Yer truck can’t run on Coconut water…

At 1:30 today, the House Transportation Committee will meet in a key vote on Governor Haslam’s bill to raise taxes on gas and diesel fuel.  The political fallout from passing a gas tax increase while Tennessee feeds at the trough of a $ 2 Billion surplus looms particularly large for several legislators who plan to seek other offices.

Speaker Beth Harwell — wants to be governor. We can’t wait to see her ads and direct mail pieces touting her successful passage of a massive gas tax increase on working men and women in Tennessee. If given the choice to break a tie vote in the committee or lead the fight against the gas tax increase, we’re betting Beth will be hiding in the ladies room sipping coconut water as opposed to picking up the conservative banner dropped by Mark Green.  Make no mistake –Beth can kill the tax increase almost single-handedly. We are betting she won’t.

Senator Mark Norris — also wants to be governor.  Already on record as supporting the gas tax, Mark is hoping Beth slips the anchor chain of the gas tax around her own neck and dives in with him. Misery loves company!

Ron Travis — wants to challenge Cong. Scott DesJarlais.  Ron serves on the committee and will be a linchpin vote on whether or not the gas tax increase moves ahead. Ron should realize that running for Congress in the most rural district in the state while voting for a gas tax increase that hurts rural people the most, is not a great platform.  Families in our rural communities drive further to school, further to work, and further to the grocery store and already pay a larger percentage of their income in fuel.  But hey, maybe Ron can win by telling the voters down in Grundy County that his vote for the gas tax helped send their tax money to fund boondoggle mass transit programs in West Nashville.  Yeah, that’ll work.

Praise the Lord and pass the coconut water…

Fake News.

Sher/Chattanooga Times-Free Press gets bona fide scoop on Harwell.

Meanwhile, Tennessean makes up story about Peyton Manning.

Whoo-ee!  For an industry that is losing readers and credibility by the minute, the MSM here in Tennessee can still gin up a tit-for-tat news war.  In the latest round, the Tennessean came up way on the short end of the stick.

On Friday, GOP bon vivant Susan Richardson Hyphen Williams got all giddy from a phone call from the Speaker who told her she was going to run for governor.  Susan rushed right out and posted the info on her Facebook page.  Action Andy Sher was apparently stalking Susan’s Facebook page, saw the entry and posted it around midnight Saturday in an exclusive story.

There was much gnashing of teeth and cries of despair in the Tennessean newsroom when they discovered Sher’s scoop.  “How could this happen?  We are supposed to be the paper of political record in Tennessee.  Our name even has the word Tennessee on its masthead!  Our Gannett overlords have filled our desks with political reporters and editors (albeit none who were born, raised or went to school in the Volunteer state – but hey, they look good on YouTube with their beards and one of them is married to another guy, so there’s that…).  The horror!”

Not to be outdone by the provincials in ChattaVegas, the Tennessean machine quickly went to work to get a political election story that could top Sher’s scoopage.  Alas, there were none to be found.

So they made one up.

Ten hours after Sher’s article was posted, the Tennessean ran with breathless speculation that – wait for it – Peyton Manning might possibly run for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee four years from now.  They settled in on Manning, who is not even a legal resident of Tennessee, since apparently to speculate the Kardasians and/or Taylor Swift would run for the U.S. Senate might be a tad too implausible.  The last time the Tennessean tried to elevate a celebrity to political office was with Ashley (i.e., nasty woman / pussy cap) Judd.  How did that work out, fellas?

They pulled the Manning story out of their collective arses, based on nothing more than a brief appearance by Manning at a Republican meeting in Philadelphia back in January (an event already reported by the news blog Politico several weeks ago) as proof the Tennessean reporters were still relevant and still on the job.  They then ran with their weeks-old “scoop” hours later.  It was so important, don’t you know, that it couldn’t wait another minute before rushing it to print Sunday morning – more than ten hours after Sher’s story hit.

The crew here at Rocky Top have mused that another crack reporter, Alanna Autler (Channel 4 in Nashville), was actually the person behind the Tennessean breaking their fake news.  We imagine she woke up Sunday morning, saw the Sher piece and rolled over in bed and told her significant other (Tennessean reporter Dave Boucher):

“Uh, honey.  You might want to get up.  Remember how you asked me to spank your tushie last night?”

“Well Andy Sher just saved me the trouble.”

 

My friends call me Donald. You can call me Mr. President.

Most awkward moment in Bill Haslam’s political career:

“Hey, aren’t you that little twerp who publicly attacked me and said you were voting for someone else just before the election?  Yeah, I thought that was you…”

 

“Just get in the limo, Bill.  Can I drop you somewhere?

“Like, say, off of the roof of the Batman Building?”

We have a modest proposal

We were greeted yesterday morning with this 1,000+ word essay from the Tennessean’s “Community Engagement” editor (not to be confused with a “community organizer):

Ever helpful, Rocky Top has an alternate suggestion for President Trump on the occasion of his visit to Nashville:

Trump should use Nashville rally to explain to Plazas where he can stick it.

Alas, if Plazas was only from Tennessee, he might have the ability to figure out that his opinions here are about as welcome (and as useful) as a fart in a spacesuit.

The only place in Tennessee carried by Hillary Clinton was about a three square block in east Nashville and Mayor Barry’s house.  But such a complete and humiliating defeat of the liberal agenda in Tennessee didn’t even slow Plazas down.  No siree, he just dutifully trotted out the same old tired harangues.

But you keep pitching, Davey.  One of these days Gannett is going to lose enough readers that you will have to find another job.  We hear the new Tennessee Star could use a paper delivery boy (oh wait, that’s right….)

 

Tying to play both sides of the aisle can get real expensive, real fast.

Is T.E.A. facing financial ruin?

As Jim Wrye & Co. face a couple of major legislative votes on Wednesday (Vouchers, Payroll), some are questioning the continued financial viability of the liberal labor union itself.

Oh sure, the TEA has anywhere from 25,000 to negative-5,000 actual members (they are obviously padding their numbers).  In fact, between 2010 and 2015, the TEA lost nearly 1 out of every 3 of its members.  That’s gotta hurt, don’t you think?

First there were employee cutbacks.  Then came the defection of one of TEA’s largest chapters.  Then Wrye started writing big checks to the Republicans at the expense of TEA’s long-time allies in the Black Caucus (and they wonder why the Memphis TEA bolted) in an attempt to be relevant in a GOP-dominated legislature.

But then Wrye came up with a real estate scheme to paper over the organization’s finances.  It was a complicated deal that included Metro Nashville schools partially subsidizing the TEA to buy the old Ben West Library as its new headquarters.  Mayor Barry was a big supporter of the scheme to help the liberal union (of course she was).

Then something happened.  Despite the sweetheart arrangement brokered by the wife of the former head of the A.C.L.U.  (that would be Mayor Barry, for those of you not paying attention) the deal fell through.  TEA could not come up with the dough.  Maybe because a big piece of their income left with the Memphis/Shelby Education Association?

So pity poor Jimbo.  He’s losing membership, unmoored from his liberal ideology, floundering and flaunting what money he has left to try and buy off “flexible” Republicans, while having to make do with his old digs.

Could the end be near for Wrye’s tenure at TEA or even for TEA itself?

One can only hope.

McCord’s got a brand new gig?

Multiple sources say McCord was “architect” of the House Transportation Committee skullduggery.

mccord-photo-1Rocky Top has been inundated with numerous legislative sources that say the recently “retired” Clerk of the House Joe McCord was the person behind the surprise moves by Rep. John Mark Windle to block the gas tax alternative by Rep. David Hawk.

Seems the Guv was highly pissed that the committee was going to consider Hawk’s version first, which would have put the governor’s proposal in jeopardy.

Enter Joe McCord, a legitimate expert in the arcane world of legislative legerdemain.  He reportedly concocted the maneuver to have the committee adjourn before gas tax opponentscould shove it up the governor’s keister.

Which lead us to a couple of pertinent questions:

  • What is Joe doing for a living these days? Is he a lobbyist?  Is he registered to lobby on the gas tax?  Anybody checked the record?
  • How is Joe’s photography hobby coming along? Taken any “inappropriate” photos lately, Joe?
  • Now that he has more free time, is Joe flipping off random 3-year-olds on the street? little-girl-flpping-off

If she so desired, Speaker Harwell could ban McCord from the LP — assuming, of course, she is not a co-conspirator to McCord’s machinations.

Warning to Beth:  the more McCord hangs around, the more likely it is he will become the subject/target of an ethics investigation.   And the Speaker, of all people, should know how ugly things can get when old bodies are dug up and paraded around.

Just saying…

When all else fails, try lying…

“Fake research” from the Haslam Business School generates “Fake News” for the Governor.

Please tell us the crew at RTP weren’t the only ones who noticed this.

When the Boyd Research Center at UTK released their “study” that, unsurprisingly, said the governor’s proposed gas tax is just the bees knees, no one in the MSM took the time to note two very relevant things:

  1. The Boyd Research Center was named after the governor’s recent ECD director, Randy Boyd (who is seeking to follow Bill Haslam into the governor’s office). Boyd gave a piss load of money to have his name put on the center’s door and,
  2. The Boyd Research Center is housed inside the building that has the governor’s family name emblazoned above its door: “The Haslam School of Business.”

Oh yeah, yeah, we know – Randy Boyd probably did not have any input into the “research” produced by the research center that bears his name. And technically, the Haslam Business School was named after the governor’s father.  Picky, picky.  But does anyone in the MSM see the inherent problem with churning out “Boyd Research” from the “Haslam Business School” to defend a tax increase proposed by Bill Haslam?  Or that the people behind the study were some of the same business school professors and the very same Haslam familywho tried 17 years ago to justify a state income tax?  Really?

Whassamatter? University of Memphis doesn’t have a business school?  ETSU not have a business school?  Does MTSU not have a School of Business?  Of course they do.  They just don’t have one whose research center and brand new business building was funded by the governor and his close cronies.

But surely the MSM, who almost completely ignore this conve-e-e-nient connection would report on something like – oh, say — the governor lying about his gas tax?

Nah.

Last week, Bill Haslam publicly stated there were “no alternative plans” proposed to his Haslam School of Business-endorsed gas tax plan.

“There have not been any other alternatives proposed. No one else has laid out a plan and said ‘This is how we’re going to pay for it.’”

Well, golly gee whillikers, governor: that’s a lie.  And a bald-face lie to boot.

You didn’t even try to “nuance” your statement.  You could have said there were no alternatives you liked.  But you just laid it out there with the apparent hope that the public is too damned stupid to know B.S. when they hear it.  And the MSM dutifully reported it as a stand-alone statement.  Just like they did a week ago when the Governor spit out this beauty:

haslam-quote

After 6+ years of being the governor, you would think he would be getting better at the job.

You would be wrong.

If it weren’t for “fake news’ generated by a phony study, the governor’s office would have anything worthwhile to talk about.

Haslam drops the veil.

top-story

— Gov. Bill Haslam,  2-11-2017

And there you have it.

After 6+ years of “conservative” leadership, Gov. Bill Haslam let down his guard in Smithville Saturday night.  What he said may as well have come straight from the mouth of Nancy Pelosi or Bernie Sanders.

The new online publication, The Tennessee Star, has wracked up several exclusive stories in its mere two weeks of existence.  They were the first to report on the growing opposition at the highest levels of the legislature to the governor’s proposed gas tax.  When House Majority Leader Glen Casada went on record in a video interview with the Tennessee Star (finally, a video of Glen that doesn’t include a hot blonde) supporting Rep. David Hawk’s counter-proposal for funding roads, Haslam went ballistic.  First he called and asked to be on the Nashville-based and conservative Ralph Bristol radio show (something he largely avoided for the last few years), then he took to the road to try and salvage his latest legislative disaster.  That took him to Smithville, where he rambled around about the gas tax.  Finally, in frustration, he blurted out the statement above.  You can see the video here.

If you are a Republican legislator, you have to ask yourself:  “Why in God’s name should I support a governor who has such a warped, non-conservative view of government?”

If you are a Democrat legislator, you have to ask yourself:  “Wait, what?  Did Haslam just switch parties?  First he proposed expanding Obamacare in Tennessee.  Then he openly voted against Trump, and now this?  [Random] non-Deity be praised!  More taxes for everyone!”

Welcome to official lame duck status, Governor.  Came a little early, didn’t it?

 

Diane Black re-calibrating her ambitions?

Will Black have to resign her seat in Congress?  And if so, when?

turbulence

Cong. Diane Black’s plane ride to Nashville from DC a couple of days ago was a rough one, with turbulence, barf bags, the whole bit.  This comes from our sources on the plane (yes, RTP is everywhere) who said it was one of the worst flights she has ever been on.  But it may have been something of an omen for the turbulence that Black found on the ground when she finally landed.  The political ground may be shifting beneath her and other ambitious politicos looking to move up.

It was quite the scene yesterday down in the Capitol Grill at the Hermitage Hotel.  There, huddling their heads around a lunch table, were Cong.  Black, newly-minted consultant Ward Baker, State Sen. Jack Johnson and a staff aide (and yes, once again, RTP is everywhere).

Rumors have been circulating around DC and the Volunteer state for some time that (a) Black was going to become the chairman of the House Budget Committee and that (b) she was also going to run for governor.  But events have a way of overtaking ambitions and that may be what is happening to Diane’s well-laid plans.  For instance, late last night Cong. Tom Price was confirmed as the new HHS Secretary, opening the way for Black to be named House Budget Chair, something that could take place as early as today.

Some have questioned whether Black would have sought the Budget chairmanship if she were going to run for governor.  Traditionally, congressional  chairmanships are not sought by or offered to members who are about to exit the Congress.  The rational offered by Black allies was that she could do both.  They say the business of the Budget committee is usually over by May of each year and that after Black wrangles the Trump budget into existence, she could take a victory lap, get some grip-and-grin photos with the Donald then high-tail it back to Tennessee to run for governor.  Easy-peezy.

But there are some emerging factors to complicate such a strategy.  One is Speaker Beth Harwell.  Harwell has barnstormed the phones the last few weeks, making it abundantly clear she is running for governor.  Her interest in the race puts pressure on Black to make a decision earlier than Black may like on when to kick off her own governor’s race.  Black would like to take her time in doing so.  Harwell would like to force her into an early decision that could conflict with her duties as Budget chair.  Harwell’s entry would also upset a key strategic advantage Black had been counting on — being the only woman in the race.  Don’t think that is an important advantage?  Just ask Marsha Blackburn if it made a difference in her first race for Congress (remember the “Marsha’s Our Man” bumper stickers?).  One woman in the race is unique, interesting and provides a valuable contrast to the rest of the field.  Two women in the race might just devolve into a catfight (meow).

Okay, gratuitous misogyny aside, there is another more compelling argument as to why Black may be considering a more immediate move on her race.  According to RTP sources in Washington (yes, Rocky Top is everywhere), the White House is now privately telling congressional leadership that it is unlikely to send a budget to Capitol Hill until sometime in May.  That would make it the latest budget proposal in memory and would mean that as Budget chair, Black would be completely absorbed in her congressional duties in Washington throughout most of the summer.  Which, of course would leave Harwell, Randy Boyd, Mark Green and others a clearer playing field to gather supporters, endorsements, contributors, etc.  Black’s people counter that Black would be getting all sorts of free media and would be the center of attention while the budget process was engaged.  Really?  Have you checked your Twitter feeds lately?  Ain’t nobody getting any media attention as long as Donald Trump is President.

And then there is the whole “checkbook campaign” strategy.  Everyone has assumed the large bank account of the Black’s would make her the biggest self-funder in the race.  With Randy Boyd in the mix, Black may not even be the wealthiest candidate, much less write the biggest check.  Boyd’s people are throwing around figures like $15-$20 million for a campaign budget.

All the maneuvering comes down to this:  Black has an uncomfortable decision to make about leaving her seat in Congress.  And her GOP gubernatorial primary opponents are enjoying her discomfort.

Keep those barf bags handy….

Before there was Jeremy, there was Paul

What the Heck!?

Why did the Saudis hire a disgraced Tennessee State Senator?

What is Bob Corker’s role in siding with the Saudis — and against 9/11 victims and families?

Denizens, lounge lizards and hangers-on at Legislative Plaza surely remember former state senator Paul Stanley, whose political career was demolished by his affair with a hot 22-year “legislative intern” (sound familiar?).  The scandal had everything: power politics, blackmail, sex, you name it.  When Stanley got caught, Speaker Ron Ramsey immediately stepped in and lanced the boil, telling Stanley to leave immediately.  Contrast that with the drama created by Speaker Beth Harwell, who let her own intern/sex scandal play out in full, agonizing public view.

Stanley then retired from the public scene.  But yesterday, he re-emerged when The Daily Caller ran a story that apparently named him as one of three operatives who were hired by an international PR firm on a project paid for by the Saudi government.  RTP has yet to confirm this is the same Paul Stanley, but the age (54-55) and the hometown (Collierville) are the same as the former politician.  If there is a case of mistaken identity, RTP will correct the record.  But we are pretty sure it’s the same guy.  If so, he is now a registered foreign agent for the Saudis in a highly questionable lobbying effort.  Among other things, the lobbyists have been accused of misleading veterans to convince them to come to DC in exchange for expensive hotel rooms and dinners.  The Daily Caller story told of one of the veterans who grew suspicious and blew the whistle,

It seems the Saudis are scared to death of a new law allowing them to be sued out the ying-yang by families and others who were harmed by the 9-11 attacks.  The bill was vetoed last fall by President Obama, but Congress over-rode his veto. Interestingly, Sen. Bob Corker joined with Sen. Lindsey Graham in an attempt to water down the JASTA legislation, making it harder for 9-11 victims and their families to sue the Saudis and to delay the eventual veto of the bill by at least two months:

CNNPolitics.com

A group of 9/11 family members lobbying for the bill blasted Corker and Graham in no uncertain terms.
“After a visit to the halls of Congress by an army of Saudi lobbyists led by the Saudi Foreign Minister, JASTA supporters Senator Bob Corker and Senator Lindsey Graham called today for the JASTA veto override vote to be delayed for two months,” the families said. “All it took — apparently — was a visit by the Saudi foreign minister to get these senators to forsake the families and seek a two-month delay in a vote to override the president’s imminent veto.”

But Corker and Graham were humiliated when their attempts were rejected by the Senate, who then slam-dunked Obama’s veto.  Corker then “bravely” voted for the override (which passed 97-1). But now, Graham and John McCain are back again trying to gut the the law, presumably with Corker’s continued support.

So what are Sen. Corker’s ties to the Saudis?  Why was he so vehement in trying to limit 9-11 victims from compensation?  And what the hell is Paul Stanley of Collierville, TN doing in the middle of all this?

We’ve got a feeling this story is just getting started.