harwell, Joe McCord, Connie Ridley and others real soon. But we can’t promise we’ll be as nice as we were today.
Thanks to Glenn Reynolds and Instapundit for the mention:
TENNESSEE GOVERNOR BILL HASLAM OPPOSES TRUMP, but he’s pretty much the only significant Tennessee Republican taking that position.
Meanwhile, there’s speculation about Bob Corker as Haslam’s successor. I’ve interviewed Corker a couple of times and he’s a smart guy, but it’s hard for me to see that. Then again, I didn’t see Trump as the GOP nominee two years ago, either, so what do I know?
Posted at 8:16 am by Glenn Reynolds
Haslam increasingly isolated. Only major Tennessee Republican official to openly oppose Trump for president.
The headlines from The Tennessean breathlessly proclaimed:
“As election nears, Tennessee Republicans continue fighting over Trump.”
Why, one would think that gunfire had erupted at a Weakley County GOP meeting or there was a rumble at the Fayette County HQs. But once one read past the hyperventilating hype, the Tennessean and every other newspaper in the state could collectively come up with only one (count ’em: 1) senior GOP elected official who was not endorsing Trump. So far, of the 66 GOP SEC members, the 99 GOP legislators, the 7 GOP congressmen, the three statewide elected GOP officials, the MSM could only find 1 turncoat in the entire damn state who is not backing Trump.
That’s right – Gov. Bill is the only person surveyed thus far who has rejected Trump.
This all tracks with the early results from our Trump Survey (Rocky Top would like to thank the many GOP leaders who have sent in their answers to our Trump Survey and/or have made their positions a matter of public record). At this point we too know of only one GOP elected official in the state who is not backing Trump:
We so look forward to the Tennesseans’ next headline. If they can find just one more GOP elected official to join Haslam they can blare:
“Republican opposition to Trump DOUBLES in Tennessee.”
Now if the governor had a really important job like, say, he was a member of the state executive committee, he would be in big trouble:
Neither the Executive Committee nor a County Republican Party or Executive Committee shall endorse a Democrat or other non-Republican in an election in which a Republican is a candidate.
So don’t worry, governor. You won’t be brought up on charges or have to live with the same standards as most other GOP elected officials.
Pretty low bar, we know – but our expectations for Bill Haslam governing like a conservative have been pretty low for quite some time now.
FRIENDLY REMINDER: Survey participation ends at Noon on Election Day. We are particularly interested in the responses from state executive committee members. You yahoos are actually required to support the party’s nominee or face removal from office. We are looking in the direction of people like Beth Campbell, Melissa Gay, Ken Gross, etc. If you or any others can’t support Trump, that’s okay. Just have the guts to say so. Then you can resign.
RTP puts Tennessee Republican elected officials on the spot with our first and only Trump Survey.
With all the hoohah the last few days over the purported “split” in the Republican party over the Trump candidacy, RTP thought it would be an outstanding public service for many (and an unwelcome intrusion for a few) to take names as to who is sticking with Trump and who is wetting the bed over his candidacy. Therefore we have unilaterally decided to create a full accounting of the anti-Trump Republican elected officials (such as Bill Haslam) as well as those who continued to support The Donald (such as Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, etc.)
It is not an idle exercise. To listen to the media the internal divisions in the GOP are real and growing. We’ll see if that’s so. But if an internecine war is coming, it is best to figure out now who is on whose side and to do so before election day (after which the political revisionists can claim they were always on the “winning” side).
RTP now opens our tipline (RTPtipline@gmail.com) and our phone number for responses from all GOP state legislators and members of Congress. Just send us an email from an official or personal account belonging to you or text your response from your personal cell phone to RTP’s phone number. Most all of you have received unsolicited text messages from this number in the past. We know that, because most of you have texted compliments as well as insults to RTP in response to one or more of our postings over the years. But in case you lost the number, here it is again: (615) 801-5633. (And again, remember we already have your personal cell phone number so it’s not like you are giving the bastards at RTP some kind of secret information). If neither of those options are acceptable to you, we’ll accept a lock of your hair or a DNA swab as proof you are who you say you are. We also accept MasterCard and Visa.
Members of the Republican State Executive Committee, including Chairman Haynes are “invited” to participate as well. But unless you are a member of the SEC, a state legislator, a congressman, a senator or a governor don’t send us anything. If you insist on doing so, your personal contact information will be retained by Rocky Top and used in the future — possibly for subscribing to porn sites or opening an unauthorized Wells Fargo account in Bob Corker’s name.
RTP will text each of you personally to confirm that any response we receive with your name attached to it actually came from you. What’s more, in deference to those handful of Republicans who might be locked in a competitive campaign against a Democrat, we will not publish any results of our survey until AFTER the election — but we must have everyone’s answers before election day.
Here is the survey:
- Do you support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee?
- Will you be voting for Trump in the November election?
That’s it — you’re done! Now we know what some of you are saying: “Just who the hell do those people at Rocky Top think they are?” Well here’s our short answer: Participation is not optional. We hate to be pains in the rear, but if you won’t take a public stand on this, what will you take a stand on?
And if anyone is thinking of not participating, it is an entirely reasonable inference that refusing to answer will be recorded as a “NO.”
You may not like that, but your next primary opponent will love it.
Bill Haslam says he won’t vote for Trump.
Trump asks: “Who’s Bill Haslam?”
Gov. Bill Haslam enthusiastically joined the chorus group of GOP politicians last year who insisted Donald Trump sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. But now Bill Haslam says he will not support Trump in this election. What a stand up guy.
Instead, Haslam now demands Trump withdraw from the race and that millions of voters who supported Trump in the primaries be ignored. What’s more, Haslam stamped his feet and also demanded Gov. Mike Pence be named the nominee. Surely, Haslam knows such an action would be blatantly illegal. His advice, if it were even possible to take it seriously, would result in the guaranteed election of Hillary Clinton. Maybe that is what Bill wants.
Don’t scoff — Haslam’s latest feckless and impotent pronouncement should come as no surprise. After all, this is the guy who sold his soul to the Obama regime on everything from Common Core, to ObamaCare expansion to knuckling under to the Obama administration dumping Syrian refugees into Tennessee. The less charitable might draw the conclusion that one of Bill’s prime motivations for sucking up (sorry, is that “locker room” language?) is nothing more than a desperate attempt to convince the Obama Justice Department (or a Clinton Justice Department) from indicting his brother over the Pilot Oil rebate scandal.
Say what you will about Jimmy Haslam. Even if he is guilty of some wrongdoing (and we are not saying he is), he still demands a level of respect that has eluded his “Kid” brother. Yep, every day it is painfully apparent the wrong Haslam got elected.
If Bill Haslam ever runs in a competitive GOP primary again, look for his “cut & run” reputation to come back and haunt him.
Since we posted the photo below, we have received numerous tips from our loyal readers (both of ’em) as to the identity of the individuals in the photo. It appears the girl on the left is Chassity Martin and the guy on the right is Gregory Gleaves.
Now — who wants to guess why this photo is significant?
Send all responses to our patented, anonymous tip line: www.RTPtipline@gmail.com
Guess who’s talking about Corker running for governor?
After presenting our Grand Unified Theory of the 2018 elections in Tennessee, we have another curve ball to add.
RTP was the first to openly speculate Corker might run for governor. Now we can report that Corker himself has added credence to what many of you considered a crack-pot theory ginned up by Rocky Top. In the last few weeks at least one politician who discussed their ambition of running for governor with Sen. Bob Corker was surprised to hear Corker say that he was considering running for governor in 2018. RTP has since confirmed two other similar conversations, with Corker speculating along the same lines.
It would kinda make sense: If the Republicans lose control of the Senate, Corker would be left in the ignominious position of serving in the minority after serving as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He would also be demoted to minority status on the Banking Committee (but his friend and fellow investor, Sen. Mark Warner, would undoubtedly “take care” of Bob to make sure he didn’t lose too much money). And if the GOP loses the Senate and Trump gets elected, RTP’s sources inside the Trump transition team (yes — RTP is everywhere) have assured us Corker’s “vetting problems” would likely preclude any serious cabinet position offer from Trump. And running for governor might also present a solution to Corker’s growing Senate ethics woes.
If Corker were to abandoned his Senate seat and come back home to run for governor, it would kick over the political chess board, where aspiring politicians have been carefully moving around their pieces.
Here are just a few of the speculative questions arising from Corker’s curious comments:
- WWBD (What Will Black Do?) – run for Bob’s Senate seat?
- Will Marsha Blackburn challenge Diane Black in a cat fight – er — primary election for Senate?
- Will Mark Green forge ahead with his plans for governor or shelve them to write his much-anticipated sequel: “Another Night With Saddam”?
- Will Bill Haslam use some of his vast wealth to finally buy a clue?
- Will the slavish Tennessee media stop writing orally gratifying gratuitous articles on Corker’s supposed exalted status in a possible Trump administration and start writing about the Senator’s very real and deadly serious legal and ethical problems? (Much more on this later at RTP).
Stay tuned and remember to check back with Rocky Top. If you don’t, you might miss something.
Political journalism in Tennessee takes a body blow with Humphrey exit.
Members of the RTP crew were shocked to find this on their computer screens this weekend:
The News Sentinel has decided to cease publication of this blog, launched on Jan. 28, 2009, effective today, Sept. 30, 2016.
I hope it has helped inform readers about Tennessee state government and politics during that time and anticipate continuing efforts to do so otherwise in the days ahead, including a continuation of working with the fine folks at the News Sentinel.
Thank you for reading.
Damn, we thought Humphrey would never leave!
Seriously, Tom Humphrey is a consummate professional. While one may not always agree with him, he pretty much plays it down the middle – a lost art among today’s “journalists.” And, best of all, he was the first to acknowledge Rocky Top Politics. We even used his assessment of RTP in our masthead for a time (until the KNS lawyers threatened to sue us, shoot our dogs and abduct our children if we didn’t stop).
With Humphrey’s exit, the political press corps in Tennessee is now down to about two people (2½ if you count Andy Sher).
Now that you have some free time, Tom, maybe you would like to take over the Curmudgeon Desk at RTP. If you are interested, try to stop by on Thursdays. That’s the day Mrs. Hot Chick makes cupcakes.