Haslam Declares War

Let the retributions begin!

Regardless of which candidates win in next week’s GOP primaries, the gauntlet has been laid down. In a move unprecedented in modern Tennessee politics, a sitting governor has used his office and his fundraising capabilities to attack and/or try to defeat incumbent members of his own party as well as candidates in open seat races In addition, he has helped withhold support for select incumbent Republican legislators, hoping they can be defeated by challengers.

To make matters far worse, the Governor apparently dispatched his chief of staff Mark Cate to recruit candidates to run against those Republicans the governor deemed “undesirable.”

And why? Because the targeted legislators would not automatically rubberstamp the governor’s agenda on everything from Common Core to ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.

On more than a few instances the governor and his people have conducted their activities through a PAC (jobs4TN) – a PAC whose early and main funding comes from the Haslams with contributions to “reliable” legislators with safe seats, who then “wash through” the contributions to other candidates – as if that would somehow giver the governor deniability. But the more nefarious activity — $150,000 worth so far – was an independent expenditure committee (Advance Tennessee) run out of a non-descript office on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, DC, which used media and mail vendors in Los Angeles and Wisconsin.  To date, nearly all of the $150,000 was raised from Tennessee-based lobbyists, business associates and friends of the governor and Mark Cate.  But 100% of the expenditures for services were spent outside the state – an obvious attempt to keep their attack ads and mailers under wraps until the last minute.  Clearly, they attempted to hide their identity.

Here are the recently filed campaign reports of the Advance Tennessee PAC.

But what does this all mean?

It means there will be hell to pay come next legislative session. Nothing like creating enemies of numerous members of your own party while making other members resent the governor and his minions for going after their friends (and wondering if they’re next). One should remind Leslie Hafner and her Kiddie Corp of legislative liaisons just how badly they were surprised and mauled during the March 13th Common Core votes. If Haslam wants to turn Fitzhugh into the House version of John Wilder — relying on a coalition of Dems and Republicans to control the House on key issues – he could not have seeded (ceded?) the ground any better than he has over the last few weeks.

It could be a bitter harvest, indeed.

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